Alie Mackintosh Q&A
Alie Mackintosh is the founder of AYM Studio, a British ethically made womenswear brand based in Sussex, UK. Alie has taken her university hobby and turned it into a world-renowned ethical brand which has been worn by the likes of Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian and Hailey Bieber. Alie’s sustainable made-to order-business model, as well as her sleek designs, was recently recognised as she was named in Drapers 30 Under 30 in 2021.
Can you give us a bit of background on yourself and how you got into the industry?
Alie: I studied product design at university as the fascination for me has always been around how we create meaningful experiences for customers through products. Product Design is all about creating products that have a meaningful impact on consumers’ lives; consumer products, furniture and things that really improve the lifestyles of consumers. Looking at that, I then became really curious about what I could make outside of university to create these similar experiences for customers. I started teaching myself how to sew and make dresses. It was very much a hobby in the beginning, born out of curiosity and passion for creating things. That led to me wearing the dresses that I had made, so my own designs, out and about in London. I’d have people coming up to me saying “where’s your dress from?”, and it really inspired me to start it as a business. I never intended it to go that way, it naturally progressed to that through this curiosity, learning to sew and then having people come up to me and asking where the dresses were from. In terms of growing the business, I did it very organically using influencers right from the beginning. I worked with some influences who had a few thousand followers and now they’ve got millions of followers as I did it at a time where they were growing and I was trying to grow as well, so there was a nice synergy there. I just grew the business organically through social media and through working with influencers right from the beginning, it’s just been a very natural progression.
Can you tell us a little bit more information about AYM?
Alie: We are an ethical brand that makes all of our clothing to order in Sussex and London. We’re focused on proving that there’s an alternative to fast fashion. This is really coming to light right now as people are becoming increasingly aware of the issues and negative impacts of fast fashion. But customers are struggling to find solutions where they don’t have to sacrifice their personal style. There are very limited options within this industry, and we cater to a customer who is much more fashion-led, to show them that you can find good quality products that still make you feel stylish, without having a negative impact on the planet. Our supply chain model has been built on supply equally matching demand. Within a fast-fashion supply chain, products are created to achieve the best price point. Companies will produce thousands of units of a style before it even goes online for sale, just to drive the price down – because manufacturing works on a model where the more you make, the cheaper it is to make. That model means that when the garment doesn’t sell then the product is wasted and that’s why products are often discounted. We’re trying to reverse that whole model and it’s why we have a made to order model. We produce the garments when a customer has actually ordered it rather than making it before the customer has ordered it. In doing so we avoid waste being created as we’re making sure that we match supply and demand equally. It also allows us to create a product that’s high quality. With a slow fashion approach every garment captures the entire care and attention to detail of the team making it. I think that our customers appreciate that now more than ever, because they know that the garment has been made specially for them. It protects craft, it protects the skill sets that we’ve got in the company, it creates a living wage, employment, and all of these beneficial things. We’re proud to be a slow fashion brand, promoting ethically made garments and making sure that our customers can have this amazing experience without having to sacrifice their personal style.
Can you speak to how you originally started to use influences?
Alie: It’s very similar to how we work with them now. The target of doing influencer collaborations for us is to have them share our brand with their audience. The added benefit is that they also create content for us. Influencers have a real knack for understanding how to style different products. They’re fashion and marketing experts. So right from the beginning we were reaching out to people, introducing the brand and asking if they would like any gifted products, and that normally led to a great long-lasting relationship. We would send out gifted items and they would then promote the brand and take all these amazing images for us – creating content that we could then share on our page as well.
What challenges have you faced with influencer marketing?
Alie: For us as a business, the challenges that I can think of have been that our price point is slightly higher than what influencers might be promoting alongside our brand. So, if an influencer usually promotes a product where the price point is slightly lower than ours, it might mean that the results are less tangible straight away. It just takes our customer a bit longer to save up because it’s more of an investment. As a business, we’ll look at the ROI model and try and figure out how we are going to get the best results from this. A lot of the time we’ll see the traffic being driven to our site from an influencer if they’re a big influencer, but it doesn’t convert for a while. And that’s just because the price point is higher and that customers need to think about that purchase a bit longer. But if that influencer is used to working with products that are at a slightly lower price point, then they might be expecting to see different results to us. So, I guess in terms of summarising that challenge, it’s making sure that the influencer’s targets and our targets are aligned to make sure that we’re both working towards the same results and that there’s no miscommunication in that regard.
Following on from this then, how do you go about putting a tangible result on influencer marketing?
Alie: UTM links are really helpful because we can see results over a period of time. But the way that we look at it is instead of looking at conversions straight away, we look at the lifetime value that they’re creating. We break down that customer journey and if we are working with an influencer for the first time, our expectations are that’s a cold audience that’s coming across our brand for the first time, they’ve never heard of us and our price point is higher. Our average order value can be more expensive, especially if the influencer has worked with fast fashion brands where the price point is lower. We are aware that the relationship needs to be ongoing, effectively warming up the audience to build a meaningful relationship with them over time. It’s a slower approach, similar to our production approach, but it’s really about creating those meaningful, long-lasting relationships rather than quick wins.
Who would be your dream influences to work with?
Alie: I think we’ve got so many great influencers that we work with. For me, the ones I enjoy working with the most are the influencers who share an aligned vision and values with us. Would also love to work with Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Rihanna, Patricia Bright, Duckie Thot – who are perhaps not ‘influencers’ in the traditional sense but are the real influential people. Rihanna would be the absolute dream come true.
What would be your advice for other brands that are exploring influencer marketing?
Alie: I think it’s making sure that businesses understand their values and how they can find like-minded influencers in the marketplace. They might not be horizontally matched either – so if you’re a fashion brand, it might not necessarily be a fashion influencer. If you’re an environmentally friendly fashion brand, then that influencer should speak to the values that your brand cares about. aligning on values is really important and making sure that the aesthetic of those influencers matches what you’re going for as a brand so that you can utilise the content that they create. You can then share the content on your website and if you’ve got Shopify use apps like Snapped to make sure that you’re sharing that content. In terms of the benefits of influencer marketing, identifying the ROI model is important. If it’s going to be a bit slower or if it’s going to be faster, what are those targets that you’re aiming for and communicating that effectively with influencers to drive the best results.
Where do you see the future of influencer marketing going?
Alie: From what I’m seeing, everything seems to be going towards much more wholesome content. I think there’s this breakdown of barriers happening in the industry, and I guess this is much more of a cultural look at it, but people are getting raw and honest online and I think that’s great. We’re having much deeper and meaningful conversations and I think that that has happened more so during Covid than ever before. The glossy, edited imagery and fake side of the industry is being broken down, which is great. I think that this means that there are more meaningful connections happening in the influencer industry between influencers and their audience, between influencers and other influences and between influencers and brands. So, I think for us as a business and what we care about, it’s a great time to be creating those meaningful, value-based connections.
We are always ready for a challenge