Bijenkorf buying director talks shift from loungewear to more fashionable pieces
De Bijenkorf, the biggest high-end retailer in the Netherlands and a subsidiary of Selfridges Group, is looking at the SS22 buying season with optimism. Not least due to its growing online business, which the company has in recent years expanded to Belgium, France, Germany and Austria.
Buying director Ninke Gijzel oversees the buying for the entire assortment of the seven stores of De Bijenkorf and its online shops. In her interview with FashionUnited, she revealed which fashion trends she is betting on and how big a role sustainability is playing in her brand choices.
Europe is opening up and an increasing proportion of the population is vaccinated against Covid-19. How optimistic are you about SS22?
The closing of all our stores at the start of the year has had a big impact, but luckily we have a strong online business - not only in the Netherlands but also in Germany, Austria, Belgium and France - that partly offset losses in the stores. Thanks to our distinctive assortment of brands, our joint creativity and strong online channel we’re looking forward to the rest of the year and the new season with great confidence.
Which fashion trends and must-haves are you betting on?
For fall, it’s heavy knits and puffer coats for men that will remain important. For women, it’s also the teddy coat, a trend that Max Mara started and will be everywhere this winter. Logos remain very important for men but are moving from the front to the back. Important colors for men are browns, burnt orange and ochre yellow - also for women - and bright magentas are back.
And for SS22?
Some trends from this year will continue into the next. This winter, we see a lot of nostalgic knitwear for women, more floral dresses and blouses - also with a nostalgic twist for spring/summer. Bold and sharp shoulders for women will also continue to trend, for example, t-shirts with a small shoulder pad. Female fashion is really powerful at the moment. In terms of key items, a few things stand out already like overcoats and over jackets for men and women. Authenticity is becoming even more important. Accessories like scarfs, spencers and gilets are a way of adding a unique touch to your outfit and creating personal style.
How have fashion sales developed during the pandemic and are they recovering?
We have seen a big increase in home and beauty products. Since lots of people have learned to value their home and will continue to work from there, we expect home products to remain important. For fashion, we’re expecting a shift from lounge wear to fashion which is already starting to happen.
Does that mean consumers are no longer buying jogging pants and starting to get party dresses?
We have seen a shift away from business wear to more casual styles. However, for social events, we believe customers are much keener to dress up. Some of the behavioral changes we have seen, like the shift to digital, will remain. People will keep buying online and still work from home.
De Bijenkorf launched a German online shop almost two years ago. Who are your customers and what do they like?
Our German customer base is quite diverse in many respects but not so different from our Dutch customers really. They are people who want to enjoy life and love beautiful things. Their favorite brands range from Veja to Balenciaga and from Ganni to Max Mara. Overall, you could say premium and luxury brands with a certain level of exclusivity are doing well.
And what do your Dutch customers currently like to buy?
The proportion of Dutch brands is higher in the Netherlands. But strong brands like Stone Island, Polo Ralph Lauren and Balenciaga are doing well in all markets. As for the German brands, Marc O’Polo has made a strong comeback also here in the Netherlands. They’re one of the brands really ahead of the crowd in terms of transparency in their supply chain and sustainable materials. That is also one of the reasons why they’re doing so well.
Is sustainable fashion also important for your German sales?
De Bijenkorf stands for style and quality, but also for responsibility and a more sustainable lifestyle. We strive for a world in which everyone makes conscious choices and in which quality wins over quantity. That is why we offer a large range of sustainable brands and products, such as Veja, Ganni, Tommy Hilfiger and The Ordinary. This sets us apart from competitors in Germany. And then there is, of course, our Dutch offer - Dutch streetwear brands like Daily Paper and Filling Pieces are becoming quite a thing, also outside the Netherlands. Daily Paper has recently opened a flagship in New York.
De Bijenkorf has announced that its assortment will only consist of more sustainable brands as of 2025. How sustainable do fashion brands have to become?
We require our brands to do due diligence and provide visibility on their supply chain. Then, there are roadmaps for materials. We have set targets, for instance, on the minimum amount of biological cotton in a garment. Same for wool or down. We discuss these roadmaps with our brands and try to align their targets with ours. Our target is to sell only sustainable cotton by 2024. By 2025, all our brands must be more sustainable.
And would you also consider ending relationships with brands that don’t fulfill the criteria?
Actually, we’re now in discussions with brands that are lagging behind. If they start now, they can still be on time. If they don’t, we will need to part ways in the end. We’ve been having this conversation with our partners for four years when we first shared roadmaps on materials and requirements. We see that most brands are really making an effort.
That sounds strict. Have you terminated relationships already?
We have exited a few products in the past. We haven’t been selling fur for a number of years now and we also exited angora, mohair, exotic skins, micro beads and plastic-based glitter in cosmetics. So not entire brands but rather parts of the collection. New brands need to be working in a sustainable way or towards a sustainable offering. Otherwise, we don’t start with them anymore.
Are there any new and more sustainable fashion brands that you’re looking to add?
We’re always looking for new brands, that’s part of our job. Recently we’ve added Aligne, Cras, Edited, Studio Anneloes and Núnoo.
So this means that you also added new brands during the pandemic?
Of course, you always need to be looking at what’s next and what your customers want.
Are there more future plans that you would like to share with us?
At the beginning of August, we will launch a big campaign focused on sustainable products and circular initiatives. We just launched our platform ‘The Future is Green’ where you can read more about our efforts on sustainability. Next to that, we are working to make our sustainable products and initiatives more visible in our stores and online. We will also launch a permanent offer of vintage fashion and accessories online and in stores later this year.
This story was written with the assistance of Caitlyn Terra.