Shop of the Month - Xile Clothing
Founded by entrepreneur Pat O' Flaherty in 1981, Xile is one of Scotland's most successful independent fashion outlets. During the 1980s it was the first to stock French brands Chippie and Chevignon and has remained at the forefront of the market for high quality street wear. Stocking top-end denim, along with a distinctive range of casual wear, women's wear and directional collections, the shop has gone from strength to strength, and now has three outlets in Edinburgh's Prince's Mall, two at Ocean Terminal and the G-Star store at St Andrew's Square. So what is the X-factor that accounts for Xile's success?
Buyer Paul Mullen has been "immersed in Xile" since he was a sales assistant and still talks with genuine excitement about having the chance to experiment with unknown brands. Although proud of their status as a successful Scottish company, Paul explains that it has always been their policy to search far and wide for the labels that will have cutting edge appeal, and he travels throughout Europe to identify the latest trends for the Xile faithful.
Xile are primarily regarded as denim specialists, being Scotland's largest independent stockist of G-Star, Replay and Diesel, however they also showcases a mix of smaller lines that have consistently grown in success such as PRPS and True Religion. The strength of the market for denim is easily explained, according to Paul; "People want to feel good in their most worn piece of clothing." The higher than high-street price tags are easily justified by the fact that top end jeans companies own their own factories and patent the exact look, feel and cut of their product, making a brand like Diesel both unique and reliable.
Familiarity not only with the brands but with the staff is something that Xile customers can expect – most of Xile's full-time staff have been with the company for several years, and some a decade or more. The company thrives on this unique situation, as long-serving members of staff are best placed to receive feedback on new stock and changes in the store. Paul explains that this is ideal for a shop that is eager for customer's feedback and to take on board the opinions of staff. This is important, as in Paul's opinion Edinburgh is "not all one style or one look". Unlike the extremities of style found in London, or the strict adherence to trends in cities such as Manchester or Leeds, he believes the young fashion market in Scotland is more likely to absorb what they like from current trends and adapt it to their own look.
As the retail market has had to adapt to a drop-off in sales, part of the reason for Xile's success could be that in recent years the market for an expensive but laid-back look has overtaken demand for the more structured, formal high fashion labels that dominated during the nineties. This shift has meant that demand for Xile's lines has grown and the shop has been able to develop accordingly. Evident in the way Paul talks about fashion is a real hunger to stay at the forefront of this niche, to be the first to offer customers a new brand that might just be huge.
Always popular are the exclusive lines of the most famous names; top end Adidas and Nike attract customers from much further afield than Edinburgh. The women's wear works in a similar way; brands such as the Italian Fornarina offer female customers something they cannot find elsewhere, whilst sitting alongside better known labels such as Replay and 55DSL.
This summer promises to be an exciting time for the business - as of July, Xile will be stocking Black Rocks, the new collection from founders of similarly successful Scottish business All Saints. The opening of a G-Star shop on Glasgow's Buchanan Street will, if successful, pave the way for Paul's hopes to see Xile in both cities too. In Edinburgh the Prince's Mall outlets are being completely redesigned to form one larger combined men's and women's store with an open layout, larger fitting rooms and a good deal more space, aimed at giving customers a more pleasant and relaxed shopping experience. With this kind of ambition and enthusiasm, there's no reason that in the coming year Xile can't have their pocket of the Scottish fashion market all sewn up.