Even with luxury growth slowing, luxury clients are still the customers of choice, including for smaller brands that bank on their loyalty. It is reported that a high-end brand’s business often comes from only 20% of its customer base — typically those higher net-worth customers who re-purchase from the brand.
For younger designers, those loyal luxury customers are important. Several designers in London had to cancel or opt out of fashion week in September due to the costs associated with putting on a show, which can range from $12,000-$60,000. And even for brands that have been around for multiple seasons, it is important to attract and retain repeat luxury customers.
For their part, Patrick McDowell is looking to private members clubs in London as a way for potential customers to get to know their namesake brand and what it offers. McDowell specializes in bespoke outerwear pieces leveraging sustainable materials and production, with prices ranging from $3,000 upward.
“Over the next six months, we’re hoping to build the client base through bespoke events for people that will be invited to a dinner or an event at the club, and we will then have the opportunity to [showcase] pieces that are available,” said McDowell. They declined to name the hosting club.
According to public records, there are at least 28 private member clubs in London, and there are additional openings every year. Soho House Greek Street, a more popular club, has over 190,000 members. But many keep their member lists private and small, with a strict admissions process that also asks about income. As a result, some member clubs have the type of high-net-worth members that are target customers for brands.
“Initially, we’re starting very small; it will probably be around 10 people for our first event,” said McDowell. “We’re planning to work with a network of private clubs in London, as they have a great selection of members and also great locations around the city.” One of the most famous private clubs in London, Annabel’s, is known for its ties to the fashion world and is part of the well-known Birley Clubs network. Annabel’s has put on brand events for Burberry, Victoria Beckham, Erdem and Nensi Dojaka.
“These brands allowed us to present their latest collections through exclusive breakfast fashion shows exclusively for our members,” said Tatiana Kharchylava, creative director of The Birley Clubs. Some go on to become loyal customers of the brands, according to Kharchylava.
“Fashion brand events at The Birley Clubs are immensely popular,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for our members to be up close and personal with the brands and designers themselves. They have the chance to hear firsthand about the brand’s journey, experiences and vision. This goes beyond a shopping experience; these events create a lasting memory and connection that our members will carry with them in their ongoing relationships with the brand.”
Members have also proven to be excited about lesser-known brands and those offering bespoke services, Kharchylava said.
“It’s not always about looking at the clothes. It’s also about them knowing that we’re there if they ever need something for an event or they want a new winter coat made for them,” said McDowell. “They already have incredible wardrobes and they’re not necessarily that desperate for something new.”
In addition to hosting fashion events centered on new collections, Kharchylava said that Annabel’s recently hosted Schiaparelli’s CEO, Delphine Bellini, and head of heritage and cultural projects, Francesco Pastore, for a panel discussion. “Together, we explored Schiaparelli’s groundbreaking influence on fashion during her era and her enduring impact on the contemporary fashion landscape,” she said.
Each fashion event that Annabel’s has hosted has been booked out. Members can book the events via the club’s newsletter.
“Even before the pandemic, fashion events have been a significant draw for our members,” said Kharchylava. “The events offer more than just a fashion experience; they provide a space to reconnect and network with like-minded people, with attendees ranging from female business entrepreneurs to the under-35 crowd, as well as tech leaders from around the world.”
And the opportunity is not just for female members. According to Kharchylava, brands like Ferragamo have also presented successful male-focused talks that have proven popular.