Belgian label Imprevu keen to expand in new markets
Ever since Belgian label Imprevu was founded six years ago, its unique, colourful prints have been its hallmark. Founder Justine God, a businesswoman who graduated from HEC Liège and who last year was recognised at the Belgian Fashion Awards, used to work as purchasing director for a large Walloon textile group. Frustrated by scattershot restocking issues and sourcing in far-off countries, she resigned and decided to launch her own label. Imprevu’s garments are sourced in Europe, and its capsule collections are a celebration of printed patterns.
Ever since it was launched in 2016, Imprevu has been releasing four collections a year, each with its unique pattern. Every month, further items are also dropped on a regular basis. This commercial strategy featuring periodic mini-launches is popular with many fashion labels and e-tailers like Farfetch, and lies at the heart of the business model advocated by God. “We’re keen to develop limited-edition collections, often produced in very small runs, in order to give our customers a sense of exclusivity and rarity,” she said. At most, one hundred units or so are manufactured for each item.
Regular drops and mother-in-law cushions
Imprevu's approach is specifically designed to reduce dormant stocks but it is also “consistent with the seasonality of fashion, and with what consumers are looking for,” said God. Product design and manufacturing proceed at “a very fast” pace. The garments are imported from nearby countries, from “workshops in Portugal and Italy, near Florence, in order to maximise quality and value for money.” Imprevu’s prices range from €59 for emblazoned t-shirts to €189 for down jackets. As for accessories, a royal blue hat is priced at €49 and studded cowboy-style belts at €109.
The label’s sources of inspiration are many and varied, “from the range of colours found in nature to a gold-coloured velvet cushion borrowed from my mother-in-law,” said God, grinning. Her latest fetish motif is “a red and purple shrub I glimpsed one afternoon as I was looking for my daughter at ballet class.” Once redesigned and combined with other patterns, it will feature on many of the summer items in Imprevu's January drop. Imprevu previewed of some of its summer 2023 looks - with an abundance of colourful prints - at the Who's Next show held in Paris in September.
God is a hyperactive woman “frequently driven by intuition,” as she churns out sketches and prototypes for new designs on a constant basis. After a successful test last winter, she has designed a second party collection, to be launched at the end of November. It is called “Party Time” and it celebrates the mood of the year-end festivities, featuring “a warm gold and black print” and an Italian tweed fabric trimmed with golden lurex threads. For the campaign photo shoot, which took place on a farm in God’s native Wallonia, “all the women in [her] life,” from her mother Joelle to her three sisters Amandine, Melody and Florine, her daughter Elisa and her god-daughter Lola, donned Imprevu looks.
Expanding the international wholesale footprint
“Since the pandemic, I’ve realised there is a genuine appetite for all-over prints and bold pattern combinations,” said God. “Nowadays, [people] want to wear vibrant, colourful garments that give a very powerful silhouette,” she added. The popularity of Imprevu's original designs and European sourcing is reflected in the company's financial results. “We have been growing steadily from the outset, and our revenue is close to €2 million,” said God, who started out six years ago with her own capital and “still retains her financial independence.”
“[Imprevu] is distributed via 130 retailers in total, including 50 in Belgium, 42 in France, and others in the UK and Switzerland, as well as a showroom in Dubai,” said God. Her husband Nicolas, who has been supporting her regularly, will join the team full-time in January, to look after “digital operations and international expansion.” The wholesale channel accounts for 90% of the revenue generated by the Belgian label, which employs four people.
Imprevu is keen to establish a stronger foothold in Europe by working with “agents and sales representatives met at trade shows.” Imprevu will be commercialised by a number of retailers in the south-east and north-west of France “in the coming months,” but also in Austria and Germany, where it will be available “at some 30 stores from January.”
For the time being, God “isn’t planning to open monobrand stores.” She is instead keen to focus on Imprevu’s “e-shop, launched in April 2021 to sell the collections produced during the pandemic.” In other words, Imprevu is relying on a highly selective multichannel distribution model, between specialised brick-and-mortar retailers and e-tail.
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