Pôlette is a concept store that serves as a platform for emerging designers, fashion brands and ESMOD Dubai, the French Fashion Institute graduates. Established in 2012, the store is located in Citywalk Dubai and is reportedly the only retail start-up platform to launch university students’ fashion labels into the market. Pôlette is keen to capitalize on the new findings by retail statistics in the GCC that reported the increase in ‘buy now, wear now’ trend. Customers now want instant action and gratification. With the help of social media and apps this is instantly possible. We spoke to ESMOD founders Denis Ravizza and Tamara Hostal about the new fashion trends, social media influencers and their future in fashion retail. We also discussed the lifecycle of the new age self-titled ‘influencers’ and their rising ‘star status’. It is no secret that bloggers charge thousands of dollars for a single post with big brands doling out cash for endorsements on a daily basis. As Ravizza confirms, that a study by MuseFind shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. Hostal believes this may be dangerous as fashion houses and big brands cannot depend on one medium only.
SG: We are witnessing a new wave in social media retail. Is this the future for all fashion retailers?
DR: The retail sector has long been at the forefront of innovating the customer experience. Social media retail creates meaningful relationships with customers. Retailers can offer a tailored shopping experience and reach way more potential customers, make style suggestions creating a closer relationship between the brand and its customers so that is a good thing. Now this must be translated within the physical stores themselves as I believe online shopping and virtual stores may create de-socialization. Customer’s experience needs to remain a physical one parallel to digital.
TH: Until now it is not, but the forecasts said it will be the future, because globally people like to receive the information they are lazy to search. All fashion retailers must consider social media as having a great significance and value. For small retailers, it is very positive, the return on investment is immediate. The choice of good messages content is a challenge. I do believe it will soon become mandatory.
SG: What are your views on the growing importance of social media influencers for high-end brands and big fashion houses?
DR: Influencers and bloggers can reach a much bigger audience than print media while the correlation between reaching and sales increase is hard to measure. Today, consumers associate themselves more with a influencer wearing an item than a model wearing the same product in an advert, there is a credibility aspect to it. Data from influencer marketing platform MuseFind shows that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement. No wonder why, according to Bloomberg, close to $255 million is spent on influencer marketing monthly. However, I feel that, soon, there will be a rise of micro-influencers with an authenticity aspect that will probably seduce and create a closer relationship with followers than the big names influencers which their rising ‘star’ status.
TH: It is an easy way to make money and business, this is what many of influencers believe, but the reality is not. We do see some influencers asking for a thousand of dollars for just one post, and I believe at times it seems superficial, and the endorsement lasts a few minutes only before it is old news. I was asking myself, are we going to increase the quality of the messages, is social media going to be the only advertising big fashion houses will make? I don’t think social media will replace the big campaigns, otherwise these famous brands will loose their brand identity or will have to build another one to only dedicate to social media, thus it seems dangerous. Fashion houses and big brands cannot depend on one medium only.
SG: Tell us about your role at Pôlette and your views on the ‘see-now-buy-now’ trend.
DR: My role at Pôlette is to assist Mrs.Tamara Hostal with the merchandising. See-now-buy-now is about delivering on the desire for instant gratification keeping, creating a direct engagement between the brands and the consumers. It puts fashion back in the hands of the power players – the paying customers as opposed to editors and buyers. We have adopted this strategy in our store with graduate’s runway capsule collections for about three years. It has proven to be quite successful although it does put pressure on our fresh emerging talents to reply positively to consumers demands for different sizes, but we are getting there supporting them with production. At present this strategy applies more to big brands than to small and medium ones in my opinion.
TH: This marketing decision of immediately selling the new collections people have seen on the runway, in streaming, or on TV is obvious, at a time where social media are sending the new look of the collections every where, exciting the buyers and the final consumers too. Big fashion houses don’t give positive answers. But Burberry started to do it last year, then Tom Ford and Courreges House is doing it now, as well as Paco Rabanne. Time is no longer under our control. Nobody has the capacity to wait, I mean in terms of the consumer. ‘See now buy now’ is where things are moving. We know today Topshop has increased sales by 75 percent after its show, and Tommy Hilfiger also saw a 20 per cent increase just after the show. At Polette we are happy to announce we have started our incubator few years ago in order to propose a ‘see now buy now’. As a buyer I feel very comfortable when brands are part of this new trend, we are suddenly able to give immediate gratification to our customers.
SG: Brands to watch out for this season.
TH: In terms of the kind of fashion to look out for, Canella Hostal Couture collection SS17 launched earlier this year and is available in Polette. The men’s and women’s collection is called Tropical Symphony. Oliver Philips ready-to-wear arrives in March along with Lilith, and soon to be revealed collections from Esmod Dubai graduates. New abaya collections are on the way to show impressive creativity. New Japanese open-shoes for ladies with many beautiful Swaroski embellishments that are manufactured in Italy, are also available. There fashion books are for all fashionistas including Cartier, Vuitton, Pucci, 1oo designs in Fashion and a lot more. ‘Sultani changes in UAE women’s traditional dress’ is a special two-volume book, written in Arabic and English. It shows the historical evolution of the traditional dress in UAE, available exclusively at Polette. We have exciting multi colored sandals for boating, gardening, beach. When it comes to lifestyle there are contemporary floor lamps or desk lamps, made of led lights. Others include ethnic dresses, ethnic frames, oily fragrances based on typical flowers.
ESMOD Dubai runs a Fashion Buying course for students from March 28th.