The online world is amazing and I’ve met and connected with a slew of fascinating people. One of them is Jacynth Bassett. She’s a young woman from London who started an online clothing business called the-Bias-Cut.com that focuses on fashion for mature women over 45. I love her tagline, which is “Where Ageism is Never in Style.”
We met over Skype and discussed what we love about fashion and the challenges mature women face shopping for clothes. Her choices are classy but also have pizazz and are made to fit women of various shapes. In fact, you can shop for your body type. (Petite, long, pear, apple, curvy) and celebrate or hide the parts of your body you like or dislike the most. It’s a go-to online shopping site for the often neglected older woman who may feel frustrated shopping at the mall.
Below is my interview with Jacynth Bassett, owner of the-Bias-Cut.com:
What inspired you to go into fashion in the first place and start your original blog?
Fashion has been a lifelong passion for me. I even remember being 3 and picking out my best outfits for the school photographs! And I used to cover all my books at school and room at uni with editorials from Vogue and other magazines.
But being academic I never envisaged myself going into the fashion industry. Instead, I wanted to be a lawyer and even studied law at Cambridge. But, whilst I began to realize that a career in law wasn’t for me, through being president of the university law society, I discovered a love for business.
Up until that point everything I had done had been a means to an end, but I finally decided to do something I loved and, if I was going to go into business, it would be centered around something I cared about. And fashion was the obvious choice.
I knew that the fashion industry was very saturated so I wanted to do something different. Quickly I started thinking about my mum and how as she had got older she had felt invisible and irrelevant in the eyes of the fashion industry, despite her wanting to look stylish and modern still. So that’s when I got the idea for the-Bias-Cut.com – an online boutique that truly celebrated and empowered discerning, stylish women over 45.
I tailored the rest of my law degree to business-focused modules, and as soon as I graduated I began to research and develop the business. It took a good 2 years before I was ready to launch, but in the meantime, I decided to start the blog as a way to connect with women, understand more what they were looking for, and to promote my anti-ageism message.
I love how your mum’s difficulty in finding clothes was the motivation for focusing on fashion for mature women. How has that changed the way you look for styles and the designers you choose?
It has changed it in two ways:
- I make sure I find styles and designers that cut garments in a flattering way for different shapes and bodies. With age, our bodies do change, and there are certain areas we decide we don’t want to show off any more (for a lot of women it’s their upper arms), so I will only feature styles and designers that take this into account. That said, I also understand that no one woman is the same, so I make sure we have a variety to cater to different body concerns and preferences.
- I prefer to stay away from ‘bang on-trend’ clothing, and instead go for more classic designs with a modern twist, or a more subtle nod to a trend. This enables our customers to find pieces that will celebrate their own sense of style, rather than be a slave to trends. Plus, because our clothing is premium and excellent quality, it can be loved and last for years and doesn’t need to be thrown away next season for being outdated.
What is the most important thing an older woman can do to look more stylish?
Understand and embrace her body shape. By accepting who she is today, she will dress to flatter her shape and most importantly she will gain more confidence – which is the true measure of style.
What is the best way to avoid fashion faux pas?
Only wear clothing that feels right. That’s not to say you shouldn’t step outside your comfort zone, but if an outfit makes you feel uneasy or something about its fit is wrong, it will come across in your face. And if you don’t believe in it, why should anyone else?
What is important to you in determining if a fashion item is well made?
The fabric choice for that particular garment and the quality of the stitching. The cut is also very important because it shows whether the designer understands the female form or not.
What are the most important pieces a mature woman should own?
- A well-fitted, supportive bra
- A great pair of jeans
- A tailored jacket you can pair with anything
- A funky, crisp shirt
- A statement pair of shoes
What type of piece can “pop” a woman’s style and bring out her individuality?
Always start with an accessory. A fabulous pair of shoes, a piece of jewelry or bag can add wonders to a look. And even if your clothing is quite simple, by adding a bold, quirky accessory that is fun and reflects your personality, you will instantly become more stylish.
If you can give your number one fashion tip for mature women, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to try something new. If something catches your eye, even if it isn’t normally what you wear, give it a go. One of my favorite stories is how I asked one of our ‘real women’ models to model a fabulous yellow coat for the website. She was adamant it would look bad, having avoided yellow her whole adult life. But then she put it on and loved it! She looked fresh, modern and received so many compliments for wearing it.
So the moral of the story is, give it a go. Because you might be pleasantly surprised and, if not, you can just take it off again!
What did it take on your part to transform your site from a blog to a full-on fashion store?
Because it was always my goal to become a full-on fashion store, I had been planning its development before starting the blog. So when it was finally time for the transformation, I knew the steps that needed to be taken.
That said, there was a lot to be done. Because I was funding the business myself and didn’t have a team, I did everything personally from scratch – from building the e-commerce site and setting up my distribution chain, to doing the legal work, finding a photographer, etc. I also had to go through my shortlist of designers I had been interested in, and then filter them out more carefully to make sure they and the pieces I selected matched the ethos of the-Bias-Cut.com.
Did you encounter any major obstacles in starting your business?
Despite having shortlisted the designers I was interested in, finding the right ones wasn’t easy. It’s not as simple as picking a few clothes – you have to satisfy large minimum orders, so a designer needs to be offering enough pieces that work for your brand. The other major problem at first was getting designers to be interested in associating themselves with fashion for mature women. Unfortunately, there is still so much ageism in the industry, and I refused to work with any brand that supported this. So I had to be very selective. But eventually I found the right designers, and I’m delighted to say I’ve found even more as time has gone on.
The other major obstacle has been my budget. I funded the business through doing some legal-related contract work and through insurance money after my suitcase with all my belongings in it got stolen off a train! So that wasn’t very much when there have been a lot of costs involved – from buying stock to developing and maintaining a secure website to marketing. So I’ve had to be pretty creative with making things work!
What kind of support (mentors, or financial) did you have to take your business to the next level?
Whilst I didn’t have any financial support, I do have two incredible mentors. I’ve had one for two years who is senior at Burberry – she has given me invaluable business advice and insight into the industry, whilst also has been a huge emotional support. I won my other mentor at a competition 6 months ago with the UK Fashion & Textile Association, and she has so much experience in fashion, marketing, and retail. So she’s been fantastic at offering advice on taking the business to the next level and introducing me to contacts.
How do you see your business moving forward in the next 5 years?
My overall goal is for the-Bias-Cut.com to become the go-to shopping destination for women of all ages who love style, quality and want something a bit different. I have lots of plans for how that might happen and hope to be able to introduce my own label soon too.
When you are looking for fashion for mature women, what do you think is most important to you regarding style? Please leave a comment below.