Arnoldas Remeika-Bomberis is a man with a vision – in just a couple of years, he changed from being a successful international sales manager for one of the biggest designer fashion brands in Lithuania Julia Janus to becoming a fashion writer and fashion consultant. We catch up with Bomberis to talk about the future of fashion for the emerging fashion markets and emerging fashion designers.
Fashion Bloc: You call yourself ‘Bomberis’, what does that mean? As I know you personally, I’d say it refers to a bomber jacket, a black bomber jacket?
Arnoldas Remeika-Bomberis: You’re right! When I just started my blog about the lifestyle and fashion of the city, I obviously had to think of a name for it. At the time I thought that a bomber jacket is a perfect representation of a city life and style – a free spirit of a big city. If I knew it was going to become my nickname, not just a name for my blog, I might have given it a better thought. However, I’m still happy with a message it embodies – courage, freedom and progress. And although there is a variety of bomber jackets, I stick to a classical black. Black is my trademark, for a busy person, it is the most convenient colour to wear.
FB: When and how your blog Bomberis was born?
Bomberis: Since 2015 I was an International Sales Director for Julia Janus, but I am leaving this role this month. In just over two years, we introduced the brand internationally and have opened sales accounts in the neighbouring countries such as Latvia, Russia and Ukraine, but also overseas in China, the USA. Sales is a challenging and versatile role but I have missed what I’ve been doing for years before I started my sales role – storytelling. To recreate a balance, I started writing a blog.
FB: How your professional life will change – what will you do next?
Bomberis: I will no longer actively work in sales. I’m going back to what I was doing for a number of years – Public Relations and Promotion. I am planning to have a rest, recharge and start over in Autumn. One of my new clients will be my former employer Julia Janus. I know the brand story so well thus it will be a pleasure to tell it to others. I will also work with smaller independent fashion brands and emerging fashion designers in Lithuania – from business planning to storytelling. In my blog www.bomberis.com I have introduced a virtual showroom to represent selected Lithuanian designers and designers from the neighbouring countries. I have ambitions to launch a collaborative collection with one of the brands. If I have time, I will write a book. It will be about fashion, of course.
FB: What have you learned from working with Julia Janus and other Lithuanian fashion brands?
Bomberis: Lithuania has reached an interesting stage of development – there are quite a few brands that have acquired brand recognition locally and have started thinking about international markets. Some of those brands have a clear strategy, investment, commercially viable product, external professionals. Others, quite the opposite, try to do everything themselves the way they understand, multitasking and reaching the point of emotional and physical exhaustion. I now understand that a good product and enthusiasm is not enough. You need to have a budget, skills and a clear strategy. We did have this all with Julia Janus and I believe this is why the results were quick to come. When I explain all this to a smaller independent brand or an emerging fashion designers, I can see the fading enthusiasm. Some of the designers will admit that international markets are not up to their street just yet.
FB: Do you agree that Lithuanian designers face the same challenges as other independent brands from emerging European markets?
Bomberis: Definitely yes. You may be well known in your local market but whenever you cross the border, you become a no-name thus the chances to make it or break it are equal to all – whether you’re big or small at home. The fashion industry is highly competitive and only every fourth fashion label will survive although everyone starts the same way – motivated by big ambitions. The good news is that the established fashion capitals are now looking at the new European capitals and are looking for talent in Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States. Fashion brands from the new Europe have strong identities, historical and folk references with communist and post-communist references that are new and exotic to the Western consumers.
FB: You have worked at numerous international trade shows, do you have any advice for emerging fashion designers how to make the most of them?
Bomberis: I have been at the trade shows in New York, Milan, London, Paris, and Berlin but I don’t have a secret recipe. Sometimes we did well when other brands alongside were standing still, sometimes we didn’t get that much attention. The most important thing is preparation and a right match. You will have to research the trade show: aesthetics, other brands, fees, location. I advise visiting the trade shows you are interested in before applying to one – that’s a good investment and will save you money eventually. As a young brand and a first timer you can always ask for a discount. However, there are unforeseen circumstances that are not in your control. One of our Paris exhibitions was just after the attacks – many brands and buyers didn’t come at all.
FB: What do you think about the constantly growing numbers of new fashion brands in Lithuania and other emerging European markets alike?
Bomberis: Talking about Lithuania, it seems like today every third person is a fashion designer. I, personally, see fashion as a bridge between art and business. Thus, to become a sustainable fashion business, you can’t create avant-garde collections that can’t be worn. Equally, you can’t just print hundreds of T-shirts with funny taglines. Our designers are either artists or business people. There are just a few fashion brands that create commercial collections with a unique identity. I honestly respect them for doing this in such a small market and wish them to reach the international markets sooner than later. Talking about the trend of launching a fashion brand, I would strongly recommend thinking before doing. To design a piece of clothing and then sell it is a very hard work. When the brand is young, designers do everything by themselves – creative, communication, sales, logistics procedures are managed by the same person. I have seen designers who are tired, confused, unhappy and in debt, that never made it to the breaking point. We will only hear about the success stories, what about the rest? Sometimes, even the designers with unique products can’t break through due to numerous obstacles, such as lack of persistence, lack of experience or simply unfavourable circumstances.
FB: What does this shift – the emergence of new fashion capitals – mean?
Bomberis: No one knows anymore what is happening in today’s fashion industry. The most common word that I hear is ‘chaos’. Big changes are happening – from the E-Commerce as the go-to fashion business model, to the closure of some brick-and-mortar players. This might be a favourable time for small, new, innovative fashion labels to be seen. A slow fashion model is shifting into the premium category, which is a good opportunity for the independent labels from emerging Europe with quality products and competitive prices to steer the wheel of this trend. Thus, I’m not surprised that cities like Kyiv, Tbilisi or Warsaw are becoming new fashion capitals.