Some of the best ideas are thought up around a kitchen table with a good old cup of tea, and that’s exactly how trio Liz Houghton, Jane Rawlings, and Lisa Agar Rea, created Mint Velvet. They all had similar backgrounds in fashion, and have managed to develop Mint Velvet into a well loved British brand with a strong and growing clientele both here in the UK and abroad, all within a mere nine years. With 46 boutiques across the UK and Ireland, a store in Dubai Festival City Mall, and international concessions within De Bijenkorf and Manor, as well as John Lewis, House of Fraser, and an OBE to boot, it is no coincidence that Mint Velvet is the brand of the moment. All that from a kitchen table and cup of tea!
Most recently, they added children’s wear to their ever expanding portfolio, with Mintie selling out almost immediately online. That’s no surprise, to be honest, as it is the stylish designs with simple silhouettes, beautiful fabrics and an eye for detail that all set Mint Velvet apart from its competitors. This incredible brand has been successful for so many reasons, but we like to believe that the true reason for success is due to the strong friendship and mutual respect between the three founding partners.
With all this success, the founders have also been channeling their power and giving back, by supporting a handful of charities and raising both money and awareness for the causes that matter most to them. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that Liz was awarded an OBE for her contribution to business. NotSuchAModelMum were lucky enough to catch up with Liz, and ask her a couple of questions about life in the fast lane and how she manages to juggle it all.
Where did the name Mint Velvet originate from?
It was at my kitchen table that the relaxed glamour concept was conceived over cups of fresh mint tea, of which the name Mint Velvet originated from. We wanted it to have a sensual, touchy feel to it. There’s something fresh and comforting about the smell of mint, and velvet instantly conjures a sense of luxury,
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Or have you always wanted to be in Fashion?
No not really, I always loved shopping but never thought of it as a career until I read an article at uni. It sounded exciting, creative and progressive so I applied for a graduate job with Topshop.
How and why did you decide to create a fashion brand with two of your Friends?
The three of us worked for a company that went into administration during the crash of 2008/9 and we found ourselves out of a job. It was then that we realised that we loved what we did, and enjoyed working together, but not for corporate companies, so decided to set up our own brand with its own values.
What have been the benefits and negatives in doing so?
To be honest that hasn’t been any negatives – we had been work colleagues before we had become friends so our relationship was first based on mutual respect & trust and the longstanding friendship has only made it more fun!
What was your first defining moment that made you think the brand was going to be successful?
I think the first-time seeing celebrities wearing Mint Velvet was exciting and a triumph, but I still get a buzz out of getting emails & letters from customers saying how much they love MV. Obviously being awarded the OBE last year was a personal honour.
In the short time the brand has been going, what has been your favourite collection so far and why?
I always love the latest collections & S/S 19 is looking really exciting & fresh.
What do you love most about your work?
It mixes my passions of retail, along with working in a team of fun and creative individuals.
You have just launched Mintie, a collection for young girls. What inspired this choice?
The 3 of us have daughters and, although they are now too old for Mintie, we felt a real gap in the market for a more tasteful girls wear range that reflected some of the values that our customers are looking for in clothing.
As a working mum, have you faced many challenges between finding the right balance in your work life and home Life? What advice could you share with others who are also trying to juggle it all and deal with the pressures of both these worlds?
It can take time to find the right balance, but I would say I have always tried to “blend” my life with work, although it can be hard sometimes. If you love what you do it makes it a lot less stressful. I can often be found doing my work emails whilst watching my children on the sports field, or taking my mum on store visits with me.
If your children were interested in joining the family business, would you want them to? Or would you prefer to keep these two areas of your life separate?
I think they need to follow a career path that they are passionate about, whatever field that may be in. I would be more than happy if that turned out to be fashion (which I think it maybe for my daughter, definitely isn’t for my son!) I have always thought that it is a good idea to see a different world from the one you know too well, but if at a later stage she decided to join MV & her talents were right, then I wouldn’t say no!
Who are your style icons, and what inspires you when designing your collections?
I love the style of the French Vogue editor Emmanuelle Alt, she always looks effortless & cool. I am inspired each season from a real mixture of things, from great designers like Stella & Isabel Marant, through to lifestyle bloggers.
What items do you have in your wardrobe you could never live without?
A great shirt, I have lots in different fabrics, this season I’ve got the animal print and satin on rotation.
In such a hectic life as yours, what do you love to do most when you have time to yourself?
I love the outdoors. I think it is absolutely essential to counter balance your busy schedule, whether that’s through a brisk dog walk with friends or on a bike ride.
What should we look out for in next season’s trends?
The new neutral look – from toffee tones through to the burnt ochres & oranges.
What are your top styling tips?
Know what suits your shape and wear what you feel comfortable in. Having said that, having a play with new shapes each season before you say no, can open you up to a really fresh look (take a friend for an honest opinion if in doubt).
What are your goals for the company in the future? Where would you like to see Mint Velvet in the next 10 years?
We are only 9 years old, so there is still so much potential for Mint Velvet. We are currently designing new product types, talking to brands and designers about collaborations & looking into lifestyle areas as well, like home goods.
Check out Mint Velvet here.