Three years ago, Justine God left her job as a buyer in the textile sector to launch Imprévu, a women’s ready-to-wear brand. Based on a well thought-out business model and driven by strong values, her label has found its place on the Belgian market and abroad.
When you launched Imprévu, you chose to produce in Italy in human-sized workshops, to operate on the basis of seasonal capsules and to ban e-commerce. Tell us more.
When I embarked on this project, I wanted it to be in line with the values that are dear to me and that were the foundations of this company. I knew that I wanted, no matter what, to keep a real proximity with the shops that distribute the brand and to move forward with an idea of partnership. This is why, even though I was often reproached for it, I refused to sell online. I am convinced that this idea of only offering small series so as not to overproduce, of limiting the number of boutiques in each geographical area, so as not to flood the market and of managing to offer competitive prices to my customers while guaranteeing an ethical approach, contributes to the success of Imprévu.
From the start, you chose to work with Élodie Timmermans, a photographer from Liège. Together, you created some very strong shoots that also helped build Imprévu’s identity. Why did you choose to capitalise on this approach?
These campaigns are the result of six months of work. Without these photos, I wouldn’t be able to broadcast the brand image I’m trying to build. Even if I am attentive to the way in which the boutiques appropriate my collections and that the looks of the customers are often a source of inspiration for me, I find it important to be able to transmit the identity of Imprévu in a more artistic approach. It’s an investment, it’s true, but I think it’s an essential step in my brand strategy.
You’ve been working with this photographer almost since you started. Is this a way of establishing the brand and its identity?
Generally speaking, I am quite loyal. Working with a photographer or with my workshops in Italy over the long term allows me to build up a relationship of trust, but also, in a way, to increase my level of demand on them. My project is very atypical in the sense that, so far, I am alone in carrying it out. If I want to continue to perfect it, these exchanges are therefore essential.
Does perfecting mean growing? What is your growth strategy?
It is extremely clear in my mind. And it has been since I started. Even if, in two years, I feel like I’ve gained ten years of experience. What is important to me is to see that the values of the brand hold up. In any case, whatever happens, I want to keep control of my project. I want to grow without having to associate myself with investors who would impose a course of action that would not suit me.
Does your growth necessarily involve export?
It is not an end in itself. At this stage, it is above all a way of increasing the quantities of pieces produced and giving me access to specialist workshops which, until now, have refused to work with me for lack of sufficient volume. I will thus be able to explore other creative avenues and, at the same time, not stray from my line of conduct. By exporting, I have the luxury of not increasing the number of sales outlets in certain regions, including Wallonia, where I already have a strong presence.
In terms of design, what are your guidelines?
I have always taken small steps, trusting my instincts and, above all, keeping a close eye on the price of my collections. If I create a piece that is too expensive to manufacture when I’m developing a capsule, it doesn’t make it into the collection. On the other hand, I try to include more and more sophisticated pieces, especially in terms of materials or prints. My aim is to keep improving all the time. But, whatever happens, even when I imagine a cashmere jumper, I make sure that I surround myself with subcontractors capable of providing me with a quality yarn at an affordable price.