The business of designer brands is not based on the principle of commercial interests, but the integration of business and art, rationality and sensibility. The ultimate delicate business.
According to fashion business news, Machine-A, a London pioneer designer buyer, recently announced that it will open the world's first branch on Yuyao Road, Jing'an District, Shanghai, covering an area of 245 square meters. The store was renovated from an old factory, and the interior design was led by new architect Peijing Lu.
The more spacious space than the London store will undoubtedly allow this branch to carry out more special projects, which contains its ambition to become the next Shanghai fashion and cultural gathering place. One of the most high-profile projects is the upcoming store-in-shop of Belgian avant-garde designer brand Raf Simons in Machine-A, designed by Glenn Sestig, a partner of Prada's co-creative director.
Machine-A was established in London's SOHO district in 2009, and has been known for its small and beautiful pioneer selection for a decade. Although the store area is only about 70 square meters, with its experimental buyer strategy and unique vision of designer brands, Machine-A has established a very high industry status among fashion culture lovers.
At the moment when the domestic designer brand market is facing the most severe challenges, the well-known Machine-A opened its first branch in Shanghai, and brought the Raf Simons brand to open the first non-distribution channel direct store in China. This news is enough to make a crisis. The designer brand market, which has reached its peak, is surprised.
Co-founder Buying Director Stavros Karelis has built the Machine-A London store into a avant-garde fashion destination over the years.
From Raf Simons, Rick Owens , to 1017 ALYX 9SM, GMBH, Peter Do, Kiko Kostadinov, to Yueqi Qi, WINDOWSEN , Nensi Dojaka, co-founder and buying director Stavros Karelis brings together the most avant-garde designer brands of the moment.
This step in the globalization of Machine-A's Shanghai store might never have happened had it not been for the 2020 acquisition of British fashion industry accelerator Tomorrow.
Tomorrow's Chief Digital Officer was named CEO of Machine-A following Tomorrow's acquisition of a majority stake in Machine-A. Its work includes working closely with Machine-A to develop its direct-to-consumer business model and long-term business expansion strategy. Machine-A co-founder Stavros Karelis' stake has also increased following the transaction, expanding his work to include more creative projects and branding across Tomorrow's portfolio.
Tomorrow's business can be described as very large, including D2C distribution, showroom and distribution, production, investment, licensing and production, consulting five business sections. Tomorrow is also responsible for providing professional services and resource docking in the production, distribution, logistics, operations, licensing and other aspects of designer brand development.
Therefore, the transaction between Machine-A and Tomorrow is considered to be an important integration of resources in the field of designer brands.
The combination of them makes Machine-A face not only the parallel friends and business peers, or the rising luxury fashion e-commerce, but also the deep vertical participation in the designer brand value chain. Just as Dover Street Market is behind Rei Kawakubo and the designer brand empire endorsed by it, and Farfetch has intervened in trend brand management from a luxury e-commerce platform through the acquisition of New Guards Group, it is difficult for the large-scale business of the designer brand market to depend on one store or one store. A brand, but a circle and an ecology.
The smaller the scope of the business, the more it depends on the foundation of trust, and the circle culture reduces the cost of risk. For example, the designer brand Raf Simons, who has been cautious about the Chinese market for many years, has boldly opened the first direct-sale store in the country this time. In addition to its confidence in the Chinese fashion market, it is also a long-term partner of Machine-A and Stavros Karelis. of trust.
Similarly, Stavros Karelis has actually been involved in the Chinese designer brand market before taking the step of opening a store in China.
As early as 2020, Machine-A has launched a joint pop-up store with Labelhood, a well-known buyer in Shanghai, bringing the proud brands and products of Maison Margiela, Raf Simons , Kiko Kostadinov and other stores to Chinese consumers. Since then, Machine-A has successively opened a WeChat official account, landed on the Xiaohongshu platform, released fashion popular science and shared outfits, and used the social media ecological layout to start the prelude to enter the Chinese market.
The co-branded pop-up store launched by Machine-A and Labelhood, a well-known buyer in Shanghai,
also owns a buyer store and created a platform for displaying pioneer designer brands. Labelhood is the first platform to integrate Chinese designer brands. The cooperation with Labelhood proves that Machine-A is well versed in the circle ecology of the designer brand market. Before the formal cooperation is reached, the two parties have often established a more long-term personal connection.
This personal emotional bond also applies to Machine-A's relationship with Chinese designer brands, as well as with Chinese consumer groups. With the rise of Chinese designers overseas in recent years, RUI, Yueqi Qi, Steven Ma, Pronounce , Samuel Guì Yang, Private Policy, VII Victor x Wang, Louis Shengtao Chen, Windowsen and other Chinese designers are in the Machine-A brand lineup. The proportion continues to expand. SAMUEL GUÌ YANG and XIMONLEE received the support of Machine-A at the beginning of the brand's establishment, and the precious experience of growing together with the designer brand and the buyer's store is often the driving force for the growth of both parties.
On the other hand, before Machine-A set foot in the Chinese market, it was actually very familiar with the Chinese Chinese consumer group, especially the Chinese student group.
Chinese consumers have contributed more than 60% of Machine-A's performance. Stavros Karelis said that young Chinese customers and audiences have become the biggest supporters of Machine-A since the establishment of Machine-A. They have excellent understanding and mature knowledge of fashion. Taste, so opening the first global branch in Shanghai is also a kind of "thank you" to Chinese consumers for their support over the years.
