Strategy, digital business, marketing, product, distribution, logistics… To many, all these words sound pretty dull, right? Well, as boring as they might be, they’re also essential to anyone growing a business. And for us creatives, even more – our heads are full of references and a clear aesthetic vision, but do we really know how to make them profitable?
“Providing a concrete and sustainable life to what begins as intangible and visionary creative projects is what makes my job meaningful to me”, tells us Luca Corsetti in this interview. Fascinated by fashion and commerce since a young age, he went to business school to later work with luxury, lifestyle, and fashion brands worldwide, which he gets to do perfectly thanks to his role as Managing Partner for Tomorrow Consulting.

Now, the business unit of the international fashion accelerator Tomorrow is working on a very interesting and innovative project: in collaboration with JETRO (the Japan External Trade Organization) and opinion leader Daisuke Gemma, they’re helping Japanese brands looking to broaden their horizons by assisting them in entering new international markets. “Concretely, we are helping Japanese creatives to take a step out from the domestic market rules and open up to the world”, Corsetti says.

After presenting the first brand of this incredible partnership, Motofumi ‘Poggy’ Kogi, during the Men’s Paris Fashion Week, and before they release new names during Women’s, we catch up with Luca Corsetti to know more about the business of fashion, the importance of real collaboration, and how does he plan to introduce unknown Japanese brands to the rest of the world.
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You’re currently working as Managing Partner for Tomorrow Consulting. For those less familiar with the corporate aspect of the fashion industry, could you explain a little bit further what is it exactly that you do?
Tomorrow Consulting is a business unit of the international fashion accelerator Tomorrow. We provide strategic guidance and operational support across business strategy, product, digital marketing and distribution. Tomorrow Consulting leverages its’ deep fashion expertise and network to build global brands and businesses. My role is multifaceted, including defining the vision and strategy for the consultancy, business development, as well as coordinating the team across our three offices in London, Milan and New York.
You work in the fashion industry but not in the more creative, visual side, which is usually the one that catches everyone’s attention – people wanting to be fashion designers, stylists, photographers, illustrators, etc. So what first sparked your interest?
Growing up, luxury lifestyle and fashion have always been points of interest and somewhat central to my life. But I’ve always been equally interested in commerce, and my aptitudes naturally lean that way. So while I chose business school, the intention was always to enter this space. In fact, the opportunity of providing a concrete and sustainable life to what begins as intangible and visionary creative projects is what makes my job meaningful to me.
In mid-January, Tomorrow Consulting launched a very interesting project in collaboration with JETRO (the Japan External Trade Organization) and the opinion leader Daisuke Gemma. You’ll work as an incubator and accelerator for some selected Japanese fashion brands to help them in every aspect of the business: communications, strategy, product, etc. But tell us, how did it all get started?
The initiative – of Daisuke scouting interesting, underrealized brands for our showroom – has been in effect for years. It was an organic relationship that has evolved naturally. The relationship was formalized due to the introduction of JETRO, that was keen to reinforce our efforts due to the success of the program. With JETRO, the program was extended: not only were we becoming a platform for select high potential Japanese brands, but we also added a boot camp layer to the program, offering the consulting services of our team – with specialized industry guests – to a broader group of brands that had promise but weren’t quite ready for the international stage.
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So the project has evolved from what it was to what it is now thanks to an external actor (JETRO). Do you think it will keep changing?
This project will continue to evolve season by season based on the designers selected, but everything will be in service of the long-term goals to elevate the knowledge of international buyers on Japanese designers, and help emerging creatives get ready to face the needs and peculiar demands of international markets.
You focus solely on Japanese brands. I’ve been there and the major problems I faced (as a tourist and customer) were the language – nobody spoke anything rather than Japanese – and the never-ending number of shops and brands there were (in Tokyo, especially). But what are the problems the Japanese face when they want to become more international and reach other markets?
The main opportunity is learning how markets outside Japan are driven by integrated strategy and executive planning to ensure a successful sales performance. Sizing, integrated digital strategy, and setting an international tone of voice are the key areas of support we are providing these designers through the boot camps we are developing in Tokyo. Concretely, we are helping Japanese creatives to take a step out from the domestic market rules and open up to the world, focusing on the aspects of their business that would better fit the international market, while helping them filling their gaps.
If everything goes according to plan (or even better) with this project, would you consider helping brands from other countries? Or do the Japanese have something in particular that you look for?
We are an international company with an international perspective and today work with brands across Europe, North America and Asia. As we get more and more market translation and development requests, our expertise in these strategies is reinforced, making our work on these types of initiatives more effective and rewarding. Personally, I hope to be able to continue to work with ‘underserved’ markets that could use better representation in Europe as I find these initiatives particularly worthwhile.
