Pampelone evokes the forever-summer dream and is the resortwear label loved by stylish women the world over. But Founder Holly Anna Scarcella certainly isn’t lounging around from one Riviera to another. This is a tale of vision, of hard work and not taking anything for granted...
Holly Anna Scarcella has followed her dream with tenacity, endless drive and respect. “If I can do it, so can you… as long as you’re willing to put the hard work in”, she says. London-based Scarcella has spent considerable time in the South of France and was constantly inspired by the effortless, chic style of the women arriving at the Côte d’Azur for the summer. After a career as a fashion publicist, she saw a gap in the market for elegant yet affordable resortwear.
Now one of the world’s fastest-growing fashion brands, Pampelone has just celebrated its second birthday and is already available in 38 countries through over 90 retailers from Harvey Nichols to Bloomingdales. Holly was listed in ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ and after recently celebrating her 30th birthday, is eight months pregnant and eagerly anticipating the next chapter of motherhood.
We spoke to the successful and stylish mum-to-be about her pregnancy journey, the sadness and frustration of miscarriage, her thoughts on wellbeing and that elusive pregnancy glow (cue Jo Malone Vitamin E Body Balm). Holly also shares some incredible insights for budding entrepreneurs – from the power of influencers and Instagram to funding and mentoring from the Virgin StartUp Scheme to her top time-management tips.
Holly wears Pampelone Eivissa Maxi-Dress
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Loving, thoughtful, driven. I love hard and give as much of myself as I can to others, often to my detriment; yet fiercely tenacious and driven when it comes to business.
Can you talk us through your journey to motherhood?
I think when you grow up, pregnancy and becoming a mother seems like a rite of passage – you make a decision, get pregnant, have a baby nine months later and live happily ever after. It’s only when you get older, you realise that sadly there are factors at play which mean it’s not that simple.
Last year when my husband and I made the decision to try and get pregnant we were overjoyed when it happened immediately. It took us completely by surprise and with no sickness or symptoms at all. I just took it completely in my stride and took it a bit for granted. I was still travelling a lot with work – on photo shoots, campaign launches and sales trips – life went on as normal, just with a special little surprise.
At three months, everything changed when I sadly haemorrhaged and lost the baby. It was a horrendous slap-in-the-face realisation that with pregnancy, things don’t always go to plan.
The issue with miscarriage, which I learnt very quickly, is that it is still such a taboo subject. You feel almost ashamed and embarrassed that your body failed in such a way. And because of this, one of the hardest things to stomach is people attempting to make you feel better when in reality they just make you feel dismissed or as if you’re overreacting. Unless you experience it yourself, no one can understand how sad it is to lose the one thing you think about from the minute you get up to the minute you go to bed for months on end. The whole experience put me in a really dark place emotionally and really made me question whether I could go through it all again.
After using the next six months to heal physically and emotionally, we decided the time was right to try again with a head full of mixed emotions. Excitement but also terrified at the prospect of what could lie ahead. Again, we were incredibly lucky to conceive soon after, but this time was different. It seems odd to say but our experience with miscarriage totally changed our approach to being pregnant. There has been no taking anything for granted and, now at eight months pregnant, every day really is a miracle. No, pregnancy is not easy and I have had a real treasure trove of symptoms including acute morning sickness, insomnia and SPD but with every movement, every listen of the heartbeat and every kick, we know just how lucky we are. I would happily be sick from the minute I wake up to the minute I sleep if it means our baby is safe and well.
Talk us through your approach to dressing now you’re pregnant – what kind of clothes are you wearing?
I’ve really struggled to find my feet in pregnancy dressing, which has really surprised me. Being someone surrounded by clothes for a living, I always assumed I would grasp quite quickly the shapes and styles that would suit, but it’s actually been so much harder. I fell into the age-old trap of wanting to wear oversized everything, which in turn just made me feel and look a lot larger than I was. The moment my bump popped, I was so proud to show it off, and have learnt how flattering it actually is to wear more fitted clothing. For my body shape, dresses with belts under the bust are really working for me. I also love jersey camisole dresses with a silk kimono layered over the top – It’s a look that translates really well from day to night. Shoes-wise, I succumbed to buying the Gucci backless loafers and have to admit they’re one of the best pregnancy purchases. They’re so comfortable and so easy to slip on, even when my feet have swollen to twice the size.
What about your beauty regime – how has it changed since you fell pregnant and what products are you using?
When talking about pregnancy and skin, one of the big things you hear women talk about is the illusive pregnancy glow. Sadly that didn’t happen for me until my seventh month (!) but I faked it really well with one of my lifesaving products: the Charlotte Tilbury Wonder Glow. It’s a liquid cream you brush over your skin on top of your makeup, and genuinely makes such a difference. In terms of keeping my skin hydrated, I’ve been reminded by every woman in my vicinity to use Bio-Oil to prevent stretch marks, however I really didn’t enjoy the greasiness of oiling my skin. Thankfully I’ve just discovered the most incredible alternative – it’s the Jo Malone Vitamin E Body Balm. It’s completely unscented per se but smells divine from the natural ingredients and is thick enough to deeply moisturise but not leave you feeling slimy. I’m on my fourth tub already!
