Physical Turns Online

Lisa Schotman on COVID VS the future of sustainable brands and physical space.

Today, I am visiting Lisa Schotman in her store. Lisa is the founder of The Collection One, an online and offline boutique selling sustainable brands & vintage. She opened her first physical store not long ago at the outbreak of corona. I aim to understand her perspectives on corona and the future of sustainable fashion in the digital world and if there is a possibility for the physical store to coexist online.

Why sustainable?

In times like these, sustainable brands struggle to operate online, so do local stores and boutiques. I asked Lisa to briefly introduce herself and her concept for the store. She says, “I started with the online shop three years ago.. The concept was a bit different at the start. I held pop ups and shop in shop experiences before opening a store. I sold basic items together with vintage. I changed this concept and created more of a suited style. It was always a dream of mine to open a store.”

“I always knew I wanted to sell sustainable, I studied fashion and felt responsible for the future of the industry. I did research into concepts and came across the ‘5 piece French wardrobe’, you invest in a basic wardrobe and buy 5 trend items per season… with time I changed it to everlasting vintage”.

Right after, she told me how she came across the brands she sells and her criteria. “For brands I sell, I look into how and where they are made, who made them and if the style fits the brand. I want to know the answers to my customer’s questions, as fashion is getting more personal and transparency is important. I like to go for small brands that are easy to track and have unique pieces. I like when people say, ‘oh I didn’t know this brand before, and you’re the only one selling it.’ It's important to stay unique especially now."

Lisa Schotman: Image By Marieke Verdenius

Opening in time of corona

I asked Lisa to share her experience, opening her first physical store in times of Corona. She answered by saying, “Opening in such an unpredictable time was a real disadvantage and a stressful start. I had to postpone the opening. The fact that I just invested so much in renovating the space, left me quite insecure about the business. Once I could finally open the store, I had to re-plan the strategy and measures in store. Although the obstacles, I still find that if I sell in store, it sells faster. I like that people can feel the quality of the fabric and I can give more information in person. They can try it on and have personal contact with it. You don’t get that online... Especially for the blazers, you have to try them on to see how they fit. People look for different silhouettes and want to see how they feel wearing it. Customers also like to come in for a personal experience, which with digital is hard to provide.”

Lisa explained how she communicated with customers to keep sales going during the time between the official and postponed opening. “I faced a lot of stress during this time so it was hard to find new ways of marketing to customers. First, I had to stay transparent. The customers needed to stay aware of the situation and the handling of it. In the meantime, I had to switch my focus back to online. Once the government updated the rules and I could finally open the store I had to be really careful. Safety was number one.

She then explained further the difference between her interaction with customers online vs offline. She said, “In a store you get to see the customers and see what kind of person they are so it’s easier to help them. I try to use omni-channels to combine online with offline. On the website and socials I mention that you can do in-store pickup. It works well and I get to see the customers in real life and build on loyalty. This is not so easy to do online. However, the opportunity in online communication is that the customers see what is in store before coming, so they can directly ask about it through chat or a phone call. I have a clear reference to what product they are interested in.”

"I want to connect the physical store to the web shop more, but for now that’s a big investment, especially for smaller sustainable brands.”

I asked Lisa about the importance of a physical space and how she keeps it relevant in the digital age. “I really like to invest in interior decoration. I want to get the vibe of online also offline and vice versa. I look for the right presentation materials to reflect the mood, like the racks and lifestyle products. Online, it’s important to see products on a person since you cannot try them on. I find it hard to connect the two especially for vintage products and give them a life online. It is hard to reflect the mood of the store online and its warm and welcoming interior.” Lisa explained how she updates her store to keep it relevant in the digital age. “The physical store is important so I am trying to show it more online. So far I am introducing SEO and giving customers the chance to book a personal shopping session online. I want to start collaborating more or doing workshops with artists. I want to connect the physical store to the web shop more, but for now that’s a big investment, especially for smaller sustainable brands.”

Peak inside the physical boutique: Image By Patrycja Sudzinska

Views on the future of sustainable fashion 

I asked about her views on the future of digitalization in the sustainable fashion industry and if she believes the two can merge. After a longer pause she responded, “A lot of sustainable brands care about the quality and feel of fabric so that’s hard, but I think it’s possible. It could help to do ‘made to order’ because you see more people wanting to invest in personal sustainable items. It could also help to see the physical store online from a walk in perspective so the customer can get more of an experience.”

"For the world, I hope people reconsider fast fashion and buy more sustainable and vintage brands."

I asked Lisa to define what reconsider means for her and her business. “a means of listening and planning possibilities for change. For business, I reconsider what I sell so I can sell more or stop with a brand completely and look for a new one… it’s about trial & error. For the world, I hope people reconsider fast fashion and buy more sustainable and vintage brands. I think corona will help us change and re-think what we have in our closets. You can see magazines already talking about this. The September issue was always about the new collections and now it’s more about taking a step back.”

I asked, “What do you mean by taking a step back? How do you see this happening in the fashion world at the moment?” She responded saying, “We have reached a global pandemic and a lot of fashion brands have to reconsider their strategies now and what they sell too. It’s finally a time where people and brands can reconsider their habits and take steps to change instead of producing and consuming more. A lot of people are looking for comfort now and everlasting pieces and sustainable brands can provide that. The next global catastrophe will be climate change and brands and people are starting to notice that. The clock is ticking.


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Brands and Innovation         Amsterdam Fashion Institute