Entrepreneurs: Meet the Rixo founders prepared to hitch LFW
It’s that time of year again when thousands of buyers, business executives, magazine editors and celebrities flock to the capital to marvel at the collections of Britain’s most popular and emerging designers. This Friday, the first physical events at London Fashion Week return since the pandemic began, with a mix of personal catwalks and digital shows for the public to watch at home.
The premium women’s fashion brand Rixo is one of the more than 120 participating companies. In addition to the A-listeners, the founders of Rixo are expecting another special guest at their presentation this week: the former landlord of the start-up’s founders. The entrepreneurs behind the vintage-inspired company – Orlagh McCloskey and Henrietta Rix, 32 and 29 years old respectively – started the business in the living room of the Barons Court House, which they rented with college friends.
McCloskey remembers setting up boards, keeping samples in the room, and using the kitchen as a packing station. “We’d ask the landlord to take out more furniture because we’re running out of space.” The entrepreneur, who runs the design department and wears one of Rixo’s £ 165 lace “Amanda” tops while chatting on Zoom, says the property owner has always been “supportive” of her business ambitions.
Rixo has come a long way since its inception in 2015. Today it has four independent London stores, is wholesalers and sells online.
It recently had annual sales of more than £ 10 million and its clothing has been spotted by celebrities like Holly Willoughby and Kylie Minogue.
Rixo has further growth ambitions, up to three more stores are planned in the near future, and the start-up recently launched new divisions such as shoes and knitwear.
The founders met at the London College of Fashion, where they completed a four-year degree in fashion management. Originally from Cheshire, Rix says they learned a lot about the commercial side of clothing retailing: “Purchasing, merchandising, branding, programming, and e-commerce.”
Rix and McCloskey, from Dungiven, Northern Ireland, both had a variety of retail jobs as teenagers and college students, including the Selfridges and Reiss workshops.
After graduation, they worked on their business plans over the weekend. They also spent time meeting people to learn about website design and visiting vintage stalls for inspiration. The couple had a penchant for silk clothing and dresses from the 1970s, and wanted customers to recreate a vintage look.
They each invested around £ 3,000 to start the business and had developed a relationship with a team in London that was able to take small orders of clothing (around 50 items) from China. The women sold the orders in the UK, making enough money to order more stock.
Rix says they started selling online, then borrowed their father’s car, stocked it up, and visited potential wholesalers. The efforts paid off and revenues rose steadily. One highlight Rix remembers was selling goods on the Net-a-Porter site.
Like other startups, Rixo – still owned by its founders – has faced difficulties and setbacks, including the pandemic. McCloskey says, “Wholesale was a big part of our business that was a bit deep, but we managed to grow the DTC (direct to consumer) side.”
There are other headwinds: “The biggest thing for us is the shipping costs. The other thing is that a lot of fabric prices have gone up. ”
Numerous companies have reported higher costs as manufacturers struggle with an order backlog. Freight costs have also increased, in part due to online ordering, which led to higher transport demand.
However, the Rixo team is optimistic about growth as visitor numbers in the West End improve weekly. They are looking forward to London Fashion Week, with a busy schedule of press appointments, adjustments and changes with models.
The fashion brand Rixo was founded in 2015
Meanwhile, McCloskey says work is already underway on the collection that will come out after the one featured at the event. That gives well-heeled buyers something to look forward to in 2022.
Sales: £ 10.5 million a year through June. A target of £ 18 million this fiscal year.
Headquarters: near Shepherd’s Bush