Who: Christian Macleod
What: Luxury Belt Designer
Where: House of Fraser, 45 Buchanan Street, Glasgow
How did a former golfer become a belt designer?
When I became a professional golfer only two brands made premium golf wear. I’d spend £500 on an outfit, play in a tournament and five other guys were wearing the same t-shirt and trousers as me. I started getting a CM logo embroidered onto unbranded t-shirts and everyone asked where I’d bought the new clothes but I was too embarrassed to say I’d designed them myself so I pretended they were from a local shop. I came back from a tournament in Spain, had a quick game of football with some friends and broke my ankle. Out of competitive golf for at least a year, I knew I had to supplement my income. The designs I’d made had been getting some attention so fashion accessories seemed like a logical business to pursue.
Talk us through your production process.
To kick start production I booked a plane to Milan and spent two weeks visiting factories. I’d tried for a couple of months in Scotland to get contacts with factories and got nowhere so decided to bite the bullet and fly to Italy in the hope of securing meetings in person. I found three factories, had samples made from each then picked my favourite. I create a design where the CM logo features clearly on the buckle, think about how the leather will sit on the buckle and how the mechanism will work. Once we’ve finalised the designs for a collection the cowhide leathers are cut, grained and dyed into specific colours.
How does the business function on a day to day level?
I’m a one man band and aged 23 that can be quite daunting but I think the brand itself looks quite established already so I try to let the product do the talking. I’m currently selling around 5-10 belts a day via my website so I package and deliver them myself. Most of my time is spent on brand awareness and brand development.
You’ve invested very heavily in marketing. How did you manage this spend so early in your business?
I saved my earnings for two years because I didn’t want the weight of debt on my shoulders and I didn’t know if things were going to work out. I don’t pay myself a wage from the company at all so everything goes back into the business. I still do some golf teaching to ensure I can cover living costs and put beans on toast on my table. I have great ambitions for the brand so I’m happy to live as cost effectively as I can to make sure I have the money to realise my goals.
Christian Macleod the brand has a very glamourous persona. With that in mind who is your ideal customer?
The price point is relatively high and reflects the price I would pay for a belt. Likewise my recent launch event at the Corinthian in Glasgow was the type of party I like to go to. The people at my parties are the clientele that buy my belts – young professionals that dress well. Some people don’t care about what they wear – a belt is just something that holds up their trousers but to me it makes every difference to an outfit. It’s a product that’s often forgotten but there’s no point investing in a new shirt, shoes and jeans then wearing the same tired old belt you’ve had for twenty years. A good belt is like having a personalised number plate on your car.
Speaking of cars, how did you negotiate your collaborations with BMW and Aston Martin?
I hosted my first small event in Inverness a few years ago and asked a local BMW dealership if they would provide a car to sit outside the venue. They agreed, a relationship grew and they subsequently let me borrow cars for photo shoots. Aston Martin saw some of my promotional pictures and were interested in the way I was styling the belts within the cars – wrapping the belts around exhausts, around the steering wheel and trying to be creative. I wanted to align my brand with the cars as much as possible because I felt our customer profile was similar. I now have a gentleman’s agreement with Aston Martin who let me use the cars for promotional activity. I’d love to design seat belts for them one day.
As a newcomer to the fashion industry how do you feel the brand been received?
The response has been largely positive but you’re always going to get people who don’t like what you’re doing. Everyone has an opinion and you can’t keep everyone happy. When it comes to fashion we all have different perceptions of what works and what doesn’t. I once bought a Louis Vuitton wallet and my friends thought it was horrendous. If someone can say that about such a successful brand they can easily criticise my belts and I‘m prepared for that.
What’s been your biggest business challenge to date?
Being in House of Fraser has been a huge learning curve. When you’re amongst the biggest brands in the world it really does open your eyes to how influential they are. I take my hat off to every young person who is trying to run alongside them. I was interviewed for GQ recently and they asked me how long I thought it would take to develop my luxury brand. I said ‘a couple of years’ and they laughed at me. They said ‘just so you know it will take a minimum of 10 years. Do you have 10 years to throw money at a black hole?’. My product is expensive so immediately I’m putting myself into a market where I am competing with established luxury labels. In an ideal world I’d like people to buy their CM belt first and arrange an outfit to suit the belt. Essentially I’m trying to reverse the way people dress themselves.
Christian Macleod’s belts are currently available at House of Fraser Glasgow. See Christian’s full collection here