Two London College of Fashion alumnae have launched Aloura London, an eveningwear brand designed after seeing a niche in the market.
Rachael O’Mahony and Emily Hill, met on their foundation years at London College of Fashion. Rachael went on to study BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear at LCF, while Emily went to Middlesex. After going their separate ways, and later working at the likes of Alexander McQueen, Celine and Mulberry, they decided to launch Aloura London, an affordable eveningwear label. LCF News speak to the pair to hear their story below.
What course did you both study at LCF?
Emily: We met each other whilst studying our Foundation in Art and Design at LCF, and then we both went on to specialise in womenswear. Once we completed this course, Rachael went onto study BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology: Womenswear at LCF and I went to Middlesex to do Fashion Design.
Why did you want to move to London and study at LCF?
Rachel: Both Emily and myself already lived on the outskirts of London, so studying in London was the perfect choice for us. London College of Fashion has an amazing worldwide reputation and the quality of design work and creativity was outstanding. LCF is based in the heart of London and is close to many museums, fabric shops and has just about everything a fashion student could need!
How did Aloura start, what’s the story behind the brand?
Emily: Aloura began when we finished our degrees and decided to meet up after spending the entire year apart due to busy schedules. We decided we needed to be our own bosses and therefore started to create a business plan and pitched it to investors.
The brand represents our own style and it fuses modern evening wear with elegant embroideries, hand-stitched embellishments and chic tailoring. Aloura offers premium cocktail dresses skilfully created to bring style and femininity to every woman.”
Can you describe Aloura in five words?
Emily: Contemporary, Seductive, Feminine, Embellished and Contoured.
You previously worked at fashion houses like Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Celine and Mulberry. What did you learn at these established brands?
Rachel: We have both worked for many luxury fashion houses and although it was great experience, it mainly taught us and instilled in us the determination to create our own luxury brand. We both shared the same aspirations and entrepreneurship goals, plus felt we could take the design and business knowledge we learnt at these brands and establish our own label that will soon compete with the brand we were interning for.
Did you see in a hole in the market while working at these brands?
Emily: During both of our times interning we felt there was definitely a gap for more affordable luxury evening wear that was contemporary, feminine and embellished. We both interned at Alexander McQueen, and we were fascinated by the beautifully hand-embellished theatrical couture pieces, and from there we realised that we needed to create more wearable pieces with a more affordable price tag but still have the same level of quality and customer experience as the top high-end designers.
What challenges have you faced since starting an independent brand, and how did you overcome them?
Rachel: Since we started the brand, we have faced so many challenges but when you research and stay strong there were always a way around it. For example, at the beginning it was very challenging to find manufacturers who would do small order quantities and the factories that did were extremely expensive and we did not want to price us out of our market. We spent 6 months of continuously searching, trips to China and all around Europe, we finally found the perfect manufacturer for us.
Other challenges included spending months getting the dress samples perfect, packaging samples coming back incorrect, our website having problems, finding sales agents who take on new brands and most recently achieving our sales targets. We overcame all challenges by being patient; never crumbled under pressure and never let companies take advantage of you for being young new entrepreneurs.
Where do you see the brand in the next five years?
Emily: In the next five years, we would love to see our collection being stocked in stores worldwide, such as Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Net-A-Porter. We are also so determined to exhibit our work at London, Paris or New York Fashion Weeks in a few years time, and hope to have developed an international presence and even possibly having our own boutique in London (dream big!)
Do you think having studied at LCF helps you after graduating?
Rachel: Definitely! LCF is an amazing college for creative individuals with many great contacts within the industry that really helped us after graduating. The tutors really push you to bring out the most in you and always reminded us about the business and financial side of things when creating our final collections. If it wasn’t for LCF, we wouldn’t have met each other and then go onto establish Aloura London!
What tips would you give to anyone wanting to start and build their own brand?
Emily: Creating your own brand can be extremely exciting and rewarding, but it comes with a lot of risks and challenges. You have to be so determined to make your brand succeed and always ensure that the quality of your work is exceptional and that you establish a clear brand identity. If you are unsure of how to do something – you research it and don’t be afraid to ask for advise.