Sisters Alice and Maisie Jones started up their Sisters & Seekers label from their garden shed in North Wales in 2017. Every year since then they’ve had to relocate to larger premises – growing to a team of 15 as well as creating a menswear “brother brand” called Brother + Kin in the height of the pandemic.
In fact, they’ve had their most successful year to date during the Covid-19 crisis, especially after launching their highly sought-after and best-selling “Isolation Generation” collection in May, 2020, with the UK still in the first lockdown. In November, they projected to reach £100,000 in sales in 24 hours on Black Friday (27 November, 2020), but actually hit that many sales in the first hour. And on 23 February, 2021, Sisters & Seekers reached a staggering 250,000 followers on Instagram. The sisters talk us through their phenomenal rise
What ages are you and have you always got on as sisters?
Maisie Jones: I am 22 and Alice is 25, we have always got on well, but since working together every day we are closer than ever. There are definitely still disagreements, especially when things get stressful, but we wouldn’t be able to do this without each other.
What were they both doing prior to launching Sisters & Seekers?
Alice Jones: I was working as a Junior Design Engineer and starting my degree in Architecture Design & Technology. Maisie was finishing sixth form and embarking on her degree in Business Management.
Amid the lockdowns and the surge in demand for loungewear, sportswear and athleisure products, how have you made yours stand out?
Maisie: We always try to hit three key points when designing; quality, fit and a focus on unique details. We often embellish original slogans or graphics on our pieces, or alternatively include unique branding that makes our pieces identifiable in the current market, for example our ‘SEEKERS’ badges. We also make sure our quality and fit is second-to-none, so you feel like you’re getting that bang for your buck.
What’s your real point of difference?
Alice: Our unique selling point is the “feeling” that comes with shopping Sisters & Seekers. All of our collections tell a story, all of our designs are curated down to every last detail, and all of our imagery aligns with our brand aesthetic. We showcase a diverse ‘sisterhood’ that allows everyone to feel special when wearing our clothes – even down to the way your parcel arrives wrapped like a gift in tissue paper. There is a lot of emotional attachment with our brand, and this magic only works if our team is applying a lot of attention to detail behind the scenes.
Who is your real target customer?
Maisie: Our target customer is between 18–30 years old. We maintain a range of price-points to allow for sisters at different stages in their young-adult life to have access to the brand. We are mindful of the first-year university students, all the way to the young woman in an established career with a little more disposable income. We appeal to the girl that wants something different yet on trend, the girl that loves to discover something new and share it with her friends.
Has Instagram played a big part in your success so far?
Alice: Yes, Instagram has been a huge tool for us in our journey so far. We built our following on Instagram from the ground up. We used to sell vintage clothing on the app Depop, so in the early days we did a lot of cross-promoting between the platforms to help get the word out about the brand, but the growth has been extremely organic. We think that a big contributing factor to this is how consistent we keep our feed. Everything circles back to our aesthetic and always has done, which is a great way to capture interest and followers from a first glance. We post 3-4 times a day right now, but we’ve always posted at least daily from the very start. We hit a real milestone on 23 February, 2021, reaching 250k followers on Instagram.
Why do you think you’ve had such quick success in three years?
Maisie: With all success, there’s always a little bit of luck mixed in, but alongside that has been a huge amount of work. When we were working in our back garden, we lived and breathed the business 24/7. Up until the end of year two, we were consistently working at least 16-hour days to make sure we were perfecting all areas as best as we could, especially as we didn’t start to take any staff on until after our first birthday, so workload was heavy. The team we have now built work tirelessly and are as passionate about the brand and seeing it succeed as we are, and we truly couldn’t ask for anything better than that. That’s definitely been the key to our continued growth, plus the ongoing support of our loyal customers.
What were your very first products and how has that grown now?
Alice: Our very first products were a variety of wholesale styles, leather jackets, dresses – very different to what we put out now. However, our first significant product that reflects our well-known “athleisure” style was the SisterSport Collection, that came around seven months after launch. That consisted of three oversized slogan hoodies, one of them being the “EXPOSED” hoodie which is still a favourite to this day. That was when we realised what direction we wanted to take the brand in, and when we really started getting a handle on our signature style.
