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I started Laura Ralph Designs in 2013 when I was a second-year student at the University of Brighton studying Textiles with Business. My first outfits were crop top and shorts sets in vintage printed fabrics and they sold instantly among my friends and then on Facebook. I then added trouser sets and skirt sets.
My customers grew and I started taking orders, posting the fabrics I had available and making sets to order. Meanwhile I appeared in Italian Grazia and Dutch and German Elle magazines and featured on The Daily Telegraph online as having one of the top ten UK student jobs! At first I made all the outfits myself, with the help of my mum, but as the business grew I found several wonderful local seamstresses to help meet the demand for my outfits. In the summer of 2014 I started selling at festivals such as Secret Garden Party, Festival No 6 and in 2015 I also sold at Brainchild Festival and Wilderness, which was not only great fun but added to my customer base.
Most of my fabrics are vintage fabrics which I buy myself from various sources and I’m very proud that my business recycles so many beautiful fabrics in this way and keeps the designs alive. I do also buy some fabrics from new when I see any that catch my eye and which I think will really enhance my collection, usually because they have a vintage-inspired look such as traditional plaids or the pop art and Rome fabrics which are some of our customers’ favourites. I am also proud that my clothes are all made in the UK and that my seamstresses are paid over the living wage for their fantastic work.
In July 2015 I graduated from university and I am now able to concentrate full-time on the business. As well as our popular crop top and shorts/skirt/trouser sets, Laura Ralph Designs now sells shift dresses, long jackets and jacket and trouser/skirt sets meaning that we now offer clothing for all the seasons of the year.
Whether I use vintage or vintage-inspired fabrics, I know my customers value the exclusiveness of my products and the fact that very few outfits or garments are made in any particular fabric. Unlike something they buy from the high street, customers know that they are buying something very few people will be wearing. Similarly, I enjoy being able to offer customers who order clothing from me a uniquely customised service so that they are not only able to choose a fabric for the outfit they want, they can also specify alterations in the sizing of the garments, if for instance they are tall or short or want to buy a set with a different sized top and bottom. I have lots of loyal returning customers who know I will make clothes to their specifications which will fit perfectly!
There are so many things I want to do the business! Before too long I hope to start selling my designs in my own textile prints, I would like to add coats to the collection and I would also like to start a line in children’s clothes … But meanwhile I am so grateful to all my customers for buying my clothes and supporting me on Instagram and Facebook and I just hope to keep making clothes you all like and want to wear.