How to Successfully Create a Startup in the Luxury Fashion Industry
How London-based Edit Suits - a dynamic start-up specialized in men's bespoke clothing - focused on customer experience from its early days and has now become one of the leaders in tailored menswear in the UK.
By Margarita Cruz, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne and Andreina Ramón, Academic assistant of the Strategic Management department at the École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL)
And as the interest in luxury grows, industry players are facing new challenges. What used to be classified as luxury before might not be exactly the same for younger generations. In particular, in a contemporary world where being close to the source of the product is important, luxury seems to be acquiring a new meaning. For instance, in the hospitality industry lifestyle hotels challenge traditional luxury hotels by disregarding their service standards and opening hotels in non-luxury districts.
In a similar fashion, customers in the luxury industry are changing their criteria for choosing and assessing the options at hand. Are the raw materials fair-traded? Can they be customized for our own preferences and hand-made? Having transparency in their operations, while also bringing the end-customer closer to the source of the product, are features becoming increasingly important in the luxury industry today.
However, while this idea of proximity between the customer and the delivery of a luxury experience is a critical challenge for well-established companies in the luxury industry, it is in turn offering tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs aiming to enter this industry. Although the industry is dominated by traditional brands and famous names, making a difference in luxury fashion can now be achieved by tapping into the very essence of what makes luxury special: the relationship between the product and customers.
Bespoke clothing and tailored customer experience
To shed light on this direction, we invited Patrick Jungo, a successful entrepreneur from the luxury retail industry, who shared his entrepreneurial experiences with us at EHL. Patrick is the Director and Co-Founder of Edit Suits Co., a dynamic start-up specialized in tailored menswear.
From the very beginning, the founders focused on providing an experience instead of just a product. In particular, they considered comfort as a key variable: comfort while using the product (made-to-measure) and comfort while paying for it (speedy service, high quality garments and reasonable price). Edit Suits Co. has now become one of the leaders in custom menswear in Singapore and the UK; and this is only the beginning. The company continues to expand, while maintaining a strong focus on positive customer feedback (some of their stores have a Google Review score of 4.9 out of 5).
Although Patrick supports the view that it is not easy to enter the industry, he advises young entrepreneurs to seek alliances with renowned suppliers and companies in the luxury industry in order to borrow some of its prestige. For Edit Suits Co., it took time to build trust and support from suppliers, however, once this happened doors started to open for them.
In fact, with a 20%-30% customer satisfaction rate, the luxury retail industry is a challenging arena to start a business and attract new customers. Edit Suits Co. realized that to make a difference in this industry, they - as newcomers - needed to have greater customer satisfaction. By adopting a lean approach to startup, they focused on continuously testing their products, gathering customer feedback, and creating alliances to improve the satisfaction of their customers with their products.
We started with shirts as minimum viable product in order to learn the trade and to build the supply chain. We added suits at a later stage once we had built a small customer based which allowed us to offer additional products which allowed us to drive up the average basket size - Patrick Jungo, Edit Suits Co.
Based on the experience of Edit Suits Co., entrepreneurs aiming to enter the luxury industry could rely on three building blocks:
#1: Constant product testing while gathering customer feedbackAs an entrepreneur, it is crucial to determine how you position yourself among all other offers in the market, especially when you work in retail, which is a highly competitive industry.
According to Jungo, in the early days a good way to test your product is to use it yourself and to ask friends and family to test it. They will most likely tell you the honest truth about the quality of your offer, and in case of any problems they may be a bit more forgiving than a customer you don't know.
However, at some point it becomes critical to focus on broader customer acquisition in order to grow the business. In the case of Edit Suits Co., digital marketing channels like Facebook and Google Search soon become some of the strongest drivers for customer acquisition. .
"The real test and excitement was when we went to a cold audience, to someone who has never heard of us to book an appointment and meet with one of our tailoring experts."
#2: Use your networkWhen you start a new business, you are typically cash strapped and lack access to resources you may have had in your previous corporate role (e.g. advice from legal or experts etc.). Being part of an alumni network (INSEAD, in the case of Jungo) can provide a lot of support, e.g. by finding connections to other entrepreneurs, experts or potential financial investors.
Besides, you can learn from other's experience and avoid making the same mistakes. Just a casual conversation with an alumn can bring great ideas and connections to favour your startup.
"Directly or indirectly our network has contributed probably to 75% if not 80% of the capital we raised."
#3: Brand buildingBrand development was initially an indirect focus as the team at Edit Suits Co. heavily focus on product quality, customer service and building the technology that supports the complexity of managing customer orders.
This had led to increasing trust from customers which allowed the company to introduce the first branded cloths from Italy mills. With growing the demand from customers, Jungo was then able to source cloth from some of the finest cloth merchants in Italy and England.
Jungo adds that this co-branding with some of these well-known brands such as Holland & Sherry, Scabal, Loro Piana, Dormeuil… and Ermegenildo Zegna "benefited our brand and provided further credibility to customers and journalists."
Edit Suits Co. was founded by Patrick Jungo and Reto Peter to fill a personal need; Whether for their previous jobs in banking and consulting, or for their casual wardrobes, they found that off-the-rack clothing never fit right. And the off-the-rack suits they used to buy were simply too expensive for the quality of the garments.
In all the places they lived, custom-tailoring was no real alternative: In Europe it was very expensive, and in Asian countries the tailors lacked an understanding of modern cuts. Also, existing online tailoring services were not convenient enough and trust was an issue.
So they embarked on a mission to offer great made-to-measure formal and casual menswear in the most convenient way possible, and Edit Suits Co. was born.
Margarita CruzMore from Margarita Cruz
Andreina RamónMore from Andreina Ramón
Phone: +41 21 785 1354