Jacquemus, Y / Project, Atlein: behind each one of these success stories Made in France is the DEFI, led by Clarisse Reille. The DEFI is the incubator and growth accelerator for the French fashion industry. It supports the creation and internationalisation of fashion companies; it promotes the maintenance and development of know-how, competitiveness, and adaptability of fashion players in a complex and deeply changing world; and it supports technological innovation to strengthen interaction with consumers.
Chloé Payer, a teacher at Accademia del Lusso, interviewed Clarisse Reille to explore the changes and opportunities of the fashion industry and to know what the key factors are to creating a personal brand in 2019.
What is the new business model to creating and selling fashion in the age of Instagram?
Clarisse Reille: I don’t think we can speak about a single “magic” business model. Actually, today there are a series of business models that are based on a series of principles:
– The importance given to the history of the brand and to its values
– The brand meaning
In particular, communication no longer follows the top to bottom model, but instead one of sharing. Instagram has become essential in order for a brand to grow, make itself known, and interact with its community.
“The product is still necessary but it’s no longer enough in order to develop a business. The “intangible” becomes predominant.”
With digital communication, the strategy employed by businesses passes from the product to the consumer experience, creating an emotion, a dream, sharing a concept, telling a story. Has there been a “dematerialization” of the product?
The product is still necessary but it’s no longer enough in order to develop a business. Creators need to think about brand development in a more global way and not limit themselves to the creation of a product which is simply original. It’s clear that the “intangible” part has become predominant.
“We’re witnessing a development of slow fashion, an attraction to beautiful pieces that can last through time.”
Is fashion destined to get faster and faster, in terms of production and consumption?
We are witnessing some very complex movements: on one side an acceleration in rhythms, and at the same time a development of slow fashion, an attraction to beautiful pieces that can last through time. The mass model, called fast fashion, is weakening. One of the keys will surely be a reduction of the time that passes between production and consumption, with a better suitability of volumes to match real sales.
“Launching a brand has become very complex; it’s essential to have a team around you.”
How can a young designer launch their own brand and what skills do they need to have? What would your advice be for creating a personal brand?
Launching a brand has become very complex if you consider both the competition and the multiple requirements that entrepreneurs must adhere to today. I’d say that today it’s really very difficult to start alone; it’s essential to work as part of a team, whether it’s a professional one or as part of a friendship group that shares the same ambition and whose skill set is wide-ranging. If it’s true that the heart of a brand lies in its creation, it is also imperative to know how to manage a business just like in any other economic sector, and to be able to communicate and inspire communities.
“For an emerging brand, micro and nano influencers are extremely important.”
After the trend of big influencers with millions of followers, we’re witnessing the emergence of micro and nano influencers – small communities – who attract the interest of brands. Is this the trend that emerging brands should follow to create loyalty and a strong community?
Absolutely: for an emerging brand, micro and nano influencers are extremely important: these “minor” influencers are followed much more closely by their restricted community, that is so trusted as to make people to follow their recommendations blindly. This creates a very loyal, solid base.
“Social networks amplify even the least important events, and they love scandals and emotions.”
We witnessed the epic fail of Dolce & Gabbana in China and the cancelling of the fashion show which was supposed to be their biggest one ever. Many e-commerce businesses withdrew their collaboration – a considerable danger in such a key market. What value does reputation have, and how can it be controlled and defended?
In essence, the brand is linked to performance. It is becoming more and more important and difficult to manage, especially if we consider the impact of social networks that amplify even the least important events and who love scandals and emotions. In these fields, I think it’s very important to have teams that are varied, with different backgrounds and experiences, and who will therefore be able to see threats more easily, compared with mono-cultural teams who tend to think in a more Pavlovian way.
“It is absolutely necessary that technology is at the service of real people, because consumers want to find meaning in their purchases.”
Fashion is the most innovative sector in the world, a profitable industry which attracts investments, GAFA in particular, who invest in artificial intelligence by introducing a new business model and a personalised relationship with users. Is technology at the service of real people?
It is absolutely necessary that technology is at the service of real people, because consumers want to find meaning in their purchases. We cannot afford not to consider the fact that technology is also a vector for manipulation and standardisation. As such, it seems very positive that Microsoft is launching an initiative to promote a legal framework for facial recognition to protect people’s rights and freedoms.
What technological innovations are you most excited about? And what will change the relationship between brands and consumers?
Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, the blockchain system to guarantee transparency. Innovation, technology, ethics, experience, emotion and seduction are essential and must operate in perfect harmony.
The model of exasperated consumption is finishing, and there is a growing search for more humanity, ethics and meaning. What word can we use to replace “consumer”?
The word “consumer” is no longer suitable. We could say partners, teammates, allies, or even friends.
“If it’s true that the fashion textile sector is one of the most polluting on the planet, we should give it credit for questioning itself and doing some soul searching.”
In a recent interview Giorgio Armani spoke about the values of his group regarding inclusion and sustainability, not only thanks to the responsible use of natural resources, environmental protection, respect for communities, traceability of the entire production process and product safety, but also thanks to a philosophy of sustainable approach, a garment that can be worn for years and therefore an ethical approach to consumption. What is your vision with respect to this sector, long accused of polluting? Is it greenwashing or a true challenge?
If it’s true that the fashion textile sector is one of the most polluting on the planet, we should give it credit for questioning itself and doing some soul searching. We’re in an interesting moment, in which a certain number of brands still do “greenwashing”, but I think the wave of sustainable and ethical fashion is representative.
“75% of millennials think that brands have such little meaning that they will disappear.”
People-oriented services are today one of the main aspirations for society, citizens, and consumers. This concept of ethics is much bigger than sustainability and eco-friendly, as it entails taking into consideration the human dimension and its singularity. This is also true for the relationship a brand has with its clients, but also with its employees and any subcontractors, and more generally with its ecosystems.
“Distribution will go on to integrate all those digital technologies and artificial intelligences that can fluidify client relations. The human relationship will become more and more important.”
Amazon is testing a new concept of physical distribution that could revolutionise the omnichannel strategy, especially with regards to luxury brands, giving more importance to in-store experiences. What are the new boundaries for distribution?
Distribution must make some profound changes and integrate all those digital technologies and artificial intelligences that allow us to fluidify all client relations. This essential component will not be sufficient because the human relationship will become more and more important. This will bring shops, big department stores, chains, to rethink the way they train and hire staff, and especially how they keep their sales assistants loyal, since it is they who will become the real brand ambassadors.
Fashion is a profoundly anthropological sector which reflects changes in society and often anticipates them: the emancipation of women, gender equality, innovation. What are the transformations that we’re going to see?
Fashion is a fascinating social phenomenon, a pioneer, an impressive laboratory that tells us what the world’s going to be like. The values that I think symbolise this movement are: the need for truth, brand meaning, ethics, and a type of aestheticization of the world.
*interview published on www.clubif.com in December 2018
Teacher at Accademia del Lusso Milan and Marketing Professional