Meets East Village Meets Ruby Rocks
Summer is here and there's one accessory we all turn to when he sun comes out... sunglasses. When it comes to picking the perfect pair for the summer ahead what do you go for; colour? Shape? Quality? Well there's not one but two places you need to visit this summer 2022, Ruby Rocks and East Village UK. Stocking all colours & shapes and you'll never have to compromise on the quality. This month we sat down with their founder Jenny, to talk about the brands and to see what they have in store for the sunny days ahead.
Jenny, let's start by getting to know your brands a little better. Tell us whoRuby RocksandEast VillageUK are? We started in 2006. I was pregnant with our second child. We designed the collection and showcased our collection at the Margin tradeshow in London in Feb 2007. Drapers Record were there and took some photos and the phone started ringing on the day the magazine was went out. We started with clothing being our core product, we have added sunglasses, scarves, fascinators, bags & jewellery to our collections over the years. With our Ruby Rocks styles we like to promote joy and zest for life. We have decided to open our online store up to some other lovely brands who we know and have worked with over the years.
Our inspirations... Ruby Rocks main inspiration is in making beautiful pieces that bring joy to our customers.
We try to incorporate ethical and fair trade principles in our production and we use traditional methods of printing such as hand batiking which gives Ruby Rocks collections that individual look. Classic tailoring is given a modern twist and inspiration is drawn from vintage and folk pieces from around the world mixed with an intuitive grasp of future trends and modern culture.
Ruby Rocks as a brand and on a personal level values and promotes ethical practices in all its endeavours, we have a sense of responsibility towards everyone we work with. We are not mass producing throw away items but making to order high quality products in an environment that is pleasant to work in and nurtures creativity.
We are delighted to say that we are PETA approved. Not to mention...we've also been nominated for the Drapers Awards "Best short order brand of the year" for many years.
East Village, we wanted to have a brand that was unisex and for men, and that would be more of a lifestyle brand featuring products using artists that we know and respect, bringing art into fashion and the home design.
We are a family run business and team and we work with friends and colleagues who we have known over the years and it's more of a collaboration of working together rather than people working for people, it's all team work. What was your motivation behind launching these two brands? We had been agents and distributors for other brands over the years and we had a passion for the products and wanted to create our own range. Things just fell into place and the opportunity arose and we jumped at it.
Upon deciding you wanted to launch your brands, where did you start?
Having been agents and distributors for many years, we knew most of the network and we had discussions with the people who we wanted to work with and it went from there.
Where did your influence for designs come from when you started out? We designed everything from scratch, we designed our own graphics, taking inspiration from the world around us, nature mostly using florals, plants and animals in our graphic prints. We carried these through to the accessories. Do you still find influences for designs in those same things or do you find they've changed? We still use some of the graphics we started with, it's nice to reflect back and rework some ideas as they were favourites and we get asked about them by the customers who are looking to buy the prints they bought from us before. Sometimes we add new colourways with existing prints and sometimes we bring in totally new ideas.
How do you make sure you're keeping your designs up to date? We try not to follow what other brands are doing as it can cloud our own creativity. We make what we feel is right for the brand and hope it will work. So far, that seems to work. Trends are all around us all the time in everything we do in all products, so we probably incorporate our day to day experiences into what translates into our designs. What do you do to ensure Ruby Rocks is always ahead of its competitors? We are not worried about being ahead of anyone, there are millions of brands out there. It would be impossible to monitor what everyone else is doing. We just do what we can do and serve the customers we have as best we can. The world has been turned upside down in the last year, so everything has changed, everything has changed and there are many more digital opportunities now for all brands to join up to. What's the process from thinking of an idea in your head or within your team and getting it in your shop? The designers present drawings / CADS, we all review and if agreed we proceed with the design, it goes to sample stage and then is adjusted as necessary and then it goes to production. We shoot the production samples and then the products are loaded to our web store and also to the various B 2 B and B 2 C sites that we are partnered with. What criteria are you looking at when a new design gets brought to life? It has to fit the brand feel. If it doesn't fit in with the brand look, we don't proceed with it.
The brand feel is fun, colour, individual, feminine, strong, bold and creative.
