MLC1948 creates fashion accessories “for the elegant adventurer”. The brand was created in Switzerland in 2018 by Maura Cordis to bring to market small or limited editions of minimalist hand made fashion accessories.
We’re talking today with the brand founder about the challenges of building a fashion brand from the ground up in the digital age.
Maura, first of all, what does MLC1948 stand for? I can make an educated guess about the first part, but I’m not sure about the second part.
As you have guessed, MLC stands for the initials of my name. As for the second part, I’m afraid I won’t be able to reveal the secret. Every brand needs an aura of mystery, and for us it starts with the name. (Laughs.) I wanted it to sound like a code name, something impossible to pronounce and impossible to ignore.
Tell us a little about yourself. Why fashion accessories? Do you have an artistic background?
Not at all! I am an engineer by education with absolutely no artistic background. However, I have a passion for creating things, for manual work. That must be my engineer side.
Straight, crisp lines and minimalism in life and art is a form of expression that made me rethink what beauty means. Also, I’m very much interested in what can result from combining apparently unrelated materials. These are aspects that can be observed in the design of the new fashion accessories collection.
The fashion accessories market seems saturated. Wasn’t this a risky choice of business activity?
It may sound like the wrong choice, however, when you look at the data, the reality is a little different.
According to a market research report from Allied Market Research the size of the fashion jewelry market is expected to grow 7% by 2022. While 7% may not seem much, consider that the size of the market was around 25 billion $ in 2015 and is expected to hit 40 billion $ by 2022.
The market for fashion accessories is huge and it’s growing fast. The idea was to find an under-served niche and serve it with the best products at the best possible quality.
Is that the engineer side who looks at the data first?
(Laughs.) Quite possibly. However, it started with the intention to build a well researched marketing plan.
Marketing, for the non specialists, seems to be more art than science. Listening to you, it seems it’s more science than art.
Successful marketing is both. It’s a very interesting blend of science and art. With all the data available now it would be a pity to ignore the “science” side. And, it would also be a pity to ignore the “arts”, or humanistic, side of marketing. To me, marketing is both “quants and poets”.
What was your main challenge when building the marketing plan for MLC1948?
As surprising as it may seem, the main challenge was the access to knowledge. And this, I find, it’s a paradox. In an era where you might think it’s enough to just “google” the information you are looking for, you’ll soon realize that most of the things you find in the area of digital marketing are either already dated, not practical or plain nonsense.
Another challenge was to find a marketing specialist with knowledge of both digital and traditional marketing. What I have noticed was that the “digital specialists” were ignorant of the basic principles of marketing, while the “traditional marketers” just “didn’t want to go there” (meaning, in the digital space).
After much asking around, I went back to an old (2008) business school book – Principles of Marketing, by the one and only Philip Kotler. The fun part about this book, is that one realizes that there is nothing new and everything comes back to fashion again and again. Take, for example, the famous influencers and the influencer marketing. Kotler was already talking about them 10 years ago. And the concept wasn’t, at that time, “the new shiny thing”. New tools, but same principles.
Very interesting insight! We seem to keep forgetting that the fundamental principles still apply even in our fast moving, ever changing, attention challenged digital world. And, speaking about fast moving, how long did it take you to bring your initial idea into the real world?
From the moment the idea popped up until the first customer received a fancy little package branded MLC1948, it took a little less than 3 months. It may seem short or it may seem too long. It depends. I was expecting it too be way shorter.
What makes you say that?
Well, when the idea crystallized, I thought that as soon as I’ll have a first collection ready, we’re ready to go. But I have completely overlooked the customer experience.
And, when I finally started drafting the customer path and their experience along this path, I realized that I don’t have a clear idea about who the customer really is and what he or she is looking for when they buy. Enters the marketing plan. So, as you can see now, from the idea to the first customer, there were several iterations that took us from a simple fashion accessory to a memorable experience.
What was the one action, decision or strategic move that helped you gain traction and made you understand that your venture has a certain potential?
I’m not sure it’s a one hit wonder. It never is. It’s the same as when you bake a beautiful cake and put the cherry on top and you’re tempted to say that it’s the cherry that made the cake beautiful.
We’re tempted to attribute the success of our ventures to the last action taken before the venture was successful.
For MLC1948 this action was deciding to work with influencers and working on selecting those that were a good fit. But to say that influencer marketing was a key to our success is rather exaggerated. And I’m saying this because this statement ignores all the preparation we had to do upfront. And it wasn’t little.
Where do you see your brand, MLC1948, going forward?
We have started MLC1948 having in mind a clearly defined persona: the elegant adventurer. It’s a woman or a man who appreciates art and culture, who likes to be surrounded by beautiful things, a person who lives with the times but who is self-assured and self-aware enough to create their own rules, codes, and style. And stand by it. The elegant adventurer is not the kind to just go with the flow, wear what the majority wears, just because it’s trendy today, only because they need to identify themselves with a group or don’t feel secure enough to stand out.
With this person in mind, our long-term objective is to develop MLC1948 into an all encompassing lifestyle brand. We have some projects in preparation but it’s too soon to talk about them.
Times flies when the discussion is interesting. And this one, it surely was. For those we made curious to find out more about MLC1948, where can they find you?
We have decided that we are going to stay online for the time being. No brick-and-mortar shop or pop-up store, so don’t look for us in stores. We offer free delivery worldwide, so, for now, it’s a choice that’s good for our customers.
You can find us at mlc1948.com. Obviously! (Laughs.)
Many thanks for your time and I’m looking forward to another discussion soon to understand more about how the challenges of building MLC1948 into a lifestyle brand have evolved with the development of the brand.
You’re welcome. My pleasure.