photo: Harpers Bazaar
Charlotte Olympia is a brand known and loved by everyone from Taylor Swift to Beyonce. It’s easy to think such a well-known, well-loved brand has always existed, but the brains behind the brand, Charlotte Dellal, created her brand in 2008 and reached massive success by her thirties!
When she was just 18 she interned with British fashion journalist Hilary Alexander at the Daily Telegraph in London. She told BOF: “Having that insight that your work is being critiqued and isn’t just for you, you learn all sorts of things. It was important for me, as a young designer, to have an aesthetic point of view — something recognizable.”
She always knew she wanted to have a brand, and in 2015 generated over $40 million in revenue. Which is seriously impressive. But it’s been hard work, too.
She studied at London College of Fashion and did a foundation in fashion design, and was told by her tutor to try a shoe design college in London after he noticed she was more focused on accessories than clothing.
In 2008 she released the first Charlotte Olympia collection with backing from British Fashion Council’s NewGen scheme. She chose the name because Olympia is her middle name, so it’s very much her hard work and her brainchild. But when she first had the idea it was her father who helped her get serious about it, “When I told my dad I wanted to make shoes he asked if it was going to be a business or a hobby. I said: a business. So he taught me the importance of the business plan. From an early age, my dream has been to build a brand. I’ve grown the business slowly, adding products when it was appropriate. I’d love to open more shops, but that won’t happen until it works for the business.” she told The Guardian.
She often says the key to her success is believing in her brand no matter what, and never wanting to give up.
“A lot I learned through my mistakes or doing things right by default, like standing your ground with prices. My prices were quite expensive to start off with, especially as a new designer, but they were beautifully handmade in Italy and you are in no position to negotiate with your factory in the beginning. Believe in yourself and your product, you can shoot yourself in the foot by giving away stuff for free, or not making any profit.”
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