During the Flanders DC Expert Day 'Doing business in fashion in a future-proof way' (in Dutch), a great many experts from various fields shared their knowledge and insights with more than 55 fashion entrepreneurs. Themes such as the changing fashion landscape, sales, retail and growth, sustainability, communication and technology were discussed. Here’s a summary of their key tips.

Fashion means business

Sylvie Coumeau has international experience as an investment director of a fashion fund and has been the CEO of various luxury brands. Her tip: “The success of a brand is based on a subtle and delicate balance between creation and management.”

As the former sales director at Balenciaga and Maison Margiela, Axel Keller knows the world of sales like no other. His best tip: “Glean as much information as possible from your sales staff and your customers in order to get a good picture of the current situation. Talk with everyone involved so that you obtain a good sales analysis.”

As a specialist for subsidies and growth financing at Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Femke Mortier is the perfect contact person for information on growing, transforming and innovating. “Development paths through innovation, transformation or internationalisation are supported by the SME growth subsidy of Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship. SMEs receive financial support in their quest for strategic knowledge.”

Axel Keller

Axel Keller © Fille Roelants

Offer value

Stefan Ceunen is the Marketing & Communications Manager at Flanders DC. Giving advice on communication strategies and communications planning is something he does on a daily basis. His tip: “Designers pay a great deal of attention to their product, but often forget to keep track of the style of their communications in all areas. It’s a shame that they do not devote the same care and time they spend on their collection, shows and shops to their online content and visual style. For example, we see low-quality photos popping up on social media or an e-shop that is not at all customer-friendly. Make sure your carefully-built image and style extends there too. Alignment is key here.”

Patrick Scallon is the Director of Communications at Dries Van Noten. He specialises in international branding strategy.” In social media, everyone is interested in the number of followers you have, but you also have to ask yourself if you have the right ones. Here too, the following rule applies: quality above quantity.”

Amélie Rombauts is a trend researcher at Trendwolves, the innovative trend agency specialising in youth culture and young families. Before that she was active as a PR and communications manager for various Belgian and international fashion labels. “We live in blurred times. Nothing is sure, we are deluged with questions, with an oversupply of impulses, everything seems chaotic. And that is no different for consumers. So it’s high time as an entrepreneur to dare to take a point of view: do you opt for sustainability or fast retailing? Do you invest in the person and his or her needs? Do you go for the highly technological or do you prefer to disconnect completely? Do you have the guts to buck the system? The future generation will no longer have the option of mindless consumption. If you don’t dare to offer a strong value proposition, you will ultimately lose out. Mainstream is dead.”

Amélie Rombauts

Amélie Rombauts © Fille Roelants

Be faithful to yourself

As a pioneer in retail and the brain behind the famous Antwerp Six, Geert Bruloot is a respected figure in the fashion world. He is the CEO of Cocodrillo and was involved in setting up the designer shop Louis in Antwerp. “We must create our own platform based on a free way of thinking, which is open to total change, taking into account the values and priorities of the new generation.”

Jesse Brouns is a fashion and design journalist and has already written for Knack Weekend, De Morgen, De Standaard Magazine, Wallpaper and The Bulletin. He is clear about the fashion landscape: “Fashion changes extremely quickly. High and low, catwalk and street, winter and summer, men and women, brick & mortar and digital: it all flows together. As a brand or designer, it’s essential to have your own voice, with a clear identity: focus on what you’re good at, and under all circumstances stay true to your image. Be flexible, but also be upright. Honesty’s the best policy.”

Jean-Paul Delmé is a senior digital strategist at DarkCollective. He can count names such as Issey Miyake and Burberry among his customers. Jean-Paul’s tip: “Don’t underestimate the importance of customer service. Turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one so that he or she will become your best customer and ambassador too.”

PR & Communications Manager of Flanders DC Nathalie De Schepper fills her days with fashion both professionally and passionately. Her alter ego @Yaynathalie is renowned for stylish blogging, and with more than five years of experience at PR office oona, she knows everything there is to know about PR and social influencers. Nathalie’s tip: “Automation is the enemy! Both in PR and in influencer marketing, the human factor is of inestimable value. Build up a personal connection with people who have a relevant audience and who join your target group, whether or not their following is large or small.”

Jean-Paul Delmé

Jean-Paul Delmé © Fille Roelants

Sustainability is always in fashion

Jorg Snoeck is the founder of and driving force behind the retail platform Retail Detail in Antwerp, the leading reference point and working instrument for the retail sector. In 2017, he opened Home of Retail, a knowledge and experience platform for the sector. “In a world in which the always-connected consumer is in charge, doing high-value and determined business will make the difference. What is your added value for society?”

Bert van Son is the business manager of MUD Jeans. After having been in the clothing industry for a few years, Bert decided that it was time for something new, which is why he decided to start recycling old denim. “We create an impact by producing jeans in a sustainably, which also includes a focus on recycling.”

Jasmien Wynants is a Project Manager at Flanders DC where she keeps tabs on, among others, Close the Loop, the online platform for sustainable fashion. Sustainability has several aspects: recycling, transparency and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to name but a few. Her tip: “Don’t be put off by the size of the concept of sustainability. Honesty is the most important factor in the whole story. Try to develop a clear strategy and know what you want to do with your organisation in the long term. Single out a number of smaller actions that you can already start up today. A step-by-step approach is good enough, just as long as you communicate honestly and openly to your customers!”

Bert van Son

Bert van Son © Fille Roelants

In need of more tips and tricks from experts? Then Fashion Talks is the place to be!

Fashion Talks is a fashion seminar with inspirational talks, break-out sessions and networking.