If you are planning to launch a fashion brand and you’d like to see it sold in high street shops then there are a number of things that you’ll need to do to make your product(s) attractive to retailers. Solillas launched seven years ago and within its first two years was picked up by Urban Outfitters. Since then the brand has gone on to secure deals with Office, Liberty, Schuh and Selfridges. Based on that success, we asked Jonnie Matthew, founder of Solillas, to give us his top tips for getting into high street retailers:

  • Find Your Position in the Market
Look for sub-markets that you can align with. Our footwear, for example, shared similarities with other traditional-inspired footwear like Birkenstocks. By looking into this specific market, we could position ourselves alongside a brand that was already established for selling something quite unique, and retailers could immediately understand the key points of difference.
  • Check relevant regulations
The EU has some of the strictest regulations in the world, and the UK is expected to follow similar frameworks post-Brexit.

It may sound boring, but slipping up on just one of these compliance issues will expose your inexperience and see retailers recoiling rather quickly. They have their own reputation to protect, so won’t be interested in any product that puts that at risk.

  • Be unique
High street shops are saturated with great products, with new brands popping up all the time. To cut through this competitive environment, your product needs to be high quality, fairly unique and supported by a strong brand.
  • Tell a story
One way to convey the quality and uniqueness of your product is to tell its story. How did you arrive at the design? What are your manufacturing principles? Where are the items made and using what materials?

For example, Solillas sells shoes based on the traditional Spanish design, using leather produced in Menorca. That was our unique twist and story. It helped retailers understand both the unique design and the attention we pay to quality.

  • Create a priority list of retailers
Only choose retailers which align with your brand. Make a priority list, then go out and gather contact details. Retailers will often publish lists of buyers to contact with new products or you can always search for their contact details on their website or LinkedIn. Find out what they need from you to move on to the next step. It will usually involve a sample and some marketing materials, followed by a face-to-face meeting. But every retailer is different.
  • Choosing the right deal
It’s also important to choose retailers that you can continue to make happy within the deal agreed. If a retailer puts high demands into the deal that you will struggle to service, then you’ll constantly find yourself on the back foot and the relationship probably won’t last long.

If, however, you can get a deal which you think you can easily over-service, then you’ll keep your retailer happily reordering for years to come and have a fruitful relationship. Never take a deal you’ll have trouble servicing just because you like the retailer – it’s probably not worth it in the long-run.

  • Don’t stop marketing
Even if you manage to secure a great deal with a retailer, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t do your own marketing. Some retailers may impose restrictions around marketing so that it doesn’t interfere or cannibalise their own marketing efforts. But demonstrating that you are working to spread the word, tell the story of your product, and create your own sales is likely to improve your retailer relationship.

For many fashion brands, high street retailers are the perfect way to go. They enable consumers to see the product, pick it up, and try it on. Often that hands-on interaction is what sells a fashion brand. And once you have one or two retailers on board, more will follow.


Jonnie Matthew is founder of Solillas known for its bohemian update on a traditional Spanish leather sandal, crafted in the Balearic Islands.

Solillas crowdfunding at https://www.seedrs.com/solillas

For more information see: https://www.solillas.com/