As one of the exhibitors of Magic Marketweek Feb 2014, Indie Source, got a chance to meet with Founders, Sheena Gao and Laura Krusemark from the brand International Citizen (i.CTZN), who was also awarded as being “Best Emerging Designer,” for Magic Marketweek’s 2012. We wanted to sit down with i.CTZN to hear more about their personal story on creating an apparel line with global appeal that is unifying various cultures from around the world. Here we got the scoop from some eclectic ladies that have some interesting strategies and techniques to share with aspiring designers. Our interview is as follows:
Q: Please tell our professional network at Indie Source how the brand of International Citizen came about? What was the brainchild behind iCTZN?
A: After 15 years of working in Apparel Product Development with some of the leading retailers in the U.S., as well as mentoring many talented designers from Europe, Asia, and U.S.A., I decided I had the perfect opportunity to launch a fashion line, something I had been wanting to do for a long time. Along with my talented friend, fellow fashion designer Laura Krusemark, we formed International Citizen Design House, LLC also known as International Citizen [i.CTZN]. The brand is based on inspiration from both of our passions for world travel and fashion.
Q: So, how do you take an idea and concept that spans world-wide, meant to unify all cultures, and develop an apparel line that reaches a broad spectrum of individuals to create mass appeal? What type of research did you both do before going into production with your line, so you knew you would attain a global desirability for your brand?
A: From our world travels, we’ve realized there is a niche market for our unique style that blends cultural details into the garments. We incorporate these cultures and countries by showing their flags as patches or screen-print calligraphy in different languages but all with a universal style that is comfortable to wear and easy for travel.
Q: Is there a particular age demographic for iCTZN? If so, can you please tell us more about your target consumers and who you feel are the buyers of your brand of clothing and why?
A: Our demographic is between the ages of 28 and 48. We target a middle to upper class individual that has a strong level of education, works in the creative field, is inspired by travel, international cuisine, music and learning about the cultures of others. Our clothing stands out clearly from other brands and the demographic we cater to is always excited when they get to touch and feel our product. Its all about getting in front of the right people, at volume.
Q: Is i.CTZN currently abroad in any specialty stores that are located in foreign markets? If so, how were you able to tap into those markets? Please give our network some solid tips to break into certain markets based on some of your personal experiences of being in the industry in regards to building iCTZN’s brand on an international level?
A: Yes, we are currently carried in stores in Tokyo, Japan and have lots of interest from Germany, Spain and France as well as Canada. We were able to find these buyers by doing trade shows such as MAGIC. We find the best way to break into the market and find new buyers is by doing these trade shows…as many as possible for the best exposure. We have also done fashion shows and been featured in magazines which helps for the branding and exposure, but for actual sales, tradeshows have been the most valuable.
Q: If you are physically not in markets abroad, does i.CTZN produce a lot of online sales on a global level; and if so, what type of online marketing have you done to be effective in gaining an online presence of followers to promote sales abroad?
A: We have our website online and we also promote and sell on Amazon and Etsy which are both Internationally known sites. We also have followers on our Facebook fan page, Twitter, our blog, Youtube, Instagram and Pinterest – all of these sites provide international exposure and allow us to have more the most reach.
Q: Where is iCTZN housed, where can consumers purchase your clothing– in stores locally here within the US and online, and how did you connect with the owners and boutiques of some of these stores?
A: We are based out of West Hollywood and consumers can purchase our current inventory on Etsy. However, we predominately focus on wholesale to buyers for retailers. Most all of these storeowners have met us through doing trade shows such as MAGIC.
Q: Can you please share with Indie Source and our followers some current projects that i.CTZN is involved in that our professional network of followers would be interested in hearing about, so we could keep an eye out and promote iCTZN with these endeavors?
A: We will be showing with RAW Artists fashion show coming up on April 13th in Hollywood and also working on partnership and licensing with Paramount Pics. Please follow our progress on our Facebook fan page, Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates and news on International Citizen’s events.
Q: Since the world is so big, how do you strategize and determine what destinations to hit up first, and what are specifically some pre-marketing tests that you perform to do some of the analytics to verify if i.CTZN’s clothing will be well received in various countries abroad?
A: We have worked with a marketing company in Spain, who have recommended testing our product in fashion capitals such as Berlin, Milan, Barcelona and London. We have discussed a gorilla style marketing technique(s) to introduce the brand to their markets and see how well received they are. In our four year experience, our feedback from European countries as well as Asian countries have been very positive so I know we would have a good customer following there.
Q: Lastly, what does i.CTZN mean to you and what type of lasting impression do you want i.CTZN to have within the industry of the world of fashion and for your consumers?
A: We are dedicated to promoting the power of universal oneness and creating openness between cultures and countries through unique men’s and women’s fashion. We hope we can continue to represent this vision and create a lasting impression within the world of fashion for many years to come.
International Citizen Apparel