Emerging Fashion Brands Around The World Are Innovating Business Practices To Thrive During Turbulent Times – Forbes

Ruban Cruise 2020 Collection shot at home

Ruban Cruise 2020 Collection shot at home

Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

It was while being cooped up that many of us found ourselves reconnecting with old friends and family. Short emails, messages through social media and SMS were encounters that made lockdowns a little more bearable. The endless WFH hours coupled by weeks that we can only describe as Groundhog Day, also presented opportunity to be more attentive and mindful where all other forms of communications were concerned.

Instead of curt responses to work messages, I found myself engaging more and finding the time to ask: How have you been? How are you coping? This were questions particularly interesting to ask companies in the fashion industry, especially the emerging names still working to carve their places within style consciousness. Whether it was a sustainable luxury leather label from the US or Sweden, a small design studio in Moscow, or a makeshift workshop in war-stricken Venezuela, the common sentiment shared among these emerging labels was determination to find ways to save lives and stay alive. Here’s a peak at what fashion designers and companies from all over the world are doing to help—not just their businesses but workers and victims of the pandemic as well.

Song Ryoo Focuses On Local Markets While Collaborating With Fabric Companies

SONG RYOO bags are inspired by modern minimalism and architectural silhouettes.

SONG RYOO bags are inspired by modern minimalism and architectural silhouettes.

Photo courtesy of Lea Wormsbach

Seoul, Korea. Bags by Song Ryoo are the types you’ll want to have especially once you’ve burnt out from the more streamlined “It” totes. Nordic references, architectural lines and a seamless contemporary finish are what make the brand appealing to the well-dressed crowd. Although based in New York, the label’s main production is located in Korea. When the pandemic swept over the globe, supply chains and operations were disrupted. The brand’s creative director, Song Ryoo explains: “The COVID 19 crisis has damaged several fashion brands especially those targeting Europe and the United States… Most events including Fashion Week have been cancelled and sales are now happening through virtual communication platforms.”

The pink mini Ouss bag by Song Ryoo

The pink mini Ouss bag by Song Ryoo

Photo courtesy of Lea Wormsbach

Jull tote in camel by SONG RYOO

Jull tote in camel by SONG RYOO

Photo courtesy of Lea Wormsbach

In Korea, where efficient testing and organized contact tracing has allowed the country to slow down the spread of COVID-19, there were no lockdowns to stop shops from operating. “Demand of consumption is the same, but online purchases have skyrocketed,” reports the designer and creative director. The company, with its headquarters set up in New York, then decided to shift its focus on the Korean market. They expanded their presence in Korea by partnering with local retailers and online stores. The brand has also started exploring other ways to generate profit while only relying on small capital. Song Ryoo discloses, “We’ve proposed cooperation though crowdfunding with fabric companies suffering from COVID-19 crisis. Right now, our immediate plan is to launch new pieces that are eco-friendly and affordable, using sustainable materials.”

RUBAN’S Cruise Collection For Staying At Home Styles

Ruban's Cruise 2020

Ruban’s Cruise look book hopeS to encourage everyone to stay home so they can enjoy the cruise … [+] season sooner.

Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

Moscow, Russia. Russian demi-couture and pret-a-porter label, RUBAN, was just about to complete its Cruise collection when the lockdown in Moscow was reinforced. Usually, half of the materials used for each collection are pulled from archives, as a means to stay sustainable. That half of the collection had been completed, but the rest requiring the arrival of new fabrics, had not. The team explains, “We always make sure to give new life to materials that are off season.” With work, shows and events put on an indefinite hold, founders Alisa and Julia Ruban decided they would still work on a look book. “Two sisters, two tripods, two iPhones,” wrote their press team.

Ruban Cruise 2020

Ruban Cruise 2020 turned Stay At Home collection

Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

Footwear from the Ruban's Cruise 2020 collection

Footwear from the Ruban’s Cruise 2020 collection

Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

What had been intended as a Cruise collection, obviously designed for yearly sojourns—was immediately transformed into a Stay-At-Home presentation. The Ruban siblings and founders share, “It was a great opportunity to develop new creative skills.” While they stayed in isolation, they launched the now Home collection online, replacing the usual fashion spectacle with a digital see now, buy now platform. Hoping to encourage people to continue to stay at home, the Ruben team says, “If we follow the #stayhome movement and comply, the sooner we can all enjoy our RUBAN Cruise pieces where they truly belong—seaside and under the sun.”

