Brothers George and Michael Heaton are on a mission to build the best brand in the world.

The latest stepping stone of that journey has just seen the luxury streetwear brand Represent open their first bricks-and-mortar store in West Hollywood, Los Angeles.

The stylish store is as far removed from the back garden shed in Bolton where the brothers embarked on their business journey as it’s possible to get.

Today, Represent employs around 100 people and is fast approaching £100m turnover on the back of their products, which have been favoured by the likes of Dua Lipa and Justin Bieber.

Their story has similarities to that of Castore, the tech-enabled Manchester-based sportswear brand, founded in Liverpool in 2016 by brothers Thomas and Philip Beahon. The brothers’ parents remortgaged their home in the early days and now Castore had reached unicorn status with a $1bn+ valuation.

One man who knows more than most about the rise of Represent  is Ricky Jennings, head of eCommerce.

He was the 10th employee when he joined the Horwich-based business in 2020 and has seen the business grow ten-fold in just four years.

Jennings spoke at eComplete’s latest eCommerce meet-up at KPMG’s Manchester office and said the business was born out of an art project  George was given at Runshaw College in Leyland.

Castore nears £1bn valuation after £150m investment

Speaking on the latest episode of Steven Bartlett’s podcast ‘Diary of a CEO’, George Heaton recalled how he was 18 when he was given an assignment that changed his life.

“We had a project where we had to make something of our art that could sell,” he said. “Mike was two years ahead of me so he’d already done that course that I was on.

“No one thought we’d ever be anything. Nobody thought our art could sell and we could money that way and build careers.”

Needless to say those early naysayers have long since gone as Represent’s focus on design excellence have seen it build a global streetwear brand.

The company’s launch coincided was the early days of Instagram and the brothers quickly identified the role that social media could play in building their brand.

George Heaton, Represent

George Heaton, Represent (Copyright George Heaton)

According to Jennings, the company’s success is simple: Be the best.

“We want to be the best at everything that we do, best product, best service, best logistics partner, best story, best content,” he said. “It’s all these things rolled into one.

“If we affect these in all our separate silos then we’ll be well on our way to being one of the best brands in the world.

“There is no secret sauce. It’s just a culmination of hard work over the years perfecting and mastering the product.”

Around half of Represent’s turnover comes from the UK with the US accounting for another 25 per cent.

The impact of Covid-19 added rocket fuel to Represent’s growth story.

Jennings admitted: “A lot of it is timing, having the right product at the right. All these things resonated with our target market and snowballed into this success story.

“We are the end consumer anyway so we know what will work and what won’t work.”

In 2022 Represent collaborated with Liam Gallagher on a high-quality collection that paid homage to their mutual hometown. The turnout to the Manchester pop-up attracted over 2,000 attendees, with many queuing up overnight to secure their place in the line.

Represent’s use of social media has also played a pivotal part of the company’s success.

The company has 857,000 followers on Instagram, while George has 210, 000 and Michael nearly 74,000.

Jennings said: “Social media is very important to us. It drives everything. It spearheads growth.

“It goes far beyond posting images and videos for us. We tap into that whole community. Our fan-led community sets us apart from other brands.”

Jennings gives the case of a Facebook community called Represent Talk Worldwide , with around  15k active members, as a good example.

“They discuss new collections with each other and sell stuff to each other,” he said. “It’s completely organic. We never set it up. We don’t interfere, even if there’s a bad comment.

“The community is our foundation for growth. Without that we’re just another brand. It’s not a secret because we don’t try and hide it.”

The company, which was included in this week’s GM 125 Rising Stars of Business’ list,  recently invested in augmented reality to improve the shopping experience while there are also plans to open a flagship store in Manchester.

The other speakers at the eComplere event were: Paul Gedman, co-founder of eComplete; Andy Duckworth, co-founder of eComplete; Les Yates, M&A and strategy director at eComplete Group; Georgia D’Costa, partnership manager at SellersFi; experienced CFO Paul Masters; Robert Baxter, KPMG head of corporate finance and head of consumer M&A globally; Christine Liu, brand partnership manager at TikTok; and Alex Wright, partnership manager at SHOPLINE.

GM 125 Rising Stars of Business 2024

The event was hosted by BusinessCloud’s executive editor Chris Maguire and there was also a presentation from Knutsford charity Children’s Adventure Farm Trust (CAFT).