At CIFF, empowering the fashion community with growth solutions

Last week, the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF) – one of Europe’s longest-running shows – welcomed more than 500 brands to its exhibition space in the Danish capital, connecting them with a global community. of buyers. Over the 3-day event, a slate of expert-led panels, presentations, and workshops designed to inform and empower brands with solution-focused insights.

In one such presentation, Technology and innovation for a new era of wholesale, Robin Mellery-Pratt and BoF’s Alice Gividen explored disruptive new technologies poised to provide the greatest opportunities for the global CIFF community as the industry experiences a supply glut. Indeed, analytics firm Edited has signaled the return of deep discounts. In men’s, women’s and children’s clothing in the UK, it was found that more than 71% of products were marked down as of July 17, up from 22% last year and 47% in 2019.

Combined with the geopolitical context of a “polycrisis” – various systemic crises occurring simultaneously and interacting with each other – there is an urgent need for the industry to innovate to meet these challenges, implementing strategies through new models manufacturing, Augmented Reality (AR) tools and Web-based Connectivity3.

Building on the theme of innovation in wholesale, the panel, Finding Wholesale Growth in an Uncertain Marketexamined new strategic approaches to wholesale already used by market leaders, with a focus on operational innovation, community building and radical changes in the way brands produce and send their clothes to consumers. stores.

BoF was joined by three talents exploring these spaces through their businesses. Ellen Dixdotter, CEO of contemporary womenswear brand By Malene Birger, who took over in the summer of 2020 at the height of the pandemic and worked quickly to refine her wholesale network. She was joined by talented British designer Bianca Saunders, founder and creative director of her eponymous luxury brand. Having won the 32nd Grand Prix ANDAM Fashion Award in 2021, its global stockists include MatchesFashion, MachineA and Gr8, Japan.

Finally, Gonçalo Cruz, co-founder and CEO of PlatformE, a bespoke manufacturing platform completed the panel. Platform E’s services and technology insert digital fashion across the value chain, enabling fashion brands to create, sell and produce their items only after the point of purchase with constant and integrated access to all of their production lines.

Below, BoF shares key takeaways.

Start with internal collaboration

GC: “The fashion business model is fundamentally broken. In the United States, more than 60% of products are marked down, and up to a third of them are marked down to a level where there is in fact no markup. One of the reasons for this is [that] major brands operate in silos. The number one objective of the procurement and purchasing teams is to [minimise the] production cost. To reduce the average unit cost, suppliers generally require [that] you [order] After [product]. [But by producing] more volume, you transfer the problem to your sales, merchandising and marketing [teams]saying, ‘This is your challenge, you’re going to sell it.’

Fashion will have to adopt [to] do not seek to lower the cost of production, but to optimize margins, i.e. to sell at a higher price [or] full price. You [only] need a discount when you have excess stock, so the ultimate goal is to strike the right balance between what is the right number [of] finished product in relation to what I call “demand response capacity”. If your products work [well, and you have] a very close relationship with your suppliers, you can speed up a just-in-time response. That’s what we try to do at PlatformE, receive real-time market data.

ED: “When the Covid hits the world [in 2020] and everything was turned upside down, […] we didn’t start with a wholesale strategy, but rather on our own. We have reduced collections by 50%, brought production back to Europe from Asia and raised prices drastically enough to be able to offer quality [and] sustainable fabric alternatives with a focus on full price.

[Then, we had] to review with whom we are partners. We have a lot of wholesalers around the world, but we’ve also narrowed that down to make sure they can carry and deliver our message so [to] to ensure that the end consumer meets us in the same way everywhere in the world. We want to have the same values ​​as [our] wholesalers.

BS: “My main goal is to make sure that the main brand product grows more than it is [a facilitator of] collaborations, which can sometimes dilute my expansion. There’s a lot of pressure on young brands to implement the lessons and learn from the mistakes of the past – and mend the broken pieces of the way the [brand-retailer relationship] works while maintaining traditional processes.

