Brand Interview | Charlotte Galsgaard from Wheat
Today we have the pleasure to speak with a very successful brand from Denmark: Wheat. Created in 2002 by Charlotte Galsgaard and her husband Peter, Wheat is now sold across Europe and also the United States, Canada, China and even Australia!
What is the story behind their success? How does Wheat manage steady growth in the very competitive kidswear industry? We asked these burning questions and more to Charlotte.
Can you tell us a bit more about Wheat?
Wheat is a childrenswear brand with a very clear Scandinavian DNA: think of natural fibers, soft colors and original patterns. That makes us a very recognizable brand. We sell our collections on our own webshop, but most of our business is wholesale. We sell to multi-brand retailers across Europe, North America, China, Japan and Australia. To make it all happen, we have grown to be a team of 28 people, based in Denmark.
Why did you decide to create your brand? What is the story behind the name ‘Wheat’?
I started designing clothes 26 years ago and during that time I’ve also raised 3 kids, so the world of childrenswear was easy for me to relate too. At that time, most children’s clothing was made using nylon or polyester, whereas, in Scandinavia, we have an affinity for more natural fibres like wool or cotton. I thought it was a pity that this wasn’t apparent in childrenswear, so I decided to take advantage of this gap in the market, and use my knowledge of design and materials to create my own brand. The name ‘Wheat’ comes from this affinity to the natural and nature: therefore, the wheat is the perfect symbol for our collections.
How do you currently connect with new and existing retail partners?
So far, we’ve been using the ‘traditional’ ways of connecting with retailers: mainly via trade shows and agents. In Europe, we visit a lot of trade shows. This allows us to meet new buyers and further develop the relationships with current ones. Of course, we also invite our buyers to our showroom and we visit their retail stores.
For foreign markets like China or Australia, we work with partners. Each market is very specific therefore partners are a great link between us and the local retailers. They know the market and are aware of any special needs that need to be attended to. For example, there are almost no multi-brand stores in China. It is simply a concept that doesn’t exist. So, our Chinese partner orders from our collection and runs 12 Wheat stores on our brands behalf.
Speaking of trade shows, Kleine Fabriek announced that it won’t be returning due to a lack of visitors. Do you think that trade shows should reinvent themselves? In which direction do you see them evolving in the next few years?
‘I think that trade shows should focus on inspiration and relationship building. A trade show is definitely not the best environment to place an order but it’s a great way to show case our brand DNA.’
I don’t see trade shows completely disappearing: I just think better trading tools are emerging on the side, like fashionTrade. It is also evident to me that people like to work in different ways when being introduced to new collections, and having to place orders. Some are very digital savvy and like to do everything online. For others, seeing and touching the products in a physical showroom or at a trade show remains critical. The fact that more tools are becoming available for us to use is a good thing for the industry.
What triggered you to join fashionTrade?
Not one thing in particular I have to say, your concept just makes perfect sense to me! When I first heard about it, I immediately thought: ‘this is the future of fashion wholesale, let’s be part of it’. So, in that regard it has been a very easy decision.
Which feature do you like the most on our platform? Which feature are you most excited to use in the future?
The feature I like the most is the digital showroom. Sharing our brand DNA and explaining why we are unique is key to me.
I am also excited to use the retailer profile. Being able to learn more about retailers and see pictures of the stores is really critical. The wholesale relationship is a two-way relationship where communication is the key. Of course, buyers select the products, but I like to know where and how my collections will be sold.
You created Wheat 16 years ago. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen happen in the wholesale industry since then?
Without a doubt: the internet! When I started Wheat, e-commerce was at its very beginning. Now, a webshop is a must-have for big brands as well as small ones. It is a new channel for fashion that we all have had to learn and adapt to.
The most striking fact however is that the internet has empowered consumers. They now have access to an amazing amount of information. They can compare brands and products, check which websites offer the best prices and widest assortments.
‘Consumers don’t trust buyers anymore to offer them an accurate selection: they’d rather research and select for themselves.’
As a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to meet consumer’s expectations. I can see that many people in the industry are scared about these changes: they feel very nostalgic about the past, when it was – or at least it seemed – easier to run a fashion business.
Are you confident that there is something you can do to keep your brand moving forward and maintain your margins?
I think that we have to embrace the industry changes we see.
‘I strongly believe in the fact that only truly unique brands and stores will eventually survive. We have to focus on what makes us special and communicate our brand DNA again and again.’
I personally find that it is more easily done through imagery – for example on Instagram or Facebook. We can show how products are styled and what the soul behind the brand is. I can see that consumers are hungry for more behind the scenes access, so we try to provide that. It creates a good relationship with our customers and followers.
What are the strongest challenges that Wheat currently faces?
We have developed strong products and are selling in more and more countries. This is great, but then we are challenged in terms of meeting all the requirements that we face. So, planning our resources is a big challenge, but a welcomed one. Brand awareness in new markets is also a challenge. It’s never easy to gain ground in a new country and new markets. We try to use social media to communicate, but it’s a time-consuming effort, where we have to find a balance of how and when we will like to be present on social media.
What advice would you give to a young designer thinking about starting their own fashion brand today?
First: create a unique brand. Second: believe in yourself and in what you do!
Thanks so much to Charlotte for this inspiring conversation! We wish her good luck for the future development of Wheat both in Europe and globally.
- Would you like to connect with Wheat on fashionTrade? Login or request your free invite to join fashionTrade as a retailer.
- Would you like to read more interviews? We also had the chance to talk to Joanneke Raadsen from LoFff and Gerben Eshuis from Twinkel Kidz.