Martyna Szabadi for Vogue: What local brands need to focus on to become global labels.
The article was originally published by Vogue CZ and can be found here.
From Prague to the World.
What Czech Brands Need to Focus on to Become Global Labels.
Every fashion designer starting her career hopes to sell clothes in fashion capitals like Paris, Milan or New York and wishes for front page celebrities to wear them. Only a handful is able to succeed though. What distinguishes global most successful brands from the rest of fashion companies? Why some local brands achieve commercial success globally and some, despite a local success, are not able break through the noise of competitive landscape? Is there anything Czech labels can do to improve their chances for a global success? We asked Martyna Szabadi, a New York-based business consultant, working with global fashion and luxury labels, to help us finding answers to these questions.
It may sound cliché, but fashion became a very difficult business. A couple of years ago a well-designed product, consistent brand story and heavy digital marketing spending were a simple recipe for a success. In today’s oversaturated market, in the era of data privacy protection (when targeting digital ads to individuals became more difficult), while the world struggles with global pandemic, to become successful a brand needs much more than that. Is there anything Czech labels can do to become successful globally? I would recommend to start with these 4 steps.
1. Do your math
It may sound surprising, but working with various brands, I discovered that many businesses don’t know what it takes for them to break even or make a collection profitable. They don’t control costs, don’t know how much they make on each sale and how discounting influence their bottom line. Healthy cashflow is necessary to achieve a global success. Brands that have ambitions to grow beyond Czech market need to do the math and make sure their business is financially healthy before they launch internationally. Creating a business plan with financial projections should be the first step. It is necessary to have a point of reference in order to measure financial performance and set expectations right. Growing fashion business internationally is expensive and a business plan will help to estimate if you can afford it. I also recommend to build a simple Profit and Loss Statement and keep an updated Balance Sheet. Solid financial strategy is the foundation of future success.
2. Have a purpose
According to various studies, over 2/3 of customers prefer to purchase from brands that are not only driven by profit but try to make a difference in the world. They act as ambassadors of brands they believe in and foil to those they don’t. A brand that has an authentic purpose reflected in every activity (not just in communications) is not only another clothing label but it becomes a culturally relevant and necessary industry stakeholder. If your brand stands for something bigger than what it sells, you will be able to connect with customers on much deeper level and create loyalty a regular clothing label will never have. A good example of a purpose-driven brand that became a global phenomenon is Danish label Ganni. Loved by international IT girls for its unique design and environmental advocacy, the brand is committed to make the fashion industry a cleaner place. They go beyond just sourcing recycled fabrics or donating a fraction of profits to environmental NGOs. The brand comes up with green initiatives like rentals or repairing and re-selling pre-owned garments, that go against business logic of wanting to produce and sell more. This authenticity is sensed by customers, who are loyal to the brand and proudly share their love for Ganni on social media.
3. Make it easy to wear
What distinguishes most successful fashion brands are practicality, easiness of wear and the ability to appeal to many people. It’s as simple as it is: the more commercial and basic design, the easier it is to sell the garments. I believe a strength of Czech labels is in their creativity and ability to translate greater philosophy into clothes. Such statement pieces are very difficult to sell though. A solution could be to extend the main line with more basic pieces that would still reflect brand’s esthetics. A great example here is Laformela. Their main line might be too extravagant for many to wear on daily basis but fans of Miroslava’s and Antonin’s design can enjoy more casual garments sold as collection of Essentials. Still true to Laformela design philosophy, Essentials contain of more basic styles, made of very comfortable fabrics, in more accessible price point. Laformela correctly assumed that easiness to wear will be one of top reasons to buy a garment in the post-Covid world. Following this example of balancing great design with commercial appeal will help any brand to build much broader customer base locally and abroad.
4. Be a great local company
Lastly, entering foreign markets, you need to do your homework and learn as much as you can about the market. Create a competitive landscape chart to know who your competitors are how you fit the market. Adjust your price strategy and most of all, learn who your customers are and how to communicate with them in the most effective way. To be a great global company, you have to be a great local company, because you have to find a way to talk to your customers in their local context. Think of Levi’s® and its recent collaboration with Zoltan Toth. The brand was aware that their Prague-based customer is very fashion forward and sensitive to sustainability. Instead of using their own line and international celebrity to promote these values, it teamed up with a local talent who upcycled unsold Levi’s® garments, to show these values in motion, in a local context. It was a very authentic way to interact with a target customer at a local level.
Investing in these tactics doesn’t require intensive capital or even a team of new experts. Before launching internationally it’s also important to start with consistent story on social media and well-designed webstore. It is also crucial to remember that no brand made a global success overnight success and patience is as important as good growth strategy.
Martyna Szabadi is a New York- based business consultant working with the consumer luxury industries. For over a decade, she has advised global companies like Dolce & Gabbana, LVMH and Levi Strauss & Co. and cultural institutions like Mercedes- Benz Fashion Week and The MET. Martyna is a partner at Doyen New York, a boutique consulting firm specialized in growing and transforming fashion businesses and navigating them through change.
Photo Credits: Zsofia Bodnar