INNOVATION IS ALSO IN FASHION RETAILING. Interpretation of Victorio & Lucchino Men

Image: inside the store (provided by the company)
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On September 20, Victorio & Lucchino (V&L) established its first shop for men in nr. 28, Lagasca Street in Madrid. The inauguration made a splash in the media and in the public. The Spanish real-life magazine Hola.com made the event its main story: “Victorio and Lucchino open a store for the XXIst century man”. The reason is simple: it profoundly reshapes the shopping experience, in such a way that from now on, plenty of men shall feel relieved when outfitting for the coming season.

The essence of the Victorio & Lucchino brand

In the late 70s, José Victor Rodríguez and José Luis Medina joined efforts to create a brand, which has become over time one of the most representative and high-profile in the Spanish fashion industry.
When designing garments, they become inspired first by their homeland roots, which they then deconstruct and project into the future. They do so with a style that identifies them: aspirational, determined, seeking both perfection and good taste. Lastly, they add “a wink”.

What their garments’ label used to claim isn’t pure coincidence:  “40% love, 25% charm, 35% joy”.  V&L soon became a leading brand among women.

However, after reaching a strategic agreement with the company Manufacturas Andreu in 2010, V&L took on the challenge of selling directly to men. For over a decade, this partner had been supplying V&L its line of  fashion accessories.

Together with the key executives of the firm, Andreu and Xavier Aspa, we started devising the new retail formula by the end of the year.

Inspired by men

The company is clearly customer-centric. From the very beginning of the project  it was crystal clear that the retail innovation should be grounded in the understanding of the -not very passionate- relationship between most men and fashion.

The insights gathered in qualitative market studies indicated that in general, the male population regarded clothes shopping for a particular context (professional or leisure) an unwelcome chore, namely because it requires, at least, three kinds of efforts: it is time-consuming, coordinating clothes is challenging and, finally, trying them on is a hassle.

Therefore, the V&L concept was thought up to provide a greater life quality to those men who value a classy look according to their personal taste, and with a little mischief.

The playing field

At the time the project was being conceived, we saw that the fashion retail sector was undergoing radical changes, particularly in three areas:

  • Consumers have increased their expectations regarding product, services, price and environmental impact.
  • At an economic level, there’s economic instability, demand has decreased and margins are dwindling.
  • Digital technologies are becoming ever more available, thus allowing for new online purchasing habits.

More and better of the usual methods are no longer enough: new, innovative retail business models are called for. This is not meant to be trivial, but an entrepreneurial must.

The team was absolutely determined about one thing: we shouldn’t only create a shop, but a new retail formula, devised in such a way that it would attract customers back again and again. For this purpose, it was necessary to ground the purchase experience in these two axis:

  1. The shop should reflect the values of the V&L brand, its creativity and magic. The setting would be essential.
  2. The shopping experience should be empathic, smooth and customised. New and powerful technologies were called for, subtly inserted in the shopping process, heavily supported by the back-end and leveraging on cloud computing.


Image: inside the store (provided by the company)

The setting and its technologies

The shop has 150 m2 distributed in two floors, with a very high ceiling.

The ground floor represents a spacious living room, expressed with the particular imagination, style and liveliness of the two Sevillian designers. The products are displayed therein, separated by user context. There is an area dedicated to formal wear for work, another one for casual moments, and a third with a rather more country touch.

The shop maximises customer convenience by tailoring their shopping experience and reducing their efforts in a fun way, namely through two steps: the Pinpoint and the Canvas.

The Pinpoint experience

New customers are invited to enjoy the service of diagnosing their aesthetic preferences in the PinPoint area, a little study which reproduces the designers’ atelier.

There, customers can find out -with the help of a tablet and a stylist- what style matches their personal taste best for every context (work and leisure). Later, their body measurements are taken.

All this information is stored in the cloud for when it may be needed again. This way, return visits will take significantly less time (it won’t be necessary to start from scratch) and shall even be more accurate (the computing system knows the customer’s taste and updates it with every new purchase).

The Canvas revelation

Once the profile has been outlined in the PinPoint section, the customer is ushered to the Canvas, a 40’’ multi-touch table-tablet standing in an iconic space within the shop. There, and guided by the sales assistant, the machine proposes three outfits, taking into account the personal preferences and what they are needed for. The customer himself can also handle the oversized tablet in order to adjust the results.

The program can also recommend other combinations on the basis of a given garment the user might have selected, as it is capable of recognising every item in the shop by just placing it on the screen. A complex system of algorithms matches customer taste with garment tags.

The Canvas reduces the risk of a poor choice and the customer rests assured that the items he buys match, that they suit his style and all this without trying on many things.

This is a good example of how technologies shouldn’t be used for their own sake, but rather as a means to an efforts-free shopping experience for customers.

Two years, one orchestra

During the two years in which the project was developed, Andreu and Xavier hired outstanding professionals, each one an expert in their own discipline. Martínez + Franch (m+f=!) were entrusted with the retail innovation consultancy, while the conceptualisation of the interior was developed by both designers of the brand and the architecture firm “Madrid in Love”. The technology was built to order by Raona based on the Pixel Sense structure, a combination of Samsung and Microsoft products. Another key asset has been the fashion designer Gala Canut, responsible for the collection and style.

In addition, the company paid special attention when selecting the sales team, according to their human empathy and aesthetic sensitivity. Their training took long and was meticulous.

Andreu and Xavier haven’t only conducted the orchestra, but they have taken special care of every detail and played as many tunes as necessary to accomplish their results.

