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Mar 25th, 2016
CEO Guram Gvasalia of Vetements in conversation with Sarah Mower MBE:
Guram Gvasalia is the business minded behind the great success of VÊTEMENTS , an alternative luxury fashion brand. In collaboration with London College of Fashion, Gvasalia was interviewed by Sarah Mower MBE, British Fashion Council’s Ambassador for Emerging Talent and Chair of the New Gen committee. His path into fashion world was guided by one primary drive: the ambition to be someone important.
Two hours were well spent listening and thinking along, as a fashion business student, what are the golden rules to successfully run a fashion label. Fashion is a dream world for many people, either as an audience or the content creator. Businesses monetize itself by selling dreams: dream of better looking, dream of confidence, dream of luxurious, or dream of being different. Gvasalia shared how he successfully sell these dreams.
Here are eight key takeaways for fashion business entrepreneurs:
The company didn’t start as a ‘expensive hobby’. Gvasalia set a ground rule that this activity must make a return on investment. To have a brand, it doesn’t mean you have a design and a registered name. It starts with a clear brand Identity, accompanied with actions from product designs to sales. When work integrally, that’s when you truly have a brand.
Just because you are in the industry, it doesn’t mean you have to do what have been done. While other brands are desperate to be picked up by big name retailers, VÊTEMENTS
turns them down to make sure their products are only distributed through the ‘right’ store for the brand identity; qualitatively and quantitatively. The idea is to grow at the constant speed and to have things under control.
“It’s not about the quantity, it’s the quality,” said Gvasalia, “We got the most iconic stores we could find. We called over 500 people.”
Keep contracts and have a lawyer. When things happen, just let them do their jobs. This idea might seem too pricey for a start-up, but Gvasalia confirmed it’s worth the investment. Especially when suppliers gave emotional excuses for not delivering the service as promised.
“Don’t be naive” was the advice given when hearing unbearable excuses such as “someone at the factory die, we can’t make your clothes in time”.
Experts were hired and trusted to do their jobs. Where some startups try to do everything themselves to save cost, Vetements invests in its human resources. Result? It’s professional.
Gvasalia believes that family businesses deliver different outcomes from big corporates. For them, business is not just work but a part of their life. One might misunderstand this as being workaholic. Ironically, working life becomes an obligation to make a living when you separate it from personal life. By thinking along, I see what he means.
“Luxury means scarce.” This definition is not only applied to end users but also to buyers. VÊTEMENTS approaches buyers before the collection was produced. Given only brief description of the pieces, buyers are asked to book a certain amount which also indicate their maximum order. The number will then go into production and sold to buyers during the selling season. The leftover, buyers’ rejections, will then be sold online to end-users. It’s smart and cost efficiency.
“Make sure you don’t over produce, once you go on sale, there’s no way to go back.”
When given 30 days credit, Gvasalia doesn’t wait but pays his suppliers the next day. The idea is to be remembered as the favourite business partner just like how he loves his Japanese clients.
“Even though they (the Japanese customers) order small amounts but they pay right away, so they are my priority.”
Gvasalia writes journals of whom he contacted and why some rejected his offers. Over time, he sees the connection or trends, which leads to responsive strategies.
It was inspiring. It confirmed that running a fashion brand is a piece of cake. It also confirmed that it’s possible, by critically strategizing.
Written by Contributing Fashion Writer/Illustrator – Mee Jong
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