ALL eyes on Givenchy this Sunday, as its newly appointed artistic director, Clare Waight Keller, makes her show debut. We do, however, have an inclination of her vision for the brand. In July, her first campaign images were released and earlier this month the storied house unveiled its new e-commerce website – all Waight Keller’s work. The latter is a move that CEO Philippe Fortunato had been plotting for a while but, despite nearly three decades of luxury experience under his belt, he says it could only have been executed with Waight Keller on board. Here, he explains why the time is right, the biggest changes he has witnessed, and why the house’s new leading lady is his greatest achievement there so far…
Why have you decided to wait until now to launch in-house e-commerce?
“For the past few years, we have been working on developing the brand in many ways in terms of collection merchandising, brand recognition and client experience. We always knew e-commerce would come in due course, and now felt like the right time. Because we have closely followed developments in high technology and because the client has an omnipresent expectation, in terms of being able to connect with the brand in the digital space, we wanted Givenchy.com to be a centralised destination for all brand content, from editorial to transactional features. As a result, the site has been designed as the platform for our customer relationship management system. The upside of launching an e-commerce platform after our competitors is that we gained experience and knowledge: we were able to focus on creating a seamless, flawless destination for our customer to enjoy the full Givenchy experience. We needed to take time to get it right. Thanks to that approach, we could make this a real in-house transformation. We reached deep and still do, every day: to us, Givenchy.com is not just an e-commerce platform, it’s an opportunity to evolve into an omni-channel ecosystem. It changes everything about how we do things, top to bottom.”
What were the main objectives for the house and for Clare when it came to her first project for the house, designing the website?
“We started with the consumer, with the aim of building a universe that would connect aspirational content to the product catalogue in an unexpected way. We wanted to move beyond the model where the institutional website just co-exists next to e-commerce. We wanted one merged destination that would consistently allow the visitor to browse highly curated content as part of a whole: campaigns mix with products, celebrity pictures mingle with store details, and so on.”
It took us about two years to achieve the final product you can browse today, to define everything we wanted to achieve, map all the consumer journeys, reorganise our stock, cover all the scenarios. When Clare joined, she fully took on the website design with R/GA, she considered the website her first product, which I think is particularly modern in our digital age. She approached the design of Givenchy.com the way she does her products: thinking of the use, the visual identity and the overall appeal, like an object of desire. There is one aspect of the website’s design in which Clare reached perfection: its efficiency. She wanted it to nurture the client experience, to make it easy and striking, like flipping through a very graphic book, going from a place to another barely noticing the page changes, loading times etc. All her creative decisions were made with the aim of facilitating access to the brand and the product, and that is key in the result.
How does the “show lottery” work and why is opening up the show to the public something that Givenchy has decided to do?
“Historically, Givenchy is an extremely inclusive brand, and it has opened the conversation to broader audiences than most: Hubert de Givenchy showed in many unexpected cities and places, giving a lot of people access to fashion. The show lottery was already sort of a tradition at Givenchy. Two years ago, we opened our New York show to a new audience and it was a special kind of success for us to see thousands of people from outside the fashion world come in and queue to see the show, like for a concert or an art exhibition. For this lottery, we wanted to tie in with the idea of a website living in the real world, while also connecting it to Clare’s Transformation Seduction campaign, and the strong symbol of the Givenchy cats. So we devised a real-life event: by plastering tens of thousands of posters in the main fashion capitals (NY, London, Milan, Paris) with a dedicated URL, we invite anyone to register to win one of three tickets to attend Clare Waight Keller’s first Givenchy show. All you will have to do is copy the URL on one of the posters!”
What future digital developments are in the pipeline at Givenchy?
“This website was definitely a milestone for us because it meant so much in terms of organisation. We are now going to carefully execute the e-commerce features in France and then roll out to Europe (including the UK!) beginning of 2018, then later the Americas and Asia in 2019. In our discussions with Clare to build the website, we agreed that we wanted to achieve something that would make our clientele want to come back again and again. We discussed the idea of offering products designed specifically for Givenchy.com – and we thought it would be a clever way to connect all Givenchy touch points. The brand is so strong on social media and online, we figured our audience deserved to have products curated especially for them, to meet their expectations. These limited editions will go on sale at a given time and most likely sell out instantly: there will be monthly drops exclusively on Givenchy.com – that is our next digital chapter.”
You have worked at some of the world’s most prestigious fashion houses over the last 20 years, what are the major changes that you have seen in the luxury fashion industry?
“That’s an interesting question: arguably, the most striking transformations I have witnessed over the course of my career are digital. We have noticed that our clientele is increasingly immersed in the digital world. They build a life in that sphere and use technology to access everything from science to entertainment, and especially shopping. It’s a constant challenge to always keep that in mind, you have to conceive digital not as a separate entity, but as a part of everything. The omnipresence of social networks in our daily lives has definitely changed the way we shop and interact with brands. We now have direct access to them on a daily basis and that has had a huge impact on fashion businesses all over the world. There is no way to get around that fact: as a company you have to embrace it and turn your own system towards digital or you will not survive in the modern world.
Speaking of the modern world, another new data fact is that the consumer is no longer is in one place; they are constantly on the move. Today’s international customer is everywhere all the time and no brand can ignore that. Givenchy.com is our most vital tool to answer client needs and to be open to the entire world. Over the past decade, we have seen China develop, explore ever-wider territories and enhance worldwide businesses thanks to their exceptional ability to shop abroad. They are strong leaders in terms of digital behaviour, the way their systems are set up and how effortlessly they interact with them, as if that’s the way it’s always been. We have a lot to learn from them.
Lastly, I would like to underscore the importance of menswear today. That’s a transformation we have seen over the last two decades: menswear has morphed from something strictly functional to a powerful outlet for brand expression and increased business recognition. There are many examples but just looking at Givenchy, it represents half the business (in perfect proportion to womenswear). And the market is growing; it still has so much potential.
You are marking your third anniversary at the house this month. What do you think is your greatest achievement there so far?
“Without a doubt, getting Clare Waight Keller to join us! And building powerful, proud and efficient teams together.”
Watch Clare Waight Keller’s debut for Givenchy on Sunday morning on the British Vogue Facebook page.
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