Style Observer

Alessandra Bell

Connecting Brands To Buyers

Sunday, July 08, 2018

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“I'm not a designer; I've never claimed to be. But I do love fashion and I know what sells, “ declares the woman who defied the odds and landed her brand CocoNautical line at Topshop, Oxford Street, London. Alessandra Bell is a fashion entrepreneur with an online ecomm site for swimwear and resort wear which she started in 2016 and, a year later, pivoted the business to become a drop shipping and wholesale platform for vacation wear to prove it.

Think: Farfetch and Amazon and you'll get the gist. She doesn't stock any products. Put simply, she connects brands to buyers and brands to customers around the world.

“I work with a team of brilliant women, who work from home offices to connect with buyers and retailers from Bergdorf Goodman to ASOS. We currently sell to over 130 doors in Asia, the US, EU and Middle East. Topshop is a part of our new arm for concessions.

It's all matter-of-fact, really, for the woman who was born in London, moved to Jamaica at the age of four and who's told pretty regularly that she's not really Jamaican and way too feisty to be British! Her character was built at Immaculate Prep and high schools She returned to London at 17 and attended Sussex University where she read for a degree in fashion. Four years were spent in the Middle East prior to moving back to the UK where she started building CocoNautical, part-time from 2015, and full-time in 2017. If you're expecting your typical high-powered executive on the move type of moment complete with sound bytes, you'll be disappointed. It is Bell's humility that proves endearing. The brown socks worn with the stark white uniform of ICHS teaches humility; it's a lesson that has remained. That, and her faith — “ I live my life one prayer at a time. I really don't know what I am doing,” she states. “People know that I'm openly Christian... And I have to give glory where it is due. I have put all my hopes in Christ and He has proven that nothing is impossible. I quit my job in March 2017 and I trusted God to provide. I haven't looked back.” It is faith and the desire to have women support each other that keeps her motivated. “We need to learn to support each other. CocoNautical was created to do one thing: empower women to be able to work from home and create sustainable revenue to support their families and themselves. And it has started to do just that. Kaimima bags by Maria Cecilia Ariza, for example. Her Bonita bags are hand-beaded by women in the prison in Bogota, Colombia, or Chila bags, knitted by the Wayuu tribeswomen. I work with women like Audrey Swanson at Revel Rey swimwear or Hila Weinberg, Biliblond in Tel Aviv. For them these products are their dreams, their talents. They work hard and they deserve success. All they needed was someone to believe in them too.

“I'm still learning and it's not easy by any means, but technology is making it easier for us to connect and work together. I just want to help women use their talents and their time wisely in an age where technology can give them so much freedom! We don't need to work in offices anymore. We were never created for that!”

Eschew all thoughts of Bell resting on her laurels. Topshop is not the end but rather the beginning. “I was discussing this with my father this week. I've had this dream in my heart for so long it's almost like I need to take some time to reflect and realise that it was too small... This has been a huge learning curve and without my team, I would not have been able to do it. Sleepless nights and literal blood, sweat and tears. And yet it was possible. Now I dare to think I could do this with other retailers. In an era of shared economics, maybe 'Freetail' is the next new frontier. Partnering with retailers who don't have money to invest in new brands but creating seasonal spaces for brands to showcase their work and prove that there is interest in their products. Buyers want hard evidence that these collections will sell. We can give that to them.”

Humility and faith might be tenents she holds dearly to — patience, however, is not!

“But this will take time,” she says “and something I don't have very much of: patience!”

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