Viviane Lipskier is an expert in new luxury business models and digital media. She founded Brand Alchimy and serves as a consultant to many companies developing crossover projects. She is also the author of « DNVB: les surdouées du commerce digital », an examination of Digitally Native Vertical Brands. For Première Vision, she decodes the success of these new fashion players.
Everlane, Sézane, Asphalte, Balzac Paris, Bonobos, Bonne Gueule… – all these brands share something in common: they are DNVBs. How do you define them?
The major difference between traditional fashion brands and DNVBs is that the latter are start-ups originating from a digital universe – internet and mobile – which focus on online interactions to sell their products, build their communities and above all offer a very differentiating brand experience. They all have a verticalized model, with no intermediaries. They work directly with their suppliers and communicate in the same direct way with their consumers. That way they control all the operations, contact points, prices, margins.
What are their recipes for success?
The first is being customer-centric. As soon as they find an idea, they start looking for their potential customers and, from there, work together with them to create a product. Their customers become almost collaborators in the brand. Bonne Gueule, for example, formed a group with its 100 oldest and most loyal customers who are in constant contact with the brand. Asphalte, which overturned the entire marketing rulebook, is constantly quizzing its community at every step of a new product’s development, to create a « perfect » item. That is how it created its first flannel suit, which quickly became a best-seller and was then reworked the following year, based on feedback from its community. That’s why we say that DNVBs are co-creation companies. They rely on co-creativity to develop their products, and often turn to crowdfunding to get their start.
So no more ad campaigns?
That’s another key to their success – their own customers take over the marketing of the brand through word of mouth. DNVBs believe that their customers are the ones who best communicate and exemplify the brand, so they try to include them as much as possible in their marketing and communications. When the first DNVBs were born about ten years ago, they didn’t need traditional advertising, they could rely on branded content and social media to drive their growth. This is somewhat less true today, partly because the cost of social media has increased considerably and partly because the DNVB model has developed so quickly. In France, we went from roughly 50 of them in 2016 to over 300 today. DNVBs are start-ups, they have to sustain very rapid growth, so they are usually financed by investment funds, while fashion brands use banks. In fact, they break with all the traditional models. They create products that customers need and want. Products sold for a fair price, with a sales margin – 3 to 5 – that everyone knows. They don’t hold sales; their entire production chain is fair-trade and ecologically minded. They monitor quality, sustainability, prices, stocks and quantities.
Are DNVBs the brands of tomorrow?
DNVBs are not the brands of the future but the brands of today. They do not need to undergo a transformation, because they are incredibly adapted to the digital world. They understand their customers perfectly, and they have developed services and experiences with real added value, starting online, which they can then roll out in the real world. They are fluent in data, technologies and algorithms, they can invent tomorrow’s products and, in particular, address the issue of personalization. That’s why everyone’s eyes are on these outsiders who are making things happen, setting new standards. The motto of the American brand Everlane – which is considered a pioneer and one of the most influential DNVBs – is « radical transparency ». It’s about telling consumers the truth, and it works. Beyond the transactional component, their vision seeks to reconcile business and a social conscience. And these values are completely in tune with what the new generations want.
To meet the needs of buyers looking for fabrics, leathers and accessories throughout the year, Première Vision launched the Première Vision Marketplace more than a year ago. This BtoB e-commerce platform presents the collections of Première Vision exhibitors and offers the possibility to request samples, quotes or orders directly online.