How To Launch A Fashion Brand In The UK.
The latest Like Minds event, in association with Finpro as part of their growth program for Finnish companies in the UK, was held at The Club at 100 Wardour Street on Tuesday June 7th. I was pleased to descend into the coolness of the downstairs area, away from the heat outside. The room was low-lit and atmospheric, with rails and stands of beautiful Finnish designs on display.
Shannon Edwards & The Digital Marketplace.
The afternoon began with an informal talk by fashion consultant Shannon Edwards, who concentrated on the digital world. She was an engaging speaker and encouraged the group of Finnish fashion companies and designers in attendance to talk about their own experiences of using digital marketing, mainly via social media platforms. She explained; Good news then for the Finns looking to make their mark here.
Not only do the British spend more online than any other nationality, but the UK market is also unique in its diversity, with consumers who are more open to trying new brands.
Good news then for the Finns looking to make their mark here.
Hyper-Targeted Marketing And Knowing Your Story.
Shannon went on to talk about making sure you know your target audience and the story you want to tell them. She spoke of how effective using social media such as Facebook or Instagram can be – especially with new features like ‘Facebook live’ – in expanding your reach as long as the image you present reflects your story. In her words, “there is no point in throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it sticks”; your online presence needs to be ‘hyper-targeted’ and on brand.
The Online Marketplace.
During the talk, several ways of getting brand exposure and entering the UK market via the internet were discussed. Shannon suggested designers should look at platforms that communicate new brands to consumers as a good place to start, as they will do your advertising for you. She also advised that when deciding on which platforms to feature your brand you should remain open-minded and think about using search and discovery companies or distribution platforms, again to increase reach and remove some of the work of promotion.
In the end, however, thinking of the world as online vs. offline was not a useful way of looking at things. She believes that a holistic approach is needed to marketing, as the digital world becomes more intertwined with our ‘offline’ lives. It’s vital that you sell a consistent story.
A short break followed the talk. This gave the designers a chance to talk to each other and to network with the guests who had started to arrive for the panel debate and keynote talk. I had a brief chat with Elina Loueranta, CEO of Biancaneve, a women’s sportswear brand. She spoke about her desire to create clothing that was both functional and feminine, even for more muscular women. This reminded me of the ‘strong not skinny’ tag I have been seeing across social media; a new emphasis on muscle gain rather than weight loss for women. This seemed a good example of what Shannon had been talking about: a brand that had a story that resonated with the people it wanted to sell to.
Panel Debate: Building Brand Awareness In The UK.
The panel discussion – moderated by Charlotte Keesing, COO at Walpole British Luxury – featuring Tammy Smulders, MD Havas LuxHub, Mats Klingberg, Founder Trunk Clothiers, Jarkko Kallio, C0-founder FRENN and Lilli Norio, Designer at R-Collection focussed on how to build brand awareness in the UK and, like Shannon’s earlier talk, the emphasis was on ‘knowing your story’.
What are the key ingredients for building a brand in the uk?
Matt Klingberg, the Swedish founder of Trunk Clothiers, talked about the importance of having a strong, consistent image and of choosing retailers for your products that match that image.
Both Hazel Kay (Interim Marketing Director for Luxury Goods and Fashion) and Jarkko Kallio, founder of Finnish menswear brand, FRENN reiterated the idea that having a consistent story is key, with Jarkko pointing out that this had been made even more important by an ever-growing need to have a strong online presence
Tammy Smulders added to this idea by saying that it is no longer enough for a company to have a good range of products; people are now more interested in what the brand means to them and need to feel a connection to its story.
What aspects of Finnish brands will help them do well in the uk?
Jarkko Kalio believes that Finns bring a unique quality not seen elsewhere in the Scandic/Nordic (nobody seemed to have decided which term would be best to use) design world, telling of meeting Danish buyers who were bored of seeing the same things from Danish designers. (During the Shannon Edwards talk a Finnish designer had commented that the rest of the world sees the Finns as ‘a bit nuts’).
Mats Klingberg on the other hand, spoke of how the previous success of the simple, minimalist style from popular Scandic/Nordic brands may aid new Finnish brands.
Lilli Norio, designer at Finnish brand R-Collection, said that for her brand, the association of Finland (and its weather) with high quality outerwear has helped her appeal to those who want to be active and go outdoors but remain fashionable. It’s about selling the lifestyle, not just the clothes.
Tammy Smulders had another take – Finnish design doesn’t have a strong identity in the UK in the way that, for example, Swedish design does. She stated that perhaps for these brands being Finnish may not be the biggest part of their branding or identity; they may have very different and very unique stories to tell.
Is there a perfect distribution model?
The short answer – no.
Hazel, with her background at Selfridges, was well-positioned to give advice about approaching department stores. She said that having confidence and communicating your passion were the most important ways to get their attention. She also said that, especially in London, there appears to be boredom with major brands. Shoppers are looking for things that are new and different.
Tammy advised brands to talk to any and all retailers. Department stores may offer more scope but sometimes a brand is better served somewhere more exclusive, like Dover Street Market.
What advice do you have on networking?
Lilli spoke about attending events (such as this one) and talking to everyone: you never know who might be interested in your brand. The other panelists agreed with this. Mats advised that talking to other brands about their journey can be really beneficial, with Jarkko agreeing that most of the time all you have to do is ask and people are happy to help if they can. Mats also said that the brands he chooses to stock are those with teams that are easy to work with and that following up on conversations is really important in showing that you are reliable and professional.
Keynote: Tammy Smulders – Entering The UK Fashion Market.
Next on the agenda was Tammy Smulders‘ presentation. Tammy is the MD of Havas Lux Hub She began with some facts and figures about the UK fashion industry. Considered a ‘retail pioneer’, especially in the online sector, the UK fashion industry was worth £26 billion in 2014. There has been a huge increase in the number of international brands penetrating this market: there were only 35 in 1980 but now there are over 400.
The High Net-Worth Millennial.
Tammy talked about a recent shift in the UK market from people spending money on clothes to buying experiences.
There are 15 million ‘millennials’ in the UK (18-35 year olds). Tammy stated that they are more interested in experiences than items and so are looking for brands that help them make a statement and there is a need to create a relationship with the customer where you understand what it will mean for them to own something from your brand.
Of 18-26 year olds surveyed, 37% they were most likely to discover new brands via social media; supporting what Shannon Edwards said earlier about digital marketing.
The New Editorial Storefront.
Tammy suggested building a list of influencers that are relevant to your target audience and using them: ‘you want to look big in a small space.’ With 60% of 18-26 year olds following influencers online (according to the Luxhub Survey of April 2016), this looks like the future for brand exposure, as opposed to the traditional magazine editorial.
To finish off, Tammy took us back to the idea of the story of your brand, but with the addition of thinking about the personal story of the customer. She used the example of her own experience of having a birthday message left on her bed at the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo to talk about how important your consumer’s experience of your brand is. Tammy shared a picture of the message on her social media and received lots of likes and comments. This gave the Ritz-Carlton some brand exposure but also tied her personal story to theirs.
Drinks And Canapés.
After Tammy’s talk, the designers and guests moved upstairs at 100 Wardour Street for drinks and canapés to continue the discussion and initiate some productive networking.