With Milan Fashion Week on the horizon, Brand Manager for Dries Van Noten, Axel Leclerc-Baglin, gave some insight on what makes a brand unique.
While studying part-time as an interior design student, Leclerc-Baglin began his career working for L’éclaireur, a Parisian multi-brand store known for its high-end creative fashions. After that, he took jobs for fashion brands Yojhi Yamamoto and Vanessa Bruno.
“VB was a newcomer and a tiny fashion company which required you to be a multitasker. It was a short but intensive experience where I could work one day in the design studio and the day after at the press office,” said Leclerc-Baglin.
He then went on to work for designer brand Dries Van Noten, which is where he has stayed ever since.
“I had my job interview with Dries himself, which is hard to imagine right now,” said Leclerc-Baglin. “I was a huge fan of the brand. As a musician, I was so amazed by the creativity leading the company.”
Lerclerc-Baglin went on to develop the brand for mens and womens wear in Le Bon Marché, which along with being a part of the LVMH conglomerate is one of the oldest department stores in the world.
“They expected it to become a mix of a luxury department store and a huge high end concept store. It is probably the place I learned the most professionally, working hand in hand with product managers, retail buyers and visual merchandisers.” said Lerclerc-Baglin.
After launching in 2010, Leclerc-Baglin began working at Dries Van Noten’s newest men’s store in Paris, where he still works to this day.
“It was a very exciting project to start something all over again but with new expectations, to be able to fully express the brand and to create a completely new customer experience,” said Lerclerc-Baglin.
The customer profile for each and every brand is unique. For Dries Van Noten, these attributes define the core values of the customer and why they would be interested in purchasing from the brand in the first place.
“The brand is an ‘intellectual’ brand which means the DVN customer has a specific sensitivity to colors, prints, fabrics and has an education in terms of arts and handcraft know-how,” said
Lerclerc-Baglin. “She/he is sensible and understands the references to painters or any other artists. The customer mostly works in artistic fields surrounding graphism, interior design, musician, actors and art gallery owners.”
Each store will then create a unique offering based on the knowledge of their customer base. This is most often reflected within their physical storefronts. Especially in Paris, being such an international place, Dries Van Noten customers have different kinds of expectations regarding morphological aspects and consumer cultures.
“The most important point to me is the way we welcome our customers and the customer experience. Dries is not a traditional luxury store but instead offers a more personal experience,” said Lerclerc-Baglin. “Our Paris stores are based on the concept of an apartment where Dries could live in Paris. It is full of art pieces and beautifully selected antique furniture not to show off, but just to feel like a private home.”
Lerclerc-Baglin went on to describe the ways in which the staff has been trained to personally interact with each customer.
“We personally open the door when customers ring the bell, and we welcome each customer like you would do with friends in your own apartment,” said Lerclerc-Baglin. “Our statement is more to create a friendly and trustful relationship with our customers… This is probably the opposite attitude required by our competitors, with sales teams in uniforms bringing products like little robots.”
According to Lerclerc-Baglin, Dries Van Noten has a special positioning in the market, being a part of the designer segment in luxury. This is different from a brand like Hermès who are better represented as traditional or heritage luxury.
“We are part of the prescriptive brands, those who create the fashion trends because of innovation including new shapes, volumes, unexpected colors palette or prints combinations,” said Lerclerc-Baglin. “The brand is seriously watched by our competitors. So renewing ourselves is part of our DNA. This is exactly what our customers are searching for, being unique and feeling exclusive but not with a brand that everybody could recognize.”
Some of Dries Van Noten’s brand history takes part in the way the garments are constructed, with a large emphasis on textiles.
“We do value craftsmanship, with a tradition of embroidery made in India and a very loyal partnership with these suppliers,” said Lerclerc-Baglin. “We made a men’s collection some years ago which was a tribute to our beautiful fabric manufacturers. Dries loves the traditional English wool fabrics. Some of our suppliers are very small mills that still use the same weaving process they have for centuries, and with sheeps that are growing around the mills to supply the wool.”
Lerclerc-Baglin makes it very clear that Dries Van Noten is a brand to look out for, with lots of new and exciting projects appearing in the near future.
“The next challenge for us is more to lead the change from a small independent creative designer’s brand to a more corporate brand,” said Lerclerc-Baglin.