Design, Development and Merchandising at Eastpak

Domitille is the Director of Design, Development and Merchandising at Eastpak. We recently sat down with her to discuss her 18-year-long career at Eastpak, which has its Head Office in Antwerp, Belgium.

Eastpak is part of VF Corporation, a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear, and accessories, with global iconic brands, such as The North Face®, Vans®, Timberland®, and more.

Hi Domitille, brands such as Eastpak and Kipling are part of “VF Corporation”. Can you tell us a bit more about VF Corporation?

We have a diverse portfolio of iconic apparel and footwear brands that span numerous product categories, such as Vans®, Timberland®, the North Face®, Kipling®, and many more.

With its wide range of brands, VF Corporation is able to reach various consumer demographics, sales channels, and geographic regions.

VF Corporation is a purpose-led and performance-driven organization. We want to make the world’s best apparel and footwear whilst empowering movements of sustainable and active lifestyles, for the betterment of people and our planet. A worthwhile cause!

What is VF Corporation’s approach to design?

Elevating design is not just part of VF’s 2021 Global Business Strategy and one of the key capabilities we are working on, it is also at the heart of Eastpak’s brand strategy. We focus on creating compelling products that consumers love by collaborating with renowned fashion designers and delivering unique brand experiences.

What is your current role at Eastpak?

I am responsible for the entire product process at Eastpak, from the initial design ideas and prototypes, up until the product is approved for production.

My role lets me interact with lots of different teams and their functions, such as trend-forecasting agencies, design offices, our sourcing group in Hong Kong, our material suppliers, and manufacturers.

I am also in charge of the merchandising department that studies various product trends, line efficiencies, and market needs.

How has your role evolved since you started at Eastpak?

VF Corporation acquired Eastpak 18 years ago and I joined shortly after. My role has constantly evolved since then. My initial responsibility was to select the Eastpak products that would be sold and promoted in the North American market.

After that, I made a complete switch and became responsible for the Eastpak brand in Europe.

Eastpak works in relatively small teams, allowing me to have a hands-on role and to get involved in many topics that are outside of my original job scope. It gave me a full 360-degree view of the brand and knowledge on how to sustain and grow it. Most importantly, I gained a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the brand and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

What type of people work in your design, development and merchandising team?

The product department is split into two teams. Firstly, we have the design and development team who are in charge of creating new products. They start with design and take care of the full product development process, all the way to the designs entering production. This team needs to have a good mix of employees coming from different backgrounds. For example, we have employees with backgrounds in interior design and fabric engineering, as well as individuals with no design experience.

It is important though that everyone is interested in design and fashion and understands the production techniques and material specifications. This means that there is always a lot of learning on the job for new team members!

Then we have our merchandising team who are responsible for the analytics side of product development. People in this team typically have a more quantitative background and some attended business school. But as we’re a creative company, our merchandising team generally have a good mix of analytics and creative skills.

Which of your designs are you most proud of?

It’s actually not something I made but I’m very proud of our iconic Eastpak bag that has been around since 1976. We haven’t made any changes to it since then.

I believe that we’ve stayed true to our roots, which is really important for a brand.

It’s also important for a brand to evolve and stay in touch with the preferences of today’s customer, which is why we developed the Eastpak CNNCT collection. This collection complements our original collection and focuses on urban travelers. It’s been well received by our customers so far!

Eastpak is a very international company. How are responsibilities divided across the global functions?

The Head Office of Eastpak is located in Antwerp, Belgium. The brand originates from the US but relocated to Europe due to its importance here.

All design takes place at Antwerp where we create our main collections that are presented to the global markets. The individual markets can then tailor their product selection from our collection based on local customer demands and preferences.

Similarly, our marketing campaigns are all developed at our Head Office in Antwerp and then implemented locally by our international marketing teams.

How does Eastpak look at e-commerce vs the traditional physical stores?

Our products are sold globally in many brick-and-mortar stores but we’re a “digital first” brand.

Our biggest store is online, so it makes sense to put our focus on digital. Everything we do from taking pictures to setting up marketing campaigns, is digitally focused.

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