British fashion brand Aligne has achieved 600% year-over-year revenue growth over the last six months, even as customers in the U.K. have cut back on spending due to the cost-of-living crisis and recession worries. One of its sell-out items, the Gabrielle denim dress, now has a waitlist of 12,000, and the brand is eyeing expansion across the UK.
Achieving record-breaking sales during a cost-of-living crisis isn’t easy. For 3-year-old Aligne, affordability has had a lot to do with it. Most of its items don’t exceed $250, despite a sharp focus on traceability, responsible production and sustainability. In addition, the brand pivoted its focus from basics to wearable outerwear, tailoring and dresses, and from wholesale to DTC sales, over the last year.
Aligne drove nearly £1.5 million in sales over the 6 months ending on July 30, a 635% increase over the same period last year. In the same period, the brand doubled its team size to 14 people and opened its first permanent office space, in East London. Aligne was founded in 2020, and in February, Virginia Seymour was hired as managing director after joining the brand as brand director in 2022. Seymour has over 20 years of experience in fashion and was previously a buyer at Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC.
“We never want to be known as a sustainable brand. At the end of the day, we’re doing fashion,” said Seymour. “What we’re trying to do is to make better choices every single day. Fifty-five percent of every item that we bring into the collection is made from planet-friendly materials — but for us, [sustainability] is about more than just the materials. We make 65-70% of our products in Europe, so we’re thinking about the people as well as the planet.” European production is tightly regulated due to E.U. legislature around worker rights. In addition, the brand exclusively relies on land transport for distribution to minimize emissions.
Now at the helm, Seymour is prioritizing direct-to-consumer sales and investments in marketing the products’ quality and fit on Instagram and TikTok. The brand has 59,000 followers on Instagram and just over 1,000 on TikTok, with some videos reaching 15,000 views. After selling mostly through wholesale partners, Aligne now drives 60% of its sales through its own channels. Its only remaining retail partners are Liberty London and Anthropologie.
In addition, the brand has shifted its business model to focus on reorders of existing styles, initially produced in small runs. Production costs for new styles are higher, and new styles are less guaranteed to sell through. “When we originally started, we never did repeat orders. We were doing small [quantity] units and trying to understand what the customer wanted,” said Seymour. “But in the last six months, we’ve started to hone our identity and do our first reorders, which is helping to propel our growth.” The brand’s best-selling dress, the denim Gabriella style which sells for $125, now has a 12,000 waitlist.
“The Gabriella is the epitome of a chuck-on dress,” said Seymour. “We’ve sold over 5,000 units in the last six months. We went from ordering 300 of a dress to ordering 6,000, and we sell out every time we bring it back.” In addition to the Gabriella, styles including the Harlin dress, the Gilda trench and the George coat are seeing high demand and being reordered.
Three months ago, Aligne started shipping internationally, with 15% of its DTC sales now coming from the U.S. This month, the brand launched an ambassador program in the states, spurred by interest among the brand’s U.S.-based social followers in its responsibly sourced materials and transparency.
The brand is decidedly tuned in to its community and regularly looks to its followers for feedback. For example, when it was realized that customers were buying two sizes, or “bracketing,” when purchasing the Gabriella dress, the brand reached out via email and Instagram to inquire about the sizing problem. Upon realizing that the dress had a large fit, Align redesigned the style and re-issued it in smaller sizing in July. It’s since seen less bracketing and fewer returns. Based on similar feedback, it went through the same process with its George coat.
In July, Aligne also launched the Gabriella dress in a deadstock cord fabric to reduce its impact. “We want to push our innovation each season and want to move past the 55% natural fibers we have now. After a product’s design concept, everything is collaborative; everyone’s working together creatively to achieve the results we need for quality and impact in our material choices and sustainability.”
Seymour’s ambition is to grow Aligne to £10 million in sales in 2024. “Being in retail, you have to be an internal optimist, and to think that every season will be better [than the last] and the next collection will blow your socks off,” she said.