While designing a line of sustainable fashion in Paris, Yveline Kay Atelier founders John Kahle and Frédéric Amiane spoke to dozens of young fashion designers based in Paris who had experience finding manufacturers, building out a supply chain and sourcing fabric.
What they found was that the common thread binding together was that none of them had proper global exposure. “We realized just how much incredible, young talent there is in Paris, and we wanted to help provide a global platform,” said Kahle.
This spring, the Yveline Kay team will launch Votre Paris, an ongoing campaign that introduces emerging Paris designers to American customers through in-store events at U.S. department stores. Votre Paris will film fashion shows at its Paris salon from designers hoping to gain a global presence, and the retail partners will host events around the live streams of the show, both in stores and online. Customers and attendees watching the shows will provide feedback on the collections, and department store buyers will use those real-time reactions to inform inventory buys from the new designers who otherwise wouldn’t have registered on their radar.
The purpose of Votre Paris is to open the doorway to American retail stores for small Paris designers by getting them immediate feedback on runway shows from buyers, as well as inventory purchases. According to Kahle, Paris Fashion Week is notoriously tough to get admitted to by the city’s industry association — there has to be a proof of sales, but sales are hard to get without showing during fashion week. The plan is that Votre Paris will also drive foot traffic and newness to American department stores by giving them an insurgence of designers that have smaller collections (and therefore faster inventory turnover) that are distributed monthly.
For department stores, Votre Paris adds a fast-fashion boost that still emphasizes high-quality product at luxury prices. As see-now-buy-now models emerged around fashion weeks, the response from department stores was enthusiastic: An in-season show meant that retailers could ride the momentum of the runway to drive sales in response. But as that model has failed to take off at scale, department store floors are now a blend of whatever each designer they’re carrying has decided to show. For the Votre Paris shows, they’re purposely being shown outside of fashion week, and around collections that are season-less, meaning department stores can add new pops of product throughout the year without making big, expensive bets on new designers.
“Today, you have to have your buying and selling teams in a new mindset,” said Ken Downing, the fashion director at Neiman Marcus. “What’s most important for young, emerging designers to know is they don’t have to do any of this the traditional way. They should be looking for new models that don’t put a strain on the business just because it’s the old process.”
According to Kahle, Votre Paris is designed to put the customer’s feedback at the center, offering up direct consumer data to both the designer and the retailer. That’s something that’s become increasingly more valuable as brands rethink the purpose of the runway show, as well as pre-order options and immediate feedback vehicles.
“We can see how designer products might sell right off the bat, and it gives the customer a sense of personalization and empowerment,” said Kahle. “They can respond to the fashion shows and signify what they want to wear, as opposed to the retailer putting the product in store and saying, ‘Here’s what you should wear.’ It turns the process around.”
As for the designers, they’re using Votre Paris to both raise their profile and pad out their bottom line. For every inventory buy made through the partnership, Yveline Kay Atelier will receive a cut. Simultaneously, the brand will be releasing its first collection later this year.
Building the Votre Paris campaign alongside an in-house fashion line has made Kahle and Amiane smarter about their overall business. It’s also helped the brand create an external support system for designers in similar situations.
“Starting a fashion line is a huge burden, and in the era of e-commerce, it feels like there are no rules anymore,” said Kahle. “We’re talking with designers who are asking questions like, ‘How much does a fashion show cost?’ ‘Is it better to focus on a regional audience in Paris or to expand globally?’ ‘Can you even afford to do that?’ We want the answer to be yes, where it otherwise would have been no.”