Bringing you Allium B – and an interview with Clare and Mary Burgess

When I was asked by Sophia at Dee Vesali PR whether I would like to do an Interview with Clare and Mary, the Designer sisters behind the range Allium B, I jumped at the chance.

Clare and Mary Burgess live in Brighton and named their brand, Allium B, after their favourite flower and the first letter of their surname. What a lovely picture of the sisters – they look so happy and relaxed – as if they have the whole work-life balance thing sussed.

With successful careers in fashion, the sisters spotted a gap in the market for beautiful dresses, made from gorgeous fabrics with respectable hem lengths at a good price.  Clare and Mary ensured that no stone was left unturned when it came to those all important details, which is what makes Allium B so special. 

When were the seeds for Allium
B first sown and how long was it before you had your first finished dress?

We
both love dresses and as we’ve grown up have found it increasingly difficult to
find dresses we love at prices we can afford. Alexandra Shulman of Vogue
convinced us there was a gap and we should go for it when she wrote in her
Editor’s letter in July 2010 “It is a depressing truth that in terms of
fashion, there remains an enormous gap on the retail scene for clothes that
older women really want to wear. While the high street goes from strength to
strength at providing trend led, affordable pieces, they are, in the main,
aimed at a younger audience comfortable in short lengths…. Then there is a huge
jump into the sensible look that seems to be considered appealing to women….”

We
went to India in September 2011 to start developing the range and we launched
in March this year

Are you able to tell me a little bit about Allium B, together with the
market at which it is aimed
?

We
share a passion for dresses, but as our styles have grown up, we’ve found it
increasingly difficult to find grown-up but affordable options to match –
dresses that aren’t too young, too old, too short or too long.

With
two children each, we don’t have time to waste – we want perfectly-cut,
versatile pieces we can throw on with a piece of statement jewellery and flats
or heels for a fabulous instant outfit. 

Having
worked for big companies for years, we loved the idea of filling this gap by
creating a niche business based in Brighton, where we live. So Allium B was
born. We’ve created a collection of simple but statement ‘forever dresses’,
designed for women, not teenagers – at prices that won’t have you hiding the
receipt but still allow us to produce beautifully-made products. 

Do you have a list of criteria for your designs, and if so, what are
they?

We
try to think about every detail – from Liberty prints and hand stitched buttons
to linings, which mean you’ll never get nasty bra show-through with any of our
designs.

Our
dresses come in natural fabrics, ranging from pure silk to georgette, and take
inspiration from vintage touches we love – beaded Peter Pan collars, intricate
embroidery and lace, reworked into modern silhouettes.

 When
deciding if a dress makes the final cut, we always ask ourselves – ‘do we love
it?’  If the answer’s yes, it’s in.

Although you both had careers in retail, with Mary being head
of buying and Clare being head of merchandising at Topshop, were
there any issues that you came come across in creating the range which you
hadn’t anticipated?

Yes
loads it’s very different launching a start-up to working for a big established
company with teams of people. It’s very exciting and we have learnt so much in
the last 6 months, you have to be prepared to get involved in everything.

You must have been so excited to see Kate Garraway wearing one of your
dresses on TV – how did that feel? Was it a surreal moment?

Yes
very exciting, she has worn 3 already and looked lovely in them all. The best
thing about creating a range is seeing women looking and feeling fabulous in
our designs.  

Can we expect to see Allium B expanding into other areas of clothing or
is it your intention focus on dresses for the foreseeable future?

We
intend to focus on dresses and establish Allium B as a must-have dress
label. 

Do you have any plans to have Allium B stocked in stores or are you
planning on keeping the business on-line only?

Our
plan was to keep the business on line but we have had requests from stores to
stock Allium B so it’s something we are considering for S/S 2013. We have done
some Pop Up stores this season, which have been very successful, and we love
meeting our customers.

How soon can we take a peek at your next collection?

Autumn
Winter 2012 is in production and will be on line at 
www.alliumb.com in August. 

What advice do you have for all those busy Mums juggling careers with a
family?

Be
organized have a family timetable!

Finally, two questions to you both:

A walk on the beach or a walk in the Downs?

Brighton
Beach is always a family favourite

Montezumas or Hotel Chocolat?

It
has to be Montezuma’s giant chocolate buttons

Montezuma’s giant chocolate buttons? Now, these are my kind of ladies – especially if they buy them in jars! If you would like to see more picures of the dresses above, and more besides, nip over to Allium B to take a look. 

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7 Comments

  1. neppyjane
    July 6, 2012 / 9:25 am

    Lovely dresses…not sure they're right for over-fifties though! Bit too young?Can I just comment here, as an aside, that I'd love to see more dresses just below the knee, rather than just above the knee (as I've got fat knees!!) and not so many sleeveless dresses as this really narrows my field of choice (fat arms too with those underarm bulges that seem to arrive overnight when you reach 40). Any recommendations for suitable sites for over-fifties that fulfil this brief?

    • StyleGuile
      July 6, 2012 / 7:34 pm

      Hi neppyjane – There is probably no one brand that will fulfill all of your criteria all of the time. However, Monsoon, Jaeger, Phase Eight, M&S, Coast, Hobbs, Jigsaw, Ben de Lisi at Principles, Planet, Episode, LK Bennett and Gerard Darel should do a pretty good job of meeting your criteria and Jane and Marilyn are great for special occasions. I would take a look at the Jaeger sale right now – there are some fantastic savings on fixed wrap dresses with sleeves.

  2. Andress
    July 7, 2012 / 7:58 am

    Hi there – wow, the dresses are lovely, thanks for all the info, its great. I love reading about ladies that see a gap in the market and really go for it. Good on them I say!

    • StyleGuile
      July 9, 2012 / 7:13 pm

      Hi Andress – thanks, I am pleased that you enjoyed this post. I always like reading those stories too, they are so inspiring aren't they?

  3. Anastasia
    July 7, 2012 / 10:54 am

    lovely dresses – they have really researched their market, I like all all the styles!as the comment above – I also dont like my chunky knees and always look for dresses to hide them but end up looking very matronly! its tricky!

    • StyleGuile
      July 9, 2012 / 7:15 pm

      Hi Anastasia – Oh, that's good. I am pleased that you liked their styles. Yes, that whole "covering the kness without looking frumpy" issue can be a difficult line to tread but as with most issues fashion related, if you are aware of them, you tend to address them better than if you aren't – if you get what I mean!

  4. fashionfollowsher
    July 22, 2012 / 9:42 am

    So nice to find a brand that designs for women! Love.

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