Posted: Wed 24th May 2017
Cecile Reinaud, founder of Seraphine, the maternity wear brand favoured by royalty, actresses and rock stars, tells the story of her business and how she set up a shop in New York.
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How did you come up with the idea for Seraphine and turn the idea into an actual business?
I came up with the idea for Seraphine whilst working as an advertising executive at J Walter Thompson. I had several pregnant friends and colleagues at the time, and they all used to complain that they couldn't find anything smart to wear. I realised that there was quite a serious gap in the market there and decided to investigate.
My first move was to travel to America to do some market research. At the time the maternity fashion industry over there was much more advanced. Then armed with the knowledge I'd collected, I set about making a business plan and raising capital to develop my range and open my first bricks and mortar boutique in Kensington.
What start-up challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Oh, where to start! Every business goes through challenges to begin with. For Seraphine I remember having a tough time trying to recruit talented people to my team as established professionals are often reluctant to join start-ups.
Before I had built up my team I remember it being quite draining having to be constantly multi-tasking and juggling different roles. I started to feel like the jack of all trades!
But once I had got over those initial growing pains I found the right people and things started to click into place.
How have you attracted such high profile celebrity fans?
Our celebrity following happened quite organically actually. I think we just filled the need that was already there.
Celebrities tend to be used to high quality designer clothes, and at the time, we were the only ones offering the same quality for pregnancy.
Right at the beginning, before we were even selling online, famous London-based models and actresses used to come to buy clothes at our Kensington boutique. We had Elle MacPherson, Claudia Schiffer, Kate Hudson, Sienna Miller and today our reputation precedes us.
We are well known for dressing Hollywood A-listers like Marion Cotillard, Gwen Stefani and Anne Hathaway as well as royals including the Swedish princesses and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Why do you think you were successful at pitching the retailers that stock your products? What's your advice for other entrepreneurs looking for international stockists?
You can be the most talented sales person and have the most polished elevator pitch on the planet, but in the end it all comes down to your product. If your brand has something truly unique to offer then you shouldn't have a problem attracting interest.
In our particular case, we won many of our biggest international contracts after we received so much attention in the press when the Duchess of Cambridge wore our signature Fuchsia Knotted Maternity Dress in the first official pictures with Prince George.
The pictures went global and suddenly everyone was talking about Seraphine! It really brought our brand to the attention of a wider international audience.
"" Daily Mail Femail (@Femail) July 26, 2016
Why did you decide to open stores in New York and how did you go about doing it?
I settled on New York as the location for our first international store for several reasons.
Firstly, New York is one of the top fashion capitals of the world, and can act as a kind of fashion gateway to the rest of the US.
Secondly, when I looked at the statistics, it was clear that we had a lot of customers already ordering online from the East Coast, and New York in particular, so it made a lot of sense to offer them a flagship store to act as a maternity fashion destination.
Also, a lot of our celebrity clientele are based in New York, so really it was the perfect location.
What challenges did you face expanding to the US and how did you overcome them?
I was very cautious about our expansion to the US market. We had tested the market first online by launching a specific US website. And only once I had established that the demand was there, did I start thinking about setting up US stores. With this cautious approach, and plenty of advice from the Department of International Trade well as local legal advice, our expansion actually went pretty smoothly.
What are your three top tips for exporting a British fashion brand to the US?
Get advice from the Department for International Trade which is an amazing resource with really vital information
Make sure you have a great tax and legal adviser on the ground in the US. Regulations there are rigorous when it comes to international imports, so it's important to get that right the first time
In terms of online selling, make sure to adapt the language to suit the US market. Making use of the right keywords can really boost your google rankings
Join Enterprise Nation's trade mission to New York in July to meet with customers, visit stores, discover how to do a successful pop-up, attend a fashion show, meet local partners, hear from trade experts and devise a plan to successfully enter the US market. Find out more here.
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