Thursday, 14 October 2010

That will be £9.87 please

'Oh why is Burberry cool?' said Laura of my987wardrobe. 'Maybe I'm being mean because they didn't give me a job once, but really Kate why did they suddenly become the it brand.'

'Don't set me off on Burberry please.' I plead, quick sip of wine. 'However, now you've asked let me tell I've been bearing a grudge ever since they shut down their factory in Treorchy, South Wales in 2007. They made 300 people redundant all in the name of profit and margins. Since when has money been more important than community and people. They must have spent more on advertising than 300 peoples wages for a year. Makes me mad.'

Why am I so passionate about this topic, well my great uncles worked in the mines of the Rhondda Valley and these areas have been decimated by the downturn in heavy industry and in the subsequent decades the communities have faced high levels of unemployment due lack of investment and interest in the area. This is not Burberry's fault but the decision to shut a factory based on 'commercial viability' did smack of corporate greed. The manufacturing moved to China. How different is this story to the recent rescue of miners in Chile from the San Jose mine. The triumph of hope, community and putting 33 lives above money - because the rescue cost millions - captured the imagination of many. In conclusion Chile is cool but Burberry is an empty hollow façade.

Which is why Laura Richenberg is committed to selling clothes at a price that reflects the garment cost and makes enough profit to earn a living. There is no fluff, my987wardrobe is realistically the Primark of the internet. It has all the beauty of a bargain without the rammed shop and the stress of the changing rooms.

Laura Richenberg captured on camera by Fashionistable last April in Knightsbridge

Laura, I'm sure Make Do Style readers will want to know why £9.87 for an item?

Well I worked as a buyer for Topshop for many years and I found myself questioning the unit price compared to the retail price. I know that Topshop is a huge organisation and the overheads of running the business are considerable but fashion changes at such a pace I wanted people to get more of a bargain. I thought that I change my looks quite a lot probably because I live in London but I still love a bargain. And £9.87 is a bargain, it is under a tenner!

Isn't there a cost or rather compromise to it being a bargain?

There is a cost to mass production where ever you buy from. As a buyer I've seen first hand many places particularly in China and to me it is slave labour. The living conditions can be appalling but interestingly the same is true of the working conditions of many factories in the UK. I'm not backing away from the question but it is fact that manufacturing is an intense, competitive and harsh industry. And everyone is chasing profit.

I felt the cost of a reputable company buying an item at £3.50 for example and selling at £25.00 began to bug me. You are compromising who ever you buy from so why not buy from someone who charges you less.

Ah yes less cost music to Make Do's ears but equally I'm a brand or a designer magpie. What can you offer me to satisfy my 'snobbery'?

It is about choosing to buy clothes that satisfy a short term need but some of those will be keepers. We sold out of maxi dresses that had a Pucci vibe to them and I couldn't get get any more to satisfy demand. [Mrs MDS nods her head thinking of her cheapo Bay Trading maxi dress which still turns heads summer after summer] I do manage to source great items and how can you really tell where something is from if you put an outfit together well. [Good point Laura's wax leather jacket was from Topshop and I assumed Barbour] Having said that I love good shoes. I have to walk in them. I'll spend money on a decent pair of shoes but I don't see the point with clothes. Fashion is so transient and did I tell you I love a bargain!

Doesn't that place you in the disposable Primark category?

Primark does have a lot of good quality items as well. Often it is the product material which determines whether a garment lasts. A good cotton/viscose mix is easy to wash but will last. When I select the items to go onto the my987wardrobe I do try select simple but stylish items for now. We are aiming at the 15 to 25 age group who have less disposable income but a higher need for a variety of clothes. Fashion is fun and part of belonging to a crowd enjoying life. but fashion transcends age now and so I suppose the audience is really ageless. I do tend to select more understated trend items and I'd like to think I was buying for Olivia Palmero! Perhaps on that basis my987wardrobe clothes will be less disposable.

What does the future hold for my978wardrobe?

