Red or Dead to lend street cred

Retailing: Facia adds to its mix with right-on fashion

RED OR DEAD, the right-on footwear and clothing label, has broken through the glass ceiling many British designers hit as they seek to expand in a retail sector dominated by multiples. Its acquisition by Facia, the holding company behind some of the high street's less fashionable names, seems at first an odd match. But it offers valuable opportunities for both parties - and a possible example to others.

Facia's purchase is an extreme instance of a trend of mass retailers taking an interest in high fashion. By the same token, Graduate Fashion Week, the main showcase for young British designers (12-16 June at the Business Design Centre, Islington, north London),has for the first time secured sponsorship from a leading high street name - BhS, formerly known as British Home Stores.

Facia's first brand was the leather-goods chain, Salisburys. A rapid programme of expansion has since added Sock Shop, Torq jewellers (rescued from the receiver), Oakland Menswear (bought from C&A) and Contessa lingerie stores (acquired from Courtaulds) - all since last August. Other acquisitions are likely to follow.

The addition of Red or Dead was an altogether bolder move. Stephen Hinchliffe, the Sheffield entrepreneur who has built up Facia, paid "several million" for the successful designer and retailer, which had sales of pounds 10m last year.

Red or Dead's reputation rests on ground seldom trodden by high street retailers. It set out with the aim of producing "innovative, challenging fashion at affordable prices and on a non-elitist level". This ethos has expanded to embrace a variety of social and environmental causes. One range of clothing was made up by prison inmates. More recently, the company investigated the possibility of using fabrics woven from cannabis hemp.

Red or Dead "is a very fashion-forward brand," admits Facia's chief operating officer, Gary O'Brien. "You could argue that it doesn't fit in with any of our brands. But that was why it was acquired. Red or Dead create fashions for tomorrow. We will then utilise that knowledge within the business."

Its founders, husband-and-wife team Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway, knew their company had grown to a point where they needed to run things differently. They tried to bring in senior financial expertise, but ultimately decided to sell.

Mr Hinchliffe's was the "most understanding" bid, seeking to preserve the cachet of the label rather than dragging it downmarket by increasing the number of outlets.

Mr O'Brien hopes that Wayne Hemingway's creativity will benefit from the lifting of the administrative burden of a growing company from his shoulders. "Hopefully he won't be stifled. If anything, we're freeing him to be more creative."

The liaison is expected not only to produce new opportunities for Red or Dead but also to energise the other Facia companies. Bringing these high street names under the Facia umbrella has already led to a certain amount of cross-fertilisation. Torq jewellers now sells hats and handbags, for example. Sock Shops now sell more than socks (swimwear currently has pride of place) and is making efforts to jazz up its socks as well.

The Hemingways will continue to head the Red or Dead brand and will have "dotted-line" responsibility for design development across Facia's ragbag of companies. "It's not our aim to dictate," says Mr Hemingway. "The idea is not to make Salisburys the Red or Dead of bags. But we have proved that we can get it right, season after season, in terms of trends, so you'll see a change to a more product-minded attitude - towards being there at the start of some trends."

A circuit of introductory meetings has already given Facia companies some new ideas.

The untapped potential of the Red or Dead brand provides another reason for the acquisition. Facia hopes to develop the international exposure of the label, which is well known in Britain but less so abroad.

French and Italian designer labels are able to prosper internationally, notes Wayne Hemingway. Some of them even do so by capitalising on trends, such as "street style", that began in Britain.

The British companies that compete at this level, such as Burberrys and Aquascutum, satisfy a quite different market.

Mr O'Brien cites no precedent for this unusual venture. If it is successful, however, it may set its own precedent for other companies seeking an injection of creativity and provide a model for British designers poised for greater things.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect