Melbourne-based sport womenswear brand. Founded by Cristino Sanzo for the active and elegant woman.

Business / Brand: Ecau

Current situation: the founder Cristino produced 800 prices, Made in China, in a bad quality and unable to be sold; is looking to change the branding and to start communicating in a profitable way.

Problems identified by Maelle: the founder is an architect, who lacks knowledge of the fashion supply chain, so he has invested over 6,000 USD in a wrong production, and losing faith in suppliers. The brand is designed for a male and female audience without market analysis.

Sections of focus: Branding, Communication

Objective: correcting an expensive mistake, finding a trustworthy supply chain that is in line with the product conceived by the founder, communicating without using only sponsored adv.

Introduction and problem statement

Melbourne-based sportswear brand founded by Cristino Sanzo, an architect, for the active and elegant woman.

Cristino wants to launch a line of women’s and men’s sportswear that can also be suitable for leisure time. When the founder contacts Maelle, he finds himself in a dire situation: he has produced more than 50 pieces per garment, with a production of more than 800 pieces total. The production was done in China with very poor results in terms of quality; Cristino is not satisfied and does not know how to return the investment.
When he contacts Leda, he wants to figure out what to do with the 800 pieces of failed production, in shoddy manterials and finishes unsuitable for the quality he had in mind. Moreover, he immediately wants to undo the damage by launching a new collection with a more exclusive design than what the factory in China developed and produced for him.
Cristino also asks for confirmation on the logo, branding, and communcation because he is aware that they might not be in line with this production (should the production therefore be saved and used?), which by the way is not in line with his initial idea (which is perhaps not based on proper market analysis?).

Cristino designs some basic sketches about his idea of products for women and man

The analysis of the problem

Leda is the first to hear Cristino’s story and is not surprised: for Maelle’s team, this is not the first such case.

Leda informs Cristino that the process he has chosen to follow is in no way advisable and may have risky implications whatever decision is made to continue in business.

Cristino’s mistake is due to his inexperience (he is an architect, after all), his ignorance about the fashion supply chain, and his lack of contact with a professional for advice.

The process he applied is as follows:

  • Cristino imagined creating a sports line to elegantly dress women and men (first mistake: starting from two different commodities is highly risky even if you are already in the fashion system), with a product designed in Australia, but designed for a European audience. Cristino is proud of his Italian origins and has the desire to maintain this connection in his brand. Unfortunately, however, he has never been to Europe, and has no idea what “elegance” and “sport” means in Europe. (It is very easy to see that from his moodboards, his idea of the average European is totally different from reality).
  • Cristino sends his sketches (which are not professional technical drawings-which is why misunderstanding by pattern makers is almost always assured), to a manufacturing company in China.
  • The manufacturing company has very high minimums, as is very often the case in China-surely not advisable for a first collection fashion brand-800 total pieces with payment in advance.
  • This Chinese company also offers to look for the textile materials for the garments, Cristino makes the mistake of relying blindly, without checking even one sample. 
  • When Cristino receives all 800 pieces ordered, they in no way meet the fitting, colors, and style he had in mind. Cristino also failed to take into account how much the importance of the target market affects sizes, fits, and color charts. Having produced blindly, without any buyers’ orders, without market comparison, he chose sizes based on standard numbers (10 S, 10 M, 10 L), without following any commercial logic.

All in all, there are four factors for a founder of a fashion brand, could be in the same situation as Cristino:

  1. extreme confidence, given by inexperience – not checking the work of the manufacturing company or the fabrics, believing that it is the best choice;
  2. willingness to lower costs as much as possible – a mistake we have all made: not checking the quality of materials first, to save on shipping costs; not traveling to check the factory, to save on travel expenses; and so on;
  3. haste to see the project done – this also leads to disregard for trends, sales campaign timing, and promotional timing. A fashion brand cannot be launched on every day of the year; there are timelines dictated by an established calendar that all players in the industry follow.
  4. believe that it is easy to sell once the product is ready – in reality, it is much more complex to sell an entire production run (stock in this case) than to find buyers who will order merchandise on precise sizes/color variants, without waste or upfront costs to the brand. 
In order to launch a new line that is then the first officially launched, Leda acknowledges that Cristino needs to reanalyze the target audience, the product, and the fit. Cristino wants to focus again on the European target.
Leda advices him to start from the womenswear to strongly establish the autority of the brand.