Making a business decision to open the first store in Shanghai instead of Tokyo, New York or Paris because of a "thank you" for the support of Chinese consumers sounds a bit reckless, after all, the challenges are obvious.
The most direct challenge is that the epidemic has poured cold water on the designer brand market. Domestic designer brands and buyers have faced complex problems ranging from supply chain to retail shutdown for several months. The Shanghai Fashion Week originally scheduled to be held in March has also been postponed to June in a digital form.
Under the influence of the Shanghai epidemic, Machine-A postponed the original opening time from early June to early September, and officially announced the opening of the store at the freezing point of the market, which means that it will not face positive and certain market sentiment, but It is a complex voice mixed with doubt and anxiety.
In addition to the epidemic factor, the lack of successful cases of foreign or Hong Kong-owned designer brand collection stores in China also reflects the challenges at the operational level.
Following the closure of the Beijing SKP store in 2017, 10 Corso Como, a well-known Italian buyer store, closed its Shanghai store at the end of May 2019. The earlier batch of Hong Kong-owned buyer stores that entered the mainland, such as Lane Crawford and Joyce, gradually lost the bonus of acting as an intermediary, and their glory is no longer.
In addition to the unexpected fashion sense and poor pricing of the selection, the blunt and messy display mode and vague style positioning make the store less attractive, and the disconnect between consumption habits and shopping experience makes these buyer stores lose their original style.
The lack of successful cases of foreign or Hong Kong-owned designer brand collection stores in China reflects the many challenges at the operational level.
IT has established a certain localization role by helping overseas brands to introduce their stores into the Chinese market. It is difficult to create a personal connection with each designer brand. At the moment when the physical traffic is drying up, IT is recovering cash flow through online discounts and the rapid growth of e-commerce, which makes it stand on the same battlefield with platforms such as Farfetch, but the advantages are not obvious.
As the Internet bridges the gap of information gap, the two intermediary roles of information service and commercial service of the buyer's store have collapsed, and they lag behind the fashion e-commerce platform in the price competition.
Fashion e-commerce websites dominated by Farfetch and Net-A-Porter have squeezed the living space of the above-mentioned buyer stores to a certain extent with convenient shopping experience, rich selection and competitive prices. In the Chinese market, they are also facing the danger of losing the clear selection strategy of designer brands. If they are not careful, they may fall into the old trap of Hong Kong-owned buyers and make themselves an online hypermarket.
After experiencing the bubble of a group of established buyers in 2019, some local brands have successfully entered the first-tier echelon. Labelhood, Dongliang, Hug, LMDS, etc. have initially established market authority. In terms of operational logic, they rely on the closed loop of the fashion industry chain headed by Shanghai Fashion Week, incubate and support emerging designer brands, form a benign mutual aid situation, and ensure the necessary scarcity of buyer stores with exclusive sales methods.
From the perspective of consumer experience, many excellent buyer stores have achieved a moderate balance in terms of price advantage and public taste in addition to the output of distinct aesthetic philosophy and the improvement of service experience. Adapting to e-commerce channels, building social media, and establishing positive interactions with consumers have also received good market feedback, which is the quality that most foreign and Hong Kong-owned buyers lack.
The entry of Machine-A will undoubtedly face direct competition with the aforementioned peers. Stavros Karelis didn't mind the upcoming competition, "Just take the time when Dover Street Market London moved just five minutes away from us, and everyone would jump out and say it would be tricky. But the opposite is true, we worked together to create We have created an attractive shopping district that shares a similar aesthetic and attracts like-minded people.”
“Collaboration will make us stronger. I believe it will be the same in Shanghai. We have already partnered with Labelhood, I also really appreciate what LMDS is doing. I believe we will find good ways to collaborate and create something unique through synergies.”
Stavros Karelis believes that this is a very important moment for Shanghai, where people can recover from it and be positive Think, imagine, feel life, feel the power of community. "I don't actually try to bring any new vitality to Shanghai. I hope that I can learn something from Shanghai, be inspired, and stimulate cooperation. I think that everyone's efforts are the only way to create new vitality."
Under the current market conditions Of course, Machine-A has to learn the complex topics it must learn in the Chinese market, such as the downturn in physical retail, the mismatch between product selection and the market, the difficulty in digesting inventory, and the tight capital chain. However, from the move of Machine-A to enter the Chinese market, what is more inspiring for the entire fashion industry is the current rethinking of the designer brand business.
Maybe Machine-A's decision to open a store is bold or even reckless because of its feelings for Chinese consumers, but this just reminds people of the charm of designer brands and buyer store business.
The luxury or mass consumer goods business takes the business model of fine calculation as its supreme artistic expression, but the business of designer brands is not based on the exactness of commercial interests, but the integration of business and art, rationality and sensibility. .
In the Machine-A Shanghai store, there are not only the necessary conditions for Tomorrow's commercial empowerment, but also the intuitive judgment and temperament of creative promoters such as Stavros Karelis. There is no bias between the two, which makes it a designer who looks at designers. The best see-through hole for the brand market.
In the end, this business depends on the people. Circles are the glue of this industry. When circles are crossed together, when buyer stores establish very specific emotional connections with consumer groups, when Chinese designer brand practitioners connect with global industry contexts, everything is small and beautiful. We can warm each other up, tackle challenges together, and restore morale and confidence.
Innovation is the driving force of the fashion industry, and it is precisely many decisions that seem doomed to fail.