Promoting young talent

For young fashion designers, the flashbulb frenzy on the runway of a major fashion show is usually a distant dream. But especially for small fashion startups, logistics plays a very important role. Whether it's sending product samples, supplying boutiques with final product, online store shipping or managing returns, small companies face numerous logistics hurdles. 

Rixo Fashion
Rixo London: The British label, known for its distinctive patterns, received the DHL Award for Fashion Potential in 2017.

The story of the hip new British label Rixo provides a case in point. As sales from their own online shop began picking up steam, the company founders Henrietta Rix and Orlagh McCloskey stopped posting the packages themselves and arranged for DHL to pick them up. Outsourcing the first mile to DHL was just a small step, but one that allowed the young entrepreneurs to improve their processes and concentrate on their own business. 

Of course the DHL-Rixo story doesn't just end with a few parcel pick-ups. The label has long-since outgrown the student apartment where it all started. Rixo's creations have made it into the major fashion stores, their online business is booming, and their clothes are being worn by celebrities such as Lily James and Sandra Bullock. And all under their own power, without the backing of external investors. One of the many reasons the company was awarded Britain's DHL Award for Fashion Potential in 2017.

Rixo is just one example of how DHL invests in promoting young companies and fashion labels. "Especially when they're just starting out, designers often face very big challenges," says Arjan Sissing, Head of Brand Marketing at Deutsche Post DHL Group. "We want to help lower the hurdles for young talents." One way DHL does this is with awards such as the DHL Award for Fashion Potential, which the company helps finance. With the £20,000 awarded by the prize, Rixo was able to expand internationally. DHL usually supports the prizewinners with transport and logistics services as well. 

Young talents need role models

Sometimes young designers don't need material support, just a little guidance. "Often young designers don't have the experience to know what to watch out for when building a label," explains Arjan Sissing. To lend support on this front, DHL joined forces with the online magazine The Business of Fashion (BoF) to create the podcast Drive, in which successful designers and entrepreneurs talk about their road to success on the international fashion scene. Conducted in English, the podcast is hosted by BoF founder and CEO Imran Amed. Drive's four episodes so far have featured a diverse range of experts: José Neves, founder of the luxury online shop Farfetch, Diane von Fürstenberg, fashion icon and inventor of the legendary wrap dress, Bobby Kim, founder of the streetwear label The Hundreds, and Alexandre Mattiussi, founder of the men's wear brand AMI. By sharing their wide-ranging experience and perspectives, these experts provide valuable insight into the fashion business and act as role models for up-and-coming fashion talents. "This form of cooperation as well as the podcast medium were both new territory for us," says Sissing. "But feedback so far indicates that people like the podcast, and that it's providing young designers with valuable input." Listeners value Drive because it's not only about the success stories, but also about the steps involved in getting there - the creative process and big ideas, but also the hurdles and setbacks.

The search for trends and visionary ideas

Another practical aid for designers is the "Designer's Playbook", which DHL published in 2017 together with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). The Playbook provides young designers with practical tips for building their companies and draws on a 2017 study published by DHL and CFDA entitled "The Human-Centered Supply Chain". "The study focuses on future challenges facing fashion-industry supply chains and how to overcome these challenges," explains Arjan Sissing. Such future studies play an important role for DHL. "As a fashion logistics provider, we're on the pulse of the latest trends and developments in the industry. But in the crush of our daily work, we sometimes lose sight of the longer-term trends," explains Sissing. To help keep an eye on the long-term horizon, DHL has collaborated for several years now with major industry associations such as the CFDA, the British Fashion Council (BFC) or the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (CNMI), and works alone or in cooperation with these associations on addressing the future challenges in fashion and fashion logistics. 

Sometimes this work draws interest not only from within the industry, but from the general public as well. Recently, for example, DHL published a study on the most important fashion trends and fashion-industry icons of the last 100 years. The study involved a survey of 6,000 women from the US, UK, Australia and Japan. The findings: In terms of fashion innovation, the actress Audrey Hepburn is still considered the most important fashion icon some 25 years after her death. "Our study shows that Hepburn's truly unique style really did set fashion standards. Whether it's the little black dress or the turtleneck sweater and ballerinas, her outfits remain ingrained in our collective memory decades later," says Arjan Sissing. Study participants chose the "Swinging Sixties" as the most innovative fashion era.