… it is all about Karl
BY SANDY STRASSER
The wait for the first Karl Lagerfeld online shop has come to an end: since the beginning of November it has been possible to buy the new ladies’ clothing collections as well as accessories, watches, fragrances, glasses and other novelties around the clock on the website of the fashion designer – in 97 countries and five different languages. In order to duly celebrate the long-awaited launch, the new capsule collection ‘Karl around the world’, which is now available at all Lagerfeld stores worldwide as well as at selected luxury department stores and online shops has been released. CEO Pier Paolo Righi spoke to us about the realisation of the project.
Mr Righi, why have you now decided to offer products from the Karl Lagerfeld House via your website?
PIER PAOLO RIGHI: We have an extremely global and very digitally connected audience. Our house is very much at home in the digital world, so are the people we engage with. For example we have 1.6 million followers on Instagram. At the same time we see that we have brick and mortar stores and a very large group of international visitors that can’t find our product in their countries yet – from November on they will.
What expectations do you have of your new E-Commerce platform?
P. P. R.: The Karl.com site will become our biggest global flagship store, offering all of our women’s & lifestyle collections with a focus on bags. Besides, we will be able to portray the full world of Karl to our audience. This goes beyond fashion and bags and encapsulates many other areas like art, music, literature - everything that matters to Karl - and allows our audience to really engage with us. This rich content is also coming to life in our product stories which we will now make globally accessible online. We expect to make the experience even more complete now. For business, I do expect that this part of our sales activities will very soon reach a double digit share of our global sales.
What are the various challenges that you face if you want to show presence in 97 countries and in five different languages?
P. P. R.: There are plenty of challenges in general if you want to reach a global audience – there are different taste levels, different cultures and so on. However at the end, for us the most important thing is that we portray what the brand does stand for and translate this into a meaningful experience. This is what we are trying to do at best – will it work for all? No! Will it work for a global fashion-interested audience that resonates with the designer? Definitely yes!
How long did the realisation of the project last?
P. P. R.: From the decision to create an online store experience to going live, it took about one year.
What logistical efforts lie behind supplying large parts of the world with your own products?
P. P. R.: We are very lucky that we have been able to engage with Yoox Net-a-Porter Group which is one of the leading powerhouses in the world when it comes to rendering the infrastructure for fashion online stores. This means we have been able to tap into their infrastructure, which has made it relatively easy for us to cover such a large geography.
In what way do you make the brand Karl Lagerfeld perceptible even in the digital world? How do you succeed in putting a smile on your customers’ faces with every click - as if by magic?
P. P. R.: This is very well expressed, what we are in fact trying to achieve, giving people a joyful experience. This can only happen by having Karl himself very closely involved in what one can find on our site. He has so many playful and interesting aspects of his personality and of what matter to him that make our site accessible and inspirational to a broader audience.
How do you manage to have the special ambience and spirit of your stores resonate online?
P. P. R.: There are even experiences that we can only create online. This is the angle we take and explore. For example Karl has created three bespoke bags to celebrate the launch of Karl.com, they are one of a kind bags, handmade in Italy. We will auction each of these bags together with Karl’s original sketch online. For this we connect our website with the online auction house artnet. An initiative that we can only do online. And more similar initiatives are in the pipeline.
To what extent is it possible to contextualise individual items of clothing online in order to be able to put together complete outfits?
P. P. R.: Our collections are developed in a way that allow a great mix and match and allow being worn in a more formal environment, very casual or in an evening environment. The collections are created with the view of ease. Ease in wearing, in mixing and matching.
How do you resolve the issue of haptics? What options do you offer your customers in order that they can feel the unique quality of your products as intensely as possible?
P. P. R.: The missing haptics is indeed an element that can only be compensated by a surrogate, which is visualising the product, and this has to be done in the best way so that the product can be visually felt as if it was touched – at least almost. But nothing replaces the ability to touch a fashion piece in a store. This is why our online and offline stores are complementary.
What form will the cooperation between you and your partners, such as for example Net-a-Porter, Stylebop.com or Harrods take in the future?
P. P. R.: I do believe that in the not too distant future the majority of fashion sales will be made online. The partners that you mentioned play an enormously important role in that context. So do they in our plans. We have been successful with these partners in creating very meaningful initiatives that have engaged a large audience – our launch with Net-a-Porter created the biggest traffic NAP ever had on their site and we had many great projects thereafter. It is important to stay very nimble and creative in these collaborations and not to get too institutional in the approach.
Managing your own online shop means interacting with the customers to a certain extent. Do you think it would be conceivable to encounter Karl as a personal style consultant at some point in the future?
P. P. R.: Many people ask if Karl is cloned, as he is able to do so many different things at the same time – and do it well. No he is not cloned, but if we wanted to follow this idea you mention we would have to clone him.
Pier Paolo Righi has been CEO and President of the brand Karl Lagerfeld since 2011. The half-German half-Italian began his career at the sporting goods manufacturer ‘Reusch’ and was also European Head of Nike. Before his commitment to Nike, he was responsible for the premium brands of the Pentland Group in Germany – brands such as Lacoste footwear, Speedo and Ellesse. In addition to this, he worked for two years as Senior Executive for Tommy Hilfiger Europe.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q4 2015. Picture credit © Karl Lagerfeld