I sat down with Fraser Bell and Natalia Albin, the co-founders of Mexi Clothing, who despite living 8,941 kilometres apart, are bringing Mexican culture to the heart of European fashion.
We were tucked away in the cold winter air at Shoreditch Grind, a far-cry from the 23-degree heat of Mexico City, the birth-place of Mexi Clothing. As police sirens sounded and the constant buzz of the London traffic slowly became a distant noise in the background, Natalia started to tell me about when the fashion duo first met. “Walking down the street here in London,” she said as she took her first sip of her Cappuccino. “I was travelling around Europe with my friends when I finished school. We were lost and Fraser looked quite British so we asked him for directions. That’s how we met,” she laughed.
This was in 2014, and as the pair approach nearly four years since their love-affair first began, not only do they envisage a future together but also for Mexi Clothing.
Mexi Clothing import Mexican clothes, accessories and jewellery into the UK and then distribute them all across Europe. “Although the Mexican community here in Europe absolutely loves our idea, the people who are buying it are British and European,” said Fraser. “I’ve shipped onesies to Belgium, Switzerland, Spain; there’s a lot of interest in Europe.”
“Spring 2016 was the initial idea for Mexi” smiled Fraser as he took a mouthful of his Latte. “The business is split between London and Mexico and the idea came from me frequently visiting and sensing that there was a gap in the market.”
After setting up meetings in Mexico whilst Fraser was visiting Natalia, within a couple of months Mexi Clothing was up and running and come November 2016 their website was launched. “From the summer it went very quickly,” said Fraser.
After receiving funding through the Governments start-up loan scheme and receiving mentoring from Fashion Angel – “who helped us consider all of the things we hadn’t thought about” – the pair set about getting the products from Latin American to Europe. “We shipped and launched within three months. It was pretty rapid given the lack of money and our lack of experience.”
They currently work with ‘Someone Somewhere’, ‘Treinta y Tres (33)’, ‘Hangers’ and ‘Cheap Taste’, all modern Mexican fashion labels which Natalia insisted they “searched all over Mexico to find the best brands.”
“These companies have never really sold anything outside of Mexico so we wanted to be their official distributor in Europe,” she added.
The couple spends two-three months of the year together but insists that they religiously Skype every day without fail. With Fraser having a full-time job working in sales for a tech start-up, and Natalia being a student in Mexico City as well as a freelance graphic designer; the couple put all of their spare time into making their business a success. “It is difficult to set aside the time but we’re making it work” insisted Fraser.
I hadn’t been to Shoreditch Grind before, which has become a bit of a landmark in London’s new fashion-hub since it opened its doors in 2011. It was full of people working, freelancers I imagined, but I liked the vibe and thought it was a rather fitting suggestion by the fashion-duo.
“As you can probably tell, my background isn’t in fashion,” Fraser laughed. The London School of Economics graduate isn’t your typical London fashionista. I could tell by his safe-choice of outfit that his background was heavily routed in business. However, it came as no surprise when he mentioned that “the companies were all super-keen” to work with them, as I was immediately taken in by their journey so far.
I was intrigued as to how they have found running their own business in an industry as ruthless and unforgiving as fashion which can drive many to break down. “Fashion is obviously very competitive and it’s hard to make money as a result, but everyone we have worked with has done so out of genuine desire to see us succeed rather than get anything in return,” Fraser said.
He went on to add: “We had a little bit of help from our friends, but apart from that we have done everything ourselves. We are doing something every day. We have been able to steer the ship where we want it to go.”
The London fashion scene has seen a huge increase in young designers and in what has become an oversaturated industry, good branding is indispensable, however, I believe what Mexi Clothing is bringing to the table is truly unique and definitely has a future.
After the official launch in November 2016, the duo has “been trying different things” to make their business a success. “We have done a pop-up in Camden market in collaboration with Clime-it Brothers – that went really well,” said Fraser. “Then we partnered up with Mestizo – a Mexican restaurant. They took in a range of t-shirts, which are still in stock. We wanted to see how they worked as a business because we want to do what they have done but for fashion. We’d like to do more with already existing Mexican brands – Wahaca would be the dream.”
“That leads us to where we are today,” smiled Natalia. “We still have some stock left and we want to continue working with these companies, but mostly move more towards a design-driven brand and distributor, really focusing on the quality of the design.”
As 2018 is now upon us, I wondered what their ‘big plan’ for the new year was. “The goal is to change the look of the website, and continue doing what we are doing,” said Fraser.
“Moving forward we want to create our own brand using designs inspired by what we see in Mexico. We would like to buy new designs but I think now we’re looking more towards our own designs because that was the goal at the start.
“We’re working with four brands, but we want to see what the look is for the new year and from that, curate again. First we’re going to look at the brands we’re already working with and see what their new collections are looking like.
“We’ve got quite a good network in Mexico now but we want to focus on making things a lot more unique, so instead of getting a huge amount of stock and filling a pop-up shop, we want to make things more limited edition and that is definitely the goal; to find unique things that fit in with modern Mexican design and Mexican fashion.”
So that’s the short-term goal but I wondered what they envisaged their company to look like in the distant future. “In five years we want to have a distinctive design but we ultimately want to make Mexi Clothing our full-time jobs,” answered Natalia. “I see a lot of very talented designers, that grow within Mexico but they don’t grow worldwide because people don’t really look at Mexico that much. A huge part of it for us is that we know what there is in Mexico in terms of the design, the talent and the people and we want to give recognition and be a part of that in the UK.”
As we finish off our drinks we moved onto the topic of social media. “We definitely need to up our game” insisted Fraser. “We want to improve our creative output and put more funds behind it.”
“We are sending products to people but a lot of bloggers with large followings do look for payment,” said Natalia. “We have collaborated with people with 1,000 followers and the creative output from them has been great.”
As we said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways, I couldn’t help but think that despite Fraser and Natalia’s lack of experience, Mexi Clothing definitely has a bright future.