Happy new year, Tall Sisters! Katie here. It’s raining in LA (fitting!) and I have a bit of bad news to share with you.
After nearly 8 years of business, one of our longest running independent tall retailers, 6 Foot Fashion, is closing her doors. 6 Foot Fashion was created in 2011 by Kelly Scott, a 6’1” fashion designer in the UK. In addition to working closely with small independent brands, she created the Kelly Scott London range to embrace tall women of all shapes and sizes–way before most clothing brands knew we existed.
I know, I’m getting us all excited for a size-inclusive brand that will soon be extinct. But like the Tasmanian tiger or the Great Auk, we can learn from her journey and be inspired by her existence.
Call it an “exit” interview. An “anti-launch” announcement. In conversation with Kelly, we’ll discuss how she created her own company, get some memorable highlights, and delve into why she’s shuttering one of our most beloved independent tall brands.
Tell us about yourself. What made you choose a career in fashion?
I have always been tall, and growing up, I towered over my peers. Therefore, shopping was always a struggle and I would often end up wearing men’s trainers or jeans as they just fit me better. I felt that when I was young, my height made me quite shy but as I got to my 20’s, I learnt to love it, embrace it, and would happily wear a 4” heel, and that will never change!
After university (college) in which I studied Criminology, I started helping out family members who were in the rag trade (as we call it in the U.K.), and I fell in love with the industry. I learnt about how clothes were made from start to end, I travelled and had the opportunity to work with major department stores. It really opened my eyes into this incredible industry, so I can’t say I chose a career in fashion, it just happened, but sometimes that’s the best way.
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is varied depending on what day it is. I have 2 young boys so if I am not in jeans or leggings running around after them, then I like to dress simple and feminine. I love a good shirt or blouse as it is so easy to dress up or down and it makes me feel “put together.” I also love getting glammed up and wearing a dress.
What’s the origin story of 6 Foot Fashion?
After about 7 years working in the industry, as I said, I really learnt a lot about how to create a garment, and I thought, if I was ever to start a business, now was the time. I was still young and had no dependents, so I left my job and then poured myself into creating 6 Foot Fashion. I knew I wanted to create something for everyone that was affordable and easy to access, so I worked out my costs, set up a website, made a business plan, got in touch with some old suppliers and the rest is history!
What sets your business apart from other companies? How is 6 Foot Fashion different from other tall retailers specifically?
6 Foot Fashion is made for tall women by a tall woman. I am 6’1” and so I really know the struggles about arm lengths, body lengths, leg lengths, and also what works and what doesn’t. Also we have always been a very family-led business, and we have built some great relationships with our customers over the years as we really do go the extra mile in terms of customer service. Lastly, we make the Kelly Scott London brand in the UK. We are involved from start to finish, we work with the factory extremely closely, and to have our factory so close is extremely unique.
Which came first, your own line (Kelly Scott London) or your work with small independent brands? Why was it important to have your own line?
We initially started with just small independent brands. They would make items specifically longer or bigger for us. For example, Pretty Ballerinas made larger shoe lasts [or, shoe molds], and our pumps were specially ordered in those sizes. The same for an evening wear brand we sold, they would make the lengths 10-15 cm longer just for us.
I started our own brand as there were certain things you can’t just add some inches to and hope for the best. Tailoring is a whole different ball game as the cut is so unique, so 5 years ago, I decided to start designing, found a factory, and from that Kelly Scott London was born.
When you started your own business, what were some obstacles that you encountered? Any surprising challenges you did not anticipate?
The hardest part in the beginning is getting suppliers to sell to you. I had some contacts, but a lot I had to work on for a while. I had to really network and put myself out there as the face of the brand to get people to realise that there was such a gap in the market for what we did. The most surprising challenge was not that surprising, but it was the most challenging: getting people to find you. I didn’t have a storefront, I was solely online, and so social media and SEO had to be on point. We tried some editorial advertising but we weren’t catching the “tall” customer. It has always been something we struggled with as we did not have millions of pounds to put into ad campaigns.
What do you think were some of the best moments of creating 6 Foot Fashion?
Walking down the street and seeing someone in your clothes. That is the ultimate “moment” and also receiving positive feedback from our customers. It is really a warm and fuzzy feeling to help a 16 year-old find her prom dress and make her feel the same as her friends. I wish I had that same experience when I was younger.
