Desigual revises strategy and presents new identity
Going back to its origins in order to reinvent itself, Desigual is rethinking its image and returning to its roots as it looks to up its momentum and gain recognition in the industry. The brand is taking on this challenge through a renewed corporate identity, a redefined product offering and the optimisation of its distribution network, initiatives which were revealed on Thursday, 13 June, at Desigual's HQ in Barcelona. It's a high-stakes move looking to strengthen the company's business model but it's yet to be seen whether it will help the brand get back into a position where it can once again dream of coming close to 1 billion euros in annual revenues, as it did in 2014.
There are no fixed work spaces at Desigual's offices and its over 800 employees almost seem to flow through the bright, creative environment. With views of the Mediterranean, a beach and 24,000 square metres of glass walls through which the Barcelona sun shines, the company's HQ was the chosen venue for the unveiling of the brand's new identity. This was a long-awaited moment, anticipated since the the company began its transformation plan in 2015. The press was greeted by newcomer Guillem Gallego, who stepped into the role of chief marketing officer at Desigual six months ago, after 14 years at Nike. He arrived at the company with one task, defined by the turnaround plan initiated almost five years ago: transform the brand's image in record time. "Either we adapt to the present day or we don't survive," he explained succinctly.
Conscious of the problematic situation being faced by the brand, which has become disconnected from younger consumers, the marketing executive stated, "Desigual grew up with its generation and became bigger. Now it has to update itself to reconnect with young people and remain relevant." The chain's current target market is principally made up of consumers between the ages of 45 and 49. "We want to continue serving our current customers, but also begin opening ourselves up to new generations. We're an inclusive brand. In the coming years we have to lower the age of our customers and also connect with the generation aged between 25 and 35. To do this we have to understand their reality," he explained, outlining his vision of the current state of affairs, at a time when giants such as Spotify and Netflix reign supreme, Virgil Abloh has reinvented luxury, and brands' relationships with their customers are constantly evolving, becoming increasingly responsive.
For this next step in the company's development, Gallego insisted that the brand has to "play at two speeds, being ourselves but also keeping up with the rhythm set by the trends, values and codes of new generations," going on to explain that, "our strategy consists in speaking about who we are unequivocally, elevating our products and shifting into an identifiable trend space." It's with this movement that the brand intends to redefine its offering around the classic pillars of the Desigual aesthetic: "arty", "patchwork" and "ethnic". It's also in line with these objectives that the brand is aiming to maintain the average price of its products, while simultaneously increasing their quality and their sustainability. "We have to come out of the comfort zone that we've been in for years, we can't be afraid to make mistakes and push the envelope," concluded the executive, underlining the need for the brand's rejuvenation.
A necessary transformation
As well as racking up three successive years of falling sales (from 963.5 million euros in 2014 to 761 million last year), the company has also gone through a somewhat chaotic transition period, which began with the sale of Eurazeo's stake in the brand in August of last year and the appointment Jean-Paul Goude as the label's creative director. As previously revealed by an exclusive FashionNetwork.com report, this collaboration with the French photographer came to an end earlier than expected and the results of this turn of events were far more impactful than might have been hoped. Following Goude's exit, the brand's Swiss founder Thomas Meyer took over as creative director.
Not only has the brand's offering been revised over the last few months but the company has also undertaken an intensive rebranding process in order to return to its creative and disruptive roots. In this vein, Guillem Gallego presented the new Desigual logo, written backwards, boasting that the label is "the first global brand to permanently invert its logo. This launch is also accompanied by an inverted 'D' logo, as well as a new monogram for patterns. Additionally, the brand's slogan has also evolved, from 'La Vida es chula' [Life is cool] to 'Yes to life'. Finally, these actions are accompanied by a manifesto which will be revealed on 24th June."
Alliances and synergies: from Sónar to Ecoalf
Founded in 1984, when Meyer was hand-sewing jackets in a small shop in Barcelona's El Raval neighbourhood, Desigual is now looking to return to its roots and consolidate its creative identity. "The objective is to make creativity a daily habit. Here, the novelty is that we're going to start collaborating more actively with artists," announced Gallego. This new approach covers everything from the brand's long-term collaboration with Christian Lacroix to the revival of its capsule collection with Miranda Makaroff, as well as collaborations with personalities such as Spanish actor Jordi Mollá, musician King Jedet and singer Aleesha. Not to mention the label's connections with urban culture, established through initiatives like Elrow Art with Santander-born artist Okuda and the official, exclusive "partnership" with the Sónar music festival. Within the fashion industry, Desigual will also be joining forces with sustainable brand Ecoalf to launch a collaborative collection. "We want to learn from them," affirmed Gallego.
On Thursday night the brand's new identity was made manifest at a runway show attended by more than 1,200 guests on the Playa de la Barceloneta, a stone's throw away from the company's HQ. The laid-back show was accompanied by dance performances and singing from Aleesha, and featured the Spring/Summer 2020 collection, as well as the results of its collaborations with the artists mentioned above. At the end of the presentation, Meyer himself came out onto the runway to take a bow, following a carrousel of models and employees that had been greeted with generous applause. In this way, the Swiss designer left no doubts about who is back in the brand's creative driving seat.
The plan's implementation, which will take shape throughout 2020, will start with an overhaul of all of the brand's digital and communications platforms. The brand's new identity will then be gradually rolled out in its stores, which, one by one, will adapt to the new image. According to the company, in June Deisgual will open its much-anticipated store on Barcelona's Portal de l’Àngel and launch a pop-up location in Paris. The company's next annual results will not, however, be reported until next month. "I'm very happy, this moment is the result of a lot of work," commented Meyer before the start of Thursday's runway show.
Desigual currently has more than 3,700 employees in some 100 countries, 13 distribution channels and eight product categories. The company expects to report annual sales of 761 million euros.
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