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In conversation with CEO Birgit about her vision on the changes in fashion

Lately, there’s been more and more talk about the sense and nonsense of strict fashion seasons. Especially since the pandemic outbreak. Large fashion houses like Gucci, Saint Laurent and Dries van Noten announced their plans to steer a different course by presenting two collections a year instead of the usual four. Next to that, climate change is also influencing the natural transition of the seasons, so the seasons simply aren’t what they used to be. It's all shining a different light on the entire fashion industry, with more critique on fashion’s footprint. At PB, next to thinking in terms of being timeless, we also think and work around seasonless fashion as much as possible. CEO Birgit shares her vision on the always changing world of fashion and the way PB responds. 

image with artdirection
image with artdirection

It’s been a crazy year on all fronts, and fashion has been turbulent. What stuck with you the most this past year?

‘Corona started early on for us. When we went to Paris in March last year on our usual buying trip, the pandemic was already in full effect over there, and the world felt quite different: empty showrooms because people were afraid to drop by. When we returned to The Netherlands, it had also become the talk of the town here. Those first weeks, turnovers plummeted drastically so we had to respond quickly and think of a back-up plan in case things would take a turn for the worst.’


That must have led to lots of uncertainty?

‘Absolutely. And it still does because we have no idea where it’s headed this coming year. It can still go in all directions. We’re so used to long-term thinking, but now we have to adjust to short-term thinking, and face the fact that we have to view the world differently and pave the way for a new ways of working. Even looking at the simple the fact that our customers hardly left their houses anymore; that called for some acute action last year. Styling wise, we started to focus more on easy outfits to wear at home or on long walks, instead of city trips or nights out. It truly is a different reality.’

Birgit:

"With a brand like Filippa K, there's also a noticable difference in their collection. With less focus on different seasons and with an even more timeless approach."

Discover Filippa K »

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Do you feel that brands have adjusted much of their strategy after this past year?

‘It feels divided. Some brands pay more attention to creating beautiful and more extensive look books, so we can accurately determine what to buy without having to drop by. And with a brand like Filippa K, there’s also a noticeable difference in their collection. With less focus on the different seasons and with an even more timeless approach. It’s really come to light that certain facets of the fashion industry need to change drastically. Because do we really need that many collection per year? Why not pay more attention to the clothes we already own? That’s been an important focus for PB for many years now: focusing on a timeless wardrobe, with pieces that you’ll want to wear repeatedly - that’s why we love to share our vision on the diversity of styling with our customers. Because there’s so much more you can do with clothes than you might think - to wear it differently, in different seasons. I hardly get rid of any of my clothes. I’ve always had a long-term mindset when it comes to my own wardrobe.’


A timeless wardrobe suits the concept of slow fashion. What kind of development do you predict in this area?

‘People always thought that I was a nag because I was complaining all the time, finding it unnecessary to buy two collections each season. Why not less? I totally understand that a label needs their gems in the collection, but in my opinion there’s always room to scale it down a bit. By extending the core collection and sizing down changing collections, for instance. Louis Vuitton’s last men’s show showcased some incredible pieces. I think it’s such a shame that they’re only presented for one season. A collection like that should be available for multiple seasons because not everyone can afford pieces like that, but some might want to save up for them. And by the time they do, it’s not even available anymore. Garments like that should also never go on sale - you’re not just buying  some random piece of clothing, you’re buying something made by an artist. Clothes should be bought and treated with much more love and care. That’s the true starting point of slow fashion and the best way to create a countermovement to fast fashion.’

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Birgit:

"Clothes should be bought and treated with much more love and care. That's the true starting point of slow fashion and the best way to create a countermovement to fast fashion."

Birgit:

"Clothes should be bought and treated with much more love and care. That's the true starting point of slow fashion and the best way to create a countermovement to fast fashion."

Discover Essential styles »

Birgit:

"Clothes should be bought and treated with much more love and care. That's the true starting point of slow fashion and the best way to create a countermovement to fast fashion."


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Discover Essential styles »

In the area of seasonless fashion, what else has caught your attention lately?

‘Well, what I’ve really noticed among younger people, is a shift in their preference towards a more androgynist look - boundaries between men and women are fading when it comes to silhouettes and fabrics. Fabrics for women’s apparel are becoming less flowy and more rigid with a squarer fit. It’s leaning more towards a gender fluid style. Even though it’s not my personal taste, I think it’s a nice and interesting development. Countermovements have always been a part of fashion, but I think this is a long-term trend; the first signs of the introduction of a more masculine and therefore a more sustainable silhouette. Because a straight fit still looks great when your body changes, which regularly happens with women. And there are always plenty of ways to add femininity and a personal touch to your look.’


What’s your vision on buying seasonless for the future? Has that idea already penetrated the way brands think?

‘Buying seasonless is still a difficult concept at times. But Tanja - my colleague buyer - and I, always keep it in mind during buying trips. Can this beautiful summer dress also be worn with a cozy cardigan and sneakers in fall or winter? And can it be styled to wear to different occasions? If yes, then it’s going on our buying list. As a consumer, you preferably want to wear what you buy right away, so how wonderful would it be to buy winter clothes in the corresponding season instead of in august? On the other hand, summer can offer some chilly evenings, so your new sweater could also come in handy then - and that’s what we love to communicate to our customers. That’s what’s so great about a brand like Manos del Uruguay; their designs are great to wear as a scarf in winter and perfect as a wrap in summer, for covering up bare shoulders and arms during evenings.’

How would you describe the ideal seasonless wardrobe?

‘Like we always show at PB really. A basic wardrobe consisting of quality essentials: perfect-fit jeans, beautiful timeless blouses, comfy loungewear - complemented with some glitter and gold and leopard prints. And then, I would mix it all up - not just letting go of seasons but also occasions. That cool sweatshirt can also be worn to a dinner with a leather skirt and pumps and that party dress can be styles down for work, worn with an oversized cardigan and sneakers. Why shouldn’t you wear glittery pants on a regular day, teamed with a soft cashmere sweater? Who says you shouldn’t? No one. It’s what you tell yourself.’ 

 

What’s the best way to get women to come out of their shell more, fashion wise?

‘By showing and sharing the endless possibilities. Like we already do with all the different styling photos that accompany every product, and our Looks page and in blogs. Just keep inspiring and communicating that there’s always more possible than you think with the clothes you already own. Then you’ll truly create a sustainable wardrobe for yourself. But for me, the most seasonless thought, is to stay true to yourself. Everybody differs in style and taste, it’s a matter of discovering what makes you feel good. That's the key to being timeless.’ 


What’s your biggest wish for PB for the future?

‘That people don’t just visit us to shop clothes, but that they consider us to be a guide for women. How do you discover your authentic fashion style? How do you build your ideal personal wardrobe? I’d love to dive deeper into the inspiration aspect. We already inspire our customers every day and we often receive feedback that we feel personal to them, even though we’re an online company, and that’s so important to me. Also when looking to the future.’

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