It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since 2012 when we opened our single retail store in Cluny Court, barely filled with our dresses and crocheted toys. Over the years, I’ve been asked several questions in the interviews we’ve given and I thought I would share the story myself here.
How did Elly start?
Lil S was born in 2009 when I was still working in London. Carol used to send me her shopping lists for clothing before I came back for the holidays. She had a shopping list of brands she couldn’t find in Singapore or that were more affordable in the UK. On weekends, I would browse Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges which had gorgeous baby departments (albeit more premium) clothing. This inspired us that we could fill a gap in the market for quality, beautiful and comfortable children’s clothes at affordable prices. The other thing is I
had have a thing for fabrics. I would go to fabric fairs in Birmingham (where my husband and I single-handedly reduced the average age in the expo) and shop for fabrics all weekend. Back in 2009, I was already designing shift dresses for work and had tailors who agreed to sew baby dresses at the same time. Our first range was sold on Pupsik Studio, an established online baby retailer.
How did we get our name?
Elly is the name of my favourite stuffed toy, an elephant.
How did we decide on the logo and colours?
We wanted something fresh and eye-catching. We chose red for its boldness and turquoise because it’s a strong gender-neutral colour. We had bought our logo + website design from a designer online. We then hired someone to build our website technically on a platform we didn’t understand (and which is so archaic that we now can’t find any IT person in Singapore willing + able to upgrade it for us). Hence the need to start on a brand new platform.
How did we decide on the name of our website, ellyloves.com?
To be honest, we would’ve picked Elly.com as first choice. But when we tried to buy the domain name, of course we learnt four letter websites were impossibly expensive to buy, oh and, erm Elly was the name of a famous Thai category III actress. Who knew!!!
Since we were being sold on another retailer’s website, we thought it wasn’t a big deal not to have an elly.com type of address. But remember this was in 2010 – our online website wasn’t our main priority seven years ago. So we chose http://www.ellyloves.com, registered our company with the same name and started calling our collections “Elly Loves Spring”, “Elly Loves Planes, Trains and Automobiles”.
Why did we decide to open a store?
When I came back to Singapore in October 2010, we decided to sell our clothing ourselves. We started first by exploring fairs with our clothing every other month in 2011. It was exhausting. We had to take leave from our everyday jobs in order to stand on our feet, in the heat or rain, to sell our clothing. During that year, we figured our strengths (and also our weaknesses). We knew that fairs were never going to help us grow our business in the long run. We found a rare conservation unit and took the plunge and signed our lease in Cluny Court, quit our jobs and had our Grand Opening on 4 March 2012. We experimented by opening a sister store for tweens called Twelve by Elly in August 2013. Then Elly moved to a larger store on 14 November 2015 bringing in a wider range of shoes (with 10 international brands), toys and accessories. In December 2016, we had a new stockist, Motherswork at Great World City.
How did we decide on our brand collaterals?
Because we were going to open a store proper, we sat down and looked at the bags and gift boxes from various international brands we had recycled over the years. We then designed our own. Yes, we did – we decided on every little detail ourselves, from the shape, colours to the little gift tag on the other side of the bag where you can write your name.
We also designed our little gift boxes ourselves which turned out to be our most iconic collateral!
The flip side of taking things one step at a time and doing it all ourselves is that we didn’t always have a big picture in mind as we went along. We designed products on an “as-needed” basis. We used the concept from our old website and put it on our paper bags. We loved and still love our very first gift box – it was meant to pack our Elly clothing. But it wasn’t big enough to wrap clothing and other things e.g. rattles and toys. Hence we designed the hut box. Since this box was going to be rather big, we didn’t want it loud and colourful. So we toned down the turquoise to more of a light teal colour and shaped it like a cake box because we were starting to sell products of all shapes and sizes.
The last box we designed was to be able to wrap multiple pieces of clothing. The hut box left a lot of hollow space whenever we packed two or three dresses so we designed a striped box with a white satin ribbon around. We put an elephant in gold foil to make it special! We loved the look but it didn’t seem to fit well with our original elephant logo. In fact, if you stood all our collateral in a row, the different colours and look felt abit out of place.
So we decided late last year that it was time to relook at our brand, our website and try to weave all the different adhoc looks together. We’ve worked with Fifth Column for the past six months (who thankfully has immense patience) and we’re finally ready to launch the new Elly brand and website on 10 May 2017.
So who are we, really?
Elly – is our homegrown clothing line.
Our new Elly logo is inspired by Picasso’s drawings. Using a simple singular line to draw the shape of the elephant, we want to emphasise the design philosophy of Elly – sophisticated play. Our new logo represents our timeless design principle – designed for comfort, classic style and playful simplicity.
Turquoise remains a core colour in the form of water splashes (derived from elephants at play) but now instead of a strong red, elly is in a softer coral colour, more befitting of a baby and children’s clothing brand. (P.S. if you turn the logo anti-clockwise, you can see the E!)
Our flagship store at Cluny Court is The Elly Store – a store which stocks the Elly label of clothing, and curates the best toys, clothing and shoes for children.
