YOU’VE just given birth and one of the first things your husband asks you to do is to sign a cheque for your new boutique (Powder, based in Crouch End. ) That was Sarah Curran’s experience of the first hours of motherhood to son Jake, now seven-years old.
It is no surprise that Curran says fashion is her life. The former boutique owner moved her business online in 2007, creating my-wardrobe.com, which sells designer women’s and menswear. “I wanted an accessible entry-point, so you can find dresses in the £400-£500 price range.”
So what are the differences between owning a high street shop and having an online business? Firstly, access to finance, as Curran, who never went to university, found out. She won a notoriously hard-to-get government-backed small firm loan guarantee for £100,000 when she started Powder, but banks were not as forthcoming with my-wardrobe.com. “Banks just don’t get online, they saw it as too risky.”
She started the business with £750,000 of her own money – the proceeds of selling her house in France – and has attracted investment of more than £4m. Curran remains the majority shareholder. To achieve her dream of making my-wardrobe.com the number one mid-priced online designer retailer, she knew that she had to go down the institutional route. Last month Balderton Capital invested £6m in the business. “They said it was the fastest deal they had ever done,” beams Curran, clearly happy about the possibilities this offers. “It was frustrating this season, we sold out of our best sellers so quickly. For example the Mulberry Alexa handbag sold out in an hour.” This investment will allow Curran to delve deeper into brands and add to her buying power.
The second difference is growth. On Wednesday Asos, the online equivalent of a high street retailer, revealed revenues had increased by 48 per cent in the three months to June. Likewise, Net-a-Porter.com was recently sold to Richemont, the luxury goods conglomerate, netting its founder Natalie Massenet a cool £50m. My-wardrobe.com is perceived to be worth £50m and is set to increase turnover by 100 per cent this year.
Working and being a mother has never proved a problem. “I think that I keep getting more ambitious. I realised that I wanted a certain standard of life and I didn’t want to just rely on my husband.”
So how glamorous is Curran? Well, when we meet she is wearing green khaki harem pants and a black vest-top with sky-high heels. The only hint of a label is a Hermes belt. “My style is simple,” says Curran, who is half French. It was her “incredibly glamorous” aunt who ignited her love of fashion. “When I was a child I would just stare at her for hours. We would go to the beach and even the way she rubbed in tanning lotion was glamorous.”
ACV | SARAH CURRAN
Lives: Leicestershire with husband Andrew and son Jake
Car you drive: Porsche Cayenne
Reading: Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini
Favourite brands: Malene Birger.
Styles for winter: shearling detail on boots, coats and bags and leather trousers.