The brains and creative mind behind the cashmere brand shares the secrets of a successful start-up, and how to build a brilliant brand.
Marielle Wyse is proof that the best brands are often born from instinct, passion and one good idea - plus a lot of “hard graft”. When she couldn’t find the perfect, flattering cashmere jumper that hit the sweet spot between high street and high end, she decided to make it herself. From just a handful of jumpers in 2014, Wyse London is now stocked in boutiques worldwide – with an ever-expanding website.
I was in the fashion department at Elle before working for a fashion photographer. Then I had a career change as a TV director making natural history documentaries, but when I had children I stopped working, as I couldn’t travel any more. As they got older, I got really bored and decided I had to do something. I was working for a friend who always told me to act on one of my own ideas. I was always really annoyed with jumpers that cost me £350, but weren’t quite right. She said, ‘Well, do it yourself’ - so I did!
I hate to say it, but I really do! When I was a child, I used to go shopping, but think the clothes weren’t quite right, but I could sew, so I’d go and buy the gingham the rick-rack trim and do it myself. Designing feels totally natural, even though I’m not a trained designer.
Initially, I did five or six jumpers and took them to a little sale in someone’s house – and then I did thirty and sold about twenty of them. From there it grew very quickly. I just went for it – which meant there were no systems behind it and for a long time I was shipping jumpers out of my living room.
The million-dollar question! You have to identify and have a very clear idea of who your market is: who do you want to sell to? Who will be wearing this – and why? If you’ve got that, you’ve got a really good idea. Then the rest is being willing to do it all, from tapping away at the computer to lifting boxes, and a lot of really hard graft.
Once you’ve got one, you think, how did I not have one of these before? They just fit into your wardrobe and work with so many things: tucked into a skirt, under dungarees, under a blazer. They’re easy, stylish, and classic with a bit of a twist.
Keep it tight. Have your eyes on everything at every step. Prepare to fail and make lots of mistakes, because if you don’t, then you’re not improving. You do have to fall flat quite a few times to develop resilience and a thicker skin.
Sitting on a plane and opening Instagram and seeing Holly Willoughby post that she was wearing Wyse London, and then the press catching hold of it. I was just about to go skiing and my phone went mad and I spent the whole week not skiing!
Becoming a manager is a real challenge and there are so many things you have to become good at. You want to sit there with colouring pens and sketchpad, but have to do marketing and a sales plan and all the things that you’re not necessarily very good at, but you have to become better!
Keep your costs down. Grow slowly, in small confident steps. Listen to your customer because what they have to say is invaluable. Be humble somewhere along the way. Don’t think you know it all because you know something, but you don’t know everything.
I think the balance is the hardest part of it. Sometimes it’s unhealthy and I have to force myself to switch off.
It means knowing what’s important. Business-wise, it’s prioritising and having enough confidence in my business, and the quality of my life outside of it. Personally, is about not having too much stuff – I want less and less things. Balance is about treasuring what’s really important.
It’s absolutely vital. That was one of the most important things for me – because I didn’t work for so long – that my children should see what you can do when you’re really determined. When I told them I was starting Wyse, they kind of looked at me and said, “But you don’t do anything!” and I said, ‘Now, I do!’ But it’s hard work and requires determination – that’s what I’m trying to teach them.
We’re expanding, There are dresses, tees, smock tops, some fun cashmere and merino – more on the website and more of the story.
Sign up to receive regular
news and offers plus 15% off your first order