Monsoon was founded in 1973 by Peter Simon following a period of selling shaggy woollen coats on the Portobello Road and hand block printed clothes from Rajasthan. The original focus was always clothes with an ethnic origin from faraway places, including unusual dresses from Afghanistan and countries en route. In the early 21st century, this type of clothing chimed well with the fashion for boho chic and helped Monsoon to prosper during the recession of the late 2000s (decade).
In May 1973, the first Monsoon shop opened in Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge, London. Monsoon has expanded rapidly from its London base. Today there are over 400 Monsoon and Accessorize stores throughout the UK. The International side now has over 900 outlets in 60+ countries, including Austria, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Greece, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Israel, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, UAE, and Ukraine.
AccessorizeIn 1984, Accessorize evolved as an exciting and a strongly differentiated High Street concept for fashion accessories. The first Accessorize store opened in London's Covent Garden Piazza in 1984 in an adjoining shop to the Monsoon Covent Garden Piazza branch, and the second in Carnaby Street in 1986. 1992 saw the first Accessorize store outside London with a store opening in Manchester. In the same year the first airport store was opened at Gatwick South terminal. Building on the company's initial success, a store opening programme began, averaging 16 new stores each year.
Today, there are more than 240 Accessorize stores in the UK an international operation of over 1000 stores (including some Monsoon/Accessorize dual stores). Accessorize focuses on jewelry which is displayed in colour bays. Under the Staff uniform policy there is a 'Strive for five rule', in which employees are required to wear five or more pieces of Accessorize jewelry as part of their uniform to promote the brand. As all Accessorize earrings are for pierced ears only, this means that all female members of staff are required as a condition of employment to have pierced ears. Also included in their range are bags, purses, belts, hats, scarves, flip flops, gloves, hair accessories and cosmetics. Monsoon set up its first store in USA in March 2010 and they plan to run another 50 stores in China in the coming 3 years.
Advertising campaignsAccessorize has a history of involving major celebrities in their seasonal advertising campaigns. In these campaigns, the featured celebrity, usually a model, appears on in-store posters, magazine adverts, the corporate website and in the Accessorize catalogue wearing items from the new range.
The Spring/Summer 2004 advertising campaign featured Elizabeth "Lizzie" Jagger, daughter of Mick Jagger, who was replaced for the showgirl-themed Autumn/Winter 2004 campaign by model Sophie Dahl. This campaign was then succeeded for Spring/Summer 2005 by a Kasbah-themed campaign featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell.
Later in the year, Campbell was succeeded for the company's Autumn/Winter 2005 campaign by actress Mischa Barton. When she signed up for the campaign in mid-2005, Barton was considered a surprise choice by some inside the company, as her lack of pierced ears went against the company's uniform policy and, as a result, she would be unable to model any of the company's earrings. However, just prior to signing up to the campaign, she had actually had her ears pierced especially for a guest appearance on the children's TV show Tricky TV, during which she was to perform a trick that required her to have pierced ears. As a result, she was then able to model the company's pierced earrings during the photoshoot for the campaign, although she then let her ear piercings heal up again afterwards.
Another surprise choice for the company was the selection for the Spring/Summer 2006 campaign of reality TV star Kelly Osbourne. Many commentators considered that her plain looks were a retrograde step for the company following some of their recent campaigns, and this led to some criticism in the media.For the Autumn/Winter 2006 campaign, the company scored a major coup when they signed up German supermodel Claudia Schiffer to front it. Because Schiffer did not already have pierced ears, the company requested that she have her ears pierced so that she would be able to model their earrings. Schiffer agreed to the request and, when she finally signed the contract for the campaign, it included an undisclosed additional sum on top of the basic fee, paid to her to cover having her ears pierced especially for the campaign.
"When we were discussing the photoshoot details a few weeks beforehand, they asked me if I'd be prepared to have my ears pierced, as all of the new season's earrings were for pierced ears. I'd never had them done before but, as they said they'd pay me an additional fee if I agreed to have them pierced, I thought 'why not', and had them done the very next day. At first, it felt a bit strange to have them done, but I soon got used to it. Now, I really love them and keep wondering why I waited so long to have them done." - Claudia speaking in Hot Style magazine, September 2006.
Schiffer was followed for the Spring/Summer 2007 campaign by model Lily Cole, who was herself succeeded for the Autumn/Winter 2007 campaign by Heidi Klum, and then she was replaced by Israeli model bar Rafaeli for Spring/Summer 2008.