Lucinda Chambers and Serena Hood of Collagerie

Lucinda Chambers and Serena Hood met whilst working as Fashion Director and Executive Fashion Director at Vogue. In 2020, they set up the online shopping site Collagerie which now has over 90,000 Instagram followers. They talk to us about style, authenticity and advice on setting up a business online.

A Little Bird Collagerie Darren Gerrish

How did Collagerie come about?

S: We were having a coffee and talking about what we were wearing.  The way you pair some Jimmy Choos that you’ve been wearing for years with a new discovery from Instagram. So we thought why not create this edit online?  It was a total lightbulb moment when we both looked at each other at the same time and said, ‘We’ve got to do this.  If we both need it and we are different ages with different styles, then there has got to be a place for this beautiful, digital shopping experience.’

L: It’s a bit like being a stand up comedian.  The reason why they are funny is because they are standing up and saying what everyone else is thinking.  We are the shopping equivalent, telling and sharing with everybody what we think are the greatest design and shopping finds.  It’s a big shopping share.

S: It’s also very inclusive, whatever your budget there is something there for you from high street to designer.  Our name reflects that – we wanted a space where we gather things together for all people.   Originally we thought of ‘Collate’ but we wanted something that sounded a bit more French so Collagerie was perfect!

Do you think it came about because the two of you had the idea together or do you think you would have done it on your own?

L: I don’t think I would have but I think you would Serena.

S: When I was at University, I started an embellished underwear business from my dorm room!  I was always keen to do something.

L: We both have that entrepeneurial spirit.  I sold earrings, Serena sold underwear.  But Collagerie was more about solving the problem to a need rather than just the idea of setting up a business.

The look and colours of Collagerie are very distinctive – was this on purpose?

L: The look and the feel of Collagerie was really very important for both of us.  We go on lots of websites and we wanted to make Collagerie different but most importantly we wanted to make it the most pleasurable experience we could online.  And to make it as inspirational and uplifting as it could be, involves colour.  Understandably, quite a lot of people are afraid of colour and when Collagerie introduces it, it is in a very appealing way.  We want to be right there right with our customer, shopping with them, encouraging them to climb out of their comfort zone.  Colour is a great way of doing that as it is so inspiring.

A Little Bird Collagerie

Did you feel that the online world was welcoming?

S: Absolutely.  It’s amazing how generous people are with their time and advice.  We went to our friends who could help us and still to this day, we ask advice.

L: Adam from Olebar Brown and Whitney from FlowerBx (left) were particularly great.  We want to scale up and go global so to have that peer group as a sounding board is invaluable.

S: We were 3 months in when Covid hit.  You have to pivot to what the circumstances are and I think that is one of the key words that we take away as founders.  Always take the temperature in the room.  We are always thinking about our customer and what they would like.

How does it work practically between you running the company?  And what do you think made Collagerie such a success from the get-go?

S: At the very start we did everything together.  But as the business grew – we are now 10 people – you pick your lane.  I’m CEO and Lucinda is the Chief Creative Officer.  But we always have the same gut feeling about people, come together on all the key business decisions and we have a very aligned vision.  Also, we aren’t two best friends who started a business but we can have a laugh together and we have a great professional relationship.  I think that really helps.

L: We like to think Collagerie is now bigger than both of us, now we have our community.  And I think the key for us is about delivering excellence.  I might not wear a flowery dress but I want to see the best out there, whether it’s £70 or £700.  And I think this comes from our experience of working in magazines.  The edit is what we’ve done all our working lives.

It’s also a very over-used word but I think authenticity is really important too.  Whether doing a fashion shoot or an edit for Collagerie, you are inviting somebody to come into a world.  It should be as beautiful and as inspiring as possible but it’s also got to be believable.  So at Collagerie, whether it’s a collaboration with the Conran Shop or a soap dish from H&M, we are saying to our readers, ‘Take our hands and come on this journey with us.  You’re going to enjoy it and it’s going to be beautiful and resonate with you’.   The same with fashion shoots, you’ve got to make that model or whoever feel believable.  You’ve got to believe yourself and do it with authenticity, emotional intelligence and a passion about the product.

Do you believe in supporting small makers and designers?

S: Absolutely. From the beginning it was always a mix of big and small brands.  We want to champion new designers and be the destination in the hearts and mind of our community that we are the place to find those.

Where do you get inspired?

L: It can come from a leaf on a tree to a book that you’ve just read; from fashion trends to a cracked pavement.   You’ve just got to be open enough to receive the inspiration.

A Little Bird Collagerie

Are there events in the pipeline for the Collagerie Community?

S: From the beginning, we always saw Collagerie as an online platform that we wanted to bring to life.  We designed a styling set with Fran Hickman when we launched and the idea was that we could always be on the road, set up styling events and talks.  Our first pop-up at the Marbella Club (below) has been really exciting to bring everything we do to life, working with both British and local designers.

L: It’s always really important for us to meet our community.  We always love meeting them and hearing their thoughts.

Can you tell us about upcoming collaborations?

S: We have more launching in October but we can’t say yet who it is!

What was your summer read and what are you reading this autumn?

S: I’ve just started Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts – I love Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO and also Guy Raz’s How I Built This.  I like learning about their journeys.  I also loved the book That will never Work about Netflix.

L: I read Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus which I enjoyed, it’s a really good summer read.  I’ve just finished David Sedaris’ Happy Go Lucky.  It’s so fantastically laugh out loud funny.  I’m also reading All Our Yesterdays by Natalia Ginsberg, I think she is really great and it’s written in a really specific way.

Who do you follow on Instagram?

L: We are  big fans of of A Spoonful of Benjamin and The Modern House . I also like looking at new photographers on Instagram like Jack Davison, he is quite prolific.

S: I love looking at the NASA account. At the end of a busy day, there is nothing better than looking at images of Space!

Which other sites do you buy from?

L: Well that’s tricky because if we love something, it goes on Collagerie!

S: We both love going to vintage markets and fairs.  I also tend to shop the most when I’m travelling.  I like to discover new places abroad and local craftsmen.

L: Or anybody new with a pop-up.  What really excites us is a new brand launching.  Discovering something new and also to see what established designers are doing, from Pimlico Road to Portobello Road Market.

Where do you hope Collagerie will be in the next 5-10 years?

S: Ultimately we want to give access to shoppers wherever they are in the world.  We’ve launched our own market place but at the moment it’s only in the UK.  We are launching international shipping later this year.

What’s your advice for anybody setting up an online business?

S: Ask advice, follow your heart, prepare to pivot and keep your sense of humour!  You need to be able to laugh along the way.


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