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The Interview: Janet Newman, founder, Phoebe Grace

Sadiyah Ismailjee
18 October 2019

Phoebe-Grace is a British designed luxury leisurewear label established in London by Janet Newman and daughter Phoebe. The independent label has based its brand identity on recreating luxe leisurewear through combining comfort with chic prints. The brand incorporates fun and iconic prints in all of its designs offering women effortless yet stylish pieces. Since launching Phoebe Grace has rapidly grown and has been endorsed by a number of high-profile influencers including former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman.

What was the drive to start up your own fashion label?

My eldest daughter, Phoebe, who is one of the most creative people I know; after graduating from university she put together a small collection of prints and I instantly fell in love with them. In 2016 I had a heart transplant and it gave me a new lease of life, and with it, the ability to have a career I was truly passionate and excited about – art and fashion! I wanted the world to see Phoebe’s prints, they were too beautiful not to be shared.

Where do you find your inspiration for your in-house designs and prints?

To be honest, I take inspiration from all around me, whether that be nature, my personal experiences, the people around me, the places I travel, and so on.  Every collection resonates with me on a deep level. My upcoming collection for SS20 is inspired by my journey with my illness, and in a way makes something beautiful out of what was a really difficult time.

Phoebe Grace

How can women incorporate prints into their wardrobe?

I like wearing all-black as much as the next person, but I have found that you don’t have to be a ‘maximalist’ in order to play around with prints. The great thing about Phoebe Grace is that even by adding in a printed silk scarf around your neck, your waist or in your hair, you elevate your look instantly - it is really that simple! Alternatively, like most of my customers, you can wear an entire Phoebe Grace outfit and look equally as elegant. It really is down to the individual how they chose to style my clothes, be it subtle or loud.  What I do know, however, is that prints can make life prettier and more exciting.

What would you consider to be your brand identity?

I’d like to think we have a few USPs.  We are a female owned, female run company, which is great in itself because I get to work alongside a team of amazing women.  As well as this, all of our materials are natural, be it Silk or Bamboo blends, making it comfortable on the skin and great for the environment.  Indeed, arguably as important as comfort is that women feel they look great in what they wear – our timeless pieces make sure that we don’t sacrifice style nor comfort in the design and manufacturing process.

What makes Phoebe Grace pieces unique?

What makes us unique is the distinct handwriting of our prints. In addition to our prints, we are unique in that we are sustainable in two senses: environmentally - because our materials are ethically sourced and natural- and in terms of the individual’s wardrobe – our clothes are timeless and whilst we bring out new styles and prints, I’m confident our clothing won’t go ‘out’ of fashion.

How did you find your customer base?

Our customer base grew largely from online and the retail shows we did in the nascent stages of Phoebe Grace.  I was taking inspiration from my own personal taste, as well as the women around me, and thus, I think our customer base is wide because our clothing is ‘relatable’ in that anyone can wear it. It grew organically, we naturally attracted people both online and in person.

Phoebe Grace

What is your current route to market?

Our route to market is mostly direct, through our website.  We have a few online retailers, as well as a few pop ups, giving the customer the ability to try on our clothes in person.  The opportunity that online retail offers can’t be understated, as well as the power of Instagram.

What are your business achievements to date?

There are so many that I am proud of! Launching on Wolf and Badger, as well as a new online retailer, Avail, has been amazing.  I am so excited by both platforms.  As well as this, getting the women who have inspired me to wear my clothes, like the former editor of Vogue, Alexandra Shulman, was an enormous achievement. Having individuals who have a large online presence, like Rosie Fortescue, Louise Thompson, and Tanya Zuckerbrot, wearing my clothes, has also been significant in extending my online reach.  There is so much more to come in 2020/21, so watch this space!

What is the future for Phoebe Grace?

I look forward to creating more ways of recycling and/or reworking materials in order to reduce our waste output (which is already very low). One of our priorities is to stay away from ‘fast fashion’ – we never want to put that sort of stress on our environment.  Yet in the same vein, we also want to keep growing and to introduce more environmentally friendly material into our fold.

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