It is one of the fastest-growing fashion companies of the Nordics: Chiquelle. The fashion brand, based on e-commerce and digitalisation, designs and produces fashion for women between the ages of 16-30. We talk to Pouya Boland, CEO and co-founder of Chiquelle, to talk about the growth of the brand and its international ambitions.
Text: Nico Hoeijmans // Photos: Chiquelle
Online fashion brand, Chiquelle, was founded in 2012 in Stockholm, Sweden. It has since expanded into Europe, the United States and other countries worldwide. The company’s ideas were not just to create a local brand but to create and establish an international, exclusive fashion brand. “We wanted Chiquelle to be available for whoever is interested in the latest trends and quality fashion products worldwide,” says Boland.
Starting a global brand requires a well thought out strategy. If said strategy is successful, the sky is the limit. Six awards later, the company is flourishing and growing, without the help of external capital or investors.
Social media plays a crucial role in Chiquelle’s strategy. Instagram is an especially critical channel. “We see our social media accounts on Instagram as inspiration for the customers we have. It is more than just a sales and marketing account. We provide the latest trends, show the newest outfits. It is a place where we literally interact with, engage and involve our customers. It is a connection we have created with our customers, fans and followers, where we show whatever happens at the company and brand, in productions, behind the scenes on photo shoots and major projects. We are giving value back to the followers we have,” explains Boland.
Influencers play a major role in the company’s marketing strategy as well. “While we work with different types and categories of influencers, we especially like micro-influencers. They are authentic and not too commercial. They are still on point, and that is what matters. That is why we love working with them. They provide us with a medium to show off the latest trends, as we are launching weekly collections based on these trends, colours and fabrics in the fashion industry.”
As central marketing focuses on the online channels, Chiquelle is able to create hype around its offline activities. “We produce and design all of our products ourselves, and we are the only channel selling them as well. We do not use marketplaces or resellers. As the popularity of our products has grown, we have realised that a unique selling point (USP) could bring a lot of power to our offline strategy. On a regular basis, we open a temporary pop-up store. It is actually common for more than 500 people to wait in line for hours before the opening. For them, a pop-up store is more than just an easily accessible selling point. It is a place where they can interact with the brand, employees and teams behind the collections. It is a place where our community gets a full customer and brand experience,” says Boland. “For us, that is great. We like to be close to our customers and like them to feel the quality we offer in the products that we usually only sell online. It is a great moment to measure consumers’ needs as well. And, as a bonus, we see our online revenue increase in the areas where we have opened a pop-up store,” he says, as he illustrates the benefits for both consumer and brand.
Another USP of the fashion brand is that it, contrary to traditional brands, launches limited collections every week. “It takes us two to three weeks to launch a collection from idea, to concept, design, production, transportation, IT, warehousing and getting the products online,” says Boland. “That basically means we can produce whatever the consumer wants at any moment, as we do not do mass production. Rather, we produce on the spot, on-demand, which gives us the most trendy stock and products,” he adds.
Traditional retailers produce six months to a year ahead. “This means that they have products which are out of date once they launch them, or that they basically guess and think a specific product or trend will be fashionable. As they produce such a long time ahead, they need to mass produce, since they can’t re-stock within one or two weeks. This results in products being left in stock. It means they need to use discounts to get rid of them, and discounts put pressure on profitability and can bring them financial problems. We produce in the moment, following the trends, and so have relevant stock. And whatever sells out, we can re-stock within one or two weeks again. We never have too much stock or financial risks, due to this set-up and our supply-chain strategy.”
As we follow this innovative production strategy, it can be expected that Chiquelle will focus on more shopping innovations. Boland confirms the company is looking into tech solutions that improve the shopping experience. One of these developments is in the field of augmented reality (AR). “We recently launched our AR-app. With this app, you can create your own avatar, based on your looks, measurements, body type, skin, hair and eye colour. It is literally a lookalike of yourself. With it, you can try all of our products in 3D and AR-mode, in different environments and places. It gives the consumer the possibility to mix and match our clothing and see if it actually fits them or not. We are very proud that our app got the number one downloaded app spot in Sweden, beating apps like Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp and Netflix.”
Developing these new features is part of Chiquelle’s growth strategy. As growth continues, the company undoubtedly faces challenges as well. “For sure,” confirms Boland. “Growth brings challenges. While it is amazing to grow, this means you need to adapt to new ways of working or change structures that no longer function. What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow, as you might outgrow structures all the time. For us, our biggest challenge is to keep our partners growing with us at the same time. We are preparing for massive steps in the market, to become one of the largest pure fashion brands worldwide.”
This article was previously published in Cross-Border Magazine 12.