What about health and wellbeing?
At the beginning when I was experiencing the acute morning sickness, the only thing I could stomach were crackers and carbs, even the look of vegetables made me ill. So as soon as it passed, I’ve been wanting to eat them all the time. My go-tos are red peppers, carrots and fennel – all raw (but well washed). Sadly I haven’t experienced any mad cravings which has left me a little disappointed… I was really looking forward to understanding the feeling of craving something random so badly and sending my husband out at 3am to get it. He’s been very lucky so far. Overall being pregnant has really made me a lot more conscious of what I’m consuming and the lifestyle I lead. I try and get the correct nutrients into my system and keep active, even if just for walks.
What excites you most about becoming a mother?
Talking about a moment specifically, I just can’t wait to hold the baby in my arms I’ve been carrying, growing and anticipating for the past nine months. I can’t wait to watch that baby grow into a child, toddler, teenager and adult, guiding it along the way.
What scares you about becoming a mother?
Making the right decisions. Realising that every opinion, action and conversation is somehow guiding my child’s thoughts and views.
Have you started prepping? What will be on your baby shower list?
We’ve just about finished the nursery, which brought the experience very much to life. It’s a very neutral room with French grey paint and antique furniture. I’ve also just received our Bugaboo Chameleon pushchair, which I just love. I just need to learn how to break it down into the back of the car.
What are your top three time management tips?
Make a list. I’m an obsessive list maker. Prioritise said lists. Turn off your phone. I turn my phone off for at least two hours in my day to just get through emails and not get distracted.
Take us through your Pampelone journey – what have been some highlights over the past year?
We’ve just hit our two year anniversary, which feels like it has flown. In our first year, we hadn’t anticipated the quick success we enjoyed and therefore struggled a little bit to keep our heads above water. The past year we’ve managed to work more strategically in key areas which feels like a lot more of a mature and settled way of working. We’ve been targeting new territories (we’re now available in 38 countries at over 250 points of sale via 90 retailers), we’ve developed an incredible new children’s Mini-Me collection in collaboration with mothers2mothers charity and are in the final stages of developing our first sunglasses line. Each day at Pampelone is something quite different and it’s that freedom and creativity that I thrive off.
The Pampelone Mini-Me collection in collaboration with mothers2mothers charity. To shop, go to www.pampelone.com
Can you talk us through how you funded Pampelone in the beginning?
Finding funding for the business was a terrifying prospect for me. Talking ‘business’ was something I felt relatively comfortable with, but finance was completely intimidating – who would actually give little old me a bunch of money with simply an idea for a clothing business. I did lots of research and stumbled across the Virgin Start-up Loans. I took the plunge, applied online, and the rest they say is history. The thing that makes them so incredible is their approach to entrepreneurs and business. Opposed to a money-making outfit demanding big profits, they’re run as a charity, and therefore are just interested in getting you and your business off the ground. And more than money, they allocate you mentors who are experts in their fields to guide you through the process. They have been incredibly instrumental in getting my business to where it is today and I could not recommend them enough to entrepreneurs wanting to start a business.
How did you market the brand in the beginning?
Coming from a background as a publicist, I really understood the power of PR and marketing. One of the biggest things I get entrepreneurs to remember is that you really do not need to have the most revolutionary product in the world (even though that would be nice), but you simply need to know how to market it. Similarly, there’s no point having the most revolutionary product in the world if no one knows about it. Luckily I love my product and believe in it wholeheartedly, but even then I knew marketing was key. I cottoned on very early to the fact that I could not compete with big brand’s budgets for advertising or big PR campaigns, but that Instagram was growing in momentum and that it was essentially a free marketing tool to whoever was willing to put the time and effort into it. I spent a lot of time curating images for our page – whether it was mini shoots with friends at the weekend and sifting through Pinterest for lifestyle images. I also was quick to exploit bloggers and influencers online – approaching them to wear the brand and making sure each was tagged and linked through to the website. I would pick the coolest girls in London and make sure they were wearing the brand on their holidays. People used to come to me and say “wow, we keep seeing Pampelone everywhere” which was such a huge compliment given that we had practically zero marketing budget.
These days approximately 40% of our web traffic comes from Instagram, which is huge, and women these days will often check an Instagram page of a brand before a website. Brands need to understand that Instagram is essentially a second shop front and not just an add-on. A recent study showed that when a customer clicks through from Instagram they have already made the decision about what to purchase or not. Half the battle is looking at its importance from that perspective and giving it the time, effort and budget it deserves.
What was your approach in dealing with retailers and wholesaling? Were you nervous presenting the brand to them?