SUSURRO Sets The Tone For Luxury Experiences Online

Bags from Sussuro made of vegetable leather

Bags from Susurro effortlessly stand out even in the most elaborate of settings

Photo courtesy of SUSURRO

New York, USA. With operations, workers and its suppliers all located in New York (the epicenter of the pandemic in the US), sustainable luxury leather label Susurro was quick to divert its efforts towards strengthening its digital presence. The emerging label, known to a discerning customer-base for ethical, sustainable, artisanal accessories, immediately found ways to translate brand DNA and ethos onto the digital sphere. Through their online platform, Susurro conveys values of uncompromising quality and workmanship in the most straightforward, no filters, manner. They elaborate, “The products are made in our New York workshop by a group of skilled artisans who pay great attention to detail. It usually takes seven days before one product is completed. We believe in creating high-quality products that will last generations.” Technology, according to its founders, will be key moving forward into the new world order. “We are preparing for the next chapter in luxury.”

New and innovative shapes are part of the Susurro brand DNA

New and innovative shapes are part of the Susurro brand DNA coupled with superior workmanship

Photo courtesy of SUSSURRO

Susurro is currently enhancing features in their site to include digital stylists, 3D models and highly personalized services. They add, “Due to our garment stores closing down, our next chapter will also include the introduction of made-to-order products, whereby a digital prototype will be uploaded allowing the customer to view the product in 360 angles.”  

ARTISANS OF Q Shows Us The Essence of Sustainability

Nolita Mini by Artisans of Q

Nolita Mini by Artisans of Q

Photo courtesy of Artisans of Q

Southeast Asia. While I’ve heard of brands and stores feeling anxious and eager to open their doors again, Artisans of Q, chose to take things slow. It was a decision that would later prove more viable and rewarding in the long run. April was the initial target date for the launch a new jewelry line produced in Thailand, Wanderlust. That was until COVID swept over the entire globe. It was only in June that Artisans of Q finally decided to push through with the product launch. “We have been strategic about this and taking things slowly,” said brand founder Ileana Quinones.

A Starfish charm bracelet from the Wanderlust collection of ARTISANS OF Q

A Starfish and pearl charm bracelet from the Wanderlust collection of ARTISANS OF Q

Photo courtesy of ARTISANS OF Q

Personal engagement through social media has been the main focus since the pandemic. Ileana explained, “As a small business, we have to be creative and really connect with our clients on social media… I have now taken over our account, directly talking to our followers. We get tons of messages each day with questions about our bags and jewelry. We’ve also added creative sessions on our stories which they look forward to.” This new bond created through the digital realm has allowed Artisans of Q navigate their way in figuring out what their customers currently want or seek. “We created a mini version of our Nolita bag which has been something that a lot of our audiences has been requesting. We also started selling washable and re-usable face masks made from light weight denim remnant fabric rolls.” The mini Nolita is already available on the brand’s website as well as the masks. Proceeds for the latter are committed to help NO KID HUNGRY. Furthermore, they ensure continued livelihood for their artisans.

Starfish earrings with semi precious stones by ARTISANS OF Q

Starfish earrings with semi precious stones by ARTISANS OF Q

Photo courtesy of ARTISANS OF Q

Ileana confirmed, “Website and online sales will be our focus for the next few months. The means we really have to connect with our followers in different ways. People are staying home 90% of the time and they don’t want to follow a cold brand. They want to follow a real person and it feels great to grow our brand this way!” Ileana has also used social media to bring a unique, truly sustainable experience closer to consumers. Their content included videos and photographs of artisans at work as a means of showing transparency and accountability for their processes. Ileana confided, “Green washing and the word ‘sustainable’ is sadly a trend at the moment, but our consumer is smart. They can tell who’s doing the real work and who’s not. People want to see more than just beautiful pictures and fancy words—they hold you accountable, they want transparency.”

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