In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, the businesses of young, emerging and independent designers are likely to be the most vulnerable. In a new series, FN will spotlight these creatives to learn how they are adjusting to a new way of working and living.
Accessories and footwear label Les Petits Joueurs is one of a handful of emerging brands that have been on the rise for the past few years. Well versed in the nuances of social media messaging, its shoes and bags have a cult following among the young and fashion savvy.
But like most of the industry, the brand has been adapting to the fast-changing times with a series of contingent events that began during fashion month. When designer Mariasole Cecchi began to receive cancellations from her usual retail partners on their Milan buying appointments in late February — in the early days of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak — she decided to fly her collection to Paris for a small, impromptu presentation there.
And when even those appointments began to be canceled, Cecchi returned to Italy, making her way to her family’s home in Florence just as the nationwide lockdown went into place. She’s been there for more than a month now, biding her time and adjusting to her new daily schedule and an entirely different business strategy for the six-year-old accessories brand.
“The business as we knew it has completely changed,” said Cecchi in a phone interview. “Our wholesalers either didn’t place orders or canceled their orders, so now we’re just focusing on what we have in stock now to sell now and creating content for it.”
The designer has all of her new spring ’19 product with her at home and is creating all of the images and videos for the website and social media from there. “People feel more close to the brand now.” she said of the creative shift. “And that’s led to an increase in sales on the site.”
The self-created content has also helped Cecchi and her business partner, brother Andrea, to secure preorders from customers and retailers alike on standout fall ’20 pieces, like the Taya pump. Cecchi posted a video of the new satin and crystal-embellished pump on the brand’s Instagram account; it has 135,132 views to date. “We are testing and analyzing since we are closer to the client now, trying to get a better sense of what they want from LPJ,” said Cecchi. “Eventually that will help us decide what to produce.”
The data is certain to come in handy when the Cecchis are finally able to work with their Florence-based manufacturers, which are all still closed under a nationwide order. “This was one of my best collections,” said Cecchi of the fall ’20 line. “We are going to use the best of this collection for the next buying period — whenever that may be.”
The pause in production is helping Cecchi and her brother learn how to do things they’ve always wanted to do outside of fashion. She is choreographing hip-hop dances in Florence, while Andrea is learning to cook at his home in Milan. The siblings check in with each other each afternoon, solidifying plans for how they will move forward with the brand once life returns to normal. Up for discussion: An adjustment in seasonal cycle, and repurposing their year-old Milan headquarters to a creative co-working space.
“It was becoming too much, too fast. And creativity doesn’t really benefit from that pace,” said Cecchi. “You could never sit back and look at a collection and think, ‘Wow.’ This moment is allowing me to sit and look at things differently.”