INFRA-APPAREL GROUPE: The Avant-Garde of Asia’s Fashion Industry

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Style, as unique fashion expressions, changes from person to person, region to region and era to era. It’s how we express ourselves and communicate with people outside our spaces. Far more than aesthetics, it fosters positive vibes like love, joy, victory, celebration, etc. 

The fashion industry is about uplifting people. It’s geared to solve customers’ needs allowing people from diverse cultures to meet and socialize. Alongside creativity in clothing design, businesses require know-how to grow, sustain and secure its ventures. If one pays close attention to the intrinsic social dimension of fashion, it will be clear that consumers are its center. 

A few fashion companies understand how fashion works and can flourish. In APAC, one of such companies is INFRA-APPAREL GROUPÉ, a fast-growing boutique brand house, founded in 2011 by co-founders Richard Kisembo and Jing Yin headquartered in Shanghai, China. Richard, it’s CEO, and CMO gives an introduction, “INFRA is a consumer-centric boutique brand house at the cynosure of aspiration luxury innovation. We hold vested interests in businesses poised to drive dynamic growth in emerging markets.” It was established as a gateway for international fashion and lifestyle brands to enter Asia.

INFRA’s most striking feature is its unique operating model that brings together high consumer-centricity, an ‘asset right’ growth strategy and achieving an impact. Richard says, “INFRA believes in the power of a great brand, the people and the creatives that shape it. Our specialty has been to focus on building upon the upstream value of a brand, specifically Business Development, Marketing, and Merchandising, working with unique artisans to develop lustful products, whilst forging unique synergies with the downstream operator in retailing our brands.” 

INFRA’s success took time to realize. Achieving change was arduous but under Richard’s leadership, INFRA is ushering in brighter opportunities for Asia. Richard says, “We believe in fundamentally changing the landscape of brands in Asia (and globally) through our unique model, both disruptive and impactful. We measure it in the progress we’ve made through the impact we’ve had in the industry over time.”

Since its inception, INFRA has closely observed flaws in traditional business. Considering the biggest risks in today’s economic and geopolitical environment, it practiced business more conducive to long-term growth by securing equity stakes in brands. Richard tells, “Our first acquisition in 2015 was Pretty Wild Lingerie, an Amsterdam founded lingerie label, which we acquired globally.” Closely monitoring this global label’s growth had many advantages. He explains, “The global control we gained in Pretty Wild gave us space to experiment with our Selective Distribution model, and specifically push the boundaries without the fear of failing.“ INFRA’s effectiveness in leadership prevailed—the experiment was a big success. Its business flourished, they secured innumerable followers and newer products were launched. 

By 2016, INFRA would fully transition into a distinguished business model thanks to a deeper understanding of the 21st-century market and practical knowledge of driving large-scale growth. By mid-2018, INFRA secured a greater equity stake in Asia’s PULLIN, a French lifestyle fashion brand. With PULLIN’s official launch in China late last year, the partnership is successful so far. Richard shares, “Our crowning achievement came this April, as we announced the formation of a Joint Venture with Ted Baker, where (together with our partners at LONGGOAL Group) we gained 50% interest in the Greater China business of Ted Baker (excluding Taiwan).“ INFRA is now administrating the expansion of Ted Baker (a global lifestyle brand) in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau. 

INFRA’s philosophy revolves around vision, emotion, and impact. INFRA is a visionary with the foresight to strengthen investments in the upstream value of brands and in exceptional people.  It’s evocative as it captures emotional connections among consumers—the heart of fashion. It curates a style that can capture consumers’ interests through vivid and emotional communication. It’s tuned into the emotions of generation Z and millennial women and encourages customers to be a social channel for expression. Lastly, it’s impactful as it aims for lasting change. Today, INFRA’s business in combination with technology has been inspiring a better go to market strategy throughout China.

Richard talks about the company culture, “Intrepreneurship is a core component of our DNA in promoting Brilliance in Artistry, creativity, innovation, and decisive market responsiveness. Intrepreneurship turns captivating ideas into solutions that are coupled with consumer insight to harness consumer loyalty, further contributing to strong organic growth and inspiring perfection in our business chain of reasoning.”

About INFRA’s future, Richard says, “We will continue to invest in Brand Value creation, business development, marketing and technology-centered on consumer insight and loyalty. Emerging markets will continue to serve as a dynamic growth driver for each investment.” It intends to acquire the industry’s bigger fish through special funds that accelerate investments. Richard sums up, “We believe the global uncertainty in retail has been opportunistic, with certain aspirational brands needing new territories to secure survivability. We believe it’s an opportunistic moment to look at that brand landscape and re-image how impactful we can be, and how to continue facilitating change.”

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