Cover Story and Ancestry, the two fast fashion brands owned by Kishore Biyani’s Future Style Lab, have managed to create their very own niche market across India’s retail sector in a short span of three years of existence, and together, are aiming to generate Rs. 140 crore this year. Besides foraying into footwear and jewellery categories in 2019, Cover Story has also partnered with the design team of the late German fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld and has rolled out a successful premium special edition collection of women’s ready-to-wear apparel and accessories in India, and is planning to launch the Spring/Summer capsule soon.
While the two brands have already become a benchmark, Future Style Lab has not launched a single TV or print ad and prefers going organically digital in its marketing strategies. For Manjula Tiwari, CEO, Future Style Lab, the store location is marketing and the firm invests in being at the right place for better reach. With an aim to take on global clothing brands, the stores have been strategically placed in most premium malls, amidst leading brands. A tête-à-tête with Manjula on these two leading brands…
Tell us about your brand portfolio and the price points you operate at for different brands.
Majula Tiwari (MT): Future Style Lab launched two brands in women’s fast fashion space — Cover Story and Ancestry in 2016. Cover Story is a western fashion brand with designing prowess from London and it caters to specific needs of the Indian consumers. The price points at Cover Story range between Rs. 790 and Rs. 4,490. On the other hand, Ancestry is an Indian contemporary lifestyle brand, with a mission to reinterpret Indian heritage to cater to the modern woman. Besides, Ancestry is also the place to source organic, ethical and hand-crafted accessories, beauty products and home décor essentials. The price range at Ancestry varies between Rs. 1,290 and Rs. 5,990.
What inspired the inception of Cover Story and Ancestry? What were the challenges on the way?
MT: There was a real gap in the market for western on-point fashion which was tailored to suit the expectations and needs of the Indian women. The fits, colours, fabric weights and the tonality of the brand were designed to serve the customers’ expectations. Ancestry was born out of a desire to create a new vocabulary of Indian contemporary fashion. The tagline of the brand is ‘stories retold’ and the vision for Ancestry is to create products of great design aesthetic heritage that can connect today’s consumer with the glories of the past. For us at Future Style Lab, reinvention is the key to success amidst a slew of brands competing against one another. The set format of Indian clothing was ripe to be challenged as we felt that more had to be done to recast it and meet the requirements of the younger women of today.
The challenges were many and similar to what most start-ups and entrepreneurs face. During the initial years, scaling is definitely a challenge, besides securing the correct locations and affordable real estate, which according to me, are the two key challenges.
Does the brand outsource its products or is it manufactured in-house? Elucidate on your manufacturing units.
MT: The design and prototyping process is done in-house and controlled end-to-end by us. R&D and product development are very important assets which we do not outsource. Once the prototype is fitted and approved, we work with a network of our suppliers for production. In terms of technological integration, we are seriously looking at AI for merchandise planning and allocation functions. We source from multiple countries including India, China, Sri Lanka, Turkey, etc. We have a wide network of suppliers, which allows us to source the best product price equation.
Elucidate on your retail presence — both online and offline. What are your plans for expansion in the country?
MT: We retail through 32 EBOs for Cover Story and 12 exclusive outlets for Ancestry. Cover Story, meanwhile, also operates through large format stores and key independent retailers in 100 plus doors. We are present online through our website and partners like Myntra, Amazon, Flipkart, TataCliq (Cover Story) And Tata Indiluxe (Ancestry).
Cover Story has not very long ago collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld. What facilitated this collaboration and how did it fare for the brand? How has been the response to this collection so far?
MT: We were approached by the team of Karl Lagerfeld in 2018 who had visited some of our stores in India. After initial discussion, both brands felt that collaboration would be beneficial to each of us. Karl Lagerfeld was an iconic figure in the fashion industry. This was the last collaboration of the Creative Director before his demise in February 2019. We are privileged to have worked with him. Since Cover Story combines the needs of Indian consumers with international trends, the collaboration with brand Karl Lagerfeld seems like a right fit for us. Through this collection, we at Cover Story, were able to provide an aspirational and luxury brand experience to our customer base and Karl Lagerfeld gained access to an entirely new market through top of the line distribution.
The response to the collection has been tremendous and customers have loved the styles, quality and accessible pricing. We are looking forward to launching the Spring/Summer capsule soon.