Interview with YC Ng, founder of Scarlett of Soho

YC Ng, founder of Scarlett of Soho


- Tell us more about Scarlett of Soho and how it differs from other eyewear brands?
We’re a British eyewear startup inspired by British eyewear innovation. Our frames are wearable, bold and vintage-inspired, but we pride ourselves on cutting out the middleman to be able to offer an amazing experience to our customers. 

- Recently you introduced new service that allows customers to rent frames.  How does it work & what was the feedback?
It’s the world’s first designer eyewear subscription service, which allows subscribers to change their prescription eyewear anytime they want from only £10 per month. When a subscriber wants to switch to another pair, they let us know, and we’ll make up a pair with their prescription. They send us the old pair once they’ve received their new pair. At the end of the 12-month contract, they keep their last pair, much like a mobile phone plan. If they break or lose their glasses while on the plan, we replace them for a very small excess fee. Feedback so far has been encouragingly positive! 
- Almost year ago you started your business from start-up campaign. What were the main challenges while raising money, introducing your ideas & getting into fashion industry? Would you do anything in a different way now?
As with all disruptive businesses, it was challenging getting started without having contacts in the fashion business, and being a new fashion tech brand is never easy either. We straddle the line between fashion and being a digital business, a line that we find is increasingly being blurred. When we started, fashion tech as an area of interest in the UK was also on the cusp of gaining interest, although the scene is very different today, of course. We would probably have tried to be a bit more focused, and stayed true to our convictions. Listen to everybody’s advice, but look out for patterns, as opposed to being pulled in all sorts of different directions at once!  

- How many direct employees do you have?
We’ve got a small team of 4 and a half! 




- It seems that recently more and more new luxurious brands are starting to take all the control of their production processes, while leaving all middlemen behind. Do you see this as the successful future for new, quality oriented brands?
Fashion is a big space, so there will undoubtedly be space for all kinds of brands - but for sure, brands that emphasise quality and transparency will probably stand out from the rest as consumers get savvier about how they’d like to spend their pounds. 

- What was the process from the idea, research and final launch? Which part did you enjoyed most?
I’d say it’s an iterative process, because we take lots of inspiration from the lean startup methodology. There’s never a final launch, because we try to iterate as we get feedback from our consumers as much as possible. I really love the process as a whole, because all the small iterations really add up when you look at the big picture! 

- Before establishing Scarlett of Soho you worked in finance. How did you apply your previous experience for fashion / product design industries?
I’m very numbers-oriented, and a get-things-done kind of guy. I suppose my finance background has groomed me to not be afraid of spread sheets, keeping the business going from a numbers perspective. 

- What was the inspiration behind brand’s name and frames?
We pay tribute to an 18th century royal optician, Edward Scarlett, who actually had a store on Dean Street in Soho. He was known as Edward Scarlett of Soho, and popularised the usage of temples on frames, in a time when pince-nez and lorgnettes were all the rage.

- Where the phrases came from & your favourite one?
The phrases on our frames are inspired by the dedication and craftsmanship of the men and women that we name our frames after. My favourite one has to be “Soldier on” from our Churchill, because Winston Churchill achieved great things while fighting a lifelong battle against depression. 

- Your frame range is based on 8 styles. Was there any specific reason to keep this range quite small?
Because we’re a startup, we were working with smaller amounts of capital than large brands, and therefore decided to start with a small range just to gauge customer interest, before moving on. It’s sort of our take on the lean startup method! 



- Best sellers & your personal choice.
I wear the Churchill in Ice Grey. Other best sellers include our Hammerstein, Hartnell and Novak. 

- Describe your customers and their values.
The Scarlett of Soho wearer identifies with the finer things in life, but also knows that the finer things in life should not necessarily come with designer price tags. He or she appreciates style, and rocks their different Scarlett of Soho frames on a day-to-day basis. 

- Best advice you ever got?
We were mentored by Richard Branson just a few weeks ago, and he probably gave us the most memorable piece of advice we’ve gotten to date - “Never turn down a sale.” 

- Place in London that illustrates your products.
Soho of course! It was London’s original birthplace of crafters, style and creativity. 

- How do you imagine future of Scarlett of Soho?
As demand grows, we hope to bring Scarlett of Soho on to bigger and better things. A possible European expansion, and working with more partners from all industries to celebrate craftsmanship at every level! 



Interview by Zybartas Ciurlys

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