Defined by its superior quality craftsmanship and extensive selection of luxurious fabrics, the Marie France Van Damme luxury resort wear collection launched in summer 2011 and has never looked back. Here, RLI speaks to the woman herself about how the brand began and what lies ahead for the luxury retail segment.
The Marie France Van Damme collection was created to offer women an alternative to current market trends – incorporating luxury products that embrace timeless, modern pieces that can be worn for all occasions and not only at chic holiday destinations. Each piece is designed with versatility in mind, from an afternoon at the beach to an evening out, each silhouette is carefully considered with pieces that are wearable yet alluring. The Marie France Van Damme collection has a ‘wear anywhere’ appeal, with a ‘resort-inspired flare’ that will never go out of style. The collection bridges the gap between day and evening wear, through versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched effortlessly with an infinite number of options.
Having opened her first store in Hong Kong towards the end of 2013, the company now operates 13 stores across such globally renowned cities as Bangkok, Dubai, Marrakesh, Beverly Hills, Miami and Las Vegas. In addition to these stand-alone stores, the brand is also present in various department stores and resort boutiques around the world.
“In the last 12 months we have been leaning towards more pop-up locations, so we opened one in Le Bon Marche in Paris and one in Bergdorf Goodman in New York for one month,” explains company Founder Marie France Van Damme. “Pop-ups offer us great exposure and it is a fantastic way for us to communicate with potential customers and with members of the press. So going forward we are working on the pop-up concept and looking at small spaces all over the world, with the next one most likely to be in Hong Kong, close to home.”
Outside of pop-up spaces, the company is working on one new project which is to be part of a new development in Scottsdale, Arizona, where construction of The Ritz Carlton, the Armani Residences and the Fendi Residencies is already underway ahead of a 2021 opening. When it comes to creating new products and initiatives, Marie France Van Damme is in a unique position as within three days from conception, the product can already be in store, as Marie France works with her seamstresses and pattern makers on a day-to-day basis, even sometimes working too much as she has been told on occasion!
Marie France Van Damme created her company with the idea of not working to seasons or a certain number of collections each year, instead she fashions garments that can be worn ten years from now. “If you buy a Gucci dress, how many times can you actually wear it? I would say that if you purchase a piece from my collection, you can wear that garment in many different ways and you actually have a piece that you can keep in your wardrobe, you don’t have to throw it away and you can accessorise it to use again and again,” she explains.
Van Damme realises the importance of social media in today’s retail market, and they have a specific team who work on these channels on a daily basis and they have built a strong base of returning customers as well as enticing new ones through its social media output. – “I would say we have a product that is different to what is available on the market currently. I would say I spend a lot of time on the fit of every garment and the detail of the fabrics, and if you look at our garments and the way in which they are made, we line everything in silk and a lot of our garments are handmade and hand sewn which is a rare thing to see, even in high-end products, so it is this attention to detail that makes the brand stand out from the crowd.” – A lot of hard work has been put into building the company, along with passion and commitment, and it is these factors Van Damme believes has allowed the business some success over the years.
She feels that looking forward; the greatest challenge facing the brand is the global factors affecting retail in particular markets, such as Brexit. The other key challenge is keeping on top of what customers want. “People are today constantly talking about experiences, this is what they want. While this is an incredibly hard thing to achieve, what we can ensure is that we provide a beautiful product, have a great sales team and great people in our stores,” concludes Van Damme.