The shop will be considered a pilot for one year. In other words, it will be a space to learn until it  can be confirmed it works with high profitability and customer satisfaction. In the next stage, the chain shall expand in Spain and internationally.

More than just a shop

Victorio & Lucchino Men is a fascinating store and a fully innovative retail ecosystem, created to yield sustained cash flow. It is a complete business model (front-end plus back-end) that expresses the V&L brand with the five senses. It is based in customer centricity with a single purpose: sustained loyalty. That is why we have added the prefix -eco to the word system.

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Lluis Martinez-Ribes

Source: Código 84

special edition for Aecoc Congress

October 2012

FROM YOUNG TALENT TO LUXURY RETAILING. Interpretation of “Not just a label”

Stefan Siegel, founder of Not Just a Label
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Surprise in Brussels

July 4, 2012, Brussels. The speaker that followed my talk was Stefan Siegel, founder of Not Just a Label (www.notjustalabel.com). Dressed elegantly, in a slightly avant-garde manner, he explained his company to an audience of professionals from different sectors of the garment industry. The conference, organised by PROsumer.NET (1), explored the retail innovation trends in fashion products.

I was entirely captivated by his business model and his management style, being the latter visionary, holistic, passionate and pragmatic, all in one. In 4 years (despite the economic turmoil) his company has become the most influential platform of contemporary fashion clothing and accessories in the world.

What is “Not Just a Label”? (NJAL)

Just like myspace propelled many singers and bands into stardom, NJAL is playing the same role for promising fashion designers.

In other words, NJAL is the main global directory of young, talented vogue creators. It is the world’s online landmark showroom. It is the hub or meeting point for the offer and demand of stylish couture on a planetary scale. The content it visualises is that of art shaped into fashion.

The two Siegel brothers, Stefan and Danie, started the venture in 2008, leaving behind orthodox and well-paid jobs. Stefan had fashion experience while Danie had worked with information systems.

Artists who would like to appear in the directory can apply online, and are later analysed by experts. If their work is very good, they are accepted and listed free of charge. Out of these, only the very best shall receive the status of Black Sheep, achieving thus an even greater visibility.

It is a shop, too

NJAL is much more than a showroom where up-and-coming designers can display their collection and profile for free. Since 2009 it is also a market where the Black Sheep can sell directly their unique or limited edition products, made by the artists themselves. The company, that arranges the entire transaction, keeps a commission on the sale.

In 2011, NJAL was awarded the Drapers Etail prize to the best fashion sales web in the UK, because it allowed “nearly unknown designers gain global exposure and commercialisation”.

What customers attain by shopping there is a range of creative products, preselected by famous experts, locally manufactured and handmade by the designer, in limited series or as unique items, each one with their own story and inspiration. All this considering that end customers and authors are in direct contact all the time.

Altogether, a new philosophy and shopping experience of luxury goods is born, grounded in authenticity and sustainability.

This is a good example of how an online shopping experience can be just as rich as that of physical shops. Note, however, that this isn’t achieved by trying to emulate digitally what happens offline.

Several pieces; one system

NJAL discovers and selects the best designers of trendy fashion in two ways:

  1. By analysing and filtering online applications. Only the very good ones are accepted.
  2. By proactively visiting the foremost design schools in the world and the young designer catwalks. This way, they can add 200 artists a month to their showcase.

NJAL looks after its burgeoning youth, by accelerating their career through the following services:

  • List of job requests, as applied for by designers.
  • List of job offers: companies can inform a very exclusive group of artists about their vacancies.
  • Request for quote. This allows the potentially commercial interaction between companies and around 1,000 designers by means of a button next to their profile and collection.
  • Managerial services for those designers with greatest potential.
  • The sale of articles by the most talented in a transparent way.

The firm also undertakes workshops in design colleges, in order to present the latest trends in vogue.

Finally, NJAL also provides consulting services on fashion trends for large companies.

From the support of new designers to the sale of luxury products.

 

 

A well-managed dilemma

NJAL masters the management of an important dilemma:

a) The accomplishment of reputation, prestige and credentials by means of:

  • Showcasing the best, as it offers a selected and filtered content.
  • Using VIPs on occasion, like for instance when selecting products for retail.

b) The attainment of critical mass. This is achieved by democratising good design, providing free exposure to many talented artists, and obtaining in exchange usability and relevance.

“Lego-type” business model

NJAL is the paradigm for “a Lego business-model society” (2)

The firm now performs and combines smartly different activities or micro-functions (“Lego pieces”) that were once developed by other players in the sector.

One of the key tasks is that of curating or commissioning fashion design, currently in the hands of Diane Pernet, a leading voice in the industry. These filtering and organisation functions shall be more and more crucial in the overloaded information world where we live.

NJAL assumes the role of an orchestra conductor: it directs some and yet, has them do.

With these kind of assembled “pieces”, the system allows authors to shine with their own light and causes the traditional modus operandi of the fashion sector to become obsolete.

In a nutshell

NJAL has devised an ecosystem where every element plays different roles, which compose a sustainable business model when integrated. As a result, the company gains the preference of many stakeholders: talented creators, design colleges, fashion companies, specialised media and the public who fancies products with limited commercialisation.

As Diane Pernet asserts, what really matters in an online business is the combination of content and contacts.

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(1) PROsumer.NET is the network of European Technology Platforms for design-based consumer good industries and related research.

(2) Author’s own terminology to refer to the possibility of configuring new and non-standard business models by reallocating microfunctions between different players.

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Lluis Martinez-Ribes

Source: Código 84, (Burbujas de Oxígeno)

nº 166
September 2012