And that goes perfectly well with resetting the fashion industry
Everyone is talking about sustainability in fashion. And yes, that starts with sustainable and organic materials. But for fashion label Zoe Karssen it doesn't stop there. On the contrary. "We have transformed our supply chain so that we produce what we sell," explains general manager Franklin Thielsch. "Overproduction is no longer in our vocabulary."
"Rocking items created on your demand & made of organic cotton. To contribute to a sustainable fashion industry" can be read on the Zoe Karssen website. It makes clear in one sentence what the ambitions are: to bring rocking fashion and at the same time structurally improve the industry and minimise the impact on the environment.
That is quite something. Franklin Thielsch: "But it is also really important. We no longer want to participate in this waste. That is why we have recently scrutinised every part of the chain, from design to delivery, and now we approach just about everything differently. It starts with design. Most brands are design-driven: each new collection comes purely from the designer's mind. With the risk that a large part of it will not be successful. In general, twenty percent of a collection is sold and eighty percent is virtually unsellable. In other words: we are depleting the earth for nothing.
Right balance of data and design
So what does Zoe Karssen do? Thielsch: "We are looking for the right balance between creativity and data. On the basis of data, we can see exactly which items are doing well and which are not. Our creative director Erik Frenken uses that information to get to work. In this way, we develop a targeted assortment. Instead of two large collections a year, we bring focused collections in several drops a year. The great thing is: that is also what consumers and retailers want, newness is the trend. Thanks to focused collections, you have relevance in your shop twelve months a year. That is step one.
Short lead times
Step two, according to Thielsch, is shorter lead times. "We don't do pre-ordering anymore. Our lead times are only three to four weeks. This is possible because we have our collections made in Europe. Our suppliers can produce as little as 75 pieces. Unlike in countries like China where you have to order minimum quantities of thousands of pieces. Of course, this has consequences for the price; the cost price is a lot higher. The problem is that customers want sustainability, but are not yet willing to pay for it. Nevertheless, we wanted to make that change. We also believe it can be done; less stock results in lower clearance sales and ensures a higher average margin, which enables us to develop a sustainable business model. For us, quality and sustainability are leading and not the margin."
Ultimately, supply and demand must converge, says Thielsch. "Do not produce more than you sell; that is sustainability for us. With all that overproduction, you only condition the consumer. They think: I will wait for the sale. But you can also turn it around. If supply and demand match, there are no more surpluses. That is how you create exclusivity and achieve a healthy margin. Then you have a good earning model. In practice, this means that we no longer do pre-orders, but only re-orders. We only sell from stock, on-demand. If an item is selling well, we can have more produced if necessary. But other than that, we are out of stock. And yes, of course this requires a different way of thinking and working for retailers. But if we are transparent to each other and coordinate everything well, everyone will benefit. I am convinced of that."
Also innovative are the pillars with which the Zoe Karssen brand is further supported: Zoe on Demand, Zoe By Me and Zoe on Stage. Thielsch: "Zoe on Demand is now up and running. In this concept, the consumer orders a garment via the webshop, after which the item is produced and delivered a day later. The Zoe by Me concept will soon go live, where consumers can also customise the garments with graphic designs. And with Zoe on Stage, we are going to give young talents a stage in the field of design, photography and artworks.
Even more plans
These are all the concrete steps that Zoe Karssen has taken towards sustainability. But there are many more plans. "Among other things, we are studying a scenario in which we take back used items from consumers, after which they can buy something new at a reduced price. The returned items are then recycled. We are also working on a pilot at 'Masterpiece', where consumers can rent designer clothes, once or via a subscription. We are working on many more ideas. We always start from the premise: how can we create a business model that allows us to earn money in a sustainable and responsible way?
Read more about Zoe Karssen on the brand page: fashionunited.com/companies/zoe-karssen
Image credit: Paul Bellaart