SI BEALES was the business partner of British print designer Sarah Arnett and is now a freelance writer and creative marketing consultant.
"For eight years I was involved in the fashion business and now I'm not. I can't tell you how good it feels to write those words.
I became friends with Sarah Arnett in Brighton where we both lived and then, in 2002, we decided to start a business together. Initially, we opened a shop selling other designer's labels. Sarah then started to design her own clothes and would sit at the back of the shop making them. They became so popular that we began to use a factory and then eventually decided to start wholesaling.
Our first big break came when Liberty decided to buy our collection - a huge honour for Sarah as a print designer. We were then selected for London Fashion Week and this led to us meeting a sales agency who began to represent us. Within one season they had increased our business from 15 to 50 accounts. We raised investment in the company and began to expand rapidly, increasing our wholesale accounts and starting a bridal business. With hindsight, this was where the problems started. We were over ambitious and under prepared. But the hamster wheel of fashion - constantly looking ahead to the next season and never living in the moment - meant that we could never ever stop to see where we were going wrong.
Soon Sarah's dresses were worn by an array of people in the public eye: Alexandra Shulman chose to wear one when meeting Michelle Obama at the G20 summit; Cindy Crawford popped into a boutique in Toronto and bought one; Geri Halliwell wore us to David Beckham's thirtieth; Christina Aguilera selected one for a magazine shoot and Erin O'Connor used to shop at our store in Brighton.
In our time we sold in some of the best stores in the world - Harvey Nichols, Liberty and Fenwick in London, Nieman Marcus in LA and Luisa via Roma in Milan to name just a few. At our height we were selling to over 100 stores in over 20 countries and generating over £500,000 in sales each season. We even won the UK Fashion Export Award in 2007, presented by Princess Anne.
Such is the paradox of fashion that despite our supposed success we were constantly on the brink of failure. One design issue, fabric problem, production fault or late payment would tip us into crisis. Despite its reputation for frivolity this is not an easy business. Ultimately it is about design, process and production for the human form rather than baubles and beads. And those that survive and prosper are tough, tough cookies."
THE Intercontinental Group of Department Stores and the International Association of Department Stores have named shopping mecca Selfridges as the Best Department Store in the world. The store beat off competition from America's Bloomingdales and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong.
"We are delighted to have won this very special award and very proud of our teams who have all contributed in making this happen," said Paul Kelly, Selfridges vice-chairman. "This is very much in recognition of their hard work. This centenary-old brand built on the most extraordinary heritage, confirms that Selfridges is the most relevant and exciting department store today."
The accolade was based on the store's prestigious profile, its product and store innovation strategies, in-store experience, customer service and financial performance. The IGDS is the largest association of department stores worldwide, making the award the highest in the retailing field.