Essentiel's Esfan Eghtessadi on the label's womenswear success
Belgian fashion label Essentiel was founded in 1999 and has patiently built up a complete product range, starting from a t-shirt line and now featuring men's and especially women's ready-to-wear apparel and accessories. The label is full of character, led by an energetic founder duo consisting of Esfan Eghtessadi and Inge Onsea, both well-known to buyers and the general public alike. Essentiel is beginning to reap the rewards of their efforts and is now looking for financial support to continue growing in future, as its co-founder and CEO explained in an interview with FashionNetwork.com.
FashionNetwork.com: You recently announced you are willing to open up to investors. What does this mean?
Esfan Eghtessadi: It means that, for the last three years, we enjoyed highly positive performances in all channels, from wholesale to e-commerce and retail. This year, we opened eight directly-owned stores. This kind of expansion requires serious financial backing since it needs a substantial cash flow. While advancing at our own natural pace, we still want to achieve quite a lot. Hence our willingness to open up to investors, in a sensible way.
FNW: What are the next projects for Essential?
EE: We are working on an important project, something dear to us here in Antwerp [where we are based], because we aren't abandoning Belgium, which must remain Essentiel’s lifeblood! We are keen to search for top locations, this is why we are relocating our flagship store, moving it to 350 m2 premises on Huidevettersstraat, adopting an entirely new concept which is consistent with the architectural design of the new building. It will be a very fine flagship, ready at the end of March. We would like to open more of the same in future. We are doing something similar in Zurich, where we are relocating to the city's top commercial thoroughfare, Bahnhofstrasse, one of the most expensive high streets in Europe. We don't like to gamble, but we are a little more confident now, seeing the positive signals we're receiving. The label is a hit wherever we go and, if the location is right, the collection works a treat with customers.
FNW: What are your other key future projects?
EE: We would like to do something in London, it could be a crucial city for us. We have a retail corner at Harvey Nichols which is enjoying a huge success. Germany is doing well too, after our first opening in Cologne. Italy and France are on stand-by at the moment. We could do a lot of business there, but we need more resources. Unless we went down the partnership road. We are probably going to start expanding using a commission-affiliation model. We are assessing the organisation we need to set up before presenting the project to the French market. We also have some far-flung partners in South Korea and China, where a second store was recently inaugurated, but we aren't looking for a master franchisor there for the time being. And we are still not considering the USA. We really want to consolidate our European base first of all.
FNW: How is your product range performing?
EE: The womenswear collection was a huge success, and we have now started working on menswear, in collaboration with our marketing department, to give a well-defined imprint to the collection. We reshuffled and strengthened the design team, so as to be able to devote more energy to our product development plans. We have seven mixed-gender stores, and soon four stores exclusively dedicated to menswear, thanks to two new openings. We would like to open a men's boutique in Paris, for example in the Marais district.
The full interview is available on FashionNetwork Premium.
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