The best story is probably from 4 years back when I was watching a segment on daytime TV where a lady was being interviewed about her height. It was quite a prominent show in the U.K. and she was talking about how she struggled to find jeans to fit. I thought, “I have to send this girl some jeans.” I got in touch with the show, and managed to send her a pair. Fast-forward to 2 years ago at a Tall Society event at the W Hotel in London where I got to meet this lady who came up to me, hugged me, and said she was so grateful for the jeans I sent and she still wears them to this day! Made my day!
At what point did you know that you had created a successful business? Is there a specific moment when you realized you had made it?
When magazines start contacting you to run a story or they want to call in to borrow a sample to shoot, that is a great moment. I think you can never get too comfortable as you have to keep working at it and coming up with new ideas, but that is definitely a great feeling.
You’ve been able to stay in business much longer than other independent retailers. What do you think the key was to your success?
Persistence and hard work. Also you have to evolve and listen to your customers and what they want as their needs change over the years. You have to stay competitive and relevant also by keeping up to date with social media changes and new platforms. It’s a daily struggle, but if you love something and feel so passionately about it, you give what it takes.
Now, the less fun part… After nearly 8 years of business, why are you closing 6 Foot Fashion?
So it will be 8 years in August. And yes, definitely NOT the fun part, but you have to be realistic. As passionate and determined as I was, I have a mortgage and 2 children to think about. The industry has changed so much in 7 years, and the high street has evolved so much with more and more companies doing what I do but on a massive scale. They have major investment, they manufacture abroad for crazy cheap prices and I can say, cheap quality in my opinion. That has just never been me, I really do believe in good quality clothing and I would never compromise that. I am grateful that we have had the amazing years we have had. I am not in debt to anyone, I haven’t fallen out with suppliers and I like to keep it that way. It was just time to make a decision.
In closing 6 Foot Fashion, does this mean that you are shutting down your own line, Kelly Scott London? What will happen to the independent retailers that you stock?
Yes, sadly this is the end of it all. We don’t stock to any independents so production has simply come to a halt.
Is there something you wish you could have done differently?
I wish I was able to secure more investment as I feel confident that 6 Foot Fashion really could have made it and continued to do what we did. It is a very hard thing to do and sometimes you just have to be practical about things.
Do you have any advice for other tall women wanting to start their own fashion brand or retail business? How can they improve their chances of success? Do you think it’s actually possible to achieve success and longevity as a tall retailer given that our market is so niche?
It is certainly possible to achieve success with the right balance. I strongly believe in having a business partner, which I never had. It is someone to bounce ideas off and it also shares the responsibility and workload. Also you have to really know your customer and know your business. I was fortunate to have a good background in fashion which really helped me in the beginning. I had little knowledge in websites and how to build one, so maybe you would look for a partner who could help in the areas you are weak in. But ultimately you have to go for it. I have no regrets and would do it all over again tomorrow.
Do you have any suggestions on how the tall community can support independent businesses like yours in different ways besides just buying your apparel?
I think being brand loyal is so important. I am sure I am guilty of it too, but you find a brand that fits and you like, but you are always looking for the next best thing or just the easy choice, i.e. a massive high street retailer. I get it, but customers don’t appreciate the work that goes into it and sadly over a year ago, another independent closed down (Tall Girls) and they were in business much longer than me. People write on social media that they are so sad, and they loved the brand, but if that was the case, why not come back and keep buying? Also when we send out surveys or ask questions, please respond, as this helps us greatly.
What’s next for you? Will you consider doing a new line in the future?
I will 100% remain in fashion as it is all I know, and I always say, “never say never,” so watch this space!
Any final thoughts for the tall community and your customers at 6 Foot Fashion?
Please continue to use your voice. We are a small (excuse the pun) community, but generations are getting taller, so there will always be more need for tall clothing. Anyway that you can support a small business or a tall blogger or influencer, or help a teenager who is lacking confidence in their height, just remember to reach out and connect.
And lastly, thank you for a fabulous 7 years! I am truly humbled and appreciative of the amazing support and comments over the last few weeks. The website is still live, but won’t be for much longer and with up to 80% off across the whole site, we have some amazing deals! Thank you again x Kelly.
To shop 6 Foot Fashion’s final sale, visit 6footfashion.com. Be sure to select the specific currency you want (GBP, USD, EURO) at the top right corner of the site. 6 Foot Fashion is able to deliver items to most international locations.