Creating a luxury brand, with help from Michael Johnson29th Feb '16
Motor racing boss Dom Reilly has founded a high-end luggage label with his wife Tania. Sir Ben Ainslie and Samuel L Jackson are fans, says Hazel Davis
Company: Dom Reilly Trading in: Asia Sector: Luxury goods
“Key for us is to continue to produce award-winning design and get some great ambassadors”
In a 15-year career in motor racing, former Formula One Williams marketing boss Dom Reilly worked with the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Global travel and luxury were his daily life.
So it is perhaps no surprise that in 2012 he formed his own company making high-end luggage.
His first collection of handcrafted bags and accessories was launched in 2013 and the brand is now sold online, through exclusive partnerships, including Raffles Hotel, Singapore.
Managing director and co-founder Tania Reilly, who’s married to Dom, says the brand, “is committed to using British design and engineering talent while also benefitting from the artisanal skills of master craftsmen”.
The first collection saw Dom Reilly nominated as an emerging luxury leader in the Bloomberg Luxury Briefing Awards, followed by a nomination as brand of tomorrow by the Walpole Group.
The company was soon approached by people wanting bespoke collections. One such client was the Raffles Hotel, in Singapore, after Dom Reilly entertained the managing director at the country’s F1 Grand Prix. Raffles is known for its rich and famous clientele and, of course, is the birthplace of the Singapore Sling cocktail.
Mrs Reilly says: “Part of our strategy is to partner with world-leading brands that befit our ambitions, but that are also relevant to our audience. Raffles was an obvious choice – an iconic hotel, renowned for luxury with a wonderful history and an exclusive clientele.”
The design drew on the property itself. Mrs Reilly says. “We used canvas as the main material, inspired by the hotel’s colonial heritage. We accented this with luscious leather details on the handles and zip pullers. We also drew inspiration from the tropical gardens surrounding the property, using a bird of paradise flower as a reference for the bright orange lining.”
The market is top-end with, for example, the black Weekender bag from the Classic Collection weighing in at £950. But, Mrs Reilly, says, globetrotters – such as legendary sprinter Michael Johnson, who’s collaborated with the brand – crave quality. Other fans of Dom Reilly goods include Sir Ben Ainslie and Samuel L Jackson.
Mrs Reilly is now at the helm after her husband signed his shares over to her to become head of sponsorship at Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix. She says: “I want to venture more into women's pieces, developing new products using designers that we currently work with, but with the influence and inspiration for the designs coming from me.
“We know that women are far more passionate about leather goods – and shopping! – so we believe they are more likely to buy multiple pieces once they see the quality and design.”
The business is still small. They plan to take it slowly and try to achieve organic growth. Mrs Reilly says: “Key for us is to continue to produce award-winning design and get some great ambassadors and raise awareness of the brand.” There is also a longer-term aim to open a physical store in Oxfordshire.
With 30 per cent of the company’s trade coming from China and South-East Asian countries, Dom Reilly intends to focus for the immediate future on the Singaporean and Japanese market and there’s an exclusive collection for a famous sports-car brand in the offing.
Hong Kong is also on the list. Says Mrs Reilly, “Hong Kong is like a second home for Dom. He worked and lived there for several years in the 1990s and has a strong affinity with the territory. It was his first introduction to the Far East and remains his favourite country in the region for its energy, creativity and entrepreneurship.”