EXCLUSIVE: Givenchy Adds Online Sales, Monthly Drops Included

Clare Waight Keller is tearing a page from the streetwear handbook as part of her creative roadmap for Givenchy.

The English designer, who is to unveil her first collection for the storied French house on Oct. 1 during Paris Fashion Week, plans to offer monthly drops of exclusive products on Givenchy’s revamped web site, which is to finally add online sales beginning Sept. 25, starting in France.

The first capsule comprises five key pieces in white — a hoodie, T-shirt, sweater, clutch and mini Pandora bag. A “mini me” range for adults and children is scheduled for November.

While a latecomer to having its own e-commerce, Givenchy boasts more than 13 million followers on social platforms, including many under-35s with high expectations for luxury brands in the digital space.

“The good side of launching our e-commerce platform way after our competitors is we gained experience and knowledge over the last few years that we were able to direct at creating a seamless, faultless destination,” said Philippe Fortunato, chief executive officer of the French company. “The advantage of taking our time on this project is we got to make it a real in-house transformation.”

In fact, Fortunato said the web site is not merely an e-commerce platform, but the “central focal point of our house now. We used this as an opportunity to become an omnichannel ecosystem, and that changes everything in the way we do things.”

Several of Europe’s marquee luxury brands have been latecomers to e-commerce — with Céline not yet selling any products online, and Chanel only tiptoeing into the fray with sales of beauty products and eyewear in the U.S.

Givenchy already generates significant sales online via its wholesale accounts — both omnichannel and pure-play digital retailers such as Net-a-porter.com — with the channel representing 23 percent of revenues in 2016.

The company, part of luxury group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, declined to pinpoint sales projections for its new e-commerce platform. However, it is understood the brand boasts among the highest proportion of online sales within the LVMH Fashion Group.

Givenchy counts 83 directly operated, physical stores worldwide, of which 52 are freestanding, 22 are shop-in-shops and nine are outlets.

Fortunato said that by the end of 2018, the Givenchy e-store should be one of the brand’s top-five grossing doors in its network. “And down the road, that’s going to be our number-one store worldwide,” he predicted.

Early next year, e-commerce will roll out across Europe with the initial focus on Italy, England, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland. North America is to come online in mid-2018 and Asian markets in 2019.

“We expect leather goods to be in high demand online, especially with the anticipation around Clare Waight Keller’s Givenchy. We also expect shoes to play a big part, as well as specific ready-to-wear items such as casualwear,” Fortunato said.

Givenchy opted to begin with e-commerce in France because it is a “particularly important” market and “we wanted to start with it in order to get market feedback and see the systems in action before we deployed worldwide.”

France is one of Givenchy’s top-five markets “and the proportion of tourists in our retail network is at half-and-half with locals,” Fortunato said, noting that Chinese tourists represent its top nationality.

Shoppers in Paris can click and collect at Givenchy stores or can benefit from a “white-glove” same-day delivery service. The latter is to be rolled out to other fashion capitals.

Smiling Givenchy representatives wearing white cotton gloves are to hand packages to customers — echoing the ritual of handling couture garments in its Avenue George V salons, and jewelry and precious leathers in boutiques.

“Bringing couture standards to your doorstep was for us one of the best signs of luxury redefined in the digital world,” Fortunato said, noting he was eager to exalt Givenchy’s couture legacy by delivering haute service.

Geo-localization features allow consumers to track down products wherever they are available, for example. They can also connect to a brand representative throughout their online purchases, and fix appointments in-store to try on exceptional pieces.

The Givenchy online store is to showcase the 65-year-old brand’s entire retail offer, with stock visibility, with the monthly “drops” designed to “keep our consumer on their toes,” according to Fortunato. “They will be limited editions that will go on sale at a given time and that will most likely fly out of the web site almost instantly. That is why we call them drops, because they just sneak up on you unexpectedly.”

Waight Keller officially joined Givenchy as artistic director in May after six fruitful years helming Chloé. The recruitment suggested Givenchy was ready to turn the page on the daring, Goth-tinged fashions plied by Riccardo Tisci over his 12-year tenure and explore a more subdued version of the aristocratic elegance and architectural flair associated with the house.

Among her first creative tasks was to partner with the New York-based agency R/GA on the look of the web site.

“It was quite interesting to see her lay the grounds of her era at Givenchy. She said the web site would be her first product, and I thought that was extremely modern,” Fortunato said.

For one, she devised a digital version of Givenchy’s 4G symbol that became the main icon on the landing page – along with the minimalist, functional black-and-white look.

“In her aesthetic approach to the web site, Clare wanted something that would be straight to the point and that would allow for the content to be the branding,” the ceo explained. “We didn’t want to overdo something in terms of effects or design, because we wanted the navigation to feel pure and intuitive.”

Visually, the goal is to exalt the product with high-resolution imagery and as many as eight angles on each item.

Editorial features on the site include a profile of the English designer and a look at her first advertising campaign by Steven Meisel, featuring men and women lounging with a cat — foreshadowing her coed fashion show.

There’s even a lottery. Consumers can enter for a chance to win one of three invitations to attend Waight Keller’s debut show. A poster campaign in Paris, Milan, New York and London will point to a dedicated URL where consumers can register from Sept. 25 to 27.

Fortunato said the e-commerce venture was initiated about two years ago in order to organize logistics, reorganize stocks and map out the bouquet of specialized services.

“We started this project with the consumer at heart, and wanted to build a universe that would connect our aspirational content to our product catalogue in an unexpected way,” he said. “We started by asking ourselves what a full-service web site means to our entire set of shoppers, and we mapped all the journeys one by one, making sure we didn’t leave any scenario behind.”

Reflecting the fully unified approach, “we want our product presentation and merchandising principles to match both our physical stores and online platform,” he said. “In order to have very strong digital service, you need to have a network of strong flagship experiences.”

Givenchy’s next grand opening is a London flagship slated to bow in the second half of next year.