Business Leader recently sat down with Samanah Duran to discuss her history as a fashion and media entrepreneur and how she plans on developing fellow female talent within business.
Can you give me an overview of Critics Clothing?
Critics Clothing is a luxury streetwear brand developed and designed by myself in 2012. Critics Clothing accurately conveys a powerful message to take pride in your identity, demonstrated through an intricate blend of simplistic and traditional but assertive styles.
How has the company changed the fashion industry?
I may have made an insignificant change somewhere along the lines however, I cannot say that I have changed the fashion industry with Critics Clothing. It wasn’t that I researched into the streetwear market potential at all when I launched, I just really liked the streetwear culture and its underground movement.
Arguably, the streetwear movement has definitely become one of the most disruptive forces within the fashion industry due to its significant year on year growth. Streetwear doesn’t just represent fashion, its spans over art, music and culture on a larger scale that has created a massive power shift in community movement and has resulted in the consumer deciding what is popular not corporations.
What separates it from other fashion brands in the UK?
The brand exclusivity is its USP. Many other brands just like Critics Clothing such as Stussy, Supreme and Obey manage to use unique distribution channels with thanks to the internet, without just selling through the traditional retail methods of department stores or wholesaling into the masses.
Exclusivity and its ability to remain as underground as possible is something I have always remained passionate about, as it was a question when launching, of whether to turn mainstream or continue to streamline an elusive brand with less availability to the mass market.
Ultimately, for me, a great deal of emphasis has always been on developing a brand that our audience can connect and resonate with through brand DNA, ethos and storytelling, combined with an elaborate focus on providing quality rather than quantity.
Can you take me through the growth of the company and how you achieved it?
Coming from a presenter/model background I was super strapped for cash when I moved to London at 20 years old back in 2010, so I took the opportunity of a presenting gig touring over the west coast of the US on a car rally in 2010, and had returned with the idea of wanting to launch a brand I felt passionate about which I could build, grow and work on for a long time.
In 2012 I launched Critics Clothing completely bootstrapped with the depths of my own pockets, and by 2014 when I went back to do the same presenting gig on that same car rally over Europe, I landed an investment deal by chance after I was chatting away unknowingly to a private equity investor.
I was very fortunate to skip the traditional pre-seed/seed funding round from friends and family which would be the typical approach towards raising growth capital. Now, with a new factory partnership under my belt for Critics Clothing which enables us to now fulfil and distribute orders worldwide to our customer base, it has really allowed us to focus on other aspects of brand building and scaling.
What celebrity endorsements have you received and what has it meant to the business?
The company’s most notable connections and strong affiliations lie heavily embedded within the music industry, where collaborations and partnerships with a number of established artists, musicians, DJ’s and creative folk have formed. To date, Critics Clothing has worked on projects with The Hunna, Stephen Webster, David Harewood, Chucku Modu, and Haris Nukem and is frequently worn by MNEK, Rita Ora, Ella Eyre and Mallory Knox.
We have been able to leverage this when looking to form new brand partnerships and collaborations, which has helped us significantly when it comes to raising brand awareness and defining the brand positioning.
Can you talk about your new business BEYOUROWN?
Born off the back of Critics Clothing, BEYOUROWN is a digital media and content company with the aim to help entrepreneurs navigate their way through their business journeys. BEYOUROWN help to empower and support all women that are passionate about changing lives. Worldwide leading ladies use the BEYOUROWN platform to tell their stories, offer advice and share their knowledge.
Now armed with an ever-growing international readership & by highlighting female-owned businesses & brands located in the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, and the UAE, it is safe to say we can see why BEYOUROWN is a magnificent directory full of female backed ventures.
What are the plans for this company?
Ultimately I aim to continue connecting, championing and celebrating entrepreneurs through BEYOUROWN. BEYOUROWN is a fast becoming a full-service media company and a global hub of ambitious, smart and interesting go-getting women in business.
Yes, we are a small ever-growing team, but we are always working on big things. We have just launched our BEYOUROWN Paid Intern Programme and so far we have collaborated with both product and service-driven brands ranging from Candy Kittens, Cision PR, Tech Open Air, Wander Beauty, Kett Cosmetics to Foodinate.
However, we have a clear vision to transition BEYOUROWN from the online digital sphere to an offline footprint with a couple of projects that we are due to launch in 2020.
Lastly, not only are we on a mission to lead women with a vision, but we also aim to support and develop talented women who want to be part of a brighter future. With this in mind, I am developing a foundation that aims to support women in business in need of funding by offering small bi-annual grants.
What are your plans for the future?
I aim to expand on my team to be able to facilitate the growth I am working on. We all have different approaches to scaling up companies, but I guess what I really love is that as we are still relevantly small, and we still maintain a real company culture attitude, which means we are still able to make spontaneous decisions.