The goliath that is e-Commerce is on the rise, predicted to reach $60 million in the U.S. in 2015, with expected levels of $86.4 million in 2018. The fashion industry this year is expected to make up 17.2% of this revenue – with a growing and diversifying range of sites, all dedicated to bringing new fashions to an online audience.
Millennials today have a choice, they can follow the big brands, or opt for independent designers through new portals in today’s connected world.
Fashion marketplace Blackartel is one of the latest to this burgeoning scene. They bring small independent designers today from around the world to a global stage. Their aim to connect unknown designers with fresh ideas, to a market of young men looking for unique products.
“The rapidly digitizing global consumer is a really exciting movement, one that is constantly developing. The advancements of technology are changing the consumer experience, e-Commerce is in a really great place right now.” – Sergio Torres, Blackartel.
We spoke to Co-Founder Sergio Torres about his journey in the creation of Blackartel, and his insights into why independent labels are getting more and more traction in this space.
Sergio, you are one of the three founding members of Blackartel. How did the founders meet and end up collaborating for the creation of Blackartel? What different aspects do the founding members bring to the table, and what advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to find a business partner?
One of the most important things to consider when starting a business, is who you are going to do it with. Look for people that complement your skills, and your nature. In the case of Blackartel, I am a doer and a dreamer. Nathan is more pragmatic, a planner and down to earth and Sandra is detail orientated. This balance is key for success.
We all met in Barranquilla, the carnival capital of Colombia. After travelling the world and living in a number of countries; China, France, Guatemala, Germany and Brazil. We joined forces, with a common passion for independent fashion. We created Blackartel as a means to share the designs of relatively unknown designers, on a global platform. Today we are bringing these creations to markets across North and Latin America, with plans to expand very soon.
How do you go about finding these independent labels?
We live in an age of information, we are so connected, you just have to find it. The internet is an awesome tool, but nothing replaces the work you can achieve with true experts and great minds in the fashion world. We source designers discovered through simple word of mouth, we love to travel and explore new trends and meet new designers.
Through our connections with many in the industry who have a great awareness and understanding of new and cool happenings we remain at the forefront of innovation and creativity. It was through a close friend of Nathan’s we discovered Project Pieta a label born in the Peruvian jails of Lima, crafted from organic materials in prison workshops.
We showcase brands from ten different countries, across three continents. Our designers are innovation, taking inspiration from all over. La Brigade de l’Amour, for example produces clothing symbolizing the power of love.
From a geographical point of view there are some patterns we have seen in general. For example, in France they go for simplistic designs, in Poland they like strong patterns and in Japan they are much more fashion forward. However, emerging brands that are beginning to create their own identity make a big effort to differentiate themselves from general trends.
After finding a label that really interests us we check their portfolio to see what type of designs they have. We then check to see if they are selling on other platforms – their own or third party. If not we contact them, we explain what Blackartel is all about. The platform is really simple, we select the collections they’d like to feature on the home screen gather the relevant information, and that’s it. There are no fees for vendors, our business model means that we only make money on the sale.
Independent labels are gaining increasing amounts of attention. What do you think they are providing that the big brands are not able to?
A big factor is that people want to be different, to define their own identity. Today’s global world has homogenized some industries that were previously outlets for creativity and culture sharing; such as music and fashion. People no longer want to feel subject to mass consumer forces, if a product has a story to tell it is far more attractive.
I also think that people are becoming more ethically aware, and this plays a large factor in the move away from mass produce. The media has exposed such poor working conditions, such as sweatshops for low-cost clothing growing consumer awareness and making people realize the importance of sustainably sourced, ethical products.
The Blackartel designers manufacture their products locally. As a small company we are able to be more selective about this, we maintain great communication with our labels, and with our customers making sure we are in touch with their needs.
Growing digital habits put e-Commerce businesses in a great position for growth. What excites you now and what are your plans for future developments?
The rapidly digitizing global consumer is a really exciting movement, one that is constantly developing. The advancements of technology are changing the consumer experience, e-Commerce is in a really great place right now. We are 100% digital and we plan to focus on our growth in this way. We are currently betaing our mobile site, with plans to launch an application later.
Digital connectivity provides a great vehicle for growth, we are active on social media, specifically Instagram and Facebook and as we continue to build the marketplace we will grow our online presence through these; sharing our great designs from across the globe.
Our main target is the U.S. and Latin America – after this we plan to expand to an European audience and to explore the realm of womenswear too.
Regarding e-Commerce trends, I am currently obsessed with made to measure clothing platforms and regarding fashion trends I am digging leather jackets.