Nayna McIntosh believed she saw a gap in the market when she launched online retailer Hope Fashion in 2015: producing elegant, relaxed clothing for women in their 50s and older.
After years of working with some of the UK’s biggest clothing retailers, McIntosh – now 60 – felt older women were being overlooked by mainstream brands, despite having more disposable income. .
“I wanted to unashamedly target a woman over 50 who is aware of the changes her body is going through, and design products accordingly,” says McIntosh. Products available on the website include pleated skirts and wrap tops in jewel tones.
Despite growing customer numbers by more than 160% year-on-year in 2022, and hoping to break even in 2024, the retailer has struggled to secure critical investment.
Two investors, who had previously backed the business, unexpectedly pulled out of the latest fundraising effort earlier in January.
Now Hope Fashion has taken the unusual step of asking its 20,000 customers to open their wallets for a reason other than adding to their wardrobe: McIntosh is asking them to donate £100 or more to save the business from imminent collapse.
McIntosh – who was part of the team that launched fashion label George at Asda with George Davies in the 1990s, and helped launch the Per Una range at Marks & Spencer – regularly engages with her customers through Q&As or on-course styling sessions social. media.
She says this has resulted in an “incredibly loyal customer base”, and this seems to be backed up by the company’s average score of 4.8 stars on consumer rating website Trustpilot, with the vast majority of reviewers (89%) at the brand was awarded the best five stars. – star rating.
In an email sent to customers on Monday, McIntosh is asking them to be “Saviors of Hope” and allow the brand to continue operating.
“Where do you go when you’re desperate and need help?” McIntosh asks in the email, adding: “What if the people who love Hope were willing to rescue him.”
McIntosh is asking her customers and followers of the brand to donate £100, £250 or more to help raise £250,000.
The money will be used to buy new products – designed by Hope in Berkshire and produced in Italy – for the brand’s spring/summer and autumn/winter collections, as well as for increased marketing.
In return, those who donate will be entered into a prize draw with the chance to win a £1,000 voucher and a styling session with McIntosh.
She believes the fundraising will keep the company and its staff going until early 2024, when she hopes the economic outlook will have improved and “markets will be more receptive”.
If the company is unable to meet its target by midnight on February 7, customers will be told “it’s over” and their donations will be returned.
McIntosh is holding a series of virtual talks with customers to discuss subscription to the business, which she describes as “a big effort”.
Veteran retailer Stuart Rose, former chief executive of Marks & Spencer, was one of McIntosh’s first investors, and she describes him as a constant “supporter” of the business.
However, in the past she has struggled to attract funding from mostly male investors.
“This is a brand for women, by women, supported by women. I think there are a lot of male investors out there who don’t get it,” says McIntosh.
“As a woman, I have a 2% chance of raising money. As a person of color, that goes down to 0.2%.”
Crowdfunding has already come under fire after several business fundraisers left investors disappointed – and even out of pocket.
However, McIntosh insists that she is only “speaking to the converted”, her customers, and is not offering any equity in the company during the crowdfunding.
“These are people who are very close to us,” she says. “I don’t want to sell a very good idea to someone who has no interest in women and 50 plus clothing.”