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Simon Mottram is the founder of trailblazing cycling brand Rapha. Combining his passion for two wheels with his professional background
he launched Rapha in the summer of 2004. The brand proved to be an instant hit and has gone from strength to strength in the years since.
Glenn Kitson spoke to Simon in an attempt to get the inside track on Rapha.

PART [1/3]
GLENN KITSON: Can you tell me a little bit about your
background?
SIMON MOTTRAM: Yes, my name is Simon Mottram and I am
chief executive and founder of Rapha. Before doing this I spent 15
years as a brand and marketing consultant. Before that, years
and years ago I was a chartered accountant and I took the unusual
step from this into design and marketing because that was what I
was always interested in. I managed to make this work for me,
so I had a lot of experience of advising brands on development
and strategy etc… particularly luxury brands.
GK: Which brands were these?
SM: I did a lot of work for high-end drinks and high-end car
brands, Aston Martin and Jaguar. This was 15-20 years ago. I
also did some work for Chanel and Burberry, brand evaluations
for those guys.
GK: So you understand this market then?
SM: I lived in that world a little bit and I enjoyed that world. I
couldn’t really afford to be that big a participant in it but if you think
back ten years ago it was pretty exciting and there were lots of
interesting things being done. There was lots of talking regarding
the direction that the luxury market would go, from being simply
expensive and exclusive to making it fit with this democratised
‘internet world’. That is exactly where we (Rapha) fit. There are a
number of brands, such as Apple even, that are kind of luxury in
the sense that they are beautiful and curated and the product is
incredibly well thought through. They are pretty exclusive and yet
we all have them. So the question was how do you manage such
‘mass luxury’. I did a lot of work around these things and the
idea of Rapha came from me being a customer and being a rider.
I would go to my local bike shop and walk in with my wallet open
with the intention of buying something. I wouldn’t want to buy a bike
every week so I'd look for a cap or something that would connect
me with the sport and I would walk away with money in my wallet
because what was on offer was really horrible. It was bad quality,
it was positioned badly, nothing was ‘talking’ to me.
It became a huge frustration and an obsession to find a better
way of doing it. What I realised was that there was a gap in the
market for people like me who were a little bit older, a bit
discerning and had money to spend on something authentic and
wanted a better quality product. People like me wanted something
super focused and not just for everybody. I spent a lot of time
travelling the world with my work and talking to people about bikes
and realised that there might be a few more people like me out
there and this is what Rapha became eventually. A market
opportunity that I saw and a personal passion mixed with
professional expertise.
GK: So having identified what you wanted to do, how easy was it
to get the ball rolling?
SM: I knew I was OK at doing the branding sort of thing but I didn’t
know anything about making products. I knew nothing about online
retail either. Back in 2000–2001 there wasn’t much online garment
retail anyway, so all the basic bits were missing but the stuff about
building a brand I was good at.
GK: So how did you deal with the online ‘democratisation of the
luxury market’?
SM: Well, I’m not sure that we really have concluded that yet. I
think it’s a constant journey that we're on, certainly as a brand
that has started with nothing. We are on that journey because for
the first few years of our time we sold a very little amount and
there was only a certain amount of people who could get it. We
sold out all of the time and although this probably helped build the
brand, you shouldn’t really sell out, and we try not to these days
[laughs]. When you’re a young brand and you are growing quite
quickly you do tend to sell out and the people who bought it are
the early adopters, the style leaders, the people who are first in
the group that see something new. So there was an amazing
exclusivity about it, as you just couldn’t get it. People had heard
about it but didn’t really know about it. Now we are eight years
old and in London you see it in New York, in San Francisco, in
Tokyo it has presence. So Rapha is now much better known and
we are obviously trying to grow. We are not attempting to be
purposely tiny though. We are happy to grow but then the question
becomes 'how do you keep it special?'
GK: It’s about having a strong opinion?
SM: Yes, definitely!

Read More @ http://www.ktcquality.com/manufacture/brands_rapha.html

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