The Interview: Lucy Aylen, Founder, Never Fully Dressed

Lucy Aylen
Lucy Aylen, Never Fully Dressed

Contemporary womenswear brand, Never Fully Dressed was established from a small store in Essex and has rapidly grown to become an Instagram favourite. Founder, Lucy Aylen started manufacturing clothing from her parent’s attic and selling pieces at London markets.

Operating with a team of sixteen employees, the brand has run international pop ups across Dublin, LA, Barcelona, New York and Sydney. Recognised for its signature prints, wrap dresses, multi-wear styles and affordable price points, Never Fully Dressed is in great demand from both retailers and influencers. Founder of Never Fully Dressed, Lucy Aylen tells the more:

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?

My parents are from the East End where they started working in the markets, with seamstress Grandparents it has always been in my blood. I tried my hand at acting and went to live in LA for a few years but that didn’t take off, so I decided to try my hand at customising and selling at the markets too. I used to customise items in my Mum ad Dad’s attic to then take to sell at Spitalfields and Portobello.

What bought Never Fully Dressed to life?

The markets are where it started and where NFD was bought to life via the commercial side of the brand and the spirit of the market.

You launched in 2009, what was the response and what has changed since?

The response was based on the weekends sales at the markets as well as Facebook likes at the time. We started to grow as a business alongside the growth of social media which was not necessarily as prominent when we first started.

Our loyal customers from the markets would like and share us on their socials which allowed us to become better known and create our own social tone of voice. Our styling videos have been a huge success in our social growth allowing us to showcase how one item can be worn multiple ways.

What is your Brand DNA?

Exclusive, fun prints, bringing a smile to your wardrobe. We look to empower and appreciate women of all ages and sizes wanting everyone to feel confident. We are rooted in our charity involvement which has been since the beginning via selling our charity tees. We are a conscious brand from office to ethos to manufacturing and execution.

Who is your target market?

Females aged 25-45/50.

Fashion led females who do not take themselves too seriously and have fun with dressing.

Never Fully Dressed Boob Bag

What sets you apart from other contemporary womenswear brands?

The fact that we have such an extensive size ratio for a new, trend led brand. Our honest voice spread across our social and online really sets us apart. We are an approachable brand who value the community we have built.

What strategy did you adopt to grow a boutique into a social media favourite with great appeal and awareness?

Most things have developed organically, I was always so conscious to create a community with our customer being our influencer. I have a natural ambition and drive so always ensure I move targets to align with the business growth.

The brand has multiple international pop-ups – do you have any plans of launching a permanent bricks and mortar store in the UK or abroad?

We were looking at having a permanent store or even a yearly pop up but Covid has limited that for us right now. This may change in the future and would be in the US where we are looking to have distribution from.

Could you tell us about your strategy that positions customers as influencers?

Our customer is our influencer and influences us as a brand in all that we do from design to social interaction.

Would you say you use a lot of user-generated content then on social or is there a specific influencer gifting outreach in place?

Our influencer outreach is very organic, we have been working with influencers before they had a platform whether they bought from us at the markets or online. As we have grown as a social brand, we have looked to target certain influencers within marketing avenues to ensure our content is always creative and relevant. We do not relay on UGC but love seeing tags and shares from our customers which we can then share.

Never Fully Dressed, Pink Lobster Lindos Maxi Dress

How did major influencers and celebrities become quick fans of the brand and did you have a hand in spreading the word?

Going back to the market we used to have stylists and editors come and pick a few things to push. It was a lot more manual then with them having to come to us to collect pieces. One of the first celebrities was Ferne Cotton who used to wear NFD when she was djing. There are stylist and celebrities we love working with and love to dress them when styles align.

What kind of promotional partnerships or collaborations are you open to?

We are open to everything really; we love new ideas whether it comes from staff or companies wanting to collaborate. We are currently talking to an artist to work on a capsule collect which will be amazing. We are open to fun ideas which our customers would love.

Our most recent partnership with Made In Chelsea felt completely right at that time and aligned as two brands.

How has the Never Fully Dressed direct-to-consumer website been performing throughout this uncertain period?

We have been so lucky that we have such a wide D2C community and do not relay on a big wholesale model. Any wholesale orders that were cancelled were absorbed into current stock and sold online which again was very lucky at this time. The biggest hurdle for us has been range planning and getting the buying process right due to the ever-changing restrictions. Our International growth is also uncertain in different territories as everything is still so fragile.

Never Fully Dressed, Pink Lobster Lindos Maxi Dress

How has Never Fully Dressed been adapting to such challenging times?

We have worked really hard to reinforce confidence in our community putting aspects into place to strengthen relationships. We have extended our customers services hours giving customers old and new a platform to can ask anything in relation to product buying, ordering and delivery etc.

We changed our shoot model to at home content via models and influencers to keep content fresh and up to date. With more people on their phones we have seen a big increase in our mobile traffic and will be looking to launch an app which is so great.

We also recently launched Internationally via Global-e to provide a stronger reliance in our brand worldwide.

Our small team have been so agile, helping each other and overlapping on job roles where needed to ensure everything kept running smoothly.

Is the Coronavirus pandemic one of the biggest challenges facing the fashion industry today?

Yes, it has hit the economy so hard therefore people are going to have less disposable income to buy clothes. Everyone has become so creative, thinking outside of the box to ensure brand awareness and appeal is there. Whilst we think of the challenges, we also remain conscious as a brand.

What’s next for Never Fully Dressed?

A/W knits which are looking insane, we think they will be a game changer for us. We are relaunching gym wear early next year following on from our range a few years ago. Lastly, we will be launching kids wear next summer! How exciting!

What advice would you give to anyone starting a fashion brand?

My main piece of advice would be to go for it, start doing what you love and get it out there as much as possible. With the growth in social media, if people like it there is a way to get it out there. Enjoy it!