The coronavirus pandemic is transforming how we live and work in ways we could hardly have imagined at the beginning of 2020. As a new reality settles in, for many of us that also means having to adapt to a new lifestyle.
The current health crisis is serious and saddening. Families and businesses across the world are dramatically impacted. In parallel, the underlying economic crisis that is already underway will take months to resolve too. Many people lost their job (and therefore spending power) across the globe. Businesses, big and small, are at risk of shutting down. The financial system is, once again, crumbling. To survive, brands will need to adapt. Fast.
In this article, the editorial team at Women On Topp interviewed the Kistermann Sisters, Jessica and Lisa Kistermann on how the Coronavirus has impacted their luxury brand Crime London, and how they are coping with the crisis situation.
The magnetic duo; Lisa and Jessica Kistermann established Crime London in 2012, the brand enjoyed immense success. ‘’Growing its wholesale distribution into more than 1,000 international stockists (including Luisa Via Roma, Farfetch and Galleries LaFayette) and trending upwards with a sell-through rate of 85% in just a short amount of years that lead them in selling out at more than 120,000 pairs per season’’ — Pre Corona Virus (read our previous interview with the Kistermann Sisters ”Magnetic Duo Build Their Own Empire – Crime London”)
Now let’s have a look at the impact of the novel Coronavirus on this global luxury brand and their strategic view on what to focus on to adapt and remain relevant during and after the crisis.
Has covid19 impact Crime London – how so?
From COVID-19 shutdowns to the rise in civil rights rallies, the streetwear and sneaker industry has found itself at the center of both crises.
The time frame of when this happened was very delicate for us. Typically around those months, stores are receiving Spring/Summer 2020 products to sell, and we were developing the next Spring/Summer 2021 collection to show in June-September. That timeline was upended due to the virus, which hit China, in early January, shut down factories there, where many brands make their product, and then spread into other countries including Italy, another apparel manufacturing hub, around late January. So the combination of timing and locations was devastating. Our production is in Indonesia so we were lucky enough not to close down the factory fully, although our materials are Italian, we faced slower production, delays on samples, excess inventory due to cancellation orders, etc.
We’ve been trying to stay connected and inspired during the pandemic by exercising creativity in digital spaces such as sneaker design contests and storytelling through social media channels teaming up with some of our brand ambassadors
What was the impact on your business once covid-19 hit Italy? And what measures did u take?
The fashion industry has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 outbreak on every level from retailers to supply chains to vendors. Many of our high-street stores we sell to have been massively affected by store closures. Fortunately, online sales have not felt the sting, in fact, things are quite the opposite.
This crisis could hopefully bring about a positive change in the fashion industry, which has been needed for years. We believe it’s an opportunity for all of us to look at our industry and to look at our lives, and to rethink our values, and to really think about the waste, and the amount of money, and consumption, and excess that we have all indulged in and how we really need to rethink what this industry stands for.
Our journey towards becoming a more responsible brand is constantly evolving. Socially distant yet united by diversity we put together for Spring/Summer 2021 some of the most heartfelt pieces, presented during fashion week in September. Made from traceable materials, sourced with quality, longevity, and reduced environmental impact.
We created a capsule of facemasks available online. “Lifestyle” face masks, ones that have personality but shield germs from transferring. We know it’s not necessarily considered by everyone as a pleasant thing to wear but if this is something that is going to stay, we as a brand want to make people feel good wearing them. That means demonstrating a variety of personalities and styles in each one.
The line sprung from a desire to radically rethink and alter the fashion production process by reframing waste as a resource. Our facemasks are handmade in Italy with a selection of premium silks upcycled from high-end luxury brands. The repurposing of these leftover dead fabrics by putting them in a different context and giving them an upgrade is a small approach towards slow fashion.
What problems did you encounter during this pandemic phase? How did u solve them?
The enormous scale of the crisis and the impact it is having are naturally causing a lot of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety across the globe. The situation is particularly stressful because it’s hard to predict how things will develop, and our circumstances are changing rapidly. Many small independent businesses are struggling to survive and it’s sad to see many creative enterprises you believe in not being able to open again. We are fortunate our healthy financial reserves are shielding some of the trouble and keeping us alive.
While these undoubtedly remain challenging times, we are pleased by the strength of our online business, our deep connections with our customers, and the strength of our relationships. Retail sales suffered severe reduction but our digital business has been able to persevere and the demand on our platform has increased. In the first month, sales slowed down obviously as panicked consumers turned their backs on buying fashion and prioritized essentials instead. Within the second and third month of everyone staying at home running and athleisure became a theme that kept our online sales moving. Cravings for comfort and aspirations to fitness and wellness during a pandemic are driving us healthy sales.
Although we’ve been focusing on really helping rather than just working on making sales. Things have picked up again since then, which has been great. We’ve been leveraging all our digital platforms and invest on new technologies.
We can’t be insensitive to our customers that stay loyal and supportive, everyone is being tested on how to speak to its audience during a global pandemic that we’ve never experienced before. We decided to introduce new forms of alternative credit and lending options like ‘buy now pay later’, free shipping and returns, and more.
How are you preparing for the post-covid-19 phase?
We are taking this time to challenge fundamental assumptions that might no longer be relevant, looking back into archival pieces, history, heritage, etc. Trends come and go; we like things that are timeless with a story behind them. We are taking this time to focus on deeper development and what comes next as a team – create, rethink. We want to come out of this with a big amount of art and innovation. We will continue business as usual, remain optimistic, and will be prepared for any adjustments to come.
During fashion month September/October we launched Crime London Virtual Showroom. A platform to support all our international customers who were not able to make it to our stand at Micam Tradeshow or pass by the showroom during fashion week in Milan/Paris due to the current environment. Virtual Showroom is an innovative digital extension of our creations showcased online in the most effective way. Designed to concretely support buyers, it gives you an opportunity to preview the next SS21 Collection efficiently with just a few clicks. We strongly believe in the hybrid system that combines the incomparable emotional power of the physical buying experience and the unlimited possibilities offered by the web.
What advice can you share with our fellow young entrepreneurs who have started their fashion brands before the pandemic?
It’s tough to give advice as everything is very uncertain and everyone manages with change differently. However, we believe in the power of a positive attitude, determination, and following your gut instinct. Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else. It is important to keep an open mind about this current climate and do what makes the most sense for your business and brand, regardless of how it may seem to others.
We strongly believe it’s necessary for businesses to embrace technology now more than ever. To stay competitive in this new business and economic environment requires new strategies and practices as the crisis has accelerated the digitization of customer interactions by several years.
Take things one day at a time, take action to keep things afloat. As every day is a new opportunity to achieve your goals and progress is made by those that lead the way by expressing their creativity until it evolves into culture.