Freshlabels: A fresh breeze from the Czech Republic seeks to stir the waters of the fashion industry in Western Europe
Fifteen years ago, in front of one of their houses, two young entrepreneurs decided to start importing into the Czech Republic brand-name clothing they thought was lacking here. Today, the venture Honza Bouška and Jakub Veselský founded that day, Freshlabels, comprises an e-shop with four language versions, revenues in excess of €5 million, three unique brick-and-mortar concept stores, and is in the process of establishing its own upcycle collection. The two founders bet their all on design, quality and sustainability, and are now are planning on expanding into Western European markets to show that fashion can be done differently there as well.
Veselský and Bouška established Freshlabels in 2006, though the two had known each other for some years by then. The two felt that for too long the Czech market had lacked quality designer fashion for modern consumers. This provided the impulse to establish an e-shop where these discriminating customers could buy exceptional brands that they couldn’t find anywhere else.
“When we started, we really enjoyed the products themselves and our vision was to change the level on which people in the Czech Republic clothe themselves. A lot changed in fashion retail in the subsequent five or six years. I think we contributed a bit to that. We went through a certain development during that time ourselves. Thanks to information that we obtained from the brands and the people around us, we started to learn a lot more about the issues of the fashion industry, which is, as a whole, based on the pollution of the environment and wasting resources. Thus, we started to think more and more about sustainability, which gave us a sense of purpose – we told ourselves that this is the main thing we want to do with Freshlabels too,” explains Veselský.
Freshlabels was one of the first to start highlighting the problem of sustainability in the industry, which then was dominated by the concept of disposable fashion. In 2016, it introduced its own rating for product sustainability. Today, this sustainable offering accounts for half of everything that people can find on Freshlabels, and by the end of 2021 the founders want to see that number rise to 75%. In addition, the company has big expansion plans for Western Europe, helped by investment from Crowdberry.
Further expansion to the West with an investment from Crowdberry
“We began our western expansion in 2019, when we launched the English-language version on a .com domain. In 2020, we also launched the .de domain and a German version. We met with a very good response abroad, which can also be seen in the numbers during this very difficult year,” says Bouška.
By the end of 2020, Germany represented more than 20% of the company’s revenues. The founders want to strengthen their position there further, while expanding to other Western European countries, such as Austria or the Benelux countries. “We believe that there is great potential in Western Europe – and the current worldwide trend for sustainability is key. Sooner or later, all the large vendors will be brandishing this term. Our goal, however, is not to be the sole seller of sustainable fashion in Europe, we want to be the best,” states Veselský.
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