Entrepreneur, Deborah Meaden invested in Illuminated Apparel on the BBC programme, Dragons’ Den
In January, 24-year-old Rob Manley took his clothing brand, Illuminated Apparel, on the BBC TV show Dragons’ Den.
Rob had created a luminescent ink, which he says is up to 10 times brighter than the standard glow-in-the-dark available, and combined it with clothing to create an interactive experience that demands attention from those nearby. Wearers use a UV keyring (included with the T-shirt) or laser pen or mobile phone torch light to draw on the ‘glow canvas’, with the design lasting for five to 10 minutes before slowly fading away.
“I have always been obsessed with inventing my own product and the idea of one day owning my own business,” explains Rob. “Illuminated Apparel began in my mum’s kitchen when I started to experiment and stumbled on a unique luminescent ink. Like with any new product, there were a lot of teething problems, especially going from a machine I had made to an industrial press in order to scale up production, and as I was the only one working on the product to start with I had to learn not only how to perfect production of the T-shirts, but also marketing, selling and accounting in a short space of time.”
Drawing with light: the designs are bright and fade slowly after about 10 minutes
Both he and his product impressed the Dragons, and he walked away with a £50,000 investment from Deborah Meaden. “Dragons’ Den was an invaluable experience; I couldn’t quite believe I was there. It was fantastic to get the investment and the public’s comments since have been overwhelming. Deborah has been very supportive throughout the whole process.”
At present there are two glow colours available: super green glow, which is the brightest, and the softer super peach glow. The company sells the garments through its website as well as direct to retailers and the promo market.
“On the promotional side of the business we use an Anvil T-shirt which we offer in up to 15 different colours for both adults and children,” says Rob. “We embed companies’ logos or designs within the glow canvas panel or elsewhere on the T-shirt to fit each client’s needs to offer an fun, interactive alternative to the standard T-shirt. We are also starting to offer additional garments: jumpers and vests have recently been added to the range. We have a quick turnaround as we have invested in a four-station heat-press, which has massively increased production.
“So far we have had a lot of interest from the nightlife industry, especially from drink brands. Also the T-shirts are selling very well in the children’s market, offering a unique gift.
“We have many plans for Illuminated Apparel over the next 12 months including a range of children’s pyjamas and a vinyl wall sticker. Additionally, we would like to explore more avenues for the brand, for example the club scene abroad and maybe even as a sensory aid.”
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