Rafael Pastor ( Esprit): "We want to win back the younger generation"
Esprit is still in rough patch. Jose Manuel Martinez, formerly of Inditex, took over the reins of the brand-label in September 2012. A year later, Rafael Pastor Espuch, who spent 14 years at Inditex and who oversaw the Basics division at Zara, joined him, taking on the role of chief product officer. With the new spring-summer 2015 collection, the first one created with the new model of vertical organisation, he took the time to share his thoughts on Esprit and the importance of moving quickly in fashion.
FashionMag: Rafael Pastor, what is Esprit's position on the market? What kind of woman do you see as your target group?
Rafa Pastor: We target all women between 15 and 70. We know this is tough, to get them all under one roof. Probably 50 percent of our customers are already very close to the brand. So what we want to do now, is to offer a better price value, still more quality and to improve the fits. So that as a result we have collections more adapted to our customers.
FM: Is Esprit going to be more affordable then?
RP: No. In this context a better price value does not mean that we are going to reduce the prices to be competitive in the market. We want to improve quality and price value.
FM: But everything seems to depend on prices today. Especially when it comes to the young target group. What are you doing to grab and hold onto their attention?
RP: We especially want to win back the younger customers. Many of them moved away to other brands. So what we intend to recover is the former familiar character and this avant-garde image Esprit had when it was born. Esprit was absolutely avant-garde in the shape, in the fabrics, in store design and in the fits. That is what we want to emphasize.
FM: So is the main goal to win over the younger generation?
RP: We are very lucky with our loyal customers. People who were born with Esprit in most cases stay with the brand. We are always positively surprised that our customers are willing to provide active feedback on our product. On average, one out of three consumers give us detailed feedback per style level, meaning several hundred feedbacks regarding fitting, quality and fashion relevance per style that we sell.
FM: What is the main thing to be done?
RP: Listen and reshape. And it is especially me who wants to listen.
FM: The SS 2015 Collection was the first with the new vertical organization. What does it mean for the products and the collections? How fast is Esprit capable of moving today?
RP: We reduced the sell-in of the collections to our wholesale partners from monthly to every two months. The stores and customers highly appreciate receiving collections every month - continuously newness. Vertical to us means that we can decide later regarding the design process. How many outerwear pieces we offer, which prints we choose or what the ultimate highlight of a collection shall be. Now we do not need to decide that even a year before.
FM: How long does it take from the conception to delivery in the European stores?
RP: Last summer we had some trials and identified that we are able to get garments in the stores in just five weeks. The range goes from five weeks to six months.
FM: What percentage of the products are basics like denims or t-shirts. Will any of that change?
RP: There are many garments that can be clustered as basics. Also a shirt with a beautiful jacquard print as it pushes through in one season. I cannot say at the moment how we will cluster this. On the other hand, a black T-shirt with great merchandising in the store can be very fashionable. Maybe then it is not regarded as a basic anymore.
FM: For the last 18 years you have been working directly on fast fashion. Do you want to transmit this style to Esprit?
RP: No, we are not trying to develop the same standard. Even more we want to contribute our knowledge of how to get fashion and garments faster to the customer. There will be no effort to copy a system or anything like this, Esprit has its own method and way of doing things.
FM: Last fall there were days when it was 20° in Europe. Moving forward, how will you respond to such occurrences at Esprit, to be able to put the right product at the right time in the windows?
RP: The windows already got faster. Normally they were switched once a month. Now we already adapted them to the vertical system and can change the merchandising in only a few days.
FM: And concerning products?
RP: What we are trying to do is move away from seasonal blocks and to offer most of the garments without any relation to weather conditions. I think most of our fabrics are already non seasonable. Wool garments are still related to autumn and winter, of course. But if you take a linen T-shirt for example: it is already offered the whole year. It is more a question about the kind of collection and how to put something forth at the right time. People want to buy clothes and wear them right away nowadays. That is what we want to be ready for.
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