Making a Splash with Alexandra Lyles and Claire Spencer-Churchill
Splash Paris is the trade show which has been shaking up the resortwear market since 2016. Bringing together the best up and coming designers and need to know labels in the industry under one roof, the show has become a firm favourite of major international buyers in a short space of time. Co-founders Alexandra Lyles and Claire Spencer-Churchill give us some insight into their vision for the show and why they think it has been a runaway success.
Do you think already having a successful business presence in Paris with Claret Showroom supported you when you were planning the launch of Splash in terms of contacts/logistics and understanding the city?
Absolutely. The confidence it gave brands knowing we had run a showroom in Paris for 10 years prior to launching Splash was invaluable. They understood that we had a real understanding of how the market operates as well as the insight into what works and what doesn’t. They also knew we would want to ensure that brands who were exhibiting at the show would have the best possible chance of generating sales. This was always the fundamental objective of the show; ensuring the best edit of luxury resort wear brands are part of our show offering and that the visitors are the most prominent resort wear buyers in the market.
You’ve managed to grow the show exponentially since you launched in 2016, what do you think has contributed to the success of the show?
Our industry is small and reputation is everything. From the first show we were able to curate a fantastic mix of brands who all had a great experience working with us. This has led to some amazing collections wanting to be part of the show. Alex and I spend a huge amount of time researching brands, ensuring we are reaching out to the freshest, newest most exciting brands in the sector.
What hurdles have you overcome since you launched?
In 2017 our show nearly got cancelled by the French Government who had won a bid to host the 2024 Olympics. This involved them running a promotional day which they chose to do at the same time as Splash Paris in our location. After a few sleepless days we managed to negotiate so both events could take place.
In terms of marketing, what has contributed most to the success of the show in attracting the top resort wear buyers? Does Instagram for example work well for you in driving brand awareness?
We focus our attention mainly on direct marketing which ensures we are in touch with all the buyers we want to be at the show and helps us to continue to build relationships within the industry.It takes more time but this approach means we reap the benefits with a very high attendance rate.
Buyers have so much product to sift through and are constantly bombarded by brands/information/look books. We want to make it easy for them so our approach is very much to gently persuade rather than irritate!
How do you and Alexandra split the work flow for Splash as co-founders?
I am more brand and sales driven. Alex is more strategy and finance. We are a good ying and yang, hopefully complimenting each other in our respective areas of expertise. We have been business partners for 13 years and have an incredible friendship and respect for each other. We’re really lucky.
What are your essential tools for staying calm and focused in the run up to the show?
Excel, organisation and an amazing team.
We were hit by +40 degree temperatures in our first year which was quite interesting. I spend quite a lot of time on my weather app the week before the show so we can prepare as much as possible.
What can we expect to see in 2019? are you still focused on taking the show to the next level in terms of attracting new brands and sizing up?
We are running two shows in 2019. One in June and one at the end of September. Rather than scale up the size of each show we will present to buyers twice a year. We have no intention of creating a large show. Two tents with 150 brands is as big as we ever intend for the show to get. In terms of the curation we will always be aiming to attract the most exciting and innovative brands in the resortwear sector. Large shows become diluted and a numbers game very quickly which we definitely want to avoid.
Are you part of any female entrepreneur business networks in London or Paris?
We work closely with Smart Works who are London based but UK wide. They help women get back into the workplace through the empowerment of clothes and interview training. It’s an amazing charity and has fantastic networking events which we attend.
Which brands would you love to see exhibiting at Splash in the future?
Hunza G, Ace & Jig, Gul Hurgel, Haight, Pippa Holt, TCN
Finally, your top 3 tips for running a business with a friend/co-founder?
Honesty, a sense of humour and similar objectives about your vision for your business.