The e-commerce with a purpose
Mastermind of the online destination for 'style with a purpose', 24 year-old Holly Allenby has created a site that merges ethics and aesthetics to present sustainable fashion in a more relevant way. Allenby thought of the idea for The Acey while she was in Amsterdam working at the shoe brand Toms as their marketing manager. After finding a few brands that created innovative products with integrity, she decided to create a website that would help to elevate the brands. Now living in East London, local to her office, Allenby still cites Amsterdam as one of the main reasons she turned to responsible fashion.
Realising the words ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ were off-putting and intimidating to an audience, Allenby decided to go with the tagline 'style with a purpose' to demonstrate what The Acey was all about. “That is where we initially started and it progressed from there really,” Allenby tells sartorial snob at a cafe in Netil House, where The Acey's office is based. “It’s still got that [ethos] at its core and our brand offerings have become more and more evolved into what it is now – which is a good platform with a really solid customer base. Hopefully it can be at the forefront of this customer movement.”
With 39 brands under its belt, the site showcases the world of responsible fashion through a minimalistic lens. Black-and-white photographs sharply focussed photographs show off the wonderful texture of the fabrics, and written snippets about the innovative brands give backstories to the clothes themselves.
Now in its third year, Allenby sees 2017 as the year of building the brand. “I feel like we have had a couple of years of figuring out what works and how to operate as a business,” Allenby explains. “All the key things that make the cogs turn I feel we have them in place now so it’s just like making it work.” Her aim now is to make the business more proactive, actively seeking to reach new customers to The Acey's site. She has just hired her first employee, working part-time, to help her to engage with her existing customers and acquire new customers.
“It’s a massive role but it’s going to be creative in terms of how we engage with them and make all our existing customers remain with us,” she says. “I feel like we respond to things and we don’t nurture our customers and build.”
However, The Acey does seem to have a dedicated customer base and the press it has received has been great considering Allenby’s lack of PR team. Allenby organises pop-ups to be held every six months at various destinations around London, and there is always a great online reaction to The Acey moving into the physical realm: “I find it really important as an online retailer to have a physical space and a physical interaction with people. Even to this day I really like that everything is great quality. It’s really hard to portray that online.”
The most recent The Acey pop-up took place in an apartment in East London, in collaboration with Breather, a company that rents more creative workspaces. “When we were doing the apartment the other day, I thought an Acey apartment I’d love to have,” Allenby describes the possibilities of having a permanent store. “I would like to have a space that was not just a shop. It was either our office and then a shop that could open Thursday to Sunday or something – but I like to have something that was a mix of both. I wouldn’t just like to have a bricks and mortar store.”
Perhaps before the permanent The Acey store, there will be an expansion into new fields. Allenby began to offer a small selection beauty and homeware brands as of Christmas, but believes she wants to build up the categories on the site so that The Acey woman has everything she could possibly need before expanding into childrenswear or menswear. “When I started The Acey I didn’t want it to be men and women,” she explains of the difficulties of marketing towards both genders simultaneously. A problem she learnt whilst working at Tom's. “How do you make it relevant to all genders? So I think in the future it would have to sit separately. Lifestyle products is the next step.”
But growth is definitely on the market, Allenby assures, not just for The Acey but for the entire ethical market. Although she stresses there is still a long way to go: “It’s definitely a growing market that’s for sure, but there’s a lot of work to be done. It needs to come down from the top in terms of big influencers and big retail influencers to market it as well so that the masses know about it.”