Imprévu Fashion - 13 May 2019
Three years ago, Justine God left her job as a buyer in the textile industry to launch Imprévu, a women’s ready-to-wear brand. With a thoughtful business model and strong values, her label has found its place in the Belgian market, and soon abroad.
Since Imprévu was launched, you have chosen to manufacture in Italy, in workshops with a human scale, to operate on the basis of seasonal capsules, and to prohibit e-commerce. Explain that to us.
When I launched this project, I wanted it to be in-line with the values that are dear to me and that formed the fundamentals of the company. I knew that I wanted, whatever happened, to maintain a real closeness with the shops that distribute the brand, and to move forward in a spirit of partnership. That's why, even though I have often been criticised for it, I refuse to sell online. This idea of only offering small series so as not to overproduce, to limit the number of stores in each geographical zone, so as not to flood the market, and to be able to offer competitive prices to my customers while guaranteeing an ethical approach contributes, I am convinced, to the success of Imprévu.
From the outset, you have worked with Élodie Timmermans, a photographer from Liege. Together, you have created very strong photo shoots that also contribute to building the identity of Imprévu. Why have you chosen to capitalise on this approach?
These campaigns are the culmination of six months of work. Without these photos, I could not promote the branding that I am trying to build. Although I am attentive to the way in which the stores stage my collections, and customers’ looks are often a source of inspiration for me, I find it important to be able to express the identity of Imprévu with a more artistic approach. It's an investment, it's true, but it seems to me to be an essential step in my branding strategy.
You have worked with this photographer since (or nearly) the start. Is this a way to establish the brand and its identity?
Generally, I’m a faithful person. Working for a long time with a photographer or with my workshops in Italy allows me to build relationships of trust, but also, in a certain way, to increase the level of my requirements from them. My project is rather unusual in that, until now, I have been carrying it out alone. If I want to continue to perfect it, these exchanges will be essential.
By perfect, do you mean grow? What is your strategy for growth?
It has been very clear in my mind, ever since the beginning. Although I do feel as if I got 10 years of experience in only 2 years. What is important to me is to see that the brands own values hold up. I want to be able to keep control over my project, whatever happens. I want to grow without associating with investors who would impose a way of working that doesn’t fit me.
Will your growth require exportation?
It isn’t an end to itself. At this point, it’s mostly a way to be able to increase the number of pieces produced and to give me access to specialist workshops that, until now, have refused to work with me due to insufficient volume. I would also be in a position to explore other creative paths, while not straying from my way of working. By exporting, I can offer myself the luxury of not increasing the number of points of sale in certain regions, such as Wallonia, where I already have a strong presence.
In terms of designing, how do you work?
I always move forward in little steps, trusting my instincts and, above all, keeping a close eye on the price aspect of my collections. If, when I am creating a capsule, I design a piece with too-high production costs, it isn’t included in the collection. Conversely, I am trying to increasingly integrate more sophisticated pieces, especially in terms of materials or prints. My goal is to continuously improve. But, whatever happens, even when I imagine a cashmere sweater, I surround myself with sub-contractors who can provide me with quality at an accessible price.
Interview by Marie Honnay
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