‘Firms are having to change their pitch after vote’

Steff McGrath at Something Wicked. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

British manufacturers are having to change the way they pitch their products in European markets since the vote to leave the EU, according to the boss of a boudoir lingerie brand.

While British provenance is still associated with quality, Steff McGrath says “you wouldn’t necessarily lead with that” first because of the ripples caused by Brexit.

At the cutting edge: Something Wicked is looking to add more seamstresses. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Ms McGrath’s business Something Wicked provides high end lingerie, manufactured in Yorkshire.

Something Wicked, which is currently made up of a team of four, has seen huge growth since Ms McGrath took it over from the previous owners.

The teacher turned entrepreneur has put more of an emphasis on targeting the trade sector, since taking over Leeds-based Something Wicked last year, a move which is paying off.

The lingerie brand has seen sales quadruple in the last quarter having secured listings with the likes of top fashion house Coco De Mer.

Steff McGrath at her workshop in Leeds. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Ms McGrath said: “When I came on board my focus was making sure production was right. We’re slightly different from other lingerie businesses in this country because we manufacture in-house.

“In the summer, I thought now I want to relaunch it to trade and that was my focus. We went to a lingerie trade show in London called Dessous.”

The trade show proved to be a “turning point” for the business. Ms McGrath got to make contacts, speak to bloggers and meet stockists.

British textile manufacturing may have suffered a decline over the years but Ms McGrath is on a mission to bring it back. She has already seen signs of the textile industry climbing back to its feet.

Lingerie retailer Something Wicked was taken over last year by former school teacher Steff McGrath. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Something Wicked itself is looking to add more seamstresses to the two it currently employs.

“I’ve come across lots and lots of people who are equally as passionate about keeping it in Britain as me,” Ms McGrath told The Yorkshire Post. “There’s companies that are striving to bring manufacturing back. There’s a movement towards having products with a provenance and a story behind them.”

The former teacher was inspired after seeing the rise of fast fashion in recent years. It made her think of what the ethical consequences are for cheap on-trend clothing.

She has thrown her weight behind Fashion Revolution, a campaign that looks to put ethics into the spotlight by tracing the provenance of clothes.

Speaking about fast fashion, Ms McGrath said: “Somewhere along the line somebody will pay, it’s not necessarily ethical. If you’re getting stuff for a cheap price then there’s got to be a reason why.”

The business is looking at opening up more international markets. Something Wicked is already being stocked in the Netherlands, Germany and Austria. It has also secured a place with a stockist in Australia.

By targeting wholesale, it has given the company validation and helped it grow faster than a pure play ecommerce strategy, says Ms McGrath.

“I was thinking I need to get it out there and for me if I do something there’s no point doing it unless you’re doing it 100 per cent,” she said.

The lingerie manufacturer believes Brexit will be a challenge with the business monitoring whether tariffs are imposed.

Ms McGrath said: “We’re trying to grow manufacturing in this region. I’m trying to create jobs. If there are barriers to purchase and people think I’m not going to buy something made in the UK because it’s going to cost me then it’s another hurdle to get through.”

Something Wicked, which is currently based at Mabgate Mills, Leeds, is hoping to outgrow its current premises.

A key value of the business is female empowerment, says Ms McGrath. Something Wicked’s workshop is dotted with pictures of models displaying its products.

She said: “An electrician came in and he looked at the pictures and said how do you all know what men want.

“I said it’s not for men, it’s for women. We want to feel great. We want to wear amazing things. When you’re wearing amazing lingerie you feel amazing. It’s like your under armour. This isn’t about objectifying women.”

The brand also did a bespoke one-sided bra for a customer who had a mastectomy. Ms McGrath said: “She’d called up so many different brands. No one was helping her.

“It wasn’t something that was planned but I spoke to her on the phone and I thought we need to help this lady.”

As the business grows, Ms McGrath is looking to add both young and experienced seamstresses.

Something Wicked also has a partnership with The Textile Centre of Excellence in Huddersfield, providing work experience to people who have been out of work.

Changing the subject

Before becoming a teacher, Steff McGrath worked in marketing.

Ms McGrath decided to take over Something Wicked because she wanted a career change. Despite the difference between manufacturing high-end lingerie and the teaching profession, the boss of Something Wicked says there are transferable skills.

She said: “You have to be able to deal with lots of different people. You’ve got to have good presentation skills. There’s a lot that does cross over.” Not coming from a fashion background is an advantage, she says, as it gives her a fresh perspective.

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