[My wholesale partners] respect that and it really worked for their models too. I listen to them and ask [which are my best] sellers – this is how I develop the collection each season.

Implement a “Pull” model, where actual demand dictates product development

BS: “During my first season, I had small orders, so I made the product myself and sent it to retailers. As the brand has grown — I’m now in my ninth season and I’ve learned that some products don’t translate well from catwalk to store; sometimes they don’t pay off or aren’t worth my team’s work or time. Now, I’m very focused on making sure each store has the right amount of product – and the right product for their customer. For example, if MatchesFashion wants a particularly complex and [expensive] item, then this decision is based on the customer’s need. The [retailer] will bring the customer to the product – he will reach the right person and ensure that the profit margin is actually at a good point to justify his [creation].

GC: We started working with luxury brands [across] LVMH and Kering, and even these brands [rarely] own 100% of their workshops or factories. They rely on different suppliers, [and] on multi-brand stores to sell their products. Gucci, for example, [sees] more than 50% of sales come from external domains, so they need to connect markets and factories in order to be aware of consumer demand.

At Platforme, we connect the points of sale — the website, the store, the multi-brand marketplace — [and] inform the factory in real time, saying “this week you have sold 100 dresses, so you need to produce [more] because you are selling these specific dresses. We want to democratize access to this technology, it should not be reserved for luxury.

Embrace a customer-centric brand mindset

BS: My relationship with retailers as my brand [grows] changes slightly because I consider and prioritize exactly the different types of men who want to wear my brand and the range of sizes they need too. There are also women who want to wear the brand without me expanding into a traditional womenswear space. It’s about organically expanding the sections of the brand that have been my focus for massive growth and it’s really worked. We have extended to the feminine without diluting the model of the masculine brand. I give customers the option to purchase brand size and fit, regardless of [gender] or preference. It gives way to a slow and steady pace of growth.

ED: For us, it always starts with the universe and how you build a brand beyond just creating new clothes. I think that’s also what our founder, Malene, had in her vision when she founded the brand. I’m drawn and drawn to interiors and antiques and I think our customers are also very inspired to buy more than just a product.

In our own brand houses, we curated fragrances, art, ceramics and jewelry to give customers a holistic view of the brand. The results we’ve seen and the feedback, it’s amazing. Our fanbase is united in this idea of ​​the lifestyle we create for them. It is a power.

Future-proof by starting somewhere, anywhere

GC: “A make-to-order model is not an all-or-nothing exercise. We can start with a product or a segment – the simplest silhouette – and try it out. The first step is to reduce product development times. Work from raw materials rather than finished products, and reinvent your design strategy to adapt to what the supplier can offer you.

The second step is to trust your suppliers. Fashion is one of the industries [with] lower trust in the supply chain. The third step is the data and production connection. If you own your data and inform your suppliers in real time — “this product is selling much better than the other”, [you can use that insight] in season. This is the ultimate goal. »

CIFF program, August 2022.

BS: “The more you personalize your brand, the more you [maintain] what the customer means to you. I’ve known all along that once you have your small audience, it will grow into a larger audience if you keep those people happy and don’t try to step on anyone else’s toes. That’s how I raised him. I constantly ask my sales [partner, Tomorrow Group] where resellers and retailers position my brand. It’s really important because it determines the type of client I want to attract. My brand grows mainly because of the way I present it – via fashion shows, models, price and the comfort of the clothes.

ED: “To avoid being stuck with overstock and overproduction, you have to [create] something that doesn’t feel old 6 months later. It’s the look of the clothes, the quality and, of course, the fact that the fabrics are durable.

The other part is certification. Fortunately, our wholesale partners also require us to have the correct certifications and provide something that customers can trust is a sustainable alternative. It goes both ways, we have to have an offer that they can resell at a good price, and that they can, with us, demand certifications, [verify] where [a product] is produced, [be dedicated to] transparency — it really is a collaboration.

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