İhsan Ateş, who founded the DeFacto clothing brand in 2003, likes to call the first decade of the label’s existence ‘the first wave’. This was the time when DeFacto’s goals and strategies were determined and implemented. ‘We have increased our sales revenues by an average of 47% annually since 2008, growing 10-fold in six years. All this success made us the fastest-growing company among the top 10 brands in the fashion industry,’ he says. By establishing a strategic partnership with international investment company Templeton Investments at the beginning of last year, the brand has taken a significant further step towards becoming a global brand, a target set during the early days of its existence.
DeFacto is an original brand with a bold and witty character, known for its affordable fashion for young, on-trend customer. Ateş says the typical DeFacto consumer follows trends closely, seeks to buy fashion at affordable prices, and is a keen purchaser of new products. ‘To achieve our primary service mission, which is making our customers happy, we always listen to them, try to understand their needs and determine all our products and services according to this knowledge,’ he explains.
Understanding the market
Ateş has a personal passion for shopping. ‘It is usually perceived as a female trait but, in fact, men also like shopping!’ Though, as he explains, for him it’s a professional activity as well as a pleasure. ‘I can understand why and how women shop. Since I am professionally very engaged in fashion and follow all trends closely, I create my own style accordingly. Colours, patterns, accessories are all important, and I pay attention to combinations in order to have a matching and stylish look. This part is about my work.’ But even before Ateş started working in the fashion industry, looking stylish was important to him. ‘I prefer matched looks in even casual outfits because I believe that one’s clothing style is the reflection of one’s personality.’
His understanding of the market means that he knows how to make his brand stand out, and much of his success is down to his commitment to innovation. One aspect of this is, naturally, digital. Once DeFacto’s physical retail approach was honed, e-commerce became a strategic and investment focus.
Developing the model
‘We completed our omnichannel process last year – it enables integration among sales channels and provides an identical experience to customers in every channel,’ Ateş explains. ‘We have become the first fashion brand that initiated omnichannel in Turkey. Our sales on global platforms started through AliExpress [an online shopping marketplace] and Ebay, and will continue in 2016 with Amazon. We will be the first Turkish fashion brand on Amazon.’
Of course, online ventures will never take the focus away from physical retail, and great personal service is key to the DeFacto philosophy. Locals and visitors alike can expect expert, friendly client service. ‘In some specific stores, we communicate with our foreign clients about our various campaigns in English and Arabic and build a closer contact with them,’ says Ateş.
For Ateş, customer satisfaction can only be achieved if his staff are also satisfied, and he has gone to great lengths to ensure a happy working environment. In 2011, DeFacto launched its happiness department, led by a ‘happiness manager’. Happiness initiatives include sporting events, healthy living programmes, social activities and flexible working times for mothers, all designed to keep employees content.
Now in the second phase of its existence, DeFacto continues to seek new ways to connect with its youthful, fashionable audience. For example, last year Ateş made the smart decision to work with various influencers in the field of fashion. The first such collaboration, with blogger Buse Terim, was a great success and will continue for spring/summer 2016.
DeFacto currently has 283 stores across 63 cities in Turkey, and 50 international stores across 12 other nations. Its success has not gone unnoticed. ‘Thanks to the outstanding growth figures of the past decade, DeFacto received the [Palladium] Hall of Fame award, the world’s most prestigious prize for strategy and performance management, becoming the first Turkish fashion brand to receive it,’ says Ateş. And there’s no sign of Ateş or his label slowing down. ‘The speed and vastness of our success gives us strength for our future strategies. For the next decade, which we call the second wave, we have set our goals with the vision of continuing our stable growth and becoming an international fashion chain.’