Business Profile: Dressed for success in a cut-throat industry; David Jones meets a businesswoman who is just like one of her designs - unique.Byline: David Jones David Jones is a common name, particularly in Wales, and there have been several well-known individuals with this name. Variations include Dave Jones and Davy Jones.
EVER since she was a little girl, Claire Evans has enjoyed dressing up and making her own clothes. That early interest in fashion has blossomed today into a full-blown business that has taken Evans from her home in north Powys to the fashion capitals of London and Paris in search of new fabrics and outlets for her one-off designs.
'I have always been interested in clothing but I had no formal training. All my dress making skills are self-taught,' she says.
'I think I have got it from my grandmother, who used to make costumes for the Beverley Sisters The Beverley Sisters are a British female vocal trio, extremely popular during the 1950s and 1960s.
The trio consisted of eldest sister Joy and the twins, "Teddie" and "Babs". Their style was loosely modelled on that of the Andrews Sisters. .'
That innate talent has seen entrepreneur Evans try her hand at making handbags and then corsetry Corsetry is craft of making corsets and corset-like garments and accessories most of which incorporate stays. It is also a subfield of fashion that deals with those garments and accessories and it is common term used for those garments and accessories. Term derives from the word . before really hitting her stride with the launch of a business that makes one-off dresses and other garments for women with high disposable incomes and collections for sale through her own and other high-end boutiques.
'I was making Victorian-style corsets for customers and they would ask me if I could make a dress or trousers to go with it. I realised there was a niche there,' she says.
'I do made-tomeasure clothing and will sit down with the customer and go through designs and fabrics with then advise them on what suits them.
'The dresses are for special occasions - the races, or a wedding, for example - and Audrey Hepburn is a style icon for mea complete inspiration.' Evans launched Clairey by Design at the end of 2003, working from her design studio at home at Meifod, near Welshpool. Market testing convinced her there was a need for her own retail outlet retail outlet n → punto de venta
retail outlet n → point m de vente
retail outlet retail n → and she obtained premises for a bou-tique just over the border in Shrewsbury.
There are plans to open further retail outlets - Evans has looked closely at Oxford and London - but says nothing is firmed up at the moment.
Employment in the business, which launches trade and retail websites next month, has grown to seven, with another four outworkers.
The business makes one-off designs and small orders of 10 or less garments in-house, but outsources larger production runs.
Evans sells into other boutiques in Kent and Carnaby Street Carnaby Street is a leading fashion and lifestyle street in London, located in the area of 'Carnaby' in the district of Soho, near Oxford Street, and just to the east of Regent Street. It is named after Karnaby House, a large building located to its east which was erected in 1683. , and a designer award win at a London Fashion Forum event in February has secured her Grace label garments a foothold in House of Fraser House of Fraser is a British department store group with 61 stores (July 2007) across the country. The group was founded in Glasgow in 1849. The flagship London store is now the House of Fraser on Oxford Street whilst the largest is in Birmingham. stores later this year.
An order has also been placed with Clairey by Design by a Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. boutique based in Venice Beach. The owner of that shop said she would use her contacts to ensure one of Evans' designs - a ribbon dress - will feature on the red carpet at next year's Oscars.
Evans is talking to various celebrity stylists in a bid to gain media attention for the Grace label. She is reluctant to name names, but Kylie Minogue was thought to be on the list of people interested in wearing one of her dresses.
Back home, Evans will head Wales Fashion Week. She's got a lot riding on her young shoulders.
Because she is targeting a niche market - and one that values exclusivity - Evans can charge premium prices. She says that while that market may be small in size relative to the overall fashion market, it has substantial spending power The power of legislatures to tax and spend.
Spending power is conferred to state and federal legislatures through their constitution. Judicial Review of legislative spending varies from state to state, but the law of federal spending informs courts in all states. .
The most expensive one-off she has designed and made is a wedding dress which cost pounds 3,200, and the most expensive made-tomeasure suit went forpounds 1,200The rag trade can be a cut-throat business where copying of designs is rife, as recent court cases have shown.
Evans says it is difficult to enforce copyright and her best defence is the fact that the majority of her designs are bespoke be·spoke
Past tense and a past participle of bespeak.
1. Custom-made. Said especially of clothes.
2. Making or selling custom-made clothes: a bespoke tailor. .
'There is so much copying going on these days, but it is so costly and difficult to bring a case, unless you're a big name.
'But I think people can tell the difference between an original design handmade from expensive fabric, and a cheap copy.
And the fit will be totally different.' Evans claims her creations represent value for money for their owners: 'They are classic wardrobe pieces that will never date, so people do not mind spending the money on them.
'On the made-to-measure side of the business, there really is no competition, simply because my designs are unique.
I do not have to advertise them - word-ofmouth brings people in.'
She found her way into the world of fashion by circuitous cir·cu·i·tous
Being or taking a roundabout, lengthy course: took a circuitous route to avoid the accident site. route that saw her hold down consecutive jobs as a customer service assistant with a bank, a concession manager with a suede and leather company, a telephone selling agent with a food wholesaler and a position as a legal executive. She gave up her last paid employment with law firm because 'every day seemed the same and I did not get to be as creative as I would have liked'.
But getting her own business up and running wasn't that easy: 'I took a lot of knocks at the beginning from some business advisors who did not take me seriously.
'There were a lot of comments to the effect that the business world is maledominated, which is true, but that doesn't mean a businesswoman cannot also be successful.'
Evans says she was about to throw in the towel before the business even got started, but changed her mind thanks to the encouragement she received from an advisor with Wales-based women's economic development organisation Chwarae Teg.
Funding was the biggest practical hurdle Evans had to clear to get the venture started, but she was delighted when it made a tidy profit on its first year's trading.
'There isn't a day when I regret having started the business - even when you get those less-than-perfect days every once in a while,' she adds.
'A private investor did offer to buy me out. He wanted to take Clairey by Design to Bond Street in London and offered me a pounds 500,000 investment in the business.
'But I turned it down because I would have lost control of it. I have got it this far on my own and I want to keep it that way.'
Evans was runner-up in the Wales final of the Shell LiveWire awards at the Galeri, Caernarfon, earlier this month.
She has been on holiday on a Greek island this week but the organisers of the awards have flown her back to London for two days so that she can compete in the UK LiveWire finals today
question & ANSWER
Home Meifod, near Llanfyllin
Marital status marital status,
n the legal standing of a person in regard to his or her marriage state. Has a boyfriend
Interests Rally driver; walking; socialising
Personal business philosophy Work hard and grab every opportunity that comes along
Inspired by Audrey Hepburn (below), Claire Evans of Clairey by Design has shrugged off those who doubted her due t o her sex and age and is holding her own in the hugely competitive fashion design arena Picture: GERALLT RADCLIFFE