Cristino sent to Leda some inspirational moodboards to explain the European style he has in mind (for men and women).

Cristino Sanzo in ECAU clothes

The first logo design

Cristino has family Italian origins, so the logo was designed in the standard version black and with the Italian flag

How Ecau communicates

ECAU contacted some quite famour web celebrities, to promote the collection
ECAU organized many giveaways in the beginning, with the failed collection

When the first production goes wrong

A situation like that Cristino’s is common among fashion founders and if it has happened to you too, there is no need to despair. Know that you can continue with your business, considering this a routing error.

Read more to find out how to manage the situation.

What to do with the stock?

What to do with the collection now that it is now in produced?
There are two ways that are both risky:

  1. the first is to sell it to one or more wholesalers, ideally at a price such as to cover the costs of production or to lose a maximum of 10%. Problem of this solution: the name under which the product will then be sold is that of ECAU, so in the shops the customer will understand that this is the quality that ECAU offers, and also the price (which are certainly both lower and disappointing than the expectations of Cristino). So, if the logo is not printed - unfortunately in Cristino's case it was - it is advisable to sell with another logo and a ready-to-wear name, that is, without any interest in promoting the ECAU brand. This choice has value only if the product is in line with the trends at the moment, because you risk really ending up losing money (no distributor buys something that they know they won't sell even at a bargain price, as soon as possible).
  2. the second is to give promotional items to influencers and prominent people in the sports sector and ask for photos and videos in exchange. The problem with this solution is that the public figures / celebrities who will agree to this exchange will still have the opportunity to touch and verify the goods (which do not conform to the quality that the brand should promote), it will therefore be necessary to inform the chosen people that the product is a prototype and that does not reflect the quality and fit that it should in industrial production. Clearly it is a motivation that it is not always possible to use and that still has contraindications. Furthermore, a powerful means of communication (socials) is being used to spread a product and an aesthetic that will not be that of ECAU in the future. The followers who are going to collect from these sponsorships are consumers who have a taste that is not necessarily in line with the next collections.
How to reestablish trust with suppliers

The case of the ECAU brand is emblematic of a great many other dilutional situations in which the founders or the decision-makers in the business, finds themselves losing trust with suppliers: freelancers, pattern makers, manufactures, textile companies, advertising companies, PR offices, sales agents.
How to regain the ability to trust?

Starting with education.

The first reason why you fail to realize in time that the supplier was doing it wrong is lack of knowledge.
There are many online tools available and free of charge (videos, tutorials, interviews), but not particularly detailed. This is precisely why the world of fashion is untouchable, crystal clear and still very mysterious: there are no insiders talking openly about it, with all the pros and cons.
It is the duty of the founder, however, to get informed (if not for free, through subscription platforms such as Maelle), choosing channels that also allow a confrontation with the expert.
If Cristino had contacted Leda before making the decision to produce in China, he would have spent US$180 and saved US$6,000.

Consider that not all suppliers or collaborators are bad and some can really make your life easier as a business founder. You just need to start creating trust again and base your decisions on solid information.

There is your name on the items

When you think how to recover from a mistake, big or small, you have to consider that the face associated with the brand is yours, the name associated with the brand is yours, and the reputation is yours.
That said, it would be appropriate to assess the seriousness of the situation based on four main factors:

  1. economical factor - how serious the damage is, whether you can recover and what are the legal options available for you (possibly in court);
  2. time factor - thinking about the problem and seeking a solution
    takes away valuable time for the continuation of your business activity-remember that it is you as the founder who must always have a clear brand vision and you must try to be affected as little as possible by negative situations that erode your creativity and organization;
  3. authority factor - as a brand you must create credibility and authority, not only with consumers, but especially with your employees/collaborators, suppliers and retailers. If taking action to get a refund to your unpleasant situation may in some way erode your image, consider whether it is worth it.
  4. spatial factor - if your mistake is, as in Cristino's case, that of a large wrong production, you need to consider the space you have available and understand whether it makes sense to resell the goods right away or donate them-same goes for a production of boxes, shoppers or rolls of fabric.

what is the problem?

Lost of invesment

Fashion brands know that mistakes such as a whole wrong production or an investment in the wrong service can be grounds for business failure. 

