Inspiration, like fashion, comes in all shapes and sizes.
The inspiration for the hugely successful on-line fashion brand, ASOS, came from a standard lamp, or more specifically from the statistics about a particular standard lamp. Co-founder Nick Robertson remembers that he and his partner Quentin Griffiths “read a stat back in 1999 that when the programme Friends aired, NBC got 4,000 calls about some standard lamp in one of their apartments asking where it could be purchased. So that was the real idea behind the business”.
The reasoning behind the brand was a logical development from this; “Anything that gets exposure in a film or TV programme creates desire among the public, so we based the shop around that.”
Their choice of brand name for their launch in June 2000 followed naturally – As Seen On Screen.
Initially the focus wasn’t just on fashion but that changed with one of their earliest hires, Lorri Penn, whom they headhunted from Arcadia – Sir Philip Green’s retail group, which includes Topshop and Dorothy Perkins.
“It wasn’t until our first buyer came in, who was a fashion buyer, that we were pushed in that direction”, Nick says. “Fashion is where we got the most returns for the business. Rather than saying ‘here’s a standard top’, we could say ‘here’s a top that Jennifer Aniston wore in Friends’.”Penn argued that fashion was the way forward.
The founders agreed to back her judgement and focused in on fashion, moving As Seen On Screen from a website for all celebrity-linked products to fashion only.
Sales have grown from £250,000 to over £200m. From a handful of employees it now has over 1,000 and the range of products on its site, though all fashion related, still runs to over 35,000.
Another change is that where once ASOS followed, now it leads. From merely replicating celebrity fashion, it has come so far that it is now helping set celebrity fashion trends. ASOS own-label creations are now worn by celebrities from Rihanna to Kate Hudson.