Starting an online only brand is relatively easy compared to opening a retail store, and launching a direct to consumer brand is appealing to a producer since it reduces the cost of middle men and partners between yourself and your end customers. For some products this works really well, especially accessories and low end garments. For us, launching online only came with a steep learning curve.
When we started Capsule Studio as an online only fashion brand, we based ourselves on the hopeful assumption that customers would buy a whole suit from an unknown brand without trying it on first. Looking back at that statement, we probably should have thought more about what we were getting into. We started off by getting our product validated by friends and family, but they had a chance to try it on - something no one else would for the next few months. The current Corona or Covid-19 pandemic is of course not helping sales of a product line that many would consider appropriate for work or dinner parties, when for much of the summer both offices and restaurants remained closed. But that was not our biggest challenge - instead it was “how do we give others the chance to try on our products before committing to such a big purchase”.
Starting off small means you can’t just rent a store for a year and see if it works out, even if rents right now are at record lows in our home city of Amsterdam. A pop-up shop was the next best idea, however even just a week of rent can be quite expensive, and with the current pandemic, we simply couldn’t guarantee enough people would have a chance to visit our shop for it to make any sense.
Our best bet seemed to find space in an established retail store, and we started working our way through the different multi brand stores and boutiques of Amsterdam to find a suitable partner for us. We finally found our ideal partner in Hutspot. Founded in 2012, Hutspot is now a nationwide chain of retail stores in The Netherlands, working with multiple local and international brands, as well as their own production of selected items. Hutspot offered us exactly what we were looking for - space in their physical stores so our potential customers could try on our suits, and then buy them either in store or on our website.
We launched about three weeks ago in the Hutspot store on Amsterdam's van Woustraat as well as their store in Rotterdam. In addition to the in-store sales, both ourselves and Hutspot have leveraged each other's presence and content on social media, leading to an uptick of followers for ourselves. For Hutspot, their picture announcing the launch of Capsule Studio on their site seen here was very well received.
Online and offline clearly still go hand in hand within our segment, and anyone planning to launch with an online only strategy for mid range or high end fashion need to rethink that strategy promptly. Especially for small brands it clearly helps to partner up with established actors within your target market, since reaching the same level of awareness through your own channels will require huge investments. Stay tuned for where and when we will launch our next collection.
Our suits featured in the Hutspot showroom in Amsterdam in July 2020