After Maelle

The solution

Cristino starts using Maelle, starting from the Branding section.
Here he repositions his target with the Brand Book test, choosing to focus only on sporty women’s fashion.
In this regard, Leda helps him with moodboards (service excluded from Maelle), to give Cristino three different visions that the brand could carry forward.

Cristino follow the Leda’s advice to avoid produce the same way he did the first time, follwing the correct process to produce a collection: 

  1. sketch drawing of the product, followed by a technical drawing (Adobe Illustrator is used for most cases);
  2. different manufactures and different textile companies are contacted to collect samples and samples (here the first cost and revenue calculation takes place with expert support if necessary – in Maelle this system is automated and is based on the match the brand makes with the supplier, based on the characteristics and preferences of both;
  3. once the suppliers are chosen, only one prototype and one sample is produced (obviously the collection will have from 1 to 15 pieces, Leda always recommends between 10 and 15 maximum);
  4. the sample is photographed with model and a suitable wholesale and retail price is calculated – at the first collection the precise calculation usually takes place after production, in the second collection it has to be calculated precisely before.
  5. the lookbook (the photos of the sample book) should be proposed to buyers, distributors and various retailers. The brand sets order minimums per garment and size based on cost and flexibility of manufacturing and shipping.
  6. Based on the orders that are collected from buyers, sizes are developed, any required adjustments are made, and a proper lead time for delivery of the goods is predicted. 

All players in the supply chain, in due time, must sign contracts to protect the parties, always.

In the Communication section Cristino understands that the editorial plan created by Martina Di Pasquale, in Maelle, is a time-saver for content creation. Moreover, finally, he avoids constantly using paid advertising with Facebook and investing in samples and shippings to web celebrities to sponsor the items. In Maelle, organic growth is the first way to grow, then there are other strategies to consider (in the calendar itself they are highlighted and you can also book a consultation with Martina directly).

latest collection ECAU

we support brands even more!

Leda was involved by Cristino in the creation of a new product image for the brand’s first official collection. Following these initial consultations, Leda took care of creating these services for Cristino:

  1. analysis of competitors (branding section – expert: Leda Di Marti);
  2. fashion production technical designs + selection of materials and fabrics (production section – expert: Leda Di Marti).

Analysis of competitors

  • What is included into Maelle membership: in the Branding section, there is the quiz called Brand Book to know your archetype, your consumer’s behavior and analyze a slogan with which a brand can elaborate its commercial strategy. This information is sufficient for the founder of the brand to independently process its competitors, it is also an excellent exercise for self-assessment: what is the price? Is it a competitive price? Does the brand have an attractive style, in line with other brands?

At any time, at the end of this self-analysis, or in its development, the founder can always contact Leda Di Marti for a discussion with the expert.

  • What Maelle experts give you: When a founder does not have time or does not want to face a competitor analysis alone, the expert Leda Di Marti analyzes for the brand all the different types of competitors in detail, with advice and inputs to develop the brand and its communication and commercial network:
    Style competitor, mood competitor, price competitor, product competitor, target competitor.

selection of materials and fabrics + fashion production technical designs

What is included into Maelle membership:

In the section Production – Designing, the founder follows the guidelines to plan and design a collection that sells for the chosen market. In the Leda section he explains both how to organize the garments, how to mix the DNA of the brand, the inspiration and the trends of the season. Once the collection has been defined, the choice of suppliers takes place automatically through the Suppliers section, which shows all the manufacturers and companies producing accessories and fabrics. The process is straightforward and simple to follow, and must be repeated for each season.

What Maelle experts give you:

  1. Leda is responsible for consulting on fashion materials. By contacting her for the project, he will recommend the best materials for the fit that the brand requires. Her advice is invaluable if you are a beginner and if you want support for the combination of
    materials, colors and heaviness of the fabrics.
  2. Leda is Maelle’s technical designer. The figures are unfortunately not accepted in an industrial production, you will have to resort to technical drawings that are called Flats and that help the manufacturers to understand without any doubt the product and all its details. To make these technical garments Adobe Illustrator is used and the required experience is proportional to the complexity of the garment. Leda produces more than 100 datasheets per year for brands of swimwear, everyday wear, children’s clothing, ceremony, etc.