Last week, the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF), one of Europe’s oldest trade fairs, welcomed more than 500 brands to its exhibition space in the Danish capital, connecting them with a global community of buyers. Throughout the 3-day event there was a slate of expert-hosted panels, presentations and workshop sessions designed to inform and empower brands with solution-oriented insights.
In one of those presentations, Technology and innovation for a new era in wholesale tradeBoF’s Robin Mellery-Pratt and Alice Gividen explored disruptive new technologies poised to provide the best opportunities for the global CIFF community as the industry experiences inventory glut. In fact, analytics firm Edited reported the return of deep discounts. In men’s, women’s and children’s clothing in the UK, it found that more than 71 per cent of products were on sale as of July 17, compared with 22 per cent last year and 47 per cent in 2019. .
Combined with the geopolitical context of a “polycrisis” (several systemic crises occurring simultaneously and interacting with each other), there is a pressing need for the industry to innovate to combat these challenges, implementing strategies through new manufacturing models, Reality tools Augmented (AR) and Web-based Connectivity3.
Based on the theme of innovation in the wholesale sector, the panel, Finding wholesale growth in an uncertain marketexamined new strategic approaches to wholesale that market leaders are already employing, with a focus on operational innovation, community building and radical changes in the way brands produce and ship their clothing to stores .
BoF joined three talents who explored 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 namesake luxury brand. Having won the 32nd ANDAM Grand Prix Fashion Award in 2021, its global distributors include MatchesFashion, MachineA and Gr8 in Japan.
Finally, Gonçalo Cruz, co-founder and CEO of PlatformE, a custom manufacturing platform, completed the panel. Platform E’s services and technology embed digital fashion throughout the value chain, enabling fashion brands to create their items, sell them and produce them only after the point of purchase with constant and integrated access to all their supply chains. production.
Below, BoF shares the key points.
Get started with internal collaboration
GC: “The fashion business model is fundamentally broken. In the US, more than 60 percent of products are marked down, and up to one-third of them are marked down to a level where there’s really no margin. One of the reasons for that is [that] big brands operate in silos. The number one goal of procurement and purchasing teams is [minimise the] production cost. To reduce the average unit cost, providers will generally require [that] your [order] plus [product]. [But by producing] more volume, you are migrating the problem to your sales, merchandising and marketing [teams]saying: ‘It’s your challenge, go and sell it’.
Fashion will have to adopt [to] not seeking to lower the cost of production, but to optimize margins, that is, to sell at a higher price [or] Final price. You [only] you need to discount when you have excess inventory, so the ultimate goal is to strike a fine balance of what is the correct figure [of] finished product versus what I call ‘Demand Responsiveness’. If your products work [well, and you have] A very close relationship with your suppliers can speed up a just-in-time response. This is what we try to do in PlatformE, receive market data in real time.
ED: “When Covid hit the world [in 2020] and everything turned upside down […] We don’t start with a wholesale strategy, we start within ourselves. We reduced collections by 50 percent, brought production back to Europe from Asia, and increased prices quite radically to be able to offer quality. [and] sustainable alternatives in terms of fabric with a focus on full price.
[Then, we had] to review who we are partnering with. We have a lot of wholesalers all over the world, but we also cut down on them to make sure they can get on and get our message across so that [to] make sure that the final consumer finds us in the same way all over the world. We want to have the same values as [our] wholesalers.”
BS: “My main focus is to make sure the main brand product grows larger than it is [a facilitator of] collaborations, which can sometimes dilute how I expand. There is a lot of pressure on younger brands to implement lessons and learn from the mistakes of the past, and fix the broken elements of how the [brand-retailer relationship] works maintaining traditional processes.
[My wholesale partners] respect that and it really worked for your models too. I listen and ask [which are my best] sellers: this is how I grow the collection each season”.
Implement a “pull” model, where actual demand dictates product development
BS: “During my first season, I received small orders, so I made products myself and shipped them to retailers. As the brand has developed, I am now in my ninth season and have learned that certain products don’t translate well from runway to store; sometimes they are not profitable or worth my team’s work or time. Now, I am very focused on making sure that each store has the right amount of product, and the right product for their customer. For example, if MatchesFashion wants a particularly complex design and [expensive] item, then that decision is based on the customer’s need. the [retailer] will get the customer to the product – you will get to the right person and make sure the markup is actually in a good spot to justify your [creation].
GC: We started working with luxury brands [across] LVMH and Kering, and even those brands [rarely] they own 100 percent of their workshops or factories. They depend on different suppliers, [and] in multi-brand boutiques to sell their products. Gucci, for example, [sees] more than 50 percent of sales come from external domains, so they need to connect marketplaces and factories to stay informed by consumer demand.
At Platforme, we connect the points of sale — the website, the store, the multi-brand marketplace — [and] report to the factory in real time, saying “this week you sold 100 dresses, so you need to produce [more] because you are selling those specific dresses.” We want to democratize access to this technology, it should not be exclusive to luxury”.
Adopt a customer-centric brand mindset
BS: My relationship with retailers as my brand [grows] it’s changing slightly because I’m considering and prioritizing exactly the different types of men who want to wear my brand and the size range they need as well. There are also women who want to wear the brand without me expanding into a traditional womenswear space. It’s about organically expanding those sections of the brand that have been my massive growth focus point and it really worked. We’ve expanded into womenswear without diluting the men’s brand model. I offer customers the option to purchase it in the branded format and fit, regardless of [gender] or preference. It is giving way to a slow and steady growth rate.
ED: For us, it always starts with the universe and the way you are building a brand beyond creating new clothes. I think that’s also what our founder, Malene, had in her vision when she founded the brand. I am drawn to and drawn to interiors and antiques and I think our customers are also very inspired by getting more than just a product.
In our own branded homes, we’ve curated perfumes, art, ceramics, and jewelry to give customers a holistic view of the brand. The results we have seen and the feedback is incredible. Our fan base is united in this idea of the lifestyle that we are creating for them. It is a power.
Future proof starting somewhere, anywhere
GC: “A build-to-order model is not an “all or nothing” exercise. We can start with a product or segment, the easiest silhouette, and try it out. The first step is to reduce product development time. Working based on raw material instead of finished product, and reinventing your design strategy to adapt it to what the supplier can offer you.
The second step is to trust your providers. Fashion is one of the industries [with] the lowest confidence in the supply chain. The third step is the data and production connection. If you own your data and report to your suppliers in real time: “This product sells much better than the other.” [you can use that insight] in season. This is the ultimate goal.”
BS: “The more individualized you make your brand, the more [maintain] what the customer means to you. I’ve known all along that once you have a small audience, it will become a larger audience if you keep those people happy and don’t try to step on anyone else’s toes. That’s how I’ve kept it growing. I constantly ask for my sales [partner, Tomorrow Group] where stockists and retailers are positioning my brand. That’s really important because it guides what kind of customer I want to attract. My brand is growing mainly because of the way I present it: through fashion shows, the models, the price and the comfort of the clothes.”
ED: “In order not to be overstocked and overproduced, you must [create] something that doesn’t feel old 6 months later. It is the appearance of the garments, the quality and, of course, that the fabrics are sustainable.
The other part is the certification. Our wholesale partners, fortunately, also put a lot of demands on us to have the right certifications and offer something that customers can be sure is a sustainable alternative. It goes both ways, we need to have an offer that they can sell at a good price, and they need to be able, together with us, to demand certifications, [verify] where [a product] is produced, [be dedicated to] transparency: it is really a collaboration”.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by CIFF as part of a partnership with BoF.