Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Interview with Russian designer and founder of Sultanna Frantsuzova

Friday, the 4th of October I visited one of the most amazing and positively surprising retail spaces in Moscow, the Sultanna Frantsuzova pop-up shop, located at the first floor of a former rubber factory in the Sportivnaya area of the city. There I met with the brand's PR Director, Anna Belolipetskaya, who talked me through the brand's strategy of reentering the market and the concept behind the design of the store. It was like an oasis of relaxation in a very busy, industrial part of the city. With beautiful music playing in the background, exquisite hand-crafted garments in a retro decor (something that I learned works well with the inspiration behind the collections of the brand), Sultanna Frantsuzova's world left me mesmerised.

Sultanna Frantsuzova, the brand was founded in 2004 (next year marks the brand's 10th anniversary) and was named after the designer itself. It is best known for good quality design at affordable prices, a motto followed by the company, that has brought in many loyal customers and brand lovers over the years. The key items of the latest AW13/14 collection are the dresses and coats, that are made out of the best materials and fabrics and represent good investment pieces (timeless design with a characteristic quirkiness, that defines the brand).

U.P: 1. Is this the brand's first pop-up store?

S.F: Yes, it's the first time we opened a  pop-up store. We used to have a kind of showroom where customers of our online shop could try on items and also where we would communicate with the press, but we closed it to focus on the pop up store, which gives a very clear understanding of what Sultanna Frantsuzova brand is about.

U.P: 2. How did you come up with the concept? Where did you get your inspiration from?

S.F: We thought it would be a lovely idea to open a pop up, the major inspiration came from the famous "Guerilla shop" concept brought to life by Comme des Garçons. 

U.P: 3. How did you find the location and why did you decide to open a pop-up store in such an unconventional space?

S.F: We were searching for a location not too far away from the centre of Moscow (it's only 10 minutes away by Metro) with some nice authentic interiors. We left the green paint on the walls from the older renovations, old-fashioned marble floor with some parts of worn-out lino, we loved the way the shop window looked and brought some vintage furniture to emphasize the retro spirit of the brand. The administrative building of the Rubber factory of 1968 fitted all our expectations perfectly, as well as the rent rate, which allows us to keep the same prices we have in our online shop and be committed to the brand's concept "designer clothes at affordable price".

U.P: 4. How would you evaluate your customer's response towards this unconventional marketing strategy?

S.F: We have a lot of loyal customers, so they were happy to find out we opened a pop up, as it has a unique atmosphere, which is not possible in a common shopping mall. Most of our customers from Moscow who purchased online,  now visit our pop up store on a regular basis, even some customers from other cities come to Moscow just to drop in our pop up store.

U.P: 5. Do you intend to open other pop-ups around Moscow (or maybe Russia)?

S.F: Now we are pondering over the idea of opening another pop up in St. Petersburg, as we have lot's of our brand's fans there, it feels like St.Petersburg “fashionistas” are keen on all rising trends.

U.P: 6. Do you believe that pop-up retail is a rising trend in Russia? (more specifically in the fashion industry) Will Russian (local) brands adopt this strategy in order to promote themselves on the market and maintain their activity?

S.F: I guess so, it's a rising trend in Russia but it is rather new, both for the brands and  for the customers, as most of the customers  still feel more comfortable to shop in huge shopping malls, but on the other hand it's really a very good opportunity to enter the market for the new Russian brands.

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