This autumn sees ØRN Clothing celebrate its 10th anniversary. In the space of a decade the workwear manufacturer has grown from working out of the back of a van to one that turns over £18m. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey spoke to one of the founders, Ivor Tunley, about the company’s flight to success and plans for the future.
With decades of experience in the PPE and workwear industry, Ivor and his brother Cameron were well placed to start their own manufacturing business in the sector way back in 2008.
The pair’s first stumbling block came when deciding what to call their fledgling business. “We looked at the market and knew that we wanted to be perceived as a brand that could compete against the strong Scandinavian brands,” explains Ivor.
It was at a family barbeque when the topic reared its head and the brother’s father turned to them and asked what interested them. Ivor’s response: birds of prey. A Danish dictionary was then purchased and upon flicking through Ivor stumbled across the Danish word for eagle: ørn. The slash through the ‘O’ used in the company’s logo, gives the brand a definite Scandinavian edge, while the meaning of the word gave ØRN Clothing a basis on which to name all of its products after: birds of prey.
“It’s short, it’s punchy and not a name you’ll forget in a hurry,” says Ivor.
Design and appeal
As well as aligning the company with other Scandinavian brands by design and appeal, Ivor knew he was keen to target the middle ground in the UK marketplace. To buy good quality workwear products from premium Scandinavian brands you had to pay the price. These products were often in European sizing, making it difficult to know what you were ordering and these companies were often perceived as being slower on delivery from a UK customer’s point of view.
At the time of ØRN’s launch, Ivor says that not one brand had a good spread of product, each specialised in one particular area. “Our first range of products had to compete against the market leaders. We also had to have UK sizing and UK stockholding, this was very important to us. We launched with half a dozen products and made the decision very early on that XS to 5XL would become our standard sizing and that we would have a one price policy for waist and leg lengths, making us very easy to deal with” Ivor says.
The colours navy, bottle green and black were chosen as core colours for the collection, as these are very well suited for the UK workwear market.
Over the years, the product range has grown and evolved, as would be expected. The original polo shirt now comes in 17 colours, with another four polo shirts joining the collection throughout the decade. ØRN also started out with only two pairs of trousers and this has now expanded to eight.
2015 saw ØRN Clothing move into the healthcare and security markets when it purchased stock from Ensemble Clothing, which entered into administration at the beginning of that year. This was a significant milestone for the company, as it expanded the company into significant other market sectors.
Most recently, ØRN has taken the move to launch more fashion-friendly styles to cater for the current trend of tradesmen in customer-facing roles wanting to appear more fashionable. These products include the Fulmar Bomber Jacket and the Grouse 1/4 Zip Sweatshirt.
Ivor says: “When you launch a new product into the market, you do your market research, but you never really know how it will be received.”
In addition to a varied stock range, ØRN also has a well-established bespoke side to the business. ØRN works closely with its factories and customers to take any customer concept through from design, right through from the cotton field to the finished garment.[SIDE HEAD] Seat of our pants
During the testing early days it was just Ivor and Cameron at the helm, spending most of the time travelling the country attending appointments with potential clients. Their first warehouse in Banbury was a mere 3,000sq ft, with space for 50 pallets. “We really were living by the seat of our pants at the time,” says Ivor.
In 2009, Ivor and Cameron took on their first employee, Steve Wood, as a warehouse operative. Steve is still with the company today and now makes up part of the senior management team. The company’s workforce now totals 65, including the offshore offices.
The following year ØRN Clothing moved out of its first warehouse and into a second warehouse, which measured 12,000sq ft in size. The company still operates out of this warehouse today. And then in 2017, ØRN Clothing opened another warehouse in Buckingham to service the growing UK market. The move into this warehouse was long-awaited. This warehouse totals 55,000sq ft and now provides ØRN with space for 5,000 pallets, and headroom to grow for the exciting future.
As well as this very successful UK workwear business, ØRN is also doing very well overseas. In 2016, ØRN opened an office in Lucknow, India and a second office in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to help bring stability to the whole supply chain. The staff who work in these offices communicate directly with the factories that ØRN works with. And expansion plans continue as ØRN is currently looking to open a third overseas office in Pakistan.
Needless to say, the future looks strong for ØRN Clothing as the company has plans to hit £20m next year and launch more exciting products into the UK workwear market. “The last 10 years has been a complete rollercoaster and not a smooth ride in any sense of the word. You honestly forget how far you’ve come until you start looking back. We are very much looking forward to what the future holds,” says Ivor.