In fact when the brand first launched we completely overlooked wholesale as I assumed that no one would be interested. After a month of launching, our Instagram/blogger marketing was so strong that we had some of the biggest retailers approach us which was a HUGE pinch-me moment, but also one that signalled that we needed to start looking at wholesalers immediately. I had zero experience in wholesale but my tenacity and drive took over. I spent a week researching on the Internet about wholesale prices, margins, buyers, etc. and even managed to become a stalker on Linkedin until 4am each morning researching buyers names for the stores and e-tailers we wanted to work with. I bit the bullet and booked a flight to NYC and one straight after to Sydney and gave myself the task of securing meetings with the top e-tailers and department stores in each territory. By Christmas that year, and having been open only six months we had deals in place with the biggest retailers and e-tailers in the world including SHOPBOP, Bloomingdales, The Iconic, and Harvey Nichols to name but a few.
It really frustrates me when people say “oh, but she worked in fashion and knew what to do”. When actually no – I have never worked in wholesale or sales before, I just had the drive to work every hour god sent to make things happen for me. And, when in the room with buyers, was smart enough to have researched everything possible about their experience, the product matrix of their stores, their trends etc. so I could speak sounding educated and experienced. I cannot tell you how many meetings I had in which I agreed to things which I’d never heard of and then had to Google on exit. As Richard Branson says “Say YES now and learn later”. If I can do it, so can you… as long as you’re willing to put the hard work in.
What role do digital influencers play in your business? And do you see them as more influential than traditional forms of media?
Digital influencers are without doubt key to our business. Again, this goes back to Instagram and social media being a shop front to our business. That’s how women shop these days, so we have to embrace and exploit it.
What keeps you inspired and motivated?
Success breeds success. The more we achieve with Pampelone, the more I want to keep pushing and achieving more. Now, being pregnant, it gives me even more drive to work harder to provide not only a great life for my family but also a good role model for my son/daughter to look up to
How do you deal with any challenges in your business?
Something I had to learn very quickly in running a business is to take the emotion out of problem solving. At the beginning, I would get quite upset at each hurdle (of which there are lots), which hinders your objectivity and actually just wastes time and energy. As we grew, I realised that problems arise each and every single day and are a normal part of running a business. Yes, things still upset me but I’ve learnt to remove the emotion and just tackle each problem as it comes.
Do you know the sex of your baby?
No, an old fashioned surprise!
Describe your perfect summer outfit?
For me, you dress for the occasion. So to choose my perfect summer outfit starts with my perfect occasion. That for me would be wandering through St Tropez market, breathing in the Provencale air and wearing our Pampelone Grimaud Maxi Dress. It’s the perfect mix of effortless yet put together and translates so well between the town and the beach. I would match it with monogrammed A Piedi slides and a traditional straw basket to collect my market wares.
Is your wardrobe organised or messy?
I’m usually very organised, with my clothes being hung in a certain way and in seasonal wardrobes, which really does help when you’re time-poor in the morning. However, I have recently had to transition my dressing room into our nursery, which has thrown everything a little bit into disarray. Eek.
How would you describe the style of your home? How do you keep your home in order?
Being in a London townhouse I do think a put-together look works best, however we have adopted a relaxed version of this. Home is a place of contentment and relaxation so I love knowing I can dive into the sofa without ruining cushions! It’s quite clear all throughout the house that my husband and I really love art and prints. Growing up spending much time on the French Riviera, I feel all has an undertone of nostalgia towards this. I have Slim Aarons prints all over my home from his Riviera collection, which immediately bring me back to a place of calm.
Talk us through your morning routine?
I’m not a massive morning person so usually wake at a reasonable hour (approximately 7am) and the first thing I do is have breakfast and coffee with my husband where we ban emails and phones. It really starts the day with a smile and on a high. We both have obligations to attend lots of evening events so it’s also our way of making sure we have quality time together each day, even if it’s just 20 minutes.
What about your nightly routine?
I currently have a really terrible nightly routine in that I spend most evenings on my laptop working or at events. Segregating home and work is the biggest challenge for business owners and something I struggle with daily. I normally try and do two or three evening events per week for networking etc, but have really cut back now I’m pregnant. My dancing shoes are well and truly hung up for the next little while.
What kind of mother do you hope to be?
Loving, gracious and fair. My mother always taught me to approach everything I do with love, which has really shaped my character today. I want my children to feel secure, loved and taught how to be really good people.
As a mother-to-be, what are your go-to books, magazines and websites?
Obviously The Grace Tales has really helped – especially reading about real women’s experiences with pregnancy. It shows you that when things don’t go to plan you’re not alone. I also love reading about the working mothers and taking tips on how to juggle that myself. Others I love are GOOP for interesting (if a little bizarre) articles and, for fashion specifically, I love the online magazine Wardrobe Icons.
Holly wears Pampelone Bou Bou Blouse
What makes you laugh?
Most things. For me, laughter is the spice of life and I really believe a laugh a day keeps the doctor away. I try and find the funny in everything. But if I had to name something in particular it would have to be sitting and watching my five nieces and nephews having conversations together from afar. Kids really do say the funniest things.
What makes you feel stressed?
Feeling out of control.
Describe your inbox...
Acutely managed and never out of control. A lot like how I choose to run my business.