The image and reputation of emerging brands are fragile. A repositioning can be dangerous. At Berlin based label Goetze they took the risk and tell us how it went
It is becoming increasingly difficult to establish a new brand in times when most relevant names are backed by corporate heavy-weights like Kering or LVMH. All the more difficult must it be to decide to re-position a still young and emerging brand whose reputation is still fragile.
Berlin based menswear label Goetze did just that. It was founded by Sissi Goetze in 2011 and in 2015 she decided to take a break to reflect and re-think. Lars Paschke is Associate Professor for Fashion Design at the Universität der Künste in Berlin and also friends with Goetze. He is her support when it comes to strategic development and image direction.
In this conversation, Goetze and Paschke tell us which changes have worked, which haven’t and whether the relaunch was a success.
(Title image spring summer 18)
Why a relaunch?
Goetze: When you get started with your own label, you just start doing. In college, nobody prepares you for what to expect. It’s all learning by doing, especially in the beginning. You make mistakes and eventually you need to take a step back to sort things out.
Paschke: I had known Sissi for a while and in 2015 I could feel that she started to feel the pressure of making her own collection. It was time to re-think the business and we started talking about it. At the time I worked at both UdK and Esmod. With my students, I have an outsider’s point of view. I consult them on positioning and developing strategies. So we wanted to do just that for Sissi.
Goetze: In 2015 we paused for one season and re-launched in 2016.
What has changed?
Goetze: Commercially the label works better, which is probably the most important result. But it’s also more fun. If you’re in that hamster wheel you know you should stop but you don’t. Lars helped me to press pause and make some to reflect and it was great.
Paschke: When there’s two people involved, there’s also more friction, more discourse. And that sometimes helps to get rid of all the stuff you don’t need and to focus on what’s really important for the label.
Finding your customer
Paschke: Before we started working together there was this kind of Goetze man, this fantasy character, a target for whom Sissi had designed. Now we’re approaching actual people who want to wear Goetze.
Goetze: You grow with the things that you do.
Paschke: For Goetze, Sissi has this certain way of constructing the sleeves and shoulders of shirts. It gives the shirt a casual feel but it remains formal at the same time – or the other way around, if you wish. There’s a man who moves in certain professional circles who dresses like this and this is the customer we want to approach.
People who need a shirt, but don’t want a classic dress shirt like you’d get from Karstadt or P&C. Take myself as an example, I work in an academic surrounding. Goetze always helped me out in that niche. Graphic designers, architects, who don’t necessarily look to be fashionable but contemporary, that’s our customers.
Goetze: It used to be ”Sissi Goetze“. With the relaunch we dropped my first name, also to communicate that we are focusing on our essence, and Goetze sounds more like a brand. It wasn’t easy but not that hard either. You build your reputation, even if it’s just a small one, but it can crumble and this is what you fear. But it turned out that my first name did bother a lot of people. Even today, it is still perceived as difficult if you want to make mens fashion as a woman.
The new logo is a classic font but it’s a bit off as well, if you look at the spacing between the letters. That reflects my clothes.
What didn’t work?
Paschke: We wanted to leave the seasonal rhythm behind us. We’re going back to it again because our agency in Japan needs seasons. There needs to be novelty and innovation to keep the buyers engaged and interested. But we’re focusing on the new only where necessary, not for novelty’s sake.
Goetze: There is a Goetze core collection, at least as long as people want these pieces.
Paschke: We also tried a customising approach (different lengths and such) but that proved difficult with production.
Sales with a focus
Goetze: I did the sales myself in the beginning. Of course, you want to do it all. You want to go to Paris but don’t have the money. I met somebody who wanted to do sales. As two beginners we were destined to fail. I worked together with an agent from Stockholm for a couple of seasons, who also tried to launch Goetze in the US. I also started working together with an agency in Japan. It was all over the place.
Paschke: We found that with our limited resources a certain focus isn’t bad. If you have three agencies you need three sample collections, at least in theory. If you split one collection between them it’s a compromise nobody’s really happy with and you won’t get the orders and the press. So we decided to focus on Europe, Japan and South East Asia.
Where to sell?
Goetze: Pitti Uomo in Florence is an interesting hub in the beginning of each season. We can introduce our collection to new buyers, who still have the energy and are open to look for something new at this point. Paris is where we write our orders with both existing clients and clients who we worked with before.
Paschke: In addition, we have a very trustworthy and close relationship with our Japanese sales agent and distributor, who focuses on the Asian market and shows our work during Tokyo Fashion Week.
Was the relaunch a success?
Paschke: We currently serve a total of 30 stores in our markets – that is up from 10 three years ago. Some stores dropped us because of the break. However, there were others that had an eye on us for a while. After the relaunch, they started buying us. So, yes – it was.