THE STORY SO FAR...
Written: Robin Clemenson
It's not easy starting a business full-stop, especially during a global pandemic and alongside launching a flagship retail store! But that’s exactly what the 7L team have achieved in just 18 months under businessman, engineer and entrepreneur Jamie Lundy.
Back in June 2019, Lundy was faced with an enormous uphill battle, to launch a brand that had no in-house manufacturing knowledge, no experience in fashion and little, if any branding knowledge.
Initially, Lundy reached out to a number of outerwear designers but finding the right fit managed to elude him for some time. "My tick list of essential attributes was quite exhaustive, but for me the most important thing was someone I could openly work with,” he says. "Someone I could sit with for hours, pulling our designs and collections apart, rearranging them and stitching them back together. No egos, just us."
Chris Vandrill had a pedigree, a background of graduating at Central Saint Martins in London, working for reputable and successful brands such as Finesterre, Rohan and Private White. Tailoring was in his blood, his grandfather handed him his first pair of tailoring scissors as a young boy and he was the last name Lundy had written down on his list.
“I was beginning to wonder if I've ever find the right person,” adds Lundy. "I looked at the list. Last name, 'Chris Vandrill’. I picked up my phone and spoke to him....from that day we've never looked back, he's one of the best designers in his field without a shadow of doubt."
Lundy and Vandrill worked tirelessly to design and manufacture a collection that would be ready for the trade shows with a deadline of January 2020 and the Pitti Uomo show in Florence, Italy. They achieved it, literally by the seat of their pants - United Arrows would later that year give them an order and launch some of their pieces in Japan.
In February 2020, COVID spread across the world, causing chaos. Businesses, retailers, school's. Everything we once knew was about to drastically and dramatically change, Lundy says "No one has ever gone through anything like it before and I think it made everyone (for a while at least) stop, sit up and realise a few home truths about how we live our lives. It certainly made me think of how we've lost our connection to our neighbours, our community, our families and friends.
"It forced me to think about the local shops and how on earth we'd all fallen into the massive trap of the giant retailers and allowed our community stores to close. We just allowed it to happen and no one was doing anything about it. This is the point at which the 7L Store concept was born, giving our local community the choice to shop locally. Less carbon footprint, less road congestion, less hassle, less stress,” Lundy adds.
“Fait would play its hand in the acquisition of the store too,” says Lundy. “As COVID took its unforgiving grip, our offices in the city centre of Manchester closed and we had to rethink our business model and strategy as people were about to start working from home.
“The store had the space to work in and allow us the chance to interact with the public which is extremely important. We are inclusive, not exclusive and part of our brand values is to be totally transparent and to stand by our garments.
“We decided on Alderley Edge as it’s important to cultivate a regional access and to take the brand on a journey, it’s also where I live,” he adds. “We have made the store look dynamic and inviting, but without any over-indulgence, which mirrors the process behind how we design our garments. Everything for a reason.”
In partnership with award-winning London creative agency BusbyWebb, the design brings together the brand's clean-lines and almost ‘Scandinavian’ appearance set against the definitive and often vibrant garments on show.
Already working hard on future collections, which will see the outwear offer evolve considerably, both Lundy and Vandrill are looking forward to a 2021 where customers can move freely in the new environment.
Lundy concludes, “It has been really successful already even with the rules and restrictions. We have operated fundamentally as a pop-up and performed extremely well, but we would love to be able to activate the space properly with events and bespoke evenings and a free-moving customer flow and we can see that approaching now, which is great.”