Read and learn: How Daphne and Vera Correll lead their label CORRELLCORRELL to sustainable success
It’s not only what good design is about, it’s also what doing successful business is about: be creative within your limitations and turn disadvantages into advantages.
Smaller labels often struggle to operate profitably. On the one hand, their comparatively small quantities result in higher unit costs (and mostly there is only so much you can do about it in the short term).
On the other hand, there’s the customer who is only willing to pay a certain retail price. However, if your offering stands out, you can charge a premium.
Spring summer 17
In Daphne and Vera Correll’s case, it’s the personal touch they give every piece that leaves their studio. The twin sisters live in the cities of Berlin and New York but their production happens in the latter.
Find out how to not only survive, but be successful as a David in this competitive industry of Goliaths. In this interview, Vera Correll explains how producing locally works to their advantage and to build a business which is sustainable not only in its growth but also its production and output.
(PS: All the business talk … Did I mention that the designs are really beautiful? Header image: spring summer 17)
You were celebrating your 10th anniversary in 2016. How do you manage to survive this long as a smaller, independent label?
I think our product is quite unique. We produce most of our designs ourselves which gives us complete freedom in how to work and experiment with materials. That is an integral part of our design process. Each garment we produce goes through our hands at least once, that gives them a personal touch, that our customer responds to.
In our studio, next to tons of yarn and fabric, you find knitting machines, sewing machines, dye vats and looms. We love experimenting with textiles and let that influence our designs, there is a material quality to our designs that is in strict opposition to fast fashion items. People don’t question our price point. A t-shirt retails between 70 and 120 USD, a dress ranges from 300 to 500 USD. You can feel and see from the labour and love in the garments, that it is justified.
We try to source yarns and fabrics locally but there are only limited fabrics actually milled in the US, so we have to do some sourcing globally. We produce locally in the Garment District in NYC and in our studio.
Producing locally can result in limitations because, for example, you don’t have access to certain production methods. Does this inform your design process?
For me, designing is working within limitations, I find limitations inspiring.
More so, producing locally has a lot of advantages. I go to the factories we work with, sometimes daily, and check up on the process and I can do rigorous quality control. When we have a design that is unusual and complicated, I am able to explain it in person. We have a lot of machines in our studio as well, so if a factory can’t do a certain stitch we often bring the pieces here and complete them.
A lot of times we use materials like yarn and embroidery in a quite painterly way, those designs are hard to outsource, because we are looking for a certain type of imperfection, like crooked stiches and angled curves. They are hard to reproduce.
From the workshop
Can you offer competitive prices producing locally?
In New York we are lucky because we have the Garment District. The infrastructure is really good. Producing locally lowers lead times and you save on shipping costs, which helps to stay competitive.
It’s also very important to us to see the working conditions of our suppliers, and build direct relationships with our sewers, it makes the product better. Our cutting rooms are in the same building as our factories, it’s incredibly convenient and used by a lot of New York designers.
The dying houses are often in Brooklyn. So everything we need you can find in greater New York. We really appreciate the possibilities that producing locally offers.
There are organisations like Save the Garment Center, that famous designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Jason Wu, Anna Sui support. It’s one of the only manufacturing sites left in Manhattan, and we truly hope it will not be rezoned.
Was there a point over the last ten years when you could realise economies of scale?
There was definitely a breaking point a few years ago, when the numbers got a lot bigger. Our sales have doubled since. Additionally, fabric suppliers are more open to smaller quantities, the minimums are getting smaller and we don’t have to pay surcharges anymore. So as we were growing in numbers we could reduce our material costs at the same time. Also, with manufacturing an increase in units does help. You get better prices from factories.
You deliver nationally and internationally to 50 to 60 stores. A lot of them with really good names, like Steven Alan in the US or Optitude in Japan. How did you manage to get into those stores?
We built our clientele slowly and steadily over the last ten years. Of course, we do approach stores but a lot of times they approach us, they see the collection online or in a different store. So once you’re in a couple of great stores, others will notice your brand. And of course we reach out to buyers, send our catalogues and line sheets. But in a way, buyers prefer to find you.
To sum it up, your key to success: The core is a good product. The rest is business savvy and stamina?
And patience and persistence. You can’t be discouraged and you have to love and believe in what you do, or it’s not worth it.