10 years of
10 years ago, Founders Liz, Lisa and Jane created Mint Velvet and defined our signature relaxed glamour ethos and effortless way of dressing. 10 years on, they tell us what it means to them today.
What is relaxed glamour?
Liz: “At the beginning, we had to decide what the essence of Mint Velvet was. I wanted casual and relaxed, Lisa wanted something more glamorous and Jane wanted cool and modern. Relaxed glamour was what we kept coming back to.”
Lisa: “Glamour without the relaxed doesn’t work, but neither does relaxed without glamour – that’s where lots of people end up.”
Jane: “Nobody else was doing that – balancing everyday clothes with an edge and a bit more sexiness.”
Describe the first few weeks of MV
Liz: “Oh my goodness, do you remember this first few weeks?”
Jane: “I remember thinking – it’s 75 miles away! I remember you saying to me, right we’ve found a new office but there’s a slight catch. It’s not in London! But it was fun and a learning curve. And who was going to do the post? Who sends our post, how will this work?!”
Liz: “It was fun. It was literally 24/7. I remember we slept it and ate it! In our old careers we had got to director level, but it was right back to the beginning when it was just three of us. How do we send a package? How do we have a press day? What’s a test report? We were in my house, and had nowhere to hang the clothes. They were out on the patio! And it was summer holidays so the kids were running around.”
Jane: “I think we had one desk and six chairs in the office. No internet. Katherine, our first employee, had to go downstairs into the reception if she ever wanted to send an email. Fun times and hard work!”
What was the office like at the beginning?
Liz: “Do you remember those first few days in our new offices? We thought we were so established. I just remember that office, when we went to find it. It was only about 1400 sq ft and we thought – this is too big! We’ll never need this space.”
Lisa: “It definitely wasn’t on-brand for Mint Velvet. It had a blue carpet, pine furniture and a little sink in the corner! We didn’t have any money or people. Four people, one desk! We had those Ikea desks.”
Liz: “I remember my son Tom running around on the wheel desks and breaking all the plug sockets! And look at the offices we have now, they’re just so beautiful with all the people. We have the photo room and the studio. We can do yoga. It feels like a community. I think back, did we even contemplate whether it will be successful or not?”
Jane: “I don’t think we ever did. We just went for it.”
Lisa: “And just enjoyed it. We were so busy and so passionate about the clothes, because they were clothes that we’d wear. Every time Jane designed something and it came back, we loved it. Nobody was telling us what to do.”
What’s it like working with friends?
Lisa: “When they’re good enough friends, and you know and respect them then it doesn’t really matter if you argue or disagree, because you can be very open and take each other’s criticism. It’s always with the best intentions. Sometimes Jane needs to walk away or sometimes Liz and I will have a big argument, but then it’s sorted and we can have a cup of tea! We actually quite enjoy the rows!”
Liz: “We knew and respected each other as work colleagues first, then the friendship came after that. So we all knew what each person could bring to the party. Also you need the trust – if you’re going to put all your time and money into something, you need people you know will do the same.”
Jane: “One of the best things we did was to rename ‘disagreement’ as ‘creative collision’. Clothes are never an exact science and it’s always a debate as to what the customer wants. It’s a lot more personal when it’s your own business, it becomes like a family. It’s all about the trust, you need the trust of friends when it’s your own business. And we can pass on the ethos to the new people coming in.”
Describe each of your styles
Jane: “We all have different styles. I think Liz looks polished and effortless, quite Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. I feel a bit grungy next to Liz. Lisa’s style is harder to sum up – she takes a trend and stays true to it. She loves sparkle, femininity and likes to show her curves.”
Liz: “Lisa is the hard one. She embraces what is new for the season, but isn’t a victim to it. That then works through into the collections. Someone that’s real can wear it.”
Lisa: “Well I’ll describe Jane. The great thing with Jane’s style is it’s very consistent. I can almost guess what she’ll wear. She does feminine, pretty, sexy style with a cool, slightly grungy edge. It’s like Ibiza cool. It’s hard because we want to do the trends, but as we get older we don’t always know what suits us anymore. You need to go and actually wear it out and find out – it either works or it doesn’t.”
Liz: “I actually think that’s what style is, knowing what really suits you. And how you feel in it. Some things look good, but you don’t feel good in it.”
Your favourite MV memory?
Liz: “I remember our first ever customer in our House of Fraser concession in Birkenhead. We had just opened in the department store and this woman walked over – she was exactly who I imagined our customer to be. She was glamorous and cool, and was going to a Tom Jones concert, so she wanted something a little edgy. And I just said ‘we’ve got exactly what you need’. She loved it. I should have kept her details!”
Lisa: “Seeing someone wearing Mint Velvet out and about or in a restaurant is still such a thrill! It’s impossible to choose one thing. We love the Christmas parties when we can see what a lovely bunch of people we work with.”
Jane: “Having my first shoe designs come back was so exciting. I had never designed shoes before, so I was really proud!”
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