Transforming Fashion for the Digital Age

Transforming Fashion for the Digital Age

Two women on a couch In a rapidly evolving fashion landscape, where technological advancements and consumer expectations are continuously reshaping the industry, Marcella Wartenbergh, CEO of AWWG, has been at the forefront of driving digital transformation. During a captivating session at Shoptalk Europe in Barcelona, Wartenbergh shared her strategic insights with Kirsty McGregor, Executive European Editor of Vogue Business.

A Journey of Digital Transformation

Wartenbergh initiated AWWG’s digital transformation four years ago, emphasizing the need for a shift from an analog mindset to a digital-first approach. “To achieve digital transformation, the leader must believe in digital and embed it throughout the organization,” she stressed. This transformation involves not just e-commerce, but the entire process—from how employees work and connect to product development and customer engagement.

Breaking Down Silos

One of the key changes Wartenbergh implemented was breaking down silos within the organization. By centralizing best practices and fostering a collaborative environment, AWWG has been able to harness the full potential of its brands—Pepe Jeans, Hackett, and Façonnable. “We started creating best practices and centralized a lot of them, almost like a transformation for the rest,” she explained.

Data as the North Star

Looking ahead, data remains a crucial component of AWWG’s strategy. Wartenbergh highlighted the importance of continuously evolving social media, e-commerce, and other digital processes. “Data will continue to be one of our North Stars,” she affirmed, emphasizing the need to balance corporate expectations with consumer readiness for digital innovations such as AI-driven designs and virtual avatars.

Regional Differences in Consumer Behavior

AWWG’s international footprint spans 80 countries, with notable regional differences in consumer behavior. For instance, northern countries exhibit higher return rates, with consumers frequently purchasing multiple sizes and returning the excess. In contrast, southern countries like Spain and Italy see lower return rates as consumers prefer in-store shopping. Understanding these nuances allows AWWG to tailor its strategies to different markets effectively.

Sustainability and Consumer Education

To address the sustainability challenges posed by e-commerce, Wartenbergh advocates for better communication about CO2 emissions and packaging waste. She also emphasizes the need for clear product descriptions and accurate sizing information to reduce return rates. “We need to invest in tools that will make the consumer journey easier,” she stated.

Leveraging AI for Innovation and Efficiency

Wartenbergh is a strong proponent of AI, viewing it as a tool to enhance efficiency and creativity. From designing collections to drafting marketing campaigns, AI has significantly reduced cancellation rates and improved transparency in the design process. However, she underscores that human creativity and emotional curation remain irreplaceable.

Future-Proofing Iconic Brands

Future-proofing AWWG’s brands involves understanding and catering to different consumer groups. For Pepe Jeans, the focus is on engaging millennials and Gen-Z through digital platforms and social media. Hackett, targeting an older demographic, relies more on detailed newsletters and quality craftsmanship. Wartenbergh emphasizes the importance of building aspirational connections with younger consumers to ensure long-term brand loyalty.

The Resilience of Fashion

Despite the challenges facing the wholesale market, Wartenbergh remains optimistic about the future of fashion. She believes that fashion’s emotional significance will always ensure its relevance. “Fashion will always exist because as long as human beings exist, emotions will exist,” she concluded, highlighting the enduring appeal of both digital and offline retail experiences.

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