Are there any new collections you can tell us about? Our sunglasses are once a year collections. We will be working on 2023 collection from July, so we'll know then what the next collection will look like. The other products in our range are developed season to season with the designers.
How do you know what will be popular? Do you follow trends?
It's good to know what's out there, and see how the fashion evolves, clothing trends can be drastic and be so seasonal, with sunglasses, it's a the same product but with tweaks here and there each season, and there are so many genres in fashion these days, it's more looking at eras that have gone before and iconic styles icons to take inspiration from there to create the styles we do.
Looking back over the last 12 months, how much would you say the pandemic affected business for you? It has made us look at everything in a different way and adapt. We rebuilt both our webstores and installed all sorts of apps and softwares.
Everything seems to be digital now, no tradeshows means the retailers have had to source products in other ways and there are many B 2 B sites that provide such a great way for retailers to search new brands and products all on one web store. Yes business was very slow during the hardest times, as it was for everyone, and now that things are improving, everyone seems to be emerging from this terrible time with new ways and ideas for trading in ways that people had not taken seriously or really trusted before.
What would you say was one of the most trying times for you as a business owner?
Probably when Covid hit. It affected everyone. Practically every brand we know was affected in the same way, nobody knew what was going to happen and everyone just had to sit it out and wait for normality to start to return.
Do you imagine the next 12 months will be substantially better or is it too soon to tell? We can already see a huge increase in sales on all platforms. We hope it will be the same for everyone all round, online retailers and bricks and mortar stores too. And now that things have become so much more digital we are seeing more international sales from stores and customers in USA especially.
When it comes to adding new lines, how do you go about deciding on what you will choose?
It would have to be a lifestyle product, and candles and candle holders are part of everyone's lives. Whether it be fo atmosphere, romantic settings, festivities, holiday times or for votive reasons, everyone needs a candle holder for their candles. We created ours from handmade glass and Austrian crystal, they are unique. We chose a range of colours and made them into sets of 3, packaged beautifully in magnetic closing fold back boxes. Alot of thought and effort went into the design of the boxes as we wanted the candle holders to be a perfect gift choice, one that will be received very well and remembered. For us, it's creating a memory for each involved, from the purchaser to the recipient. We delight in knowing that our products create good memories and moments for people who buy and use them.
For those budding entrepreneurs out there, what advice would you give them?
Go with what you feel is right to do.
Don't over stretch yourself. Test styles with small runs if you can and see the reactions from buyers and go from there. The industry and buying habits have changed so much beyond recognition in the last 3 years, since Covid hit. There are many online wholesale platforms that you sell through now.
There are ways you can link the back end of your website to other websites and operate drop ship.
Brands now are open to selling eachother's products and essentially eachother's customer bases by selling this way.
Brands became more of a community working together in the last few years and are open to placing their products onto larger sites where the customers see not only their products but hundreds of other brands aswell.
Cross border selling has increased massively, despite Brexit, and through the wholesale platforms who provide shipping solutions and free shipping to the customer and the brands this will continue to grow.
I would also recommend becoming a member of an Association. We will be attending the Gift Association Awards in May, we're members of the Association and we had the pleasure of seeing all the lovely entrants of the Gift Awards and also taking part in the judging at the Spring fair in February.
Entering into the awards raises your profile and puts your products in front of some of the major retail store buyers int the country. They can also advise on grants and tradeshows.
What do you envision Ruby Rocks's future looking like? Hopefully we will continue to grow and we can add more to our ranges in designs and options available.
We hope to have our products selling with lots of different retailers too. We will always aim to work with businesses who have the same values as we do.
We aim to provide lovely products and hope they are loved and appreciated by the customers who buy and wear them.
Is there anything upcoming that you're looking to introduce to either brand that you can tell us?
As far as brining new products goes, we'll be adding new styles as we go along to our sunglasses ranges, we add to our ranges once a year and launch the new styles each February.
Where do you see both brands going in the next 5 years?
Hopefully we'll be continuing to sell through all the digital platforms we do already and grow the amount of stockists with bricks and mortar stores.
We are already seeing some of the department stores starting to make a come back and we hope that people will visit their local stores and help to keep them alive to support not only the brands but the local people who have worked in store retail for years.
Thank you for your time. Thank you for featuring us in your lovely magazine.