Product idea #4: Lexie Sport
The ethical fashion entrepreneur reveals how she wowed Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed, opted for the Made in Britain label and is planning world domination…
Founder: Lily Rice
Location: Hampshire/ London
Date launched: August 2013
The product: Fashion but practicable lux-sportswear
Having captured the attention of leading fashion publications – from ELLE to Vogue – and with investment from Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed, Lily Rice’s fashion brand is gaining serious traction.
Rice created her first designs whilst studying for her degree but despite leaving prestigious Central Saint Martins as the first UK graduate to secure a first in unique performance sportswear, the fashion entrepreneur initially had to put her designing dreams on hold to secure a job.
However, after leaving her role as a designer at Umbro, she got the opportunity to appear on BBC’s Be Your Own Boss, and after digging up her old designs – Rice managed to wow Reed, giving her the chance to turn her design ambitions into a business. The sportswear product business combines functionality with desirability – a winning combination for its audience who, according to Rice, are “women who are as serious about fashion as they are performance” and since its TV launch, the proudly ‘Made in Britain’ brand has seen rapid growth.
With three successful seasons under its belt and having recently secured its first overseas stockist, Rice was also named as one of the Future 50’s top young entrepreneurs.
Startups caught up with the entrepreneur behind the label – who is passionate about getting women into sport – to talk manufacturing heartaches, listening to the customer and world domination.
Can you briefly describe your background Lexie?
In 2013 I’d just left my job as a designer at Umbro when I got the opportunity to take part in the BBC3 TV show Be Your Own Boss. Founder of Innocent Drinks Richard Reed was looking for young people with business ideas he could fund.
I showed up with a model friend and some designs I had done post-university and was lucky enough to get through and secure funding!
Where did the idea for Lexie come from?
I had always taken part in sport but struggled to find kit I liked. Many of the big brands seemed to treat women’s sportswear with little thought. Women taking part in sport is fundamental to us learning many life skills (teamwork, leadership etc.) and dropping out has a massively detrimental effect on society.
The number one reason women don’t take part in sport is because they feel self-conscious about the way they look whilst doing so. I felt Lexie could offer a better solution to what was already on the market.
Lexie is fashion forward, aesthetically-led sportswear for women that is made in Britain. From our designs to our marketing we speak to women the way we wish all brands would speak to us!
We’re also extremely proud to be British made and feel this gives us a unique viewpoint not just as an ethical business but in our sense of style.
What market research did you conduct to learn more about the fashion/sportswear sector?
Because of the unorthodox way Lexie was launched we have evolved the brand a lot since the initial concept by listening to our customers and market.
We did have to submit a business plan though and we used a questionnaire method initially, which found loads of other women really felt the same about sportswear as we did.
What have you done to protect the IP of your products?
Because we launch a new collection every season it’s not really practical to protect designs. We just hope that by building a strong brand consumers will be able to identify ‘Lexieness’.
We have already had a few instances of bigger brands ‘copying’ us but as they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
How did you finance Lexie Sport?
We had initial funding from our investor Richard Reed and we have since topped this up with a Virgin loan.
Describe your business journey to date, from having the idea for your fashion sportswear to bringing them to the market.
We filmed the show in the summer of 2012 but like all deals we had a long period of due diligence. Our investment finally came through in February 2013 and so we were able to launch in August 2013 with a pop-up shop on the Kings Road in London.
Between those times it was really a case of penny pinching and credit cards! Our first production was made abroad but following the launch we decided to re-shore manufacturing to the UK, which meant huge upheaval but was ultimately very rewarding and has become part of the DNA of the brand!
Do you manufacture the products entirely yourselves?
We cover the designs and samples, and have the patterns and production created in London; our fabrics arrive from the north and our logos are applied near Manchester!
For us, it’s not only a case of being able to say we are British and the level of control we have gained but it is an ethical decision. Clothing manufacturing has a lot of unscrupulous factories and we didn’t want to be part of making anyone’s life worse (especially as most garment factories heavily rely on a female work force).
How do you distribute Lexie products– is it exclusively online or is it currently stocked elsewhere?
We sell online, through select gyms and boutiques. We launched with one stockist and now have over 11.
Do you have plans to take Lexie overseas?
We have just signed our first overseas stockist but for now our main focus is the UK.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs considering launching their own sportswear/fashion business?
Get as much work experience and learn as much about business as you can and don’t leave your paid job until the last possible moment! You will miss the pay cheque when you’re up to your ears in the wrong coloured lycra!
What are Lexie’s future plans?
World domination. We’ve just launched our third collection so for us it’s about expanding our stockists and considering other retail outlets. It’s pretty exciting!