In 2016 G-Lab founder Björn Gericke announced a relaunch of this jacket brand, which he started in 2009, to be a clearly visible premium collection. We talked to him about achievements and plans for 2018.
Last year you announced a relaunch. What is the state of affairs today? How satisfied are you with the changes and innovations so far and where is there still room for improvement?
In 2017, we achieved a great deal and realigned the brand in line with our positioning: high-tech performance meets high-end fashion. An outerwear collection that effortlessly combines function, comfort and luxurious details in the styles–and that you can't even see the performance part. This year, we launched a new brand image for G-Lab, pushed the collections far ahead, partly reorganized sales, gained new, very high-value customers and, on the other hand, separated from one or two retailers.
You announced that you’re increase the proportion of women’s styles to 50%. To what extent did this succeed?
Fifty percent was a very ambitious target. We have surpassed it and are of course extremely satisfied with this success. The new women's collection is very well received and we are looking forward to the f/w ’18 sales season with great anticipation.
You wanted to be more premium with G-Lab. The new campaigns for s/s and f/w’18 also show a new visual language. Has this intention been implemented on the sales side? How many doors are currently supplied? Which new premium dealers were acquired?
We are very pleased that we have been able to achieve the desired success with the realignment of the brand. Brand image and product now speak a language–it's not always so easy to achieve this in a short transition phase. We have received a really great response to our development_and this is already reflected in the results. G-Lab is currently distributed in eight markets. In the local DACH region, we have clearly achieved our goals and were able to win new premium dealers, such as Jades in Düsseldorf, Donna in Hanover, Linette and Zoe in Hamburg, Standby Lindner and Ortner in Dortmund, Schnitzler in Münster, Daniels or in Austria Helmut Eder in Kitzbühel, Magazin in Graz or Lia Peroni in Linz–just to name a few. In Switzerland, we have always been very well positioned in the premium trade and supply Ciolina, Bern and Ademas, Winterthur, among others.
In the new season UNIFA will take over distribution in Germany. We are very pleased about this new cooperation. Internationally, this year we were able to win Fashionhaus NY as distributor and agency for our women's collection. They also sell ODEEH, Fabiana Pigna and luxury cashmere knitters Spencer Vladimir. With Fashionhaus, we were able to attract stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Mel & Me, Grethen House and Laurence Covell in the USA as well as international customers such as Boon-the-Shop in Seoul, Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong and Barneys Tokyo to the collection. Since December we have also been working together with a new partner for Canada and we are looking forward to a equally successful season in 2018. But the other markets, too, naturally have the task of placing the brand even more strongly in the premium segment. In Russia, for example, we are now with Aizel and in Denmark with Zornig. There are local successes everywhere.
Was there also an upward price correction in the course of the realignment?
No, we want and will continue to offer affordable luxury.
You have also announced a new focus on fabrics. What innovations and materials do you rely on in the new Supreme Weatherwear?
Functional wear has been on everyone's lips for the last two years. Nevertheless, we feel that our product is a unique selling point in the market: high-tech performance meets high-end fashion. In addition to trend-oriented fashion design, this is not only because we don't just buy the fabrics ready-made from the sports bar, but also because we develop them ourselves. We are making increasing use of natural face materials, which we then process into multilayered materials using membranes. For example, with the new f/w ’18 collection we will now introduce a "soft canvas" on cotton for women and a "soft canvas" for men's wool. Soft, falling, natural materials with full functional performance. Because all our styles are still waterproof, windproof, breathable and warm.
How important is sustainability in this context? Does it really matter for your collections?
We create "Favourite Pieces," i.e. high quality pieces that last longer than one season because they convince in the long term with their quality and design. And if you want to trade in your old jacket for a new style, pass it on. To his children or his friends.
Add to this our multifunctional jacket concept: more than half of our collection consists of 2-in-1 or even 3-in-1 styles, which can be worn over several seasons because they have a removable lining and therefore cover every climate condition: a jacket for spring, summer, autumn and winter, which is worn simply with or without lining. And the styles can also be varied by removable collars and hoods. You don't have to have four different models in the cabinet anymore.
How is international expansion progressing? What are the strongest markets? And which new markets have you opened up and where do you see potential for the future?
We are banking on the USA and Canada as growth drivers in the coming year. Both markets are already strong–Canada is almost on a par with Germany as the largest market, but we continue to see great potential. It is also necessary to develop the UK. It's all about finding the right agency partner for us–it's not always that easy. And then, of course, Asia is a clear target. This year we were able to establish very good contacts in Japan, Korea and China, which we would like to expand as partnerships in the coming year. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to concentrate on the existing markets and to further expand them and drive growth. There is enough potential.
How has g-lab developed in the UK?
In all our activities in 2017, our efforts to open up the English market were neglected. You just have to say it like that. In November, however, we started again with "Press Days" in London and will address the issue more intensively in 2018.
At which trade fairs will you show Weatherwear?
In 2018 we will try out a completely new approach and let g-lab take place at small, selected events instead of trade fairs. Of course, our showrooms are open during the fair–and in Paris we will also be showing the women's collection during the Pret-a-Porter Fashion Week in March.