White tells all about his new tailoring venture Shipton White.
Bobby White has big plans for his core brand and retailers have no part of it. Instead, he tells Rachael Taylor how he’s planning to catapult his business with a tailoring venture.
Bobby White is nothing if not determined. Listening to Richard Branson talking books as he works in his studio, he sits at the head of a successful venture that many might have tried to dissuade him from launching immediately after his apprenticeship ended. But launch it he did.
Six years on, East London-born White’s gamble has paid off and he has made a name for himself as a creative force with a lust for perfection and a penchant for controversial ad campaigns, and he’s determined to keep the momentum flowing. To take his business to the next level, he’s got a brand new venture up his sleeve.
Always sharp, always suited and booted, White can easily be considered one of the best-dressed men in the industry. In fact, Goldsmiths’ Hall director Paul Dyson once used him as an example of how men should dress while castigating a group of under-dressed gents at the 2009 Goldsmiths’ Fair. And it is this love of a sharp suit that has led him to his newest business venture: Shipton White.
Introduced through a mutual friend, White met up with upmarket tailor James Shipton to discuss creating a range of cufflinks. But once the pair met, the cufflink collaboration exploded into a fully blown joint business and Shipton White was born.
Shipton White will create bespoke suits for a discerning clientele, using the finest materials known to man. And when they say fine, they mean fine.
The designers have been working with textiles laced with platinum, gold and diamonds and have just completed a suit that sold for £60,000. “We’ve got the best cloths,” boasts White in a soft east London accent. “You can even have a painting airbrushed onto your suit. You can go as far as you want to go.”
The newly created label is obviously aimed at a discerning clientele, and without dropping too many names, White reveals Shipton White has designed for A-list footballers and city slickers, and has snagged a deal with television network Sky to provide suits for its presenters.
Although White has designed a suit for himself – a mohair, grey suit with a pillar-box red lining and mother of pearl buttons – experienced tailor Shipton is the one cutting the cloth. Where White comes into his own is creating the finishing touches.
White is designing every accessory that a sharp-suited geezer might need: cufflinks, tie bars, buttons, pocket watches, 18ct gold sunglasses – the sky is the limit. “We had one guy who wanted his kids’ names and birthdays engraved on the buttons,” says White. “It was very subtle but it added that personal touch.”
White and Shipton aside, the company has six other people involved, including White’s brother Tommy White, who is a director, and a famous fashion visionary who wishes to act as a silent partner. The company also has three investors, who will no doubt ensure that the Shipton White gang stays on track in its attempts to make a big name for itself in the world of luxury tailoring and to measure revenue in millions, not thousands.
And where Shipton White soars, the Bobby White brand will too. White is convinced this somewhat off-kilter side project will catapult his jewellery brand, which he intends to continue to run separately to Shipton White. “Every year Bobby White gets bigger and bigger, especially this year now that we have Shipton White and what it is bringing to the table,” says White. “The customer base we’ve got from Shipton White are all billionaires and multi-millionaires.”
A good thing too, seeing as White has no intentions to court the retail scene. The brand currently has just one stockist, Beverly Hills in London’s Hatton Garden, and instead of going through the tradi¬tional retail network route to market, White intends to grow his direct sales.
“We’re not going to find shops to stock us anymore – we’re going to try and sell it ourselves,” announces White. “You’ve got to be very careful as to where you place yourself as that is where you set the level of your jewellery.”
While White and his brother are furiously courting the PR scene in a bid to raise the profile of the brand, it seems unlikely that direct sales only will make Bobby White “one of the big brands” he says he wants it to be, which is why the dream is to establish his own retail network. “Eventually I’d like to have a Bobby White store in every capital city,” he says.
For the moment, his own retail empire is a long way off so to get people talking about the brand he has just shot a new campaign. Bobby White Page 3 stunner-style ad campaigns have caused some controversy in the past, with one retailer branding him as “disgusting” at Professional Jeweller’s Hot 100 party, but he’s not put off by it. “We always like to do shocking pics and it’s worked for us,” he says. “If you upset one person, you get business somewhere else.”
At the end of October, the jeweller shot a new campaign that he will use to push his Bobby White brand. His previous campaign showed him ensnared in the open legs of a fully nude female model dripping in his jewels. So can we expect another risqué shoot? “It’s still going to have that sexy look but it won’t be as extreme,” says White. “I wouldn’t say we’re toning it down, but it will be different, a little bit darker.”
It seems that White is sticking to his guns. He was determined enough to set up his own brand after his apprenticeship without ever working for anyone else, he was determined enough to throw himself into a side project in an unknown field, he is determined enough to shun the traditional retail route to market and he is determined enough to stick to what he knows his customers like.
“We’re never going to be Cartier or Tiffany,” says White. “We don’t want to go down the route of trying to copy them and be upmarket; we’re from the east end of London and we have to be what we have to be.”
As the Ancient Greek aphorism advises, know thyself. Along with a well-cut diamond and the desires of his showy customer base that’s exactly what Bobby White does know. The question now is whether or not White himself will be enough of a draw. Cutting himself off from the retail world is a dangerous move as he is now relying on active fans with money to spend to approach him directly for sales. But with his little black book steadily filling up with “billionaires and multi-millionaires” Shipton White might just be the key to unlocking the notoriously difficult direct sales market.