In May, Tallinn Creative Incubator organized international Export Speed Mentoring, that brought together designers and mentors form Estonia, Sweden, Poland and Germany. In addition to 84 mentoring sessions, successful brands shared their success stories with exporting. One of them was Liebre Style brand from Poland.
Elena Gasulla from Liebre Style (Poland) introduced their journey with export. Elena Gasulla launched Liebre Style in 2017 and the brand offers leather bags and shoes, that are inspired by elegant textiles around the world.
How did Liebre Style start?
Libre Style founder Elena Gasulla says that they are textile hunters and travel to different countries to gather textiles in their traditional markets. They take a lot of time to discover these materials, which are later used in their collections. They are designers, but everything they make is handcrafted by artisans in Portugal. They have found different families, who have been working in leather crafting for many years.
This is important differentiation for the Liebre Style brand. When they created Liebre Style, they wanted to do something that would be very meaningful – they wanted to create a brand, that would be always cherished by someone, who wears that.
The products need to have a soul, it needs to have a meaning for the person who buys them.
Each design in Liebre Style features a unique textile handpicked by Elena and Israel in traditional markets and artisan around the world. The classic but creative brand aesthetic, the attention to details, and the craftsmanship used to create high quality leather shoes and accessories, is the foundation behind Liebre Style.
Timeline of the success
Liebre Style launched in 2017. They first launched the website, but in the beginning, there were no sales.
In 2018, Liebre Style expanded through retail stores. First, they researched different stores in different countries, that would be suitable for their brand. Then they travelled to the stores, trying to see if anybody is interested – trying to convince stores, to sell their shoes. 99% of them said no – because the brand is too new, they don’t know them, or are too expensive. This can be discouraging, especially for a new brand. But if one person agrees to sell your products in their store, this is still valuable – the ratio is bad, but it still matters. The stores, that Liebre Style tried to sell their products in, were in Hamburg, Berlin, Warsaw, etc.
The only way the stores would accept the products, was by consignment. This means that the stores would borrow the stock and pay only when they manage to sell it. If they don’t sell them, the stock would be sent back.
In 2018 it was getting challenging for Liebre Style to do that because their online business was starting to move forward. They were faced with a situation, where a client would order the product from the United States, but the shoes were in a store in Berlin. Since their products were one of a kind, they would need to get the shoe first back from the store and then send to the client. So they decided to stop consignments and continue with their online store, unless someone was willing to buy their stock for a wholesale store.
In 2019, Liebre Style changed its approach to selling. They started to travel to different pop-up events – e.g., Stuttgart, Vienna, Copenhagen, Vienna, Luxembourg, Warsaw. They traveled yearly to about 50 events. This meant that for a whole year, they would leave on Fridays, exhibit on Saturdays and Sundays and come back on Mondays.
This gave Liebre Style huge exposure, especially through direct customers. They visited design events, where visitors had to pay the entrance fee, which meant that they were already prepared to spend money at the event. Many customers bought their shoes at the pop-up events and later transformed to Liebre Style social channel followers.
For brands, who are just starting with pop-ups, Elena Gasulla would advise to start with design events, rather than make your own. Because, then the event organizers are in charge of making people come to the event.
Pop-up events were gamechanger for Liebre Style. They started to attract more customers who followed their website and social channels. And without looking, they found wholesale accounts, who were willing to buy their stock. One was in Kuala Lumpur, who found the brand through Instagram and the other was in Hamburg, who they met at the pop-up event.
In 2019, they started visiting exhibitions, to give wholesalers another chance. Exhibitions, even at the time before Covid-19, were starting to go down. The problem is that multibrand stores are already stacked with so many brands, that they are not that interested to include another brand in their stores. So at many exhibitions, that Liebre Style visited, the visitors were visiting brands, that they are already selling to place orders for new collections. If you were new player, you were ignored. This channel brought Liebre Style zero results.
Due to Covid-19 situation, all the pop-up events were cancelled. Although all the customers, that they had met through different channels, were successfully transformed to Liebre Style online channels.
So Liebre Style decided to open a store in their hometown, Szczecin (Poland). Even though people did advise not to open the store there, since it is a small town, half of their sales are currently coming through this channel. As Elena Gasulla noted in her presentation: “If you do what everyone else is doing, you might miss opportunities, that could be valuable. It is hard for small companies with small budgets, but sometimes it is worth to risk and try, what everybody says you shouldn’t try.”
Right now Liebre Style is selling mostly in Germany, Austria, Poland and in the United States.
Check out Liebre Style webpage HERE.
Read more about the Eport Speed Mentoring event HERE.