It has been an incredible first two years in the fashion business for entrepreneurs Ross Worswick and Scott Shashua.
They’ve built a £15m turnover company with their Couture Club fashion brand – from a self-start investment of just £5,000.
The lads first met when both were involved in the Eivissa club nights in Manchester city centre – known for drawing in a celebrity crowd on Thursday nights at the former Sakura bar on Deansgate Locks.
Ross went on to find fame himself on MTV’s Ex on the Beach reality series in 2014, but when he returned to Manchester he and Scott started to chat about launching a fashion brand.
In 2016 the Couture Club concept was born, with Ross initially designing a menswear range to launch the brand.
“Ross had just finished Ex on the Beach so we knew he’d already have a following,” says Scott.
“He has always had a passion for clothing, so we joined forces and never looked back really.”
And Ross is delighted that he’s defied expectations by building a huge business success after his stint on reality TV.
“This year I finally feel like people know me for the Couture Club rather than Ex on the Beach and that’s a great feeling.
“Initially for me it was all about creating quality garments. When we started everything was very plain it was all about the fit. Then we did our first graphic t-shirt, and that really worked so we started trying more and more things, and it became about affordable luxury. You’d see a footballer wearing it, but at the same time a 15 year old could afford to buy it. That was what we were trying to do with the brand.”
After the first year of trading online they had already achieved a £500,000 turnover with just the two of them working on every aspect of the company – from design, customer services and picking and packing orders themselves at a warehouse in Openshaw.
“From starting in 2016, our first 12 months we had half a million turnover,” says Scott, 30. “We could have done more, but we were just starting, the logistics of it was just me and Ross – we were customer services, picking and packing everything.”
Worsley-based Ross, 29, says: “It was the best time really, that’s how into the business we were! We started with £5k and we’ve not put a penny in since then. We’ve built this as an entirely organic business.
“We couldn’t afford to buy stock until we had sold the stock. We had to make it work. When it really took a turn for us was Black Friday that first year. We had an amazing day and back then it was unbelievable for us – it gave us extra money to invest into more product and people started taking us a bit more seriously then.”
Bucking the national trend, in October 2017 the lads decided to launch a pop-up store at the intu Trafford Centre to showcase their product. It has been such a success they’ve gone on to launch stores in Newcastle and Dublin this year with plans for a further ten store openings next year.
“We had to go in and look at the financials, but it was the best marketing we could have done,” says Ross.
“At the time we were looking at billboards but we looked at the shop and thought there’s no better marketing than having a store in the Trafford Centre,” says Scott. “It’s now the anniversary of opening there and trade has been really good.”
Such has been the rapid success of the brand, the duo added womenswear which is already accounting for almost 50 per cent of the business.
“The reason we’ve had so much success is because we are a brand that’s affordable but that you can wear in a nightclub, whereas all the other people coming off TV shows starting their own brands have been very much tracksuit orientated,” says Scott. “Ross is so creative, he has daytime, nighttime, shirts, jackets everything from day to night.
“Our customer is that 15-24 year old who will spend £400 on trainers and then spend the rest on Zara and high street, and that’s where we come in.”
The pals’ own experiences on the nightclub scene has also stood them in good stead.
“Every Thursday we’d have a different celebrity down and a different party,” says Scott. “It was giving people a reason to come back. And we took that into clothing really, by every single day changing things up, giving people something to come back to see on the website.”
Their contacts on the showbiz scene have also helped boost the profile of the brand – with their pals including the Thomas brothers Ryan, Scott and Adam attending the store launches and celebrities from Corrie‘s Brooke Vincent, Love Island‘s Olivia Buckland, Geordie Shore‘s Charlotte Crosby and musician Lethal Bizzle wearing the brand.
Turnover jumped to £3m last year and this year it is up to an incredible £15m.
“Everyone said to us last year you can’t double it, but look at what we’ve achieved,” says Ross.
Scott, who lives in Hazel Grove with his wife and nine-month-old son, adds: “The best thing for us is we did it with 5k and made mistakes every step of the way but we still made progress. I hope other people will read this and see anybody can still do it. You don’t need crazy money to start and have a go.
“Hard work, dedication and passion is what you need and younger people should know it’s achievable if you work hard enough.”
The fashion brand is known for its distinctive logo – and Ross is proud of what it signifies.
He says: “With a signature and a brand it’s something we always wanted. I remember saying what I want at Christmas time is kids saying ‘I want Couture Club’, and I feel we are almost there. We just want to make it bigger and bigger now.
“We want everyone to be part of the brand and once you buy something you become part of the club, part of the community who are interested in the brand.”
The team moved to new offices in Ardwick in January with a team of 15 including a full marketing team, design team, IT team and wholesale. There’s a further ten staff in the warehouse and 15 members in each store.
The next step is to buy their own warehouse in Rochdale.
“This is where it starts getting hard,” says Scott. “Anything above £30m is when you need a lot more infrastructure and processes. Me and Ross can take it to £30m and then we take a look at where we go.
“We think womenswear can overtake menswear, and we haven’t even done an international market yet. We ultimately want to go to America.”
Most important of all, they remain the best of friends.
Ross beams: “We are best mates, as well as business partners. We’ve got the same brain, but completely different skill sets.
“We’ve never had an argument. We learn from each other.”