Sometimes the surest way to success is to take things slowly, one step at a time. Just ask Michelle Taylor.
Long before she was leading one of the UK’s hottest new luxury lingerie brands, Taylor had a business plan to get her there. Now, barely a year after launching her glamorous label Tallulah Love, Taylor is quite literally taking on the world.
Tallulah Love made its formal debut last January at the 2010 Salon International de Lingerie show in Paris. It was the perfect stage for a high-end label with big ambitions, and Tallulah Love was named the top new designer at the influential trade show, attracting interest from stockists and consumers alike.
But, as is so often the case, TL’s overnight success was a long time in the making.
Taylor began dreaming of creating her own lingerie label more than five years ago, and approached it as small business start-up. In 2008, operating as Michelle Taylor Design, she won a young entrepreneurs competition, with the prize being a trip to the Far East to source suppliers. Within a year, she received startup funding from a venture capital firm to create a website and make product samples for her launch. Business advisors also suggested she use, and trademark, the Tallulah Love moniker.
Taylor earned that kind of early support for her plans because she already had a track record in the lingerie design industry, working for others. A graduate of fashion marketing at Northumbria University, she got her design training with suppliers for leading UK retailers like Marks & Spencer. That led to high street gigs with Topshop, New Look and Miss Selfridge and, eventually, to a plum job at Playboy Intimates, where she helped create a vintage lingerie line for the iconic brand.
By the time she left Playboy a couple of years ago to fly solo, she had risen to the position of design director. More importantly, the years Taylor spent paying her dues in the lingerie industry gave her a wealth of invaluable contacts among suppliers and retailers that she could put to use when she launched her own label.
TL’s debut collection took the growing interest in nouveau vintage lingerie styles and spiced it up with plenty of contemporary frills and a keen eye for color trends. As a result, Tallulah Love has the look of 1930s or 40s intimates, but with enough embellishments (think bows and lots of lace) to feel trendy. Affordable price points also distinguish TL from others in the same market, allowing Taylor to entice younger women into the vintage-loving community.
Today, Tallulah Love’s seven style ranges are sold in luxury boutiques in the UK, Russia, Spain, Poland, France, Germany, Holland and Dubai. Taylor recently landed a distribution deal to take the brand into Japan and, not surprisingly, has her sights set on the U.S. market next.
Her next challenge? Finding investors to help finance increased production to meet the rapidly growing demand for Tallulah Love’s products. It’s a problem a lot of young designers would love to have!
Below you’ll find Taylor’s responses to our Bright Young Things questionnaire, along with images from the Tallulah Love collection. The first photo below shows one of the luxury packaging options that has also become a brand specialty.
How long have you been in business?
Tallulah Love has just completed its first anniversary of trading!
Were you profitable in 2010?
We saw a slight profit at the end of trading which is amazing considering the age of the company!
How many people are employed by your label?
Currently 2 but we contract services in so realistically 5 people and we have been blessed by very talented university students on work placements.
What plans do you have for new products/collections in 2011?
There will be both SS and AW main collections and a gift line which will be expanded this year. We will also be manufacturing some of the new collection in the UK, all very exciting for us.
How do you hope/plan to grow your business in 2011?
We will be introduced to the Japanese market during 2011 thanks to our new Japanese distributors — they will be showing TL collections at both the Osaka and Tokyo fairs. We have also received some positive media attention stateside and we will be pursuing a debut launch in the US. We have several project collaborations underway and TL are hoping to introduce our first Australian stockist in the first part of the year. TL’s popularity is growing at an astonishing rate in Europe we can now be found in boutiques across France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland and Poland. We hope to expand our global presence throughout 2011.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in launching your label?
Sercuring adequate funding has been a major challenge. The rapid growth of the label has had its drawbacks and created some rather tense periods, we have commenced talks to secure long-term private investment which we hope will be in place during the first quarter of the year.
What is your most popular design or product?
We currently have two price points, one for the main SS/AW collections and one for gift collections. We seem to have had a wonderful response to every line thus far but I think the Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly line for the main collections and the Love Birds for the gift collections have just pipped the post!
Business-wise, what are you most proud of?
Accepting an export award from the UKTI was a real highlight. I definitely wasn’t expecting Tallulah Love to be at a red carpet business award ceremony in its first year of trading!
How will you define success for yourself?
Defining success for me is always about sharing and living my dream. Everything else just falls into place for me with this ethos. Tallulah Love has already given me so much in terms of realising my own personal goals and aspirations. The journey has been incredible, I am so grateful to everyone who has put their faith in my label. Their belief in me as a designer and their unwaning support for Tallulah Love has been inspirational.
Anything else people should know about you?
Gosh, could I send out a big thank you to everyone in the Tallulah Love family, stockists, customers, staff, family and friends? You have all helped to make my dream a reality. This past year has been such a challenge, however I would not know what to do with myself if I wasn’t designing and creating. There is a wonderful network in the lingerie industry and we all try and help each other out and discuss problems and ways to move forward. I am currently working with art colleges and universities across my region hoping to inspire young designers to believe in their dreams and their abilities.