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How an all-in-one spandex suit spawned a costume empire

MorphCostumes

Life of the party

The idea for MorphCostumes came to co-founders Fraser Smeaton and Gregor Lawson while they were on a lads’ trip to Dublin.

The group were all wearing fancy dress and one of their friends wore an all-in-one spandex suit from Japan.

“He got an incredible reaction,” says Fraser. “Hundreds of people stopped watching street theatre to take pictures of him. We often wear fancy dress and had never seen a reaction quite like it.”

From the original Morphsuit, the company has expanded to offer inflatable costumes, suits with battery-powered lights, outfits for children and more.

Consumer expertise

After an introduction by BGF, the firm appointed Ralph Kugler, formerly a director at Unilever, as chair.

BGF Talent Network  

Flair for fancy dress

It took wearing the suit a few more times for the friends to start considering them as a business opportunity. Fraser joined forces with his brother Ali and together with Gregor they decided to test the water – creating a business plan to sell 20,000 suits – all while keeping their day jobs. Fraser’s experience from his career in marketing helped them to get a website set up and they hit Facebook to see if there were any takers.

“It went totally crazy,” he explains. “After a year we’d sold a million pounds’ worth which was when we decided to quit our jobs and concentrate on the business full time.”

The team found the fancy dress market to be a lot larger than they had anticipated. A trip to an American trade show resulted in a meeting with US costume giant Party City which placed a large order and transformed the business.

BGF's investment helped the firm to...

Bring new products to market.

Develop its supply chain.

Target overseas expansion.

On the shoulders of gnomes

“We met with BGF in 2012 to see if they could support our growth,” explains Fraser. “At that point we only had one product and one channel to market. They really helped us to diversify our product base and distribution.”

Having BGF on board also helped the young founders to professionalise. “While we had experience in middle management in blue chip companies, we’d never sat on a board before,” says Fraser. “They took us from being some people selling costumes online to a larger, entrepreneurial business.”

BGF backed MorphCostumes with £4.2 million. The firm started selling to other major retailers, such as Walmart and Target, bolstered skill sets when it came to setting up on Amazon and developed a wider range of outfits. These included inflatables as well as piggyback or ‘ride-on’ costumes, which make it appear the wearer is being carried on the shoulders of a fictional character such as a leprechaun or gnome.

BGF really gave us the headroom and space to grow, coming good on their promise to be patient investors.

Fraser Smeaton, co-founder of MorphCostumes

£4.2m

Invested by BGF to fund the company's growth.

Bigger and better

Looking to the future, MorphCostumes will continue to build on its existing product range. Having acquired another costume company earlier this year, Fraser and the team are focused on getting even more products out through their well-developed distribution channels.

“BGF really gave us the headroom and space to grow, coming good on their promise to be patient investors,” says Fraser

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