My first aim is to make it a viable business. It takes a lot to set up an internet business and I have ideas on how to develop the site, what customer experience people will get, as part of my running it on a day to day basis. Of course I want to increase sales but that is organic growth and can only happen if my customers get some joy from buying nice things for a bargain. I do envisage expanding the range. I need more stock for the 9.87 range but I would like to have a higher end ranges of 19.87 and 29.87. It will take time but as long as there are people out there who like a bargain then I'll keep going.

Any accessories to add to the range?

I'm looking at handbags.

Oh, can I select a Make Do Style one for my987wardrobe?

Of course that's how we met admiring your clutch.

At this I clap my hands! And both Laura and I then had to go our separate ways into the London night but not before I secured the giveaways for Make Do Style readers and one for myself. I love a bargain too!


  1. What a fab interview and a great concept! How will she manage to find great bags at such low prices?! really excited to see the outcome. x

  2. great interview. laura is so chic. after my first purchase from my987wardrobe a couple of weeks ago, i am always checking on what new items are on offer. can't wait to see the new season's stuff she got.

  3. Really interesting stuff, I remember you mentioning about the Burberry factory before. Loved the interview and must check out this 987wardrobe for my girls!

  4. Hi there-a really great interview my dear, 987wardrobe is a really good online concept and love how you both bonded over the clutch bag too! xx

  5. This really is a great concept. Everyone wants a bargain but it's rare that a company is dedicated to quality, cost and the price it pays suppliers. I do shop in Primark (and it's really nice that Laura has recognised they do sell some good pieces) but I worry about whether the suppliers are getting conned somewhere along the line.

  6. I'm really pleased how she explained her price points - this used to bug me (I used to live with a fashion buyer) and could never work out why retailers marked things up so much. I wish her venture well.

  7. Dear Kate, I really enjoyed reading this interview and Laura definitely knows her market very well. I think their clothes are amazingly reasonable. I'm sure they'll do very well. There's a few things I'll be buying.

    I wonder if you can help me? I need a black long sleeved low ish cut top to wear under things. A soft jersey fabric or cotton t shirt fabric would be great. I have no idea where to look? xx

  8. " selling clothes at a price that reflects the garment cost and makes enough profit to earn a living." -- ha! I've got the jewelry cost down without making enough to earn a living.

  9. It is nice to see her site growing from its first days, when I met her. Good interview.Xxxx

  10. Great interview - I love hearing about the workings and ideas behind a business. Fingers crossed it really takes off!

  11. Great interview and it all started off with a clutch! I will be definitely interested in the new handbag range when its launched!

  12. Very interesting - I've often wondered how different retailers can charge such different prices for identical garments!

  13. Fabulous look and interview!


  14. She looks adorable in that photos. Excellent interview.

  15. Very smart concept from a very smart woman.

    Refreshing concept from a non-corporate entity, just a genuine girl passionate about fashion at an inexpensive price.

    It's all anyone's talking about now !

    Watch out ASOS, 987 is right behind you !


  16. Brilliant interview. And I love the cute-meet/clutch meet. It just goes to show you what a great bag can lead to.

  17. I have a big problem with Primark or Pennys as it is called here.
    1: they have a sign on the tills saying that they are "trying" to be ethical. Well I am trying to drink less but there is an empty bottle of Andrew Pirie 's South Pinot downstairs to show how that's going.
    2: charity shops literally cannot give Pennys/Primark away. So the clothes go into bags that are sold by weight to a dealer and hopefully sent to Africa. But the handbags go to landfill. And they are toxic enough to begin with (have you ever noticed the smell of acetylene in shoe dept if Primark?)

    I relented recently and bought shoes for Boo there, simply because he is growing so fast and needed a spare pair fir school to wear when he steps in dog poo and his sandals have to be washed. (he has a gift for stepping in poo)
    But I know when he outgrows the shoes that St Vincents won't want them. Whereas they are always delighted to take the Primagi, Geox, & Timberland shoes I donate.

    I just think the first rule of saving this planet- reduce and reuse is betrayed by Pennys/Primark- and they are very hard to recycle.
    So I hope Laura's stuff is . xx


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