IT could be a call from a luxury fashion brand to have one of their dresses shipped to Beyonce for an awards ceremony in the USA or to deliver an item for a mystery royal at Kensington Palace – fashion business executive Susie Palmer never knows what could be next.
It is little more than four years since the fashion and textile design management graduate from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh set up The Brand Hangar but in that time it has grown and moved premises to cope with demand for its elite service.
Ms Palmer, originally from Glasgow, spotted a gap in the market with how high-end luxury fashion brands were getting their products shipped to customers or stores. Some were even hiring interns to wrap and package garments, sowing the seeds for the idea of a luxury brand warehouse which selected, wrapped, packed and shipped goods.
The Brand Hangar is viewed as a “hidden secret” in the fashion world but has become an indispensable element for London fashion houses, with clients such as Justine Tabak, Sweethearts of the Rodeo and Wales Bonner all desperate to get their designer dresses and accessories into the hands of key clients and VIPs.
It offers wholesale and e-commerce “pick and pack” to luxury boutiques, department stores and individual customers.
With partners Mark Bowring and Paul Witkover, Ms Palmer has kept the location of The Brand Hangar a tightly guarded secret given the high price tags of the goods involved.
“I had been working in the fashion business in London since I graduated from Heriot-Watt and even at university I realised it was the business side of the industry that interested me most,” said Ms Palmer, 40, who worked for designer label Issey Miyake at its flagship store in London.
“However, it was a few years ago when I saw a gap in the market surrounding how fashion brands got their items to clients.
“We started off with a 900sqft warehouse and wondered how we were going to fill it. As it turned out there was no problem, and we ended up looking for larger 12,000sqft premises,” added Ms Palmer, who for eight years ran her own fashion network firm Palmer Productions with clients including Sophie Hulme, McQ, Studio Nicholson, Project D, Beulah, Anna Valentine and Lazy Oaf.
“We are the hidden secret of the fashion industry,” she said. “It was booming. We were picking, packing and gift wrapping items for wholesale or stores such as Harrods and Bloomingdale’s in New York then everything shut down overnight.”
The business faced being left with stock which was going out of season, but brands quickly realised they had to pivot and look to online shopping which saw a huge boom in 2020.
Ms Palmer added: “We had a warehouse full of stock of from designer brands which were going nowhere. The focus then turned to online shopping and e-commerce really became the thing.
“Where we had been sending out packages to stores, it was people buying from home in lockdown we were sending to.”
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With time and precision of the essence, The Brand Hangar has a team of skilled wrappers and one of the questions people are asked at interview stage is if they like wrapping Christmas presents.
“We have lists and lists of how items have to be wrapped in a certain way or style for specific clients and one thing we ask future employees is if they like wrapping as it is a huge part of what we do,” added Ms Palmer.
As for the future while the economy and retail, including the fashion industry, begin to recover, Ms Palmer believes that some things have changed for the better.
“So many stores have closed their doors and names disappeared from the high street. I used to spend my Saturday afternoons trailing up and Sauchiehall Street with my granny, but those shopping days are gone. There was also such an emphasis on seasons with spring/summer and autumn/winter and I think lockdown might have changed that,” added Ms Palmer. “In the past after London fashion week there was such a quick turn around to get items in stores, but lockdown has changed the way people shop and fashion brands may supply and deliver their items as and when they are ready.”