- Aileen Yu |
Boutique label, Rain Couture Amsterdam, has garnered a following for their multi-functional coats with a luxurious design flair. Embrace the seasons is ingrained in the label’s philosophy: There is no such thing as bad weather, only various ways of exploring the glimpse of your time-as stated on the company’s website.
With two physical stores nestled in the cozy streets of Amsterdam and a growing global online clientele, Founder and Designer, Daphne Gerritse, spoke to FashionUnited via phone candidly about the ups and downs of running a small fashion business, conscious consumerism and her tips on pushing through in the face of adversity.
3 tips for success:
- Be a jack of all trades, a generalist-As a small business owner, one should try to acquire a wide range of skill sets as you’ll need to ‘wear many hats’.
- Invest in yourself-Take self-coaching courses online, increase one’s knowledge, continue to stay on top of business trends and development.
- No memory for pain-Don’t get stuck in the setbacks and feel sorry for yourself. It’s extremely important to keep pushing forward in the face of adversity.
As the founder and designer of Rain Couture Amsterdam, what does a workday look like?
It’s different everyday, I never have a fixed schedule since as the founder, I’m in charge of everything from design to distribution, social media, sales, marketing, managing the store and even production management. There is always an endless to-do list, so I try to set priorities by seeing what are the most important tasks of the day.
For example, today I’m creating and sending out a newsletter to our customers and focusing on making samples of our new designs. Other periods, it could be that I’m arranging the shipment details, getting our products through customs or communicating about the production; therefore, no day is ever really the same.
Did you encounter any disruption in the business due to the Covid-19 crisis?
Recently, due to the impact of the coronavirus on retail, I find myself working mostly in the back-end of the business. I’ve been focusing on online advertising to generate the demand for our online sales while our in-store sales have been put on halt.
Our new sustainable collection has been delayed and is about two and a half months late. This line features two models and uses a special material that feels luxurious, yet it’s entirely sustainable. We’ve created this product using fabrics, laminating and coating technology from the German sustainable textiles company, Sympatex. Hopefully, I can launch the collection in June, but it was originally planned for April. Also, the new collection development has been halted. Normally, I would have my samples by now.
Rain Couture Amsterdam doesn’t follow the classic fashion business model. Can you explain your brand ethos and what made you decide on this path for your label?
I never have overstock because I produce a certain amount and start producing new ones only when the stock sells out. My collections are timeless and adapt to all four seasons. Secondly, I’ve designed my products in layers so there are body warmers you can add or remove, which makes the raincoats wearable all year round. To me, slow fashion means conscious consumption. All of the models that I’ve launched before are being reintroduced with different colors and new materials. The idea is that you only need one coat to take you through all seasons. In a way, Rain Couture Amsterdam has been sustainable since the beginning.
At the trade show Modefabriek in January, you spoke about the challenges of running your own label such as finding manufacturers and the right materials. Can you tell us more about this?
Finding a suitable manufacturer, getting your product right is the first step and valuable experience that you cannot learn from school. It’s quite a challenge to find a good manufacturer that also wants to produce lower quantities as well as finding the right material for your product.
When I started in 2011, the market for functional fabric was not fully developed yet. So I had to research on my own which were the best materials to use based on the characteristics I had in mind and the functionality of the fabric, which was already a mission of its own.
Before 2017, I was working with two different manufacturers and in the very beginning my products were made in Belgium in a sample room, but that was only possible because the quantity produced was still very low. After I received my first samples, I sought out a manufacturer in China that I worked with for a few years, but they then suddenly went bankrupt.
In total, it took almost six years for me to find my current manufacturer who is based near Shanghai. This manufacturer values fair labor and is helping me launch my first collection made from recycled material. Getting the product right is so important and this can be influenced from getting the right finishing to establishing clear communication. There is also a level of trust that needs to be built over time between the designer and the manufacturer. It took me about two years of placing orders with my current manufacturer for them to consider me a serious client.
Did you always want to work in fashion?
Originally, I studied Business Administration with a Marketing Management MA at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. I’ve always been interested in fashion so I researched my thesis on the topic Celebrity Endorsements in the Fashion Industry and that eventually led me to begin my career at Mexx’s marketing department for about 4 years. After that, I founded Rain Couture Amsterdam.
What is Rain Couture’s plan for the future?
This year we will be working with a few retailers to increase brand visibility. I think it’s important to display the brand in retailers so that more people can get to know Rain Couture-within the Netherlands, but also abroad. Being located in Amsterdam, the past years we have had many international visitors that stumbled upon the store while visiting and became loyal customers. They always get the most excited about our products so I think we have a shot abroad! That’s definitely a goal for the brand, to eventually venture into foreign markets.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Be grateful for what you have already accomplished. Don’t forget to be proud of the little things you achieve.
What is your must-have fashion item?
Definitely Rain Couture's four-season all-weather raincoats, especially the Waist Belt Coat!
Photos: courtesy of Rain Couture Amsterdam