With backgrounds in investment consultancy and environmental engineering, starting a London-based ethical fashion brand wasn’t exactly on the cards for Spanish husband and wife team Emilio and Maria Rodriguez. But, two years in, they’re glad they did.
Why an ethical fashion brand?
Etrala London is a high-end ethical fashion brand run by married couple Emilio and Maria Rodriguez. Originally from Seville, they moved to Madrid for their careers – Maria worked in environmental engineering and Emilio in investment consultancy and general management.
But it was while living and working in Madrid that both decided to pursue new careers. Maria had always been interested in fashion and so embarked on an MA in Fashion Design, while Emilio decided to study for an MBA with a focus on the luxury sector. And so the idea for Etrala was born.
With Maria as the creative driving force and Emilio the entrepreneurial dynamo, they set to work on their concept for an eco-friendly luxury fashion label. And, knowing there’s a growing appetite for ethically produced clothing here, they concluded that London was the perfect place to establish it.
So, after 12 years as a couple, they set up business together and moved to London in 2011.
We paid them a visit to their home-come-studio in West London to find out how it’s going (and how their website fits into the mix)…
Where ethical meets luxury
Due in part to Maria’s background in environmental engineering, ethics and the environment are high on the agenda at Etrala. They use carefully-sourced materials and 100% natural fabrics such as pure silk, British wool and organic cotton. And they adhere to the concept of ‘slow fashion’ by producing each item to order to avoid surplus stock and wastage.
Which is just as well, because Maria is pretty hot on detail. Every one of her designs is hand-drawn and handmade (by her hand, incidentally), at their home-studio in London and the finish on each item is so lovingly crafted that you begin to understand the seemingly lofty prices (we became quite attached to the items we tried on, it has to be said).
Selling online vs offline
On the subject of prices, Emilio explained their move from selling predominantly offline to online. “In the early days we sold our clothing in a number of boutiques around London. But the mark-ups made our products too expensive for many people, so now we’re selling online through our website.”
They complement online activity with private views and other events (including a catwalk in a pub) to build brand awareness and drive sales. They’ve also introduced a more affordable range to reach a wider audience.
“We’d like to open our own shop one day to cater for those who prefer to see things in person and try things on before buying them. It’s a generational thing – younger people seem more inclined to buy online,” he adds.
Maria created their Moonfruit site from scratch using the resources on our blog and forum to get her started. “We came across Moonfruit after two people recommended it to us separately. It took a bit of time to get used to at first as I was used to a different kind of platform. Now I recommend Moonfruit to everyone – it’s a great tool. I love being able to make changes myself. We introduce new products and collections often, so it’s great to be able to do that whenever we need to.”
But the site has changed a lot since that first version, she adds: “I never consider it to be finished – I like to change and adapt it all the time to keep things fresh and interesting. It helps you attract visitors and improve page views”.
As well as evolving the content on the site, Maria migrated the site from v5 to v6, primarily so it could be viewed properly on tablets and smartphones. “I thought it would take a lot longer than it did, but it actually only took a few days from start to finish, it was really easy. It really helped having all the instructions and information on the blog and forum,” she adds.
Inspiration from other sites
“We’re always researching other sites and thinking about how we can mimic features we like,” Emilio explains. “And it’s not just fashion sites either – we look at all kinds of sites for inspiration, Veuve Clicquot for example. We like how Mr Porter sells you a story and not just the clothing – they show you how you can combine the things they sell – people want to be shown and guided in that way.”
“We also like how some sites feature one big lifestyle image as their homepage. But you have to be a big name to be able to do that – we can’t as we’re not well known enough and we have to communicate a certain amount of information on our homepage, telling people who we are and what we do,” he adds.
It was the charming video on their site that sold it for us. As well as promoting their Positee project and competition, it gives viewers an insight to their creative process and really captures the brand’s ethos, personality, and sense of fun, all in one swoop.
“We realised that a lot of clothing brands were creating videos so we decided to create one,” says Emilio. “We wanted to show our young, funny side – we’re not at all serious – and communicate the values of Etrala. We’re having fun and we wanted to show that. We also wanted something that looked homemade – we’re small and that’s how we want to be, and be seen. For now anyway.”
Not content with being the stars of the video, they also managed to do the filming themselves, Maria explains: “People often ask us how we do it. It’s just us. We didn’t want to get someone else involved in case we got camera shy, so we just place my iPhone on a table or some books and that’s it really. Then I edit them on iMovie – it’s really simple, I just taught myself how to do it.”
Visit their website www.etralalondon.com and find them on Facebook and Twitter
What do you think of Etrala’s website? Inspired by their business and promotion model? Let us know what you think in the comments below…
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