New Business Horizons for the Design Department Students at the Estonian Academy of Arts

EKA Faculty of Design MA students at Copenhagen

This fall semester in the Estonian Academy of Arts, the Fashion Design Department organised a world-class branding and business course for 15 MA-level students representing fashion, textile, accessories and jewellery design.

The course is led by Sissi Silván, a true high calibre professional who specializes in helping Scandinavian brands break into international markets. As the very first Country Director of H&M in Finland, she oversaw the launching of the brand there in 1997 and led it to become the most profitable retail chain in the country. Currently working for FIBAN and Vaaka Partners, she is coaching and investing in enterprises with international potential looking for growth, and especially focusing on B2C products and services, design and retail.

The course titled “How to create a successful design brand for international markets” is highly demanding yet valuable. The students will get a thorough insight into potential markets outside of Estonia that suit their own creative label and a guide how to catch the interest and exceed the expectations of the buyers and curators. They will learn the necessary steps that lead to the expansion of their businesses as well as means and methods to professionally back the process and formulate a profitable growth plan.

Piret Puppart, Head of the Fashion Department, explains that our designers and artists have been doing well in our small local market, but the problems arise when their potential exceed the boundaries and it is time to break out into a much bigger scene. We are lacking the knowledge and experience of how they could broaden their scope and expand internationally. What is the business ethics abroad? How should we behave in a foreign market? How do we build a strategy?

Katrin Aasma, a young designer with already a locally distinguished brand praises the program: “It is a crucial course for a starting designer. Before I could only dream about entering the international market, but now it has become clear, what actually needs to be done to achieve that. The teacher is very motivating. The assignments and questions raised have made me see the larger perspective for my actions. Also, writing down my goals and thoughtfully explaining how to move towards them has given me much clarity about how and in which direction I could further develop my brand. As a young designer, I feel very supported by Sissi.”

Kristiina Jeromans, an MA-student in fashion design shares: “The thing that really stuck with me was that you have to start slowly and when you want to grow, don’t try and do everything yourself. Investors and sales people are important and marketing should not be overlooked. Our trip to Copenhagen really showed how in addition to design, Danish brands have greatly valued their visual image and customer experience. I wish we had that course already at a bachelor level.”

As a part of this specialized program, the students had a privilege to visit Copenhagen on the last week of October to get more acquainted with the most impressive examples of Scandinavian design businesses that have thrived in the global scene.

The students had the opportunities to meet and speak to the creators and executives of the brands directly to learn about the key points in doing business internationally. They visited brands like Helmstedt, Veras Vintage, Skall Studio, Kopenhagen Fur Studio, Ganni and Gudrun&Gudrun. The latter is a truly inspirational story of how a small business on the Faroe Islands has been able to find numerous retailers around the world with it’s concept of selling locally crafted knitwear. The visit to the Fur Studio gave the students a unique insight into the upcoming season’s new exclusive elements from Paris haute couture houses.

The CEO of Ganni, a remarkable brand that over the last decade has become the biggest success story in Danish fashion, shared his recent experience in opening a new store in New York City and LA end of October. In addition to brick-and-mortar stores in Scandinavia and the US and London, the brand is carried by over 400 retailers worldwide. The brand has also launched many sustainable initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint.

Denmark showed itself to be a real market for local designers and even small businesses from abroad with it’s boutique shops and consumers who value originality and concept. Compared to Sweden or Finland, it would seem to be even a better potential market for our designers to explore.

As a grande finale, the participants of the program, will present their brands and concepts to an esteemed panel on the 13th December in the Academy of Arts. Stay tuned.

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Posted by Ronja Soopan