Recently, MARAI made the decision as a brand to move into wholesale. This was something that was envisioned for us from the inception of the brand, but has recently became a primary focus as we wanted to hit the ground running for 2024 as we continue to grow and evolve. 

I sat down with Martin Webster, the founder and owner of the brand, to discuss how this will look for us as a business, why now was the perfect time to make the plunge into wholesale and his passion for independent stores. 

Could you elaborate on MARAI's shift to wholesale on a free-to-sell [FTS] basis for S/S24? How did it unfold?

Typically, wholesale orders are secured well in advance, but for S/S24, we took matters into our own hands. Recognizing the challenges of breaking into wholesale during the initial season, we decided to back ourselves, procuring the stock upfront. Our primary focus has been on engaging with fashion independents nationwide, although they're becoming increasingly scarce. Despite the harsh economic climate, our retail and online presence indicates growing traction for MARAI. This brand awareness will only amplify with subsequent deliveries and marketing efforts. Our approach to wholesale centers on supporting retailers during these trying times, fostering collaborations to integrate MARAI into their offerings. By offering stock, we allow retailers to invest in the brand without overextending financially, with the option to replenish from our inventory based on demand. Amidst the challenges, we've managed to secure eight accounts and initiated promising discussions for future partnerships.

Will you maintain the FTS model moving forward?

Yes, we're carrying forward with the FTS model for A/W24. Despite finalizing our plans late in the buying season, we're offering forward orders for A/W24 while continuing with the FTS approach. By May/June, our SS25 lookbook will be ready, and we're exploring showroom and trade show options for June/July. This marks the first season where we align with industry norms by offering forward orders. A significant focus for us is strengthening our direct-to-consumer (D2C) business. Thus, we're fully backing our offerings in wholesale and maintaining stock to support FTS.

MARAI recently enlisted the expertise of agent Reiss Speight. What led to this decision?

We posted a call for an agent on LinkedIn, and Reiss responded. Having previously crossed paths while he was with Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein during our time building up Designer Boutique, we met Reiss in Liverpool to discuss representation. From the outset, Reiss demonstrated a clear understanding of MARAI's ethos, concept, and the premium market's potential. He's well-versed in the industry landscape and buyer preferences, making him an ideal fit for us.

You've expressed a strong preference for being stocked in independent retailers. Can you elaborate on this sentiment?

Let me simplify. Back in the mid-'80s when I began in fashion at Westside, independents were the cornerstone of the industry in every city. Each city boasted several indie stores, each with its own unique brand mix curated by individual buyers. This fostered relationships with customers who would traverse the city center, visiting various stores. Fast forward to today, and most cities lack these indie gems. However, I firmly believe there's still an opportunity for indie retailers to shine. At MARAI, we prioritize building relationships with customers and providing them with unique experiences. As a former buyer, I understand the value of discovering and championing new brands. Indies need to differentiate themselves and foster fresh dialogues to thrive.

What can we expect from MARAI's upcoming collections, and how can potential customers connect with you?

Our collections blend core best sellers with new additions, including fresh colors and fabrics. Each drop features 4-8 new designs, available in our signature colors. Currently, we're working on AW25, ensuring that each design seamlessly integrates with previous collections while expanding the MARAI concept. Interested customers can reach out through our website or social media channels to stay updated and get in touch.

Want To Work With Us?

If there are any buyers who are interested in working with us, get in touch below. We have a showroom above our Stopgate Lane store in Liverpool and we always welcome buyers to come in and have a conversation about the brand or the industry as a whole.