UKTI case study – Carmen Woods
A UK Trade & Investment trade mission to Paris has helped an emerging British designer win lucrative new business abroad.
Carmen Woods creates luxury women’s fashion accessories, fabrics and wall coverings from her studio based in Southend-on-Sea.
As an online business, established in 2008, her products have always had universal appeal but in 2013 she realised that in order to grow her business successfully she needed advice on targeting potential agents in France and the US – both key markets within the fashion industry.
“In this current market I felt that I should be doing business overseas but I knew that without sufficient funding, guidance and support I might struggle to grow my business internationally, which is why I decided it would be wise to seek UKTI assistance,” she said.
In January 2013 Carmen joined a subsidised three-day trade mission to Paris, specifically for new exporters within the fashion industry, where she was introduced to International Trade Adviser Michael Macartney, who has 40 years experience in the interior design industry.
“UKTI has a wide support programme geared towards export for up-and-coming British designers. We can advise companies on the most suitable markets for their products and we can help them to find suitable agents or distributors across the globe,” explains Michael.
The three-day mission included a one-day seminar on how to conduct business in France and an evening reception hosted by the British Ambassador and attended by key sector specialists.
“The trade mission was a fantastic opportunity for me to meet influential fashion industry and market experts and to learn about doing business in France,” says Carmen. “For example, I learnt that I should capitalise further on the fact that I am British and my products are manufactured in the UK as Britain is currently seen as a hub for the creative industries and our pool of talent is recognised as being unique throughout the world.”
Following the trade mission Michael recommended that Carmen signed up for Passport to Export, a twelve-month programme which provides new or inexperienced exporters with support to grow their business overseas.
Through the programme, Carmen made a productive six-day trip to New York in 2013 to meet potential agents.
“Michael recommended several people for me to contact while in New York. I set up the appointments and received three offers from agents who wanted to sell my print designs. I was able to conduct the meetings at the British Consulate General in New York, which gave me additional gravitas and credibility,” says Carmen.
Michael has continued to help Carmen raise her profile further within the design industry by introducing her to top-end fabric houses at prestigious trade events, such as the 2014 Maison et Objet show in Paris.
“Through his extensive network of industry contacts Michael was able to introduce me to all the right people at Maison et Objet this year, including a large French interior design company that is very interested in my work,” says Carmen adding: “He has gone above and beyond what I expected his role to be.”
It’s still early days for Carmen, but since contacting UKTI in 2013 she is confident her international strategy is working. Her goal over the next two years is to develop her own wallpaper and fabric collection with a view to launching it at Maison et Objet. She also plans to target buyers in Japan and other parts of Europe.
“Working with UKTI has given me the confidence I needed to take my business to the next level. Michael’s vast knowledge of the design industry and the contacts I have made has been invaluable,” says Carmen, adding: “I’ll definitely be working with UKTI going forwards.”
“Carmen Woods is a very talented and versatile designer who is able to adapt to the needs of her target market. She has listened to UKTI advice and made good use of the assistance on offer, and it has paid dividends,” says Michael.
• To find out more about UK Trade & Investment services in the East of England contact your local International Trade team:
Tel: 0845 641 9955
Email: info [at] uktieast.org.uk