Since they were just 11-years-old, Dawn Hunter and Victoria Reddington have shared a passion for fashion.
Now, 15 years on, the two best friends are about to turn their teenage love for trips to Barnsley’s ‘fashion hot spots’ into a business dream. On November 1 they launch fashionpony.co.uk, an online fashion boutique, distinguishing itself from the hundreds of other internet clothes-at-a-click sites by offering independent labels and emerging designers at High Street prices.
“The idea is to give women clothes that suit all their moods without the worry of bumping in to someone wearing the same thing,” says Victoria who grew up in the next street to Dawn in Darfield and readily admits that they both made a host of fashion faux pas before each finding their own individual look.
She said:”Most of us develop a signature style by the time we reach our twenties or thirties, but within that we all have different moods. Fashion Pony – our take on the term ‘clothes horse’ – is about offering people something that little bit different that’s on trend, a little bit edgy but still affordable.”
The result is an offer that will include established designers (Leeds Independent Designer of the Year, Lisa Jaynne Dann for one); such sought after independent labels as Rare, Brat and Suzie, Reverse, Goldie and Glamorous; and clothes from exciting and emerging new design talents that already include Ringlit, Rene K, Rebekah Murphy and Kelly-Ann Couture.
And in the cut throat world of online fashion, an offer that is clearly defined, fresh and – above all – sensibly priced already has wannabee fashionistas signing up to the site in their hundreds.
An online campaign through Twitter, Facebook and high profile blog sites has ensured a rapid pied piper-esque following for the ether’s newest fashion emporium before it has even gone live. And Dawn and Victoria were quick to help out at the recent launch of Marco Pierre White’s new Bristol restaurant launch (at the luxurious Doubletree by Hilton hotel), courier-ing 12 LBD’s over just in time for the opening night hostesses to welcome in the helicopter arrival of Hollywood A-lister Johnny Depp.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind entree into the business,” said Dawn, who has a degree in law and six years’ experience working for such fashion retailers as the Arcadia group (Top Shop, Dorothy Perks etc) and New Look. It taught her much about sales and merchandising and, along with experience in independent customer satisfaction research and brand auditing, Dawn’s shop-floor experience with some of Britain’s most dynamic fashion houses has proved invaluable to the partnership.
Victoria’s contribution to the business comes from her experience in design and advertising where she has managed the websites and marketing strategies of multi-million pound accounts and witnessed the way in which design influences every aspect of people’s lives and moods. She’s also seen fashion retail first hand through Mum Pamela’s more traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ boutique which she ran in Darfield for five years. She says: “From when I was young enough to understand the word fashion, Sunday’s were spent going round buying new stock from fashion wholesalers.”
“The fantastic thing about our friendship is that we are both very different women,” says Dawn. “Vic is much more adventurous than me in terms of her own personal style but we both admire women with the confidence to express their personality in the way that they dress. We can look at someone with very individual style and, while it might not be something either of us would wear, we can appreciate the way they have put a look together and admire the result. That’s what’s so fascinating and totally absorbing about fashion – it’s such an incredibly personal but visibly way of expressing who you are.”
And who we are, according to Victoria, can depend on the mood we are in. “One day we might feel the need to be sharp suited and business like, on another casual and relaxed. Then again we might want to play the vamp, show our creativity or maybe go cute and lots of fun. We can all do that through what we wear but few fashion houses recognise the need to appeal to all our different needs.
“I used to work for a major advertising agency in Manchester and was always struck by the number of friends and colleagues who struggled to find professional wear that was high quality, on-trend, yet allowed them to express their personality.”
Dawn found the same thing too: “So many women complained daily about how, whatever they bought online or on the High Street, was never individual. There was always a chance someone else could be wearing it. Plus, they couldn’t afford traditional ‘designer clothing.’
It has made them both determined to make their mark by “bringing some individuality back to the market.” In the longer term they plan to sign up new and emerging designers to keep the online boutique offer fresh, exciting and edgy.
“We always knew we would eventually go in to business together,” says Victoria. “Since we were youngsters in the same class at Foulstone High School, we have been passionate about fashion and it has been something that has always tied us together.”
Adds Dawn: “Fashion Pony is the realisation of both which is exciting but also slightly nerve wracking. Above all we want our business to be fun – we’ve always shared the same sense of humour and if you add that to fashion and friendship, it’s a good starting point for any business.”