Case Study 13 Rosine And Vera

France retains its international reputation as a centre for the avant garde. Paris has always been a magnet for experimental writers, artists and musicians. Paris has also been the home of haute couture. Original haute couture garments, as opposed to imitation ones and adaptations, are original one-off creations designed by the 23 couture houses listed with the Féderation Française de la Couture. Very high prices put haute couture beyond the reach of most pockets yet it still remains the lifeblood and focus of the French fashion industry. Most couture houses are on or near the rue de Faubourg-St-Honoré. Houses include Chanel, Christian Lacroix, Guy Laroche, Nina Ricci, Yves St Laurent and Christian Dior to name just a few. Comme des Garçons produces avant garde quirky clothes for both men and women. In the nearby rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the eccentric but celebrated designer Jean-Paul Gaultier has a shop at Les Halles shopping centre, as does Agnès B, whose clothes combine the very latest chic with comfort. In the same centre there are also inexpensive outlets selling copies of new designs. The rue de Rosiers in the Marais is full of new designers.

Rosine graduated with a first class honours degree in fashion and business management in Manchester, England, in 1994. From the very beginning she was keen to run her own business. While on the degree course she had become friendly with a woman the same age as herself, Vera, who, in addition to working from home and producing cheap garments mainly for children, had recently acquired space in a small production unit in the Ancoats district of the city. Vera was technically proficient while Rosine had flair and imagination as well as a good training in how to work in business. From 1991-95 Rosine and Vera built up a small business using various contacts they had made in the trade and occasional breakthroughs with boutiques in downtown areas throughout the UK.

The real breakthrough into London, however, came in 1999 when Vera and Rosine designs were worn by a leading UK female rock band, The Witches, on Top of the Pops. Almost overnight their £60,000 turnover business increased tenfold and they were hard pressed to find workers who could produce the garments in the quantities required to satisfy the demand. Apart from relocating their business premises to London, Rosine and Vera registered their partnership as a limited company taking on the name Pique Dame, which until then had been the brand name or label of their creations.

By the year 2004, the image of Pique Dame had changed slightly, although the emphasis was very much on the avante garde. The firm now supplied many export markets with some 30% of output going to US markets. New labels had been introduced and among these Narcissus and Femme Fatale had proved highly successful. Narcissus appealed to the 15-20 year olds wanting to accentuate their youthfulness with an accent on dark colours and ragged appearance. In contrast, Femme Fatale had been aimed in the main at the 30-40-year-old market where the emphasis was on sophistication and the creation of an alluring air of mystery, excitement and even danger.

Two big challenges now faced Rosine and Vera. The first was how to market their designs to women in the over-20-under-30-year age range and what they should do for the large untapped market of the over-40s. Indeed, they even wondered whether they should restrict their portfolio of offerings to the under-40s. Rosine felt that the 20-30-year-old woman had characteristics that set her apart from other groups of women. She saw such women as being uncertain of what they really wanted, easily influenced by peer and social pressures and in need of constant reassurance. As Rosine put it: 'Women in their 20s are full of hope and expectations but they are unsure of what they really want so it is difficult for anyone to meet such women's expectations.' Moreover, she thought that many women in this age group were experimenters wanting to try out new ideas on almost a daily basis. It was difficult to create a fashion in a market where fads abounded.

In the autumn of 2004 the firm acquired retail premises on the rue de Rosiers in the Marais district of Paris. The decision had now to be made about how to position the firm in people's minds in world markets and how to set about promoting this image.


What role might marketing research play in helping the firm to promote its image?

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