Future Retail has announced the launch of their new brand Cover Story, an exclusive fast fashion brand dedicated to women. In an exclusive interview, Chief Executive Officer, Future Style Lab, Manjula Tiwari, shares Cover Story’s expansion plans…
The fast fashion concept in India, led by big international brands, is relatively new, but catching up fast. Brands are aiming at creating a trend for more frequent shopping among Indians, who are culturally not accustomed to changing their wardrobes often. Also, since most fast fashion derives its inspiration from local and international trends, big brands around the world hope Indians will become more experimental in their approach to fashion clothing.
However, there’s a whole different story behind Cover Story. India’s homegrown fashion brand wants to be a clear differentiator and aims to stand out in this market as a first fast fashion women’s western wear brand which is truly global.
Launched under the umbrella of Kishore Biyani’s Future Group, Cover Story’s range is highly competitive in terms of prices as compared to top-notch global brands. It brings feminine international designs, prints and styles to stores with just the right amount of tweaking to suit Indian needs.
Cover Story has opened its first standalone store in Infiniti Mall in Malad followed by a store in DLF Mall of India, Noida. Indiaretailing Bureau spoke exclusively with Manjula Tiwari, who gave us the complete scoop…
Tell us about Cover Story and its concept of fast fashion. How would this work?
There is a huge opportunity out there today in the women’s western wear segment. Women in India are incorporating global trends and sensibilities in their dressing but there isn’t any Indian fast fashion brand which can truly keep pace with their expectations. That is how the idea of Cover Story came along. While we are backed by an Indian retail conglomerate, our designs and styles originate in London.
Your brand aims to bring fresh fashion straight from the runway… how possible is that? How is the brand planning to do that?
We are bringing in the latest trends and designs with the help of our prolific London team which is always on the look-out for the newest fashion. With a robust network of global vendors and factories we are able to deliver product to the floor at very fast rates.
Do you think that international runway trends will be acceptable to Indian consumers or is the brand planning to tweak trends to suit the Indian palate?
We curate our collection for Indian sensibilities, to ensure that our brand promise remains firmly rooted in being feminine, fashionable and luxurious to the Indian woman. With the Indian team, we filter out and tailor the trends for the Indian context, by keeping the consumer always at the center of our product.
What is the USP of the brand?
While we are backed by an Indian retail conglomerate, our designs and styles originate in London which are translated into products by a team in India. What we are doing, in a nutshell, is making global fashion wearable for Indian women.
What is Cover Story’s positioning and target audience?
Our customer is like any other 23-40 year old financially independent woman who splurges on frequent shopping. Someone who thrives on social media and seeks new experiences, she often needs to refresh her wardrobe. She is modern yet rooted, and can effortlessly switch between western and ethnic wear. Cover Story is all about giving today’s women that luxurious experience whilst being affordably priced. Our clothes are polished and trendy which give women that sense of easy glamour. We are subtle and thoughtful in our designs and that manifests into the detailing in our clothing. And sure enough, it is everything that would give the Indian woman the confidence of being globally fashionable!
Please tell us about the complete product portfolio of Cover Story and its expansion plans.
In apparel, we have dresses, tops, tees, shirts, shorts, skirts, jumpsuits, jackets and jeans. We currently have bags and shoes as part of our accessories range. However, eventually we see Cover Story becoming the complete wardrobe solution for women, complete with all accessories and jewellery pieces.
How many trends/collections will you be showcasing in a year and how often will you top it up?
Fast fashion relies very heavily on freshness and hence we bring in a new collection for our consumers every two weeks. Along with a monochrome collection which is for the desk-todinner transition, and an updated basic collection, this makes it four collections per month. Moreover, for our exclusive and standalone store, the number goes upto six collections per month.
To launch a fast fashion collection requires a lot of design sensibilities. Tell us about the Future Style Lab setup in UK?
Most domestic brands do not offer fresh, global trends in a fast fashion format or focus too much on fusion wear. The international ones are too expensive for our consumer and often lack the Indian context in their design sensibilities. Cover Story is all about delivering the latest from the fashion capitals of the world while it is still the ‘latest’. What we are doing, in nutshell, is making global fashion wearable for the Indian women. We are bringing in the latest trends and designs with the help of our prolific London team which is always on the look-out for the newest fashion. With the Indian team, we filter out and tailor the trends in line with the Indian context, by keeping the consumer always at the center of our product. We understand the cultural context of our target group – how would a girl in Hyderabad or Kolkata wear this style – and that’s the thought behind every product.
Tell us about the retail planning for Cover Story? How many exclusive stores have you planned and of what size?
We’ve incorporated the brand’s identity into the detailing for every little aspect in the store. Our stores are designed to recreate the intimate boutique, and provide a comfortable shopping experience. The cash counters mimic a woman’s vanity bag while the display panels provide the feel of a magazine editorial. Most importantly, we are giving consumers the ‘phygital’ experience, blending technology through tablets with a personal shopping assistant for every customer. For this year, we are currently projecting 5 exclusive outlets across the country and these will be around 1,200 to 1,500 square feet in size.
What about online presence?
We are preparing to go live with our own Cover Story e-commerce website very soon. We have taken a lot of care to ensure a very engaging and visually pleasing consumer journey on the platform.
We are also collaborating with Myntra and will be starting on the platform soon. This will give our product a pan-India reach and we are very excited to reach out to more geographies.
The brand is available online too. What will be the main focus for sell, online or offline?
We want to focus on both.
What are the innovations that any Cover Story store is going to have?
We’ve incorporated the brand’s identity into the detailing for every little aspect in the store. Our stores are designed to recreate the intimate boutique, and provide a comfortable shopping experience. The cash counters mimic a woman’s vanity bag while the display panels provide the feel of a magazine editorial. Most importantly though, we are giving consumers the ‘phy-gital’ experience, blending technology through tablets with the personal shopping assistant for every customer. Our stylists from London have worked on the visual merchandising as well as the display windows, which are premium and completely on the lines of internal luxury brands.
Will it be present on the high streets or will remain in the malls only?
As a brand Cover Story would be a mall-focussed brand.
Share specific details on marketing/ promotion strategies. Talk about what are lined up for the future.
We have planned a subtle advertising campaign for this season. Spring/Summer’16 was a soft launch for us to test the product across markets. Having said that, we have been meticulously focusing on our branding. We have shot a beautiful campaign in Barcelona with Spain’s top fashion photographer who has previously worked for Zara, Mango and Free People. We’ve taken strategically important visual spaces around our stores and emphasized on spreading word of mouth through our social media handles for now.
Our Autumn/Winter’16 campaign will be launched with a bigger event in Mumbai with socialites and celebrities donning the key-pieces from our collection in a gala fashion event. This will be followed up by an aggressive media campaign across national dailies and high end fashion magazines, as well as increased visibility across digital media. We also want to run unique contests on social media channels in collaboration with some of India’s most fashionable bloggers and socialites.
What are the turnovers that you are estimating in the first year? What are your growth aspirations in the next two-three years?
We have aggressive plans to roll out stores across India in a span of three-four years. We are looking at opening 50 standalone stores. We are preparing to go live with our own Cover Story e-commerce website very soon. We have taken a lot of care to ensure a very engaging and visually pleasing consumer journey on the platform.
We are also collaborating with Myntra exclusively and will be starting on the platform by mid-June. This gives our product a pan-India reach and we are very excited to reach out to more geographies.
(With inputs from Images Retail Bureau)