If you haven’t heard of Harmur yet, you’re about to, and you’ve probably seen it all over Instagram already. It perfectly embodies the ‘jeans and a nice top’ motto, serving up beautiful silk tops that do all the talking (‘backless is our thing’ is its IG tagline).
It counts many influencers and editors amongst its fans, including Milena Karl, Leonie Hanne, Jessie Bush and Lindsey Holland.
Founded by a mother and daughter trio, Minnie Hartley & Constance and Matilda Murphy, Harmur, it’s now branched out into gorgeous party dresses and jumpsuits that are perfect for the party season.
Here, founder Constance shares her top dressing tips, as well as advice on how to navigate the pandemic if you’re a small business.
What are your festive dressing tips?
Go for it! That’s number one. It’s not Christmas every day and after the year we have all had I think it’s a real mood boost to dress up and enjoy making an effort for a special occasion in something other than lounge wear. Of course you’re going to have times being cosy in pyjamas over this festive period but if you can’t make an effort now then when can you.
I think it also sets the vibe for your day – dress for a great party and you’ll have a great party! Other than that, a HUGE coat and great outerwear to pile over my outfits is essential. I love STAND Studio for fun and Max Mara for classics. And denim… a perfectly fitted pair of jeans to dress up with heels or dress down for walks. Re-Done & ELV are my faves.
What will you be wearing over the holiday period?
I will be choosing things that look elevated and luxe, but feel comfortable and effortless. I hate feeling overdone so I live in our silk jumpsuits for dinner parties and team our classic tops with jeans and heels for special lunches or the boxing day drinks with friends and family.
Selfridges have some of my favourite new season HARMUR jumpsuits. What’s great is that the wide leg makes you feel relaxed and the tie waist means you can fit them exactly to your shape (even after the abundance of Christmas food and drinks!). The silk makes everything look sumptuous and feels amazing on your skin. For New Year I am so excited to wear the Golden Goddess dress that Selfridges have as an in store exclusive too.
What inspired the brand? How did you get started?
I founded the brand in 2017 with my mother and sister. I come from a fashion PR and brand building background and studied art and design, so I have always loved this arena; developing brands and working with amazing founders and creative thinkers is truly not like work for me.
I started interning at magazines and eventually fell into a PR job after fit modelling for a small fashion showroom in London (they happened to have a PR division too). That started my career in PR and after moving to in house roles and then agency, I got to understand the building blocks when it came to starting a brand, from the sales and production to the PR & marketing.
I knew I wanted to start something of my own the question was just when. We started HARMUR after feeling a lack of modern, effortless occasion wear. ‘Going out wear’ my sister and I would call it! We were so bored of bodycon dresses and low cut everything and after a lengthy discussion and google session (over our kitchen table!) both decided we loved backless. It’s cool, it’s sexy but it’s understated. A going out top to wear with jeans and heels was what we both wanted and at the time there was not an aspirational one out there.
My amazing mum fished out an old top that she used to wear in the 90’s that was basically like a scarf top and together we then re-worked this into four styles made of silk. My mum made the patterns and the first samples, and after multiple fit sessions, market re-search and trials, that’s how we launched! Our aim was and still is to be the party top destination for women who wanted to dress up but feel in control and cool. We started making HARMUR with local seamstresses above my mother’s garage in the little studio there and have grown now making tops, skirts, dresses and more with our teams across the UK & India. Those four tops are still our best sellers today.
What challenges did you face as a party dressing brand throughout the pandemic?
Weirdly enough the first pandemic for us was really positive. I think the sunshine helped and the initial ‘unknown’ of the pandemic, meaning people assumed they would be out and about dressing up very quickly! The ‘time out’ (if there ever is a time out with your own brand) allowed us to really focus on connecting with our customer and hammering home the brand message, largely through digital.
This bigger conversation with our consumers really kept us going throughout the pandemic. We also made the decision, despite the wedding industry being so hard hit to continue with the launch of our debut bridal collection. Whilst we were heavily delayed due to COVID, we launched in August and it’s been incredible. The pandemic has made people think again in terms of what they want to wear with many women opting now for a more relaxed, less traditional, fashion style for their ceremonial dress, as well as so many brides going all out now things look good for next year wanting two dresses! Our most popular styles so far are our party bride styles and I hope this will become even better next year too.
What tips do you have for businesses?
For businesses; know your USP, believe it, breath it, live it and stick to it! Whilst you need to adapt and stay relevant don’t forget why you started. For business owners; surround yourself with an amazing network and know when to ask for help. If you can’t do it, bring in someone who can. You don’t have to have the biggest budgets, be resourceful, be true to you and your brand and be genuine.
What sustainable practices does Harmur have in place?
We have started making scrunchies out of all our silk offcuts in a conscious effort to reduce wastage and are currently trialling vegan silk. We deliver our wholesale orders in corn starch 100% biodegradable pouches to reduce packaging waste and try our best not to sit on stock – instead we hope to sell out and then re-order rather than having excess.
We have also changed our packaging from our gift boxes to recyclable cardboard boxes and beautiful branded tissue paper (recyclable). This has been an interesting one as many of our customers have requested our gift boxes back therefore we will now offer a ‘gift wrapped’ option in the new year.