11 Apr 2011

Fashion Marketing

Last week, I visited 'Practicum: British Fashion-2' an event that was organized by the British Council in partnership with the 'Local fashion' and Center for contemporary culture 'Garage' (see link). 
Very talented designers presented their work and creative approach. The event program is here (see link). Here is a list of the young designers brands that were presented during the fashion event:
Michaela Mazalanova from Slovakia
MAREUNROL'S from Latvia 
D.EFECT from Lithuania 
m*faganel from Slovenia
R/H from Finland
Soulland from Dania
Kristian Steinberg from Estonia
Lisa Shahno from Russia
Nadia Nurieva from Russia
[Пять Пять] from Russia
FortyTwo from Russia
The UK fashion marketing experts  Toby Meadows, Janine Passley, Amelia Gregory, Clare Lopeman, Michael Salac raised some marketing general questions that are relevant for the young up-and-coming designer to go through and they shared their UK business experience with the creative young audience. Their speech was not tailored specifically to the Russian market but to the UK and how things are done in the West for Western customers.

Some observations relevant to the Russian market raised during discussions

"What are the challenges designers face when entering the Russian fashion market?"

Finding the right fabric can be challenging for a designer in Russia
Moscow is not as developed in terms of international fabric supply as it is in London, where you can buy almost any kind of fabric by visiting shops on a  single street. While some designers use locally produced fabrics, most Russian designers import  good quality materials from abroad in small quantities. Ordering and delivering materials to Russia can be pricy.  For that reason, some Russian designers offer their 'Limited edition collection' for a small or even 'elite' audience.

Location. Location. Location - finding the store to place your collection can be difficult in Russia
In Russia, designers face the retail distribution issue. I would say that in Russia there are three main types of outlets.
First are retail chains such as Zara, Gap and other mostly Western brands, second is a private small Russian boutiques shops that are already selling Russian designer brands to the public.  Some stores are willing to take just small orders for sale. Even though there are lots of shopping centers in Moscow and other Russian cities, I still think that most lower middle class Russians go to the market to shop for clothing. The question is that if you are a starting designer, how will you find place to sell your collection? Will you open a new store? That can be a challenge.

The educational gap can be a big issue for a designer
In Russia, it is quite difficult to find fashion education that is in-tune with the global fashion market and also have affordable fees.
There are a few institutions in Russia to study fashion such as the Moscow State Textile University 'A.N. Kosygin' (see link) and a recent entry the British Higher School of Art & Design (see link).

The confidence issue
There are many talented designers who have creative vision but how many of them make this vision happen? How many are there  who can make it happen by staying in the market for at least three years? Not so many. Apart from other obstacles the designer faces, the psychological barrier is just one of the strongest ones and it concerns self-confidence and having the tolerance to wait sometimes while you are establishing your name as a brand.

NO money for marketing? Free press, advertising and the word of mouth.
How do you advertise your brand in Russia if you have limited financial sources ?
The main trend these days is doing free social media marketing ("SMM"). This doesn't  actually work for every brand that implements it. SMM is not about sales but about buzz and connection and also a conversation between the brand and potential client. SMM is about strategy not 'shouting in the space' about your product. It takes time and a good craft.
Online marketing in Russia compared to the UK is a bit different. There are some issues that are relevant to the Russia - for example, in Russia online stores exist but not as many as you see in the UK. Part of the problem is that there are not many people ready to pay online in Russia. It is an issue of trust and also online banking development across the whole country.

There does not yet exist 'a signature Russian style' that can recognized internationally
At the conference, UK fashion marketing experts asked designers to consider the following questions:
What is Russian fashion?
What is the Russian identity? Is it a folklore?
What is unique about the Russian fashion identity ? How is it different from the rest of the Fashion world?
Will your "Russian brand" will be recognized abroad because it is Russian?
How would you position 'Russian brand abroad' ? Will you position it to the Russian people living abroad or to the locals?

One question was about the future of the ethical brand development in Russia. One designer half- jokingly said that it won't work in Russia and we are not ready for it. Let's define what an ethical brand is.
TERM: Ethical brand is associated with minimal harm to or exploitation of humans, animals and/or the natural environment. From the expert fashion presenters I get that by talking about 'ethical brands' they were talking about  'green and organic brands'.
(I think that, the word 'ethical' can  be perceived as confusing word for Russian business environment, instead of using 'green').

Is there a future for the 'green' brands in Russia?
I personally believe that green brands should exist in Russia. Many think that Russians are  'living in the past' and are not concerned with being green. On the other hand, from the global/planet point of view, Russia is one of the biggest countries on planet and with  awareness and education  the Russian consumer will want to be green too. Of course it will take time to do. I think that you might be surprised by the positive outcome  - 'if you don't create the change first - than change will create you' - meaning that becoming a pioneer in the green brand establishment in Russia - will almost definitely have a positive impact on your customers.
I just came across this Russian brand "Low Fat" (see link) that positions itself as 'green'. 'Low Fat clothing uses eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, hemp, and fabric from recycled plastic. They also focus on natural dyes such as powdered natural minerals, juice, fruit, and pollen. They stick to recycled materials for their packaging and marketing, as well' (source). The Body Shop Russia (see link) is doing it. It's only a matter of time.
Source: PRACTICUM: BRITISH FASHION-2, image source, Personal observations

Additional readings - The Russian Fashion Retail Market.pdf (see link)


  1. Soviet-Era Dinosaurs Still Rule, Say Young Russian Designers
    14 April 2011 Reuters

    Underfunded and lacking encouragement, Russia’s young designers say they are struggling to break into the country’s fashion circles, which are still ruled by Soviet-era big wigs.

    “Fabrics are unavailable, we get minimal material to work with, and young designers don’t have money,” said Aminat Kaayeva, a 26-year-old native of Russia’s troubled Chechnya region.

    At a recent fashion show in Moscow, Kaayeva showed off ankle-length dresses inspired by Middle Eastern designs as part of a show dedicated to eight young designers.

    “It’s no surprise that the level of our fashion weeks is below the European bar,” she said.

    Though Russia has access to Western fabrics, ideas and inspiration made available since the fall of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, its gurus lament a stagnant industry.

    Top designers like Slava Zaitsev, a 73-year-old Soviet icon, have complained that the government does not give enough funding to new designers, especially to the young.

    But some purposely avoid the lure of the West, despite scholarships and more-promising audiences.

    Female designer-duo — Moscow students Anastasia Seregina and Tatyana Reznik — have taken inspiration from Russia for their latest collection of winter sportswear.

    White, one-piece ski suits heavily featured in their show. They said they wanted to evoke a snow leopard, one of the recently chosen mascots for Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics.

    “We don’t expect to sell the collection; that would be aiming too high,” Seregina sighed. “But if we could at least insert a new trend in winter sport clothes; that would be good,” she said.

    Both Reznik and Seregina said that regardless of the lack of funding given to Russian fashion, they want to design locally.

    “They [already] have plenty of people doing this abroad, while Russia has great potential. We hope the road for young designers in Russia will widen out soon,” Reznik said.

    Source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/mobile/article/435013.html

  2. Fashion marketing covers a very large market and it is not as simple as it seems. There is a lot of competitors popular market. If you want to be at the top, you need to perform very hard!

    fashion public relations firms


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