The secret weapon behind Mango, JBC and Bel & Bo

Lode Van Laere (middle) with Nicky and Tony Vanwijnsberghe, founders of Tonickx.
Lode Van Laere (middle) with Nicky and Tony Vanwijnsberghe, founders of Tonickx.

Responding more quickly to trends, avoiding overstocks, controlling cash flow and maintaining margins: since corona, these are more than ever priorities for fashion retailers. Tonickx helps them to get new collections on the shelves within six weeks.


Deciding in the short term

At the beginning of January and the beginning of July, at the start of the sales periods, one can see large piles of unsold clothing in fashion stores that were bought cheaply in countries such as Bangladesh or China a long time in advance and which then have to be sold at high discounts. This is an untenable model, says Lode Van Laere, CEO of the Kortrijk-based fashion producer Tonickx. He argues for a different approach: "Wait as long as possible to order clothes, so that you can decide in the short term which trends you are responding to and which quantities you need". In this way, retailers can counter the oversupply in their shops, safeguard their working capital and protect their margins.

This is what Tonickx does: designing and producing women's fashion close to home, commissioned by well-known fashion chains. In six weeks time, a new collection can appear in the shops, in relatively small numbers. This enables retailers to respond quickly to the demand of their customers. Interest in this business model has increased considerably since corona: "Every week, we receive questions from retailers who want to have a new collection in the shops within six weeks, because they see that a type of product sells well."


Affordable, commercial women's fashion

Technology and data play a key role in Tonickx's approach. "Last year we bought the technology from a bankrupt start-up, allowing us to design and display clothing on a 3D avatar. In this way it is no longer always necessary to produce a physical sample, which saves us money and time". The company analyses data to estimate which models could be successful: "Certainly in digital sales, you can very well see what customers are buying, what they are looking at, what they are clicking away from... In this way, you can adjust your product. We can send 3D models to consumers and ask them what they like. You can also buy stock data from webshops of other fashion brands, to analyse what is successful. Fashion is a sector with a lot of emotions and quite a few egos. With data you keep these out of the decisions".


That's how Tonickx brings the end customer into the company. "Many designers prioritise catwalk trends instead of the real woman who walks into a store and who wants to look elegant without being too fashionable. We follow trends, we make sure that the right trends reach the customer quickly and we specialise in affordable, commercial women's fashion. And we take care of our customers from the design to the shop.”


International customers

Tonickx is winning over more and more renowned fashion retailers. Mango has been a customer for three months now, something of which Van Laere is quite proud: "They were convinced by our 3D technology and by the fact that we produce in Romania and Tunisia. Fashion companies want to spread their geopolitical risks. We work in France for La Redoute, Naf Naf and Stella & Suzie, an interesting brand that started from digital marketing, influencers, Instagram... For them, we produce about 25 models per month in small numbers - 200 pieces per reference. Well-known Belgian customers are JBC, Bel & Bo and E5 Mode. In Germany we work for Peek & Cloppenburg and for television shop channel QVC."

Van Laere, who is not a designer but a civil engineer, got to know the needs of the fashion sector through and through as director at JBC. He will be presenting Tonickx's special business model at this year's RetailDetail Days, which will take place on 17 and 18 September. Also Torfs, Dille & Kamille, Xandres, Mayerline, LDV United, Radial and nexxworks will testify about their approach to the 'New Normal'. It will be a hybrid event: a limited audience will be able to attend the presentations on site, in the Stadsfeestzaal in Antwerp. Others can sign up for the live stream. Here you can order tickets and find more information about the programme.