Our all-new online store will launch on 10 May 2017 at a new domain on a brand new platform: www.theellystore.com
Our online store is, and always has been, a multi-label website designed to showcase the variety of international products sold in The Elly Store. This website will be mobile-enabled so you’ll be able to finally shop from your phone with ease! We’ve enabled a Quick Shop feature so when we launch our CNY collections and you can just add the pieces you want from the main catalogue page without having to click on individual products.
If you would like to create an account for easy checkout, you will need to register a new account on this website even if you have shopped with us before. We’ll be blogging about our new website in a separate post because there is just so much to say about it!
Will there always be clothing (or other products) you can only find in the Cluny Court store and not online?
The answer is, absolutely. We want you to come to our store to have the full Elly experience, which is not just our products, but our service as well. We will however also have special online previews and/or sales, so you will always have reasons to shop with us in both spaces.
How about your tween store, Twelve by Elly (or TBE in short), for 6 to 12 year olds?
From 10 May 2017, we will consolidate both our online stores and our social media accounts and marketing. The physical “Twelve By Elly” store will remain at #02-06 Cluny Court. After spending three years curating TBE, we are really loving the mix of products now. TBE will no longer maintain a separate instagram, Facebook page or mailing list. It will be merged with Elly’s so you will find at Elly a whole range of products for children from newborn to tweens sold on http://www.theellystore.com – this is especially useful for shoes in sizes up to EU36.
What can we expect from your rebranding exercise?
We’ve taken a back seat with designing these past two months because it was too much managing a store, trying to port over 800 products to the new online store and get new collateral created with the rebranding exercise. We have still been launching new products in store regularly – in the past two months, we’ve launched the Monster clothing collection, Sticker Makers from Stickiemail, a new collection of books for your toddlers and new collections of shoes from Bobux, Old Soles and Livie & Luca.
We’ll be having a Mothers’ Day crafting event with Stickiemail at our store this Saturday 6 May between 2 – 5 p.m. so do look out for a post about it soon!
It feels like a reset for us – like a fresh start. But at the same time, it is an opportunity to return to why we are doing this in the first place, to remember everything about the kind of store and brand that we want to be.
When we started, we were accidental entrepreneurs – we just loved making clothing and it so happened that selling it helped us make more. Carol and I don’t have exciting entrepreneurial stories which inspire the young to quit their boring desk jobs and start their own company. We aren’t instagram savvy – in fact, we’d rather not manage personal accounts because it’s strange to post pictures of ourselves to the world or do Instagram Live. In fact, we feel totally out of place in the e-commerce / social media generation. What we loved doing in the first place was (i) designing clothes and (ii) selling them. We loved meeting children wearing our clothing. Carol loved decorating the store and making it her own. I loved fabrics and dresses. That was it. Along the way, we got completely caught up with managing the store, stocking and restocking other products which weren’t even our own label, having constant meetings, marketing meetings, cold calls, collaborations etc. We were/are buried under HR/accounts/admin, trying to shoot our own Instagram photos or product pictures, uploading pictures on our website and trying to run two stores. There was never any time to think and we stopped having time to do what we wanted to do/loved doing and we let the work dictate how each day would turn out.
In many ways, a big part of who we are today was a result of what we needed to be as we grew – we catered to customers’ needs and filled a gap in the market for solid quality, non-kitschy shoes and clothes. But it’s dawned on us these past few months that we perhaps have lost our own path in who we are in trying to just keep up, take new stock, inventorise, stick price tags, restock, pay rent, hire staff, do sales reports and accounts and chug along daily.
Because in fact, the best part about running your own business is that we get to write our own story at Elly. So the question we have to answer for ourselves is what kind of store do we want to be?
It starts with knowing what we don’t want to be. We don’t want to be just another kids’ store in this day and age with social media constantly in our faces that it all gets overwhelming with that media noise. We don’t do over-inflated pictures of our products. We don’t sell our products by bad-mouthing other stores in the mall to our customers. We want to be a different kind of business.
We want to be honest retailers. We tell it as it is. We tell you as we see it. The quality of our products, especially our shoes, speak for themselves. If you cannot find a shoe that fits, we would rather suggest another brand which might fit. Over time, we want to share with you our experience these past five years in selling products (such as shoes for your toddlers) so we can help you make the right decisions for your own needs.
We want customers to love shopping in our store with their children because they can find beautiful and timeless children’s clothing, well-curated and unique shoes, toys and accessories. We want to continue to make comfortable, easy to wear and classic pieces for your child to wear and be able to hand it down to his/her siblings.
And we want Elly to be a place for everyone. Starting this May, we will have a Quiet Hour shopping for special needs children on the third Tuesday (from 7 – 8.30 pm after closing) and third Saturday (from 8.30 am to 10 am before opening) every month (there will be a separate post on how to make prior appointments so we ensure that we have one team member for each child).
We love watching your children grow up with us. My team loves that the children come by for hugs every week after class just to say hi. We hope you will continue to love shopping with us so that we can keep growing and bringing you more unique things for your children. At the end of the day, we want to do what we love, which is to always find new ways to make retail fun so that you can look forward to coming to Elly week after week. That’s why we started this in the first place.
And so the rebranding countdown begins for us – join us on 10 May 2017 for the launch of our new website.