After launching her own sustainable fashion business in September 2020, De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) Fashion Design graduate Anya Parker James now boasts buyers from around the world.
Anya originally planned to launch from her garden studio in March 2020, less than two years after graduating, but her plans were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The disruption gave her an unexpected opportunity to create a business model that has allowed the Anya Parker James brand to flourish.
“I had everything ready to go for the launch, then everything was pushed back because of Covid. No one knew what would happen and whether anyone would be buying,” said the 25-year-old from Staffordshire.
“Looking back, though, I’m so glad I waited. The delay meant I had the time to just sit and sew, making all the dresses I’d already designed. It meant that as soon as orders started coming in, I had enough stock to send dresses out straight away and could be working on my next designs.”
Working to this model has meant Anya can stay one step ahead of her orders and her customers have no wait time, a huge benefit for a small business which she runs on her own.
Sustainability is at the heart of Anya’s brand and she uses only deadstock or vintage material. She established her distinctive style during her final year at DMU.
She said: “For a while, I was only concerned with passing each assignment as it came, until I worked with one of my lecturers who really pushed me to find my own style within my work and not just do things by the book.
“A lot of what I incorporated into my graduate collection I’ve carried through to my own brand. Even the logo of my brand is a design that I drew at university and held onto.”
As well as confidence in her own creativity, Anya also gained valuable industry knowledge during her degree.
“Studying Fashion Design was a big jump for me but the staff were so supportive and gave us a realistic idea of what to expect from a challenging industry, while also making us feel less intimidated by it,” Anya said.
“Even being taught the right terminology, as well as technical skills like pattern cutting, has helped me in my career. When I’m talking to manufacturers and suppliers, they take me seriously because I know what I’m talking about.”
Another standout moment for Anya from her time at DMU was having the opportunity to attend Graduate Fashion Week (GFW) in London. The event gave her and other students the chance to showcase their designs in front of highly regarded figures in the fashion industry.
Through GFW, Anya was one of five students picked to have an influencer wear their designs and post them on their social media platforms.
She said: “The networking opportunities at GFW were great. After graduation, and before I launched my brand, I contacted the influencer who had worn my designs to ask for advice on launching my own line. She worked for Australian Vogue so was a great contact that I wouldn’t have had without that opportunity.”
This interaction gave Anya the confidence to pursue influencer marketing as a way to promote her own brand. Three months after launching, she connected with a YouTuber who asked to collaborate.
“At the time, I didn’t have many followers as my business was so new,” Anya said. “She had 330,000 followers and I had about 2,000 so it was huge for me.
“Once we collaborated, I suddenly started getting requests to ship to America and had to figure out how to do this over a weekend. It really forced me to expand and take my business beyond the UK. We did a second collaboration at the end of 2021 which sold out twice. I had 50 orders in a night which was overwhelming but exciting.”
This innovation is what has allowed Anya to begin to set her sights even further afield. With a flourishing market that stocks her designs in the UK and America, and global shipping already in place, she now hopes to expand to Japan to establish a solid customer base there.
She said: “There are so many opportunities and I’m really excited to see what’s next for my brand.”
Posted on Friday 20th January 2023