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Fashion can't live without e-commerce

by Maya Nago, March 30, 2011


Photography by Jan Buus

Zozotown is one of the biggest fashion shopping sites in Japan. YOOX Group is a global e-commerce company that operates in 67 countries. Both companies transmit the fun of fashion to users thorough e-commerce, each with a unique aesthetical philosophy and their own approach towards e-commerce. The CEOs of these two companies had a long chat about their ideal vision of e-commerce. Times have changed. These days, no one says online stores cannot sell clothes. E-commerce fashion has become a big wave against brick-and-mortar stores, and it is now indispensable for fashion lovers. Users continue to put their comments on Zozotown’s homepage, one of the biggest fashion e-commerce sites in Japan, about shopping, what they bought and what they want to shop for on the store - even in the middle of the night. YOOX.COM is globalizing quickly and people from all around the world continue to like the YOOX Facebook page. E-commerce fashion isn’t just for shopping, but it is also a type of media where people make communities, exchange and share their opinions and information, now this happens also thanks to social media. These two big fashion e-commerce sites have predicted and tamed the industry’s wave, and both of them are strongly growing with more than 50% growth. The CEOs of these two companies had a long talk in Tokyo, as rivals and like-minded people. ​

GQ: YOOX Group manages two multi-brand stores and 25 mono-brand official online stores worldwide, and its globalization is growing. On the other hand, Start Today is considered as “the biggest fashion e-commerce” in Japan, and is growing mainly with Zozotown, but it is also developing an outlet site and its own editorial content and so on. We think that you are “war comrades” for each other in the history of fashion e-commerce. Tell us your impression of the other company.

Yusaku Maezawa (YM): YOOX Group manages its own distribution. Including Mr. Marchetti, all YOOX staff loves fashion. I think that we are similar from this point of view.

Federico Marchetti (FM): I agree. Mr. Maezawa has created Zozotown with a unique approach. Because I myself can very well understand how much passion, effort and sacrifice is needed to grow a company and for this I respect him very much. I also empathise with his company, which has its own philosophy for management that goes beyond the usual business system and beyond the will to just earn money. ​

GQ: There are a large number of fashion e-commerce stores in the world. But both of your companies continue their wonderful growth from 40 to 50 % up. Tell us what your company’s strength is?

FM: Our business model is quite unique. We do not only have multi-brand online stores like YOOX.COM and THECORNER.COM, but we also have many big Maisons’ online stores such as Marni and Maison Martin Margiela. In this aspect our company is unrivalled and I am proud of that. Furthermore, we have our headquarters in Italy and offices in France, USA, Japan, Spain and China. We work in nine languages and with five currencies. Actually, about 77 % of our profits are generated outside of Italy. All of these features have led me to believe that we are a real global company.

YM: That’s wonderful. Compared to those facts, we don’t have any strengths (laughs). The only thing that I can say is that all our staff love fashion very much, more than anyone. Working for what you love makes everything more efficient. As a result, sales increase. It is a very simple circular movement for us, in other words, I can say that our strength must be that everybody loves the job that they do. We redid the site at the end of last year and the site has become more open towards the outside world than it was before since we have signed a new agreement with Yahoo. We created “Zozo Press” to motivate our buyers and opened a new outlet site. We are trying to apply our characteristics through these new challenges.

FM: In our case, to prove our individuality, YOOX.COM is the only e-commerce company that is practicing “mix and match” between fashion and design. YOOX is also unrivalled from the point of view of our range of brands, both in terms of variety and quality. What’s more, YOOX leads a lot of collaborations that combine both quality and entertainment. For example, Anna Dello Russo launched her fragrance exclusively on YOOX. YOOX is a place where people have fun even if they don’t buy anything. What we concentrate more on compared to others, at YOOX, is our desire to offer every visitor a perfect mix between a “fun” and “playful mind”. The “delight of opening the box” is very important to us.​

GQ: E-commerce fashion offers millions of advantages to consumers. But on the other hand, it also has some disadvantages, like visitors do not have the possibility to try products on physically. How do you resolve that?

FM: YOOX has always accepted customer returns for any reason. I myself, when I enjoy shopping on YOOX, buy ten items, try them on at home and return 3-4 of them. We accept returns because we want to offer our customers the delightful experience of trying the products on at home. Another reason we accept returns is because our selection is of high-end products.

YM: We don’t accept returns at all. I have heard that generally Japanese people make returns very little. I think this is a reflection of the Japanese consumer who selects what they want to buy very carefully. They are very smart and have a critical eye for shopping. Probably, when they shop in offline shops they have to get various information about a product before making their purchase. However, when they do shopping online, they can be impressed, for the first time, when the order arrives and they touch the items that they bought. It’s the same when a man and a woman meet for the first time… your heart beats fast and irregularly if you meet someone who you know very little about (laugh).

FM: I completely agree. Considering this, we also have to work with all our might on the sites’ product presentation, like photo quality, styling and our full-screen zoom function that shows the materials very well. We are also very careful about our packaging so we can offer the perfect “delight of opening the box”.

YM: Now, sites that are just “cool”, as if they had a mask and don’t sell anything good. Quality is important for every aspect, it’s also important to transmit the designer’s philosophy and thoughts to the consumer. Even though the site sells a good assortment of products, if it has a bad distribution system, it might make the brands’ image go down.

FM: That’s right. Quality is the most important thing not only for the products that are on sale, but also for our technical and marketing fields. Quality can make an e-commerce experience fun or tedious. This is a point that both brands and designers must care about. For example, we support a large number of fashion Maisons’ e-commerce sites, on the occasion of Marni’s online store launch, Marni’s designer Consuelo Castiglioni said that she didn’t want to present products as if they were in a boring catalogue. If products were just listed and put on the site the product would lose its individual charm. As a result of what she said we were able to create the site with her vision in mind. If we had not cared about the image, the brand’s image would have been damaged. I think that as the Internet is so far-reaching more exclusive presentation is needed. ​

GQ: As the Internet world is unlimited, if designers start using Internet for their sales, they can profit expanding their sales spots in one time.

YM: Of course. Therefore, I have been thinking to help Japanese brands to advance into overseas markets and I have been asking myself what are the most interesting points of Japanese brands for European people?

FM: I think that Japanese brands have an appeal not only on the outside but also on the inside. In other words, Japanese design is delicate and is never too much. That’s Japanese beauty. And this is in line with my identity. I would like to bring Japanese brands overseas as well. Using fashion we can become the bridge for people to meet. ​

GQ: In the end, what is fashion for both of you?

YM: I say that fashion is a communication tool. We can become the bridge where people can meet, connect and talk to each other, all this through fashion.

FM: I agree with Mr.Maezawa, and I add that for me fashion is imagination. This is essential to live. To express imagination, we have fashion, art and design. Imagination is unlimited, the ways we can express our imagination must be unlimited as well.

Originally published in GQ Japan

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