Behind the brand: The online site selling pre-loved designer pieces
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HEWI London (Hardly Ever Worn It London) was founded in 2010 by Sharon Wolter-Ferguson and her daughters Natalya and Tatiana. HEWI London is a luxury reselling site where users can shop for pre-loved designer pieces at a huge discount.
The site stocks everything from classic Chanel handbags to on-trend Balenciaga Triple S chunky trainers. The best thing about HEWI London is that by buying second hand you're spending sustainably, and we all know how important that is.
Sharon Wolter-Ferguson / Image courtesy of HEWI London
Launching a brand…
So, what was the inspiration behind the brand? How was HEWI London born? Sharon explains that the story started in Monaco: “I was living in Monaco and received a last-minute invite to the annual Red Cross gala. I had to grab something to wear quickly so I contacted a friend who owned the only resale store there, and I bought a beautiful pale nude chiffon gown for €750 instead of €12,000. My dress was one of the most photographed that night and I thought it was crazy that people had spent thousands and thousands, and I had one of the most beautiful dresses for relatively little.” The idea for HEWI London was thus born, and when Sharon launched she sold the dress that had given her the very idea.
Sharon got her daughters involved, and this attracted interest in the project. “The idea was new, so we were an exciting story, a woman going alone with her two daughters (who I roped in from school and university) with a glamorous fashion idea working from the kitchen table.
“My boyfriend is a broker so introduced us to some colleagues, helped me build an investment deck, and taught us how to pitch. We were lucky enough to attract a fabulous board and steady backers.”
And the rest is history… well, sort of. “The rest has all been jolly hard work, an incredible journey, and a mother’s dream to work with her daughters every day,” says Sharon.
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A love for fashion…
For Sharon, fashion has been a passion throughout her life. “[Fashion has been] an obsession all my life, and particularly when living in Monaco, being surrounded by the most luxurious of fashion and fashionable people. When you start to learn the stories behind the designers and the incredible craft that goes into creating each piece, you begin to see fashion as much more than an item of clothing.”
A sustainable ethos…
Reselling and buying pre-loved is much more sustainable than buying new items. This was an important part of the brand's ethos for Sharon: “We believe in extending the luxury lifecycle of fashion and making sustainable fashion choices.”
HEWI doesn’t just facilitate reselling, in fact they’ve just launched a new branch of the brand. HEWI Street. “More recently, we’ve launched HEWI Street, allowing you to not only buy and sell streetwear and high-street brands, but also swap items. We want to build a huge community of fashion lovers.”
Reselling, swapping and buying second hand is a great way to live sustainably, and Sharon hugely encourages this. “It’s been widely reported that the amount of clothing in landfill has dramatically increased over the years; so, by using resale sites such as HEWI London and HEWI Street, you’re helping to buck this trend.”
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Business is an industry that has historically (and still is) been dominated by men, so how important was female empowerment to Sharon when she was starting out? “One of my biggest fears when starting out was the fear of being a single woman, particularly one with no tech or business experience, and stepping into the very male-dominated world of finance, as all great ideas need serious financial support and advice. We’re a female-founded and run company, with most of our senior positions now filled by women.”
This need for female empowerment has filtered into the ethos of the brand and is at the very heart of HEWI London: “In how we position and market ourselves, we want every woman to feel empowered, and for many their outfit is a part of this - whether it’s being able to wear the latest trends, or even owning those key investment pieces such as a Birkin.”
Words of wisdom…
Finally, what is Sharon’s advice for anyone wanting to get into the fashion industry and start their own business? “Getting into the fashion industry for me was very much about making connections and those started in a big way when we lived in Monaco.
“Starting a business isn’t easy and it won’t happen overnight, but don’t give up. You’ll face a lot of walls - knock them down, because if you don’t truly believe in your brand, no one else will. Grit your teeth and get on with it, sheer determination and huge heaps of self-belief - that’s the hardest one. Some good luck along the way is nice too!”
Lead image courtesy of HEWI London