Venus Cow was founded because Shirley, when she lost her fortune, realised herself unless you are very rich the kind of clothes she liked to wear were not available to most people.
A Made in UK affordable offering of plain black staples for styling, good quality for a higher price than everyone else but still affordable staples once found at Marks and Spencers had disappeared, John Lewis had followed Selfridges' lead and become more of a real estate proposal for established brands instead of a buyer led exciting emporium showcasing British quality and affordable luxury and her go to favourites like Wolford, Sandro, Majestic Filatures and Joseph when she found herself on a tight budget were completely unrealistic and out of reach even in the sale.
Searching the brands in the middle Shirley found established higher quality brands like DKNY she had loved and loyally supported over the years were leveraging their brand profile, changing their sizing to make bigger girls feel great psychologically in a size Small and reducing the quality of their textiles to cover costs and increase margins, so the middle appeared to be compromising quality for more profit, the exact opposite to what she wanted as a customer.
Shirley knew there must be millions of women, like her, hoping and praying someone would start making plain black simple stylish clothes, from the best textiles in the UK (the Brits are really good at fabrics), stitched in British factories abandoned by the fashion business heavy hitters in favour of cheap and quick overseas. Her vision was to beat the odds, and the big boys with their massive advertising dollars and crushing marketing power by starting a new kind of fashion brand with very little money, all about people and purpose over profit for women like her who love quality, comfort and luxury on a budget. From the beginning it was her customers who helped her market the brand, grassroots, just like Lululemon, she called them her VC Angels and as word spread the VC Army grew. To save money at the beginning she enlisted the help of her customers via a selfie competition to model for her and star in her TV advert. It was Shirley's loyal customers who would become the voices and faces of the Venus Cow brand.
Two lifestyle brands for women both started in 1998 were where she took her inspiration. Lululemon, a Canadian company founded by Chip Wilson, the man credited with being responsible for the Athleisure trend and Sweaty Betty, founded by Tamara Norton Hill at the tender age of 26.
Lululemon had quietly built their brand organically touching their customers at massive Yoga gatherings and almost felt like they had sprung from nowhere. The brand's popularity was built on giving back to a grass roots movement of life loving Canadian yogis who wanted to spread a peace love health and harmony message stylishly. Namaste. And the message, what you do in your clothes is more important than the clothes themselves, caught on. They have 4 plain black legging tight offerings.
Sweaty Betty across the pond in the UK, where Tamara Norton Hill single handed opened her first store in Notting Hill Gate was committed to British design from the beginning, her all female design team obsessed with fit and fabric, hence the obsession with bum sculpting, so great for working out and today Sweaty Betty gives back by hosting free community based fitness and lifestyle classes both in store and online.
Sweaty Betty have 1 plain black leggings and several reversible printed leggings with a black lining.
78% polyester 22% elastane
100% opaque 89% Polyester 11% Elastene
This was different, brands creating their own "goodness" space in the market. These brands had shown a more caring, more purpose driven approach to lifestyle dressing & business building, the public had responded and the success stories are history.
Shirley still had two problems with these wonderful fitness/lifestyle offerings for her, a stylish woman in her 50's at the time with a healthy active lifestyle but NOT a workout fanatic. Whilst perfect for yummy mummies having coffee after an hour of pilates, yoga or barre, to do the school run, walk the dog, these performance leggings didn't cross over to a professional business working woman's lifestyle, really dressed up, going out leggings and it is pretty much impossible to style structured, activewear leggings or tights with ordinary clothes, it just doesn't work.
She loved the idea of "From The Studio To The Street" but the challenge for a stylist creating street athleisure style with shiny, performance leggings particularly anything sculpting with seams, you are still on the street in your exercise outfit. She needed plain black cotton leggings, not shiny with no seams. The second issue for Shirley was the price point which put both brands out of reach for the majority.
And so the idea for one plain black legging tight offering was born, the PBL TM, perfect black leggings. A miracle legging that would fit all women over 4 sizes, that would truly take you from the Gym to Gin and everything in between, made from finest luxury cotton that would not bag, sag, bobble or go see through, would improve with washing and give a luxury matt black plain leggings base for all your styling whether it be for the office, a night out, walking the dog, exercising, lunch with friends, the whole enchilada, and most importantly it had to BE AFFORDABLE. The rest of the sport luxe collection, T shirts, dresses, like nothing bra top soon followed.
Shirley wanted to make the best quality cotton staple collection in the world and leggings with no seams for styling and lifestyle firstly but also fit for purpose and comfortable for exercise and dance, even crossing over to the perfect principal dancer cotton footless tights.
Venus Cow PBL and Bratop set £55. Image Credits - Ballerina Emma Rose Savage
A massive thank you to working Mum and model Georgie Green, soon to be Mum and business woman Alice Harnsworth, Personal Trainer Maggie May, dance student Emma Rose Savage and all our VC Angels who have given their time, energy, creativity over the last 5 years to help change the way we all think about ourselves, our clothes, our style and the people we want to support making them.
If you are already a Venus Cow customer and want to be involved in future marketing and promotion of the brand all you need to do is post your best creative selfie online and tag us in, who knows it might be you on that billboard on Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, CA. Venus Cows always think big.