Ash and Lorraine are the creative force behind East London fashion brand, PYRUS. Their different styles come together in the brand; Ash’s more feminine and floaty, Lorraine’s more minimalist. I caught up with them to find out more about PYRUS, and the trials and tribulations that have got them to where they are now, a successful UK bridge-brand (think the London equivalent of Sandro or IRO).
How did PYRUS come to be?
Lorraine and I initially started working together in early 2001, we were offering a bespoke end to end solution for the high street that offered our customers a complete design to shop floor service. We did this for approximately five years. After we had saved up enough money we decided to launch our own brand and PYRUS was born. We had a simple mission statement for the brand – EFFORTLESS LONDON COOL.
What challenges did you face starting the business, and how did you stay focused and determined?
Well the main issues were working capital, margin and economies of scale. In simple terms, when we started the company we needed to work like a business of a certain size in order to meet minimums and get the costings we wanted. We also needed to invest a substantial amount of money into the business before we could actually deliver our first collection. It was a good 6 months before we issued our first invoice from the point where we began designing the initial collection. Focus and determination was the easy bit. Lorraine and I had each other and we had a dream. Luckily we were still working freelance for other people for the first 18 months. It helped fund us for the first few seasons. That, along with loads of instant noodles and coffee…
You design and make everything in Britain, why is this important to you?
We initially started making everything in Britain but had to expand to sourcing globally. Today we manufacture and source from Europe, India and the Far East. We would love to produce solely from the UK as we believe that our country produces some of the best products in the world. However, the sad fact is that in order to be competitive in a global market some sacrifices have to be made.
What people don’t know about designing a clothing line…
Meetings and charts! We constantly have to meet with our sales teams, which includes our various agents and distributors from around the world, and present the collection to them during development time. We then break down the collection by territory because we have to address issues – like things that sell well in the UK may not do well in Japan. So we have to design parts of the collection for specific markets. Then there are meetings with our production team to make sure that things are viable for manufacture. For example a leather trim on a blouse may be great but the wash care changes and this will affect sales. All of this needs to be evaluated during development. During all of this Lorraine and I still have to maintain focus on our own theme and the creative brief that we set ourselves for each collection. In short it’s a total head trip!
How do you stay true to your vision?
PYRUS is our baby! It is Lorraine and my creativity distilled into a collection. We never have to try and stay true to the collections as it is a representation of what Lorraine and I are, what we see around us and what we feel inspired by. It’s an ideal place to be for a creative as it is not hypothetical, it simply IS. The collection has grown and matured with us. When we started in our twenties we painted a collection with much stronger lines, over the years the lines have become cleaner and more defined.
If you weren’t designers what would you be?
Lorraine would be an architect, as she loves the symmetry of clean lines. Where as I started my career as a studio musician so I guess that is what I would be.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received? And, the best you would give to someone else?
The best advice we got was to go mid-market and never make our own samples. We were told to always let the factory make our samples as it assured that stockists would get the exact same quality in production.
The best advice we can give anyone starting out is get as much experience as you can. Get it in all areas of your industry. A fashion business owner needs to know everything from manufacturing to sales, international trade, logistics and even tax. It’s quite full on.
Being a husband and wife duo must have its ups and downs, how do you cope?
Lorraine and I were best friends before we were a couple and that has seen us through many tough times. It’s not always easy to leave work at the office but we try our best to clock off when we walk out of our studio. We also have two miniature dachshunds and a 2 ½ year old son that help keep us sane.
What was the first article of clothing you ever designed?
Lorraine’s was a pair of trousers and mine was a jacket. Cringe-worthy really.
Who and/or what were the inspirations for your latest collection?
PYRUS is inspired by the strong and powerful women we know, along with the art, music and culture that surrounds us in East London. I design all our prints and am always inspired by strong romantic floral themes that are almost ethereal. This is contrasted by Lorraine’s aesthetic for clean androgynous pieces. The intermingling of our very diametrically opposite styles is what creates a PYRUS collection.
Where would be the perfect destination for a PYRUS shoot?
A yacht, inboard motor, small crew, one week, sunshine! I do a lot of our photography and have personally been doing more and more shoots like this. Sometimes we go for a holiday, sometimes we go to someone’s house, it’s something that captures the models and the location in a very natural way. Would love to do it on a yacht.
What is the one item of clothing you think every woman should have in her wardrobe?
A white or cream silk shirt. Can be dressed up or dressed down. Works with skinnies, a skirt or even nothing else on.
What are you currently listening to in your studio?
Lorraine and I collect a lot of vinyl so it’s quite a mixed bag of new music and some old gems. We are currently listing to Caribou – Our Love, Boards of Canada – Music Has the Right to Children, Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli – With The Quintet Of The Hot Club Of France and The Black Keys – Thickfreakness
Have a listen:
How do you switch off?
We love to go on walks and run. It’s something that helps clear our mind out. Hampstead Heath is a favourite spot for a long 2 to 3 hour walk with the dogs and our son.
Our top 5 hangouts in London are…
1. Reckless Records
2. Kenwood House for Sunday Lunch
4. Greenwich Park
5. Clerkenwell Vintage Fair
What was the last thing that made you smile?
Our son calling a vampire a ‘cam-pire’.
Something people don’t know about us is…
We like old school 90s drum and bass along with a nice splashing of rave.
What piece will each of you be investing in this season?
We can’t get enough of Acne jeans! Here’s another secret. Ash wears Acne women’s skinnies. He thinks the ankles on the men’s are too big for his tiny pins! That and a Woolrich Artic Parka.
What are your hopes for the future?
We are quite hopeful that the yacht idea works out (wink).
Find out more and shop the brand: Pyrus.