“Providing a concrete and sustainable life to what begins as intangible and visionary creative projects is what makes my job meaningful to me.”
Motofumi ‘Poggy’ Kogi, fashion designer and also the director of Arrows & Sons, is the first person/brand you’ve publicly announced. Why is it?
We think that Poggy perfectly embodies the spirit of the project. His roots are deep into Japanese culture and outlook on fashion, yet he has introjected an international mindset thanks to his long-time experience in fashion, which allowed him to develop an international network and foster his intercultural background. This multi-faced aspect of him was the main reason we chose him as the first representative of our project.
When we spoke with him some months ago, there were several things that caught my attention. The first I want to talk about is his concept of collaboration. “Nowadays, I feel like a lot of big brands are collaborating with other big brands purely for the publicity and without any real exchange of knowledge. However, that is exactly what a good collaboration is about: mutual respect and an exchange of knowledge from different fields.” How do you feel the collaboration between his brand and Tomorrow Consulting will help in terms of knowledge, growing, and learning from one another?
That’s a great question. An equal exchange of value is what we think defines a good partnership. From our end, we are learning a lot about the Japanese market, while reinforcing our skills at market translation. Poggy in particular reminded us how important it is to be brave when it comes to creativity by presenting an incredibly heterogeneous collection that puts many creative minds together under the same roof. Seeing a Loro Piana wool blazer and suit pants close to anime-style, hand-painted jeans and inflatable plastic accessories where the only ‘trait d’union’ were Poggy’s incredible attitude to eclecticism and unique vision of fashion was refreshing for us.
On the other hand, what we were able to bring to Poggy was our ability to provide concrete support and a solid structure to talented creatives in order to empower their creativity even more, together with real insight into how to launch and build a brand in Europe.
“Everyone around the world is seeing the same images or reading the same texts and, as a result, everyone has the same style. The Internet has turned us all into replicas of each other, it’s so boring!” is another of my favourite comments by Poggy. But I think that the sense of style in Japan is unmatched. Actually, I believe there are some looks that only Japanese people can pull off. Do you expect difficulties to introduce some brands to non-Japanese markets?
We are supporting the designers to engage in a direct dialogue with international customers communities through their tone of voice, imaginary and, for sure, a correct use of digital communication. Of course, cultural mediation is a fundamental aspect to guarantee the effectiveness of this dialogue. There is a bridge to build between two cultures and two markets. In this process, having people who can help this mediation – knowing well both cultures and markets – is the key for a correct translation. We also believe that creativity is a universal language, and often, being able to leverage the universal nature of all creative language is our favourite part of the job.
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Regarding brands, he also said that “In the United States, they will speak of a certain celebrity that wears the garment. In Europe, they talk more about the history, philosophy and cultural background of an item. And in Japan, we have a much more technical approach and mostly talk about construction and fabrics.” As an international company, you’ve had to deal with people from everywhere in the world. According to your experience, what are the most relevant differences between big markets? And similarities, if any?
For us, there’s no more sense to differentiate the markets using geography as a discriminant. We develop our working methodology around this new vision in fact from USP (unique selling proposition) to UCP (unique community proposition). You can find similarities across fashion communities born in the States but with loyal followers in the United Kingdom and Korea. Especially Gen Z and Y are experts in selecting what they like, and geography, thanks to e-retailers, is not relevant any more.
The major difference between the markets is that while in the United States and the Far East business is evolving really fast and continuously changing, Europe and Eastern block markets are quite conservative beholden to the strategies of the other two. The United States and the Far East have entrusted their success to big department stores and retail conglomerates, but that business model seems to not work anymore, as both department stores and retailers are struggling on a lack of footfalls nowadays, while small independents in Europe are struggling for lack of innovation and experience that is provided mostly now by global e-tailers.
The challenge nowadays is the flexibility and the agility for fashion companies to adapt to ‘glocal’ realities not only in terms of IRL retail but also drive traffic from physical to digital and vice versa, and use their doors not only as a gateway for sales but also as partners to engage the community and deliver experiences.
The Japanese have a long history of turning the fashion industry upside down in Paris: Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto are the most prominent. And you’ve decided to launch the project between the men’s and women’s fashion weeks in the French capital. Does it hold any historic/symbolic relevance, or is it just a logistic decision?
Given the rich historical context you rightly pointed out, and the city’s role as the ultimate fashion capital, Paris’ central role in the project was never in question.
The last question is unavoidable: what can you reveal us from the months to come? In March, you’ll announce some more brands, if I’m not wrong. Can we get any clue about them?
I can’t disclose what’s coming next, but internally, we are really inspired by the next two projects and look forward to continued success with the program.
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