LUMINE participates in Isabel Marant's global expansion
Fashion, as it must, anoints each season the next, the newly relevant and authentic; guided necessarily by an intrinsic loyalty to trend.
(The article was published in the WWD.COM on 4 November,2016)
Fashion, as it must, anoints each season the next, the newly relevant and authentic; guided necessarily by an intrinsic loyalty to trend, cultural narratives high and low, a seemingly never ending game of musical chairs whereby, to all but the most devout followers; there is an almost arbitrary logic as to who is or is not deemed; if only for a few short seasons, worthy, valid, authentic. It is then, no small task for a designer to navigate an ever mutating ecosystem of authorities and influencer platforms in the near, mid and most rarely, long term; the latter reserved for designers with dogged loyalty towards their own point of view and acute sensitivity to the whims of their patrons they have acquired over time.
In 1994 Isabel Marant founded her eponymously named company, and over seasons emerged as a designer who eschews trend, instead nurtures an ever-expanding global community of acolytes to her Bohemian Parisienne Tomboy effortless insouciance. Her focus, consistency and subtle understanding of women’s desires, aspires a playful elegance of youth’s infinite possibility profoundly nuanced in culturally coded messaging; affecting a confident, strong, urbane woman. She has a firm identity, not a fleeting fancy, but a brand.
Twenty-two stand alone stores (nine of which are directly operated) in Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East, along with 800 global points of sale, a collaboration collection with H&M in 2013; the company has reported to have grossed two hundred sixteen million dollars in 2015. In July of this year Isabel Marant sold fifty one percent of her company to French private equity firm Montefiore whose infusion of capital and strategic guidance will allow the company to both expand its offering territorially (physical and digital) and product offer.
The following is an e-mail exchange I had the pleasure to partake in this fall.
Joshua Safalow: 2016 has been a productive year for you, one that introduces to your company outside investment for the first time in its history. What are some of the goals and achievements you hope to gain with this partnership?
Isabel Marant: We are thrilled to have our new partners on board. They will be providing us with the necessary resources to reach a new stage of global development.
JS: Creating a company that consistently provides women the world over with products that transcend trend, what have been your methods in creating community and loyalty to your creations over the years?
IM: I actually do not rely on a specific method. I have always strived to create real clothes for real life, for women like myself who live with their time and are true to themselves. This is what I believed has helped build the community and loyalty you are describing, and for which I am very grateful.
JS: I have read that 80% of your sales are international, how important is it for you to continue to expand into new territories? Are there any regions that are priority? What are your strongest regions currently?
IM: I like the idea that I’m contributing to France’s outreach worldwide and am very happy with this global development that has built momentum over the years. North America and Europe are our strongest regions, and the US is where we are focused as it still holds untapped potential for us.
JS: Currently you do not have e-commerce capacity on your website, what are some of your digital strategies now that you have new options with your new partners?
IM: This is a key area in our upcoming developments, in which we will begin by opening our own e-store in 2017.
JS: What are some the product categories you will like to see further explored or introduced?
IM: We are beginning to gradually introduce leather goods, which are naturally set to become a key category. Menswear is also a field I’m eager to explore and develop.
JS: How much have your international expansions informed the collections you design today? Does having locations in New York City, Dubai or Tokyo augment your creative direction or do you find that your vision rings true with each of these divergent regions?
IM: I have not rationalized my designs based on my international development. I am still driven by what my teacher at Studio Berçot, Marie Rucki taught me: “only design pieces you would wear yourself”. I have however been inspired by visiting cities where we opened new flagship stores, which in turn reflected on my designs.
JS: This year you also opened a new Tokyo location in the NEWoMan building operated by Lumine, having opened your first Japanese boutique in 2012, what have been your challenges and successes in such a competitive market?
IM: Our partner Tomorrowland came to us with this opportunity, and we were attracted not only by the very premium location and traffic potential, but also by the lifestyle driven nature of the project, that filled a gap in the market. We are pleased to be part of Lumine’s new concept and trust it will pave the way for a strengthened partnership with them.
JS: Do you cater your products to the Japanese or any of your international markets? Will you try new categories in select regions as trial?
IM: I actually really don’t. I design universally for women all over the world. The assortment and merch mix in our Isabel Marant stores can be adjusted from market to market but nothing beyond that.
JS: Why did you choose an Isabel Marant Etoile concept rather than your Isabel Marant collection in this location?
IM: Due to the lifestyle driven positioning, as well the younger crowd it caters to, it naturally made more sense to focus on an Etoile offering, which is more accessible both in terms of style and also price. Etoile in general is well suited for the Japanese market, where the customers have grown value seeking and price conscious.
JS: These are exciting times for you and your company, what do you feel are your most pressing goals to achieve in the next year and what will be your biggest challenges during the same period?
IM: Very exciting indeed! We are looking forward to stepping up our development through an enhanced product dynamic and an enhanced digital and retail footprint worldwide.
JS: Twenty-Two years designing for your own company is a rare and difficult accomplishment in the fashion industry; what advice do you have for young people today who are thinking to start their own fashion design firm?
IM: Build a strong base and stay focused.
JS: Thanks for your time Isabel, I am looking forward to seeing and hearing of your new developments in the near future.
IM: Thank you!
(Thank you very much for your cooperation.
We Lumine believe that you enhanced the value of our property.
We hope that we can make a good relationship with each other.)
SPONSOR SPECIAL NOTE:
We, the LUMINE team, would like to express our gratitude to Isabel Marant and her partners for taking the time to give this interview and can not be more pleased with having her label in our new building; NEWOMAN in Shinjuku.