Who built the website and when did you actually start selling your first ever Sisters & Seekers pieces?
Maisie: We actually got recommended a guy through our family that was starting out creating websites, so the price was low which was great for us at the time with very limited cash from our savings. We launched the brand in September 2017 with photos of us modelling the products, which we had shot each other wearing through the summer. Considering we were starting out from nothing, the launch was pretty successful.
Where are your products made and how has production been affected by the pandemic and forced closures?
Alice: Our products are made in various places, such as China, Turkey and the UK. Production was affected hugely during the first half of 2020, but we just had to do a lot of problem solving and pivoting to lessen the impact of that on the business as much as possible. It has helped having production in different locations across the world as closures in one country won’t necessarily affect other product lines, which has allowed us to continue to release new pieces during such uncertain times.
Is Sisters & Seekers now strictly direct to consumer?
Maisie: We are currently direct to consumer from our website, however, we previously had concessions in a handful of Topshop stores – with talks to grow that, prior to their closure that is. We are also due to go live on ASOS.com as a new supplier, so customers will soon be able to shop us on there too.
Alice: We plan on being very selective of who we partner with or wholesale to in the future if the opportunity does arise. Sisters & Seekers main website will always be the place to go for the widest selection of our pieces.
How did you achieve £100k in sales in one hour on Black Friday last year?
Alice: To be quite honest, it was so unexpected that we can’t pinpoint a definitive strategy of how we achieved that, however we believe it to be a combination of releasing a new collection the week prior to Black Friday, keeping our engagement on socials as high as possible in the run up to the launch, and running a cyber weekend giveaway. We also ran our biggest discount on Black Friday for 24 hours only, as that definitely creates a heightened sense of urgency rather than spreading it across a week. All of these things combined, alongside the massive efforts from the team behind the scenes, really propelled us into record sales.
Do you have any plans to open your own store in the future?
Maisie: As we said earlier, we have had experience in stores with Topshop and, although that was a fantastic opportunity and a huge learning curve for us, we believe the future is online and this is where we primarily plan to stay. However, it’s definitely a case of never-say-never, and we would love to at least open some pop-up stores in the future for both brands.
When and why did you launch the Brother + Kin men’s line and how well has it been received?
Alice: We launched the Brother + Kin men’s line in September, 2020, with two other business partners. It was always on our radar to bring out a menswear line, but this was spurred on by a lot of Sisters & Seekers customers telling us that their boyfriends also love our stuff, and we even already had men shopping with us to purchase a lot of hoodies and fleeces. We were ready to launch before the pandemic hit, however we held off due to being unsure how it would be received during such uncertain times. Since going live, sales have been climbing month after month, and we feel like we are starting to really hit our stride with it now. It’s surprising how different marketing menswear is to marketing womenswear.
What new products are you introducing?
Maisie: We are introducing a lot of new styles that we’ve never done before for SS21, and for AW21 we are focusing on hitting the season earlier than we have before – with a wider selection of pieces per collection to offer more choice to our customers.
How do you plan to keep on growing?
Alice: We are very grateful for the fact that there are still so many new avenues for us to explore in terms of growth. Everything we’ve gained so far has been very organic with little investment into our marketing, however moving forward we plan to push our growth with a much larger focus and budget dedicated to our marketing strategy and team. We keep our ears to the ground at all times, listening to our customers and always trying to get that one step ahead with our unique ideas.
Have influencers had a huge impact on sales growth?
Alice: We have actually invested little into our marketing and influencer budget up to this point, purely because the business has needed investment elsewhere while growing from a start-up, but also because influencers tend to shop with us organically and are genuine loyal customers of the brand, which is something we are very proud of.
Who do you see as your real inspirations and why?
Alice: There are a lot of inspirations in the industry for us for many different reasons, particularly women in business that are breaking the glass ceiling in the industry. However, we would say our real inspirations are each other. We both work equally hard to benefit each other, and to ultimately give one another the success and life we always hoped that we would be lucky enough to both share. Our drivers and inspiration are to give the best possible effort to the other sister, and vice versa.
