Expert Insights: How Businesses have been affected by Covid-19 and Tips to Survive Moving Forward with Igor Ivanenko
Igor Ivanenko is the Owner of Only The Blind, a luxury streetwear brand based in London which was founded in 2016. Only The Blind has built a strong, loyal following and can be seen as artists such as Madison Beer, Hailey Bieber, Yxng Bane, Maleek Berry, Skepta, Nicky Romero, and many others, representing and wearing the brand.
We first started to feel the impact of the epidemic when one of our manufacturers for our cargo bottoms in China faced a lockdown and was unable to deliver one of our orders which were for a very large retailer. We had to notify them of the cancellation and that there may be delays with other products. They were understanding of the situation, but this was only the beginning.
A little bit of time passed, and things seemed to be recovering in Asia, but it started becoming more and more apparent that this wasn’t the end of the epidemic as infection rates started being reported in Europe with growing numbers day by day. We were notified by another one of our factories in Turkey that there were delays in their production. This, of course, impacted wholesale orders which were ordered to strict deadlines.
One of the largest retailers in the UK was looking to stock us for the AW20 season, but then due to the impact the lockdown had on them, they had to pull out from launching new accounts which were a huge blow to us.
Luckily our UK manufacturer delivered our SS20 collection on time before the lockdown and our manufacturer in Turkey was able to deliver the rest of it with only a slight delay. We shot this campaign in Dubai in December already so the content was there ready to be published to launch the campaign as soon as we received the delivery.
As time went on, it was evident that the situation was only going to get worse. We decided to close our London office and the Design, Marketing, Sales, and Admin team started to work from home for their wellbeing and safety. That week we made the decision to close our London retail store as well and by the end of the week, a compulsory lockdown was announced for the UK.
Our warehouse is run by a small team and has been able to remain open following government guidelines and ensuring the safety of all of the team is looked after. This was a crucial point for us to be able to remain open online and continue fulfilling orders as normal as there was now no revenue stream from our retail store and a pause on any new wholesale orders as all stores were reluctant to buy any stock into stores that were closed globally.
The working from home aspect didn’t actually massively impact us as we all stay in contact throughout the day on Skype and I’ve managed to set up a temporary studio at home to be able to keep releasing new content. Having built a good relationship with many influencers in the industry, although there is a lockdown, they’re still able to provide us content and promote it from their homes.
The whole team began to focus on growing the online business and improving the website with new features, design changes, etc. Something we didn’t have time for before but has allowed us to be in the best position possible following the return to normality in the world.
We’ve actually seen a huge growth in online sales which are a result of many different factors. People not being able to visit shops in person and sitting at home have started shopping online more. We’ve also noticed that social media ads became incredibly cheap at this time so it has allowed our brand to reach a lot of new customers who didn’t know about the brand before.
There’s also been a change in buying habits of customers as the majority of them are at home now so we’ve seen a huge increase in our essentials collections which are high-quality comfortable pieces that you can wear at home and we have done a loungewear edit for this.
No one knows when this pandemic will be over and when we will be returning to normality, so we’re taking this time to dynamically plan everything for that stage.
We’ve been looking to move the majority of our manufacturing to the UK as we’re proud to be able to produce in our country and our customers really appreciate the intricate quality that products made here. We’re finalising our SS21 designs now and waiting for the restrictions to ease so our factory in England can sample these for us.
This crisis has meant that it’s quite hard to open new stockist accounts in the UK and other countries as many of these stockists are now overstocked, very cautious about spend and having huge financial troubles especially if they’re mainly physical retailers. There’s not much we can do about this but we are continuing to design future collections and have a bit more time now to refine them as much as possible to be able to present them to retailers down the line.
We have a pop-up booked in Soho in an amazing unit with a great location for the end of July and whole of August which was a huge cash flow commitment we made a few weeks before the epidemic and it’s concerning that this may not work out in the end due to the restrictions and potential lack of international customers traveling to London this summer, or even not being allowed to open in the end but we can only wait and see what the situation is like by the end of summer.
OPPORTUNITIES POST COVID-19
Post coronavirus, I believe there will be a shift towards online for many elements of the industry as businesses try to become leaner and save as many costs as they can. Fashion week has already announced that it will be held online later this year due to the expected restrictions. I think we’ll also see a huge growth of loungewear pieces continuing to sell for the coming seasons.
I think the best advice for brands right now is to not waste this valuable time right now and to focus on parts of their business that may have been neglected previously due to overwhelming workloads and make sure they are constantly improving all the aspects of their business model such as their websites, social media, marketing, etc.
You can check the Only The Blind website at www.onlytheblind.com and their social handle is @onlytheblind.
You can read the full article here: https://www.thefashionnetwork.co.uk/articles/2i94h5h7zCmvK8yZY