LONDON — A few days into the first COVID-19 lockdown, Copenhagen-based designer Stine Goya and her husband Thomas Hertz made some tough decisions and started downsizing on all fronts.
Without waiting to see how the situation would develop like many of their peers, they chose to scale down their company’s budgets, collection sizes and staff by a minimum of 20 percent. They also opted out of physical catwalk shows for at least two seasons — and stuck with their decision, even if fashion weeks went ahead in Copenhagen.
In a fashion industry plagued by FOMO, taking such a significant step back would usually come with the assumption that the brand would end up being forgotten or losing its relevance. But the reality was far from it: By slowing down, Stine Goya strengthened both its creative offer and financial positioning — and it’s now ready for a bigger take off.
As the world reopens, the brand is set to make its return to the official Copenhagen Fashion Week schedule for fall 2022 with a physical catwalk show at the Danish capital’s historic Design Museum — a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” according to Goya.
This is also the year the designer, who started her namesake label 16 years ago, feels ready to further expand her colorful universe, adding shoes, bags and sustainably made swimwear to the mix, as well as growing the company’s international presence in a big way.
The idea is to “go all in” in the U.K., the company’s second biggest market after Scandinavia, with a new London base opening later this year at the capital’s new creative hub, 180 Strand, followed by a retail store in the near future. The U.S. is also a big part of the label’s growth roadmap, as the increasing popularity of its bright, checkered knits — worn by everyone from Hailey Bieber to Kendall Jenner in the last year — created fertile ground for further growth.
A new logo is also in the works, as well as a jewelry collaboration with fellow Dane Georg Jensen, set to make its debut globally in March.
This scope of growth is putting the brand on the global fashion scene, in a way that only a few Danish labels, such as Ganni, have managed to achieve so far.
But the husband-and-wife duo are determined to get there, which is why they have also been tapping design, marketing and production executives from major brands including Dior, Loewe, Bottega Veneta and Mary Katrantzou to help them realize their global ambitions.
“It’s easier to understand what happened when you are on the other side of the crisis. But we can see it now: taking a step back then, prepared us to move many steps forward now,” said Hertz, who works alongside his wife as the label’s chief executive officer. “In the middle of the crisis, it was all about securing the company, cutting down and taking control wherever we could. But we ended the year in great shape, over performing on our goals. Through the process, we learnt that sometimes a tighter, more directional collection can make it easier for everybody to actually buy and understand.”
On the creative front, Goya is also coming out of the crisis with renewed confidence. “Downsizing the collections gave me a different kind of focus. You make sure that you don’t over design, which is very easy for us designers, and ask yourself more, ‘What is the right product to put out there?'”
It turns out that sticking to the brand’s optimistic aesthetic of electric colors, psychedelic prints and fuss-free silhouettes made for the right products. Instead of playing it safe and jumping on the minimalist trends that dominated during the pandemic, Goya doubled down on her signatures — part of the reason why the brand kept high sell-throughs throughout the last year and a half, she argues.
“If stores still work with you in the middle of a crisis, there’s a reason for you being there. In our case, that reason was giving customers the opportunity to dress in bolder, colorful pieces which don’t look like a lot of other brands’ [collections]. We learned that it’s even more important to stick to our own ways,” Hertz added.
Unlike many others, the brand didn’t scale back on wholesale and stayed in close contact with its partners to mitigate the situation.
“You can’t transfer all the risk on the retailer. You have to take on part of the risk yourself and assume responsibility — the conversation is a lot easier to have from that place. Of course, we had to take some stock back, but then we could also save on some other areas,” said Hertz, adding that wholesale remains the business’ main distribution channel, alongside its own growing e-commerce platform.
The brand is stocked in 450 retailers across 30 markets and is working with new sales agencies to expand its presence in markets with growth potential. While the U.K. and U.S. are top of the agenda, there will also be a focus on Germany as of this fall, followed by Spain, Italy and France from resort 2023.
Retailers are already showing appetite for the new accessories and swim categories the brand is delving into, and the duo is also planning on adding some more elevated pieces into its offer.
“We are not changing the price point of the brand or going from affordable price points to a higher level. It’s just about expanding and offering a little bit more within the affordable range,” Hertz explained.
This new vision will crystallize at the brand’s fall 2022, taking place on Feb. 2, which Goya said will offer an edgier, more directional take on the brand’s signature aesthetic, with the new range presented alongside an arty backdrop by Danish architects Spacon & X.
It will be shown to the local group of artists and creatives who have been Stine Goya loyal supporters from the get-go, alongside a new crop of international guests.
“All our early support came from a little group of people here in Copenhagen, posting about us and building hype around the brand. It’s been such an important part of our development and now we’d love to do this beyond Copenhagen, in London and the rest of the world,” Goya said. “We want to open up to all people who like to dress a little bolder and become part of this way of dressing, thinking and living.”
For the moment, this opening up will also be self-funded, according to Hertz: “We have the faith and the belief that we can grow the company quite substantially, with our own means. We have a chairman, who has invested a little bit in the company, but we all work with him because we mainly need his brain, it’s not as much for financial reasons.”