Who would you most like to see wearing your products – on both Sisters & Seekers and Brother + Kin?
Maisie: We have a team vision board in the HQ meeting room with a selection of people we would love to see both brands worn by. It would certainly be cool to see Hailey and Justin Bieber kitted out.
Where would you say you sit in the market compared with other brands?
Alice: Our price point strategy covers a range of women at different stages in their early adult life. We would say we sit at a more expensive price point than PrettyLittleThing, but cheaper than a more luxury everyday brand like Fear of God.
Do you think you will continue to see big interest in your athleisure clothing when we come out of lockdown and all restrictions are lifted?
Maisie: Even prior to the pandemic our athleisure sets have always been bestsellers, so we are confident that we will continue to see this post-lockdown. However, we have adapted our upcoming collections to fit with life returning back to normal.
What are you looking forward to the most from a business perspective when we do finally come out of lockdown?
Alice: We are really excited to have more freedom with our shoot locations again, going abroad and so on, but we also have some new marketing ideas in the pipeline that we are excited to put into action when we can.
How has your business grown from March 2020 to March 2021?
Maisie: It’s grown hugely since March 2020, in so many ways that we didn’t expect but are strangely grateful for despite the year we’ve all had. A big driver of growth has been the team using this time to really refocus and push ahead in anticipation of life returning to normal. There have been very little distractions, so working hard has been a lot easier and it has been getting us all through this. We also believe that we’ve been more ‘seen’ this past year, with the majority of the world at home with not much else to do but go on their phones and browse the internet and social media.
When did you come up with the “Isolation Generation” collection?
Alice: We always have an ear to the ground and felt that we would like to release a product to mark such a strange event in all of our lives. From that, the ‘Isolation Generation’ capsule was born in May, 2020. We had the idea one evening at home in the spring and put the wheels in motion immediately. It was so in tune with the current circumstances and the year that we were having. We believe we have a very relatable identity which is another huge factor of our growth and success.
What were your best-selling products during Lockdown 1?
Maisie: Our best-selling line during Lockdown 1 was hands down the ‘Isolation Generation’ collection. We sold thousands of units by the time restrictions were lifted, and we were seeing it everywhere – even in real life not just on social media. It was our first ever drop to fully sell out the same day of release. Our customers couldn’t get enough of it and demand continued throughout the rest of 2020.
Has Covid-19 actually proved to be a positive thing in terms of interest in your brand then?
Alice: In a strange way, yes. Covid-19 has affected us all negatively on a personal level, but in the eyes of the business it couldn’t have been a more positive experience for us. We have maintained all our staff and given out promotions, grown new departments and invested in developing more designs. The interest in the brand has rocketed, especially because of our product type, but like Maisie said, we think primarily because so many people have ‘found’ the brand due to having more time on socials and online. We are so grateful for this and mindful of how lucky we have been.
How will you capitalise on that success when we are relatively back to normal
Alice: We have always reinvested back into the business. That has been key in our journey so far, and we will continue to do so. All of the success we have experienced is already contributing to new developments and ideas within the company that will evolve throughout 2021. We won’t be taking our eye off the ball from here, even when normality does return. We’re ready.
You will be coming out of lockdown a bit earlier in Wales compared to England, right? What’s the general feeling like?
Maisie: Yes, slightly earlier than England! It will definitely help team moral when our social lives go back to normal, which I’m sure we can all relate to. We are a very close-knit team, so it’s been strange to not be able to socialise outside of work. We all can’t wait for that day to come.
Alice: We think the general feeling is one of relief, but also of caution. I think everyone feels it’s almost too good to be true after it being so strange for so long, but there is also a strong sense of hope and pride that we’ve got through this together.
Do you have any special products coming out to celebrate coming out of lockdown?
Maisie: It’s our signature to put out funny and relevant slogans, and we’ve definitely got a lot lined up that we think our customers are going to love, so watch this space!