The fashion brands that survived retail Armageddon – and how they did it

Emilee Geist

Let it be known that Marielle Wyse saw ‘it’ coming. ‘I went into the office in mid-March to talk to the team and said, “We’re about to go into retail Armageddon. The whole landscape is going to change,”’ recalls Marielle, the founder of five-year-old knitwear-centric brand Wyse London (and a woman whose quick smile and twinkly eyes make her chirpier than your average doomsayer). ‘I thought, “OK, either we mothball the brand, or we attack it in a completely different way.”’

She attacked. Only her attack took the form of a charm offensive. From late March, Marielle started hosting twice-weekly Instagram Live sessions, during which she solicited client feedback on product samples. She asked her followers if they preferred this cardigan in blue or green, whether she should produce that jumper with a more fitted look or as a looser, tunic-style design; and hey, by the way, how does everyone feel about stripes? At the same time, she moved away from wholesaling (selling stock to multi-brand retailers), towards a direct-to-consumer business model, and instituted pre-orders, so that she could gauge exactly how many buyers liked a given design before she placed her order.

Her shift – from being someone who trusted her instincts to being ‘humble enough to ask the consumer what she likes’, and from predictions to presales – paid off. In September, Marielle said that Wyse London’s turnover had surged by 917 per cent for the financial year to date. ‘It’s a big turn for us,’ she nods. ‘We’ve become so much more in tune with the customer, and I think I’ve become a better designer, too.’

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