Taking a brand international with Roberta Semetaite
Business Development Manager
Roberta Semetaite is currently the Business Development Manager with one of most successful Lithuanian brands, Undress. Since starting in couture, Roberta’s career has been fast and exciting - having lived in various fashion capitals such as London and Milan. Today we spoke to Roberta about navigating the different fashion markets as well as the challenge of developing an international fashion brand such as Undress.
How did your fashion career start, and how has it since developed?
I graduated with a degree in marketing from Vilnius and in my final year I did a fashion PR internship in Berlin, in fact this was my first professional experience. The fashion industry was very small in Lithuania and there were very few opportunities at that time which is why I had to go abroad if I wanted to learn anything about the industry. After gaining this experience I went back to Vilnius for graduation and I decided to move to London, which was, and still is, full of exciting companies. I started working for a London based couture company, at which I was responsible for business development in Italy. This required me to learn Italian and travel there regularly. During that time, I was approached by an Italian startup that specialised in online made-to-measure menswear and I did some business development consulting on the side. I feel that every company that I worked for has heavily contributed to who I am now as a professional.
Which designers or fashion brands inspire you the most?
Armani for taking simplicity to the next level and revolutionising the whole fashion industry.
Which of your personal traits are most helpful for you at work?
Self-confidence, being curious, and being able to take constructive criticism.
Having worked for Undress, how would you say it differentiates itself from other brands?
Undress offers elegant yet minimalistic dresses and I feel it is different from other labels because the design is very clean and monochromatic without any unnecessary details. Usually other brands that specialise in dresses would concentrate heavily on laces, trim details, prints but we are trying to avoid all that. Instead the brand uses just the pure classic design and dresses fall below the knees or even touch the floor.
What is the main difference between working in a huge fashion capital and working in the emerging fashion market?
Working in the emerging fashion market forces you to become more creative because everything is very limited from attracting the right people to do the job or finding the right suppliers to educating your target customers and explaining what counts as an investment piece and what is just a temporary trend.
Huge fashion capitals have customers that are knowledgeable already and from my experience have higher expectations too. Also, these places have a lot of fashion industry experts driving this industry forward and inspiring the rest of the industry players.
How did you attract overseas interest in your Lithuanian brand?
My actual responsibility is to do business development abroad. So at some point you understand that your brand grows as much as it can grow within the country and this is why we started to think that we need to grow further. While doing business you go to the events, visit exhibitions and try to research everything you see and connect with people that you meet. Also it helped us that the online platforms that we are on are doing a lot of marketing for us. So this is how foreign customers get to know Undress.
What do you think is missing in the Lithuanian fashion market?
Buying power, understanding what do you actually need to pay for, what is worth let’s say 400 euros and what isn’t. The brands that are struggling in Lithuania are the ones that are lacking consistency. When you are looking at the collections you see one collection that has one direction and they make a new collection that is completely different which means that they are still looking for the right path. Foreign agents that I have been speaking to have mentioned this same problem and they believe that this is the reason why some emerging brands never expand from their country of origin.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start a career in fashion?
I think the main advice I would give is something that I learnt I was missing when I graduated from university. It wasn’t that common in Lithuania to do unpaid internships but when I moved to London a lot of girls who wanted to work in fashion industry have done four, five or even six unpaid internships and that helped them to achieve what they wanted. I only had one and it was a really big struggle for me. So I would advise anyone to do as many internships as you can to realize what field is the best for you and meet all the right people on the way.