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Stockist Spotlight: KOIBIRD

We talk to the founder of Marylebone’s beloved indie store

Fashion | Apr 30, 2024

As the luxury e-commerce landscape undergoes a seismic shift, we celebrate the independent retailers who are thriving by forging their own unique paths.

We meet Belma Gaudio the founder of KOIBIRD, an independent retailer renowned for its eclectic and vibrant curation of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle products. We discuss her initial reactions to the recent upheaval in online retail, explore the unique attributes that set independent retailers apart in a crowded market, and discuss the strategies that have enabled KOIBIRD to navigate through these turbulent times.

From fostering a deep sense of community to supporting emerging designers, KOIBIRD demonstrates the resilience and innovation that independent retailers bring to London’s fashion scene. KOIBIRD’s success proves how independent businesses can adapt vigilantly to meet the ever-evolving demands of the modern consumer.

What were your initial thoughts when you heard about MatchesFashion falling into administration, and how has the recent upheaval in luxury e-commerce impacted your independent business?

I was very sad and shocked when I heard about Matches. It’s a bit like Lehman Brothers shutting down when I worked on Wall Street. This giant of the industry falling from grace is a real sign of the times. The industry is at a crossroads and people’s needs have changed when it comes to shopping and what they want from fashion. They have different demands, they want a connection as no one really needs any more “stuff”. With the industry changing, brands are having to go back to bricks and mortar and in-store experience, the personal touches that will strengthen that relationship with their customers.

What unique qualities do independent retailers like yours bring to the fashion, beauty, and lifestyle industry that bigger retailers may lack?

Since our inception, our USP has been to bring new and exciting brands to market. The bigger conglomerates jumped on that wagon too, but now that they are moving away from emerging brands to focus on core big brands, it’s an opportunity for us to cement our status as an incubator and a place where one discovers new, exciting brands. Small retailers like us have a point of view and a story to tell. It is easier for us to engage one-on-one with the customer and bring them into our world. We still do what we always have done, introduce new brands to the market, and excite our consumers through a sense of discovery.

In what ways do you believe independent retailers contribute to the vibrancy of London's fashion scene?

London has always been the city of fashion freedom. People came to London Fashion Week to discover new, funky, crazy, exciting talent. Independent retailers make any city exciting, as anyone can go to any city in the world, and get all the same big same. I am always on the lookout for that small gem where I will get something that no one else has!




How do you curate your product selection to resonate with your customers?

We have gone back and forth a lot during our 6 years when it comes to product selection. Sometimes we followed trends too much, and sometimes we were too specific on our theme and potentially alienated customers. We have spent the last year strengthening the offering to fit our customer's needs. Exciting, fun, and easy day wear, resort wear, and occasion wear for those nights out, weddings and dinner parties, but all done in a very KOIBIRD way. We are focused on what the KOIGIRL wants to wear to be comfortable and unique during the day and make a statement at night.

What strategies have you employed to navigate challenges such as evolving consumer behaviours, shifting spending attitudes, and market fluctuations, particularly in light of recent industry disruptions?

We stress test all the time. We are constantly having conversations about our customer's behaviour, what are they buying, and what they are interested or not interested in. Are they going away, are they only buying big brands at the moment, are they spending less? We try to answer these questions so that we can offer solutions. We are analysing our product all the time. What helps us is the wide range of women we cater to, for example, a mom and a daughter will both find something at KOIBIRD. Market fluctuations are what they are and we can’t change that, but we can listen and pay attention to our customers and see if we can figure out what needs we serve in their lives.

Could you offer insights into the significance of community engagement and fostering customer relationships in sustaining an independent retail venture?

Community is everything to a brand like ours. In this day and age when the competition is so heavy, and when there is so much product out there, the only thing smaller brands can rely on is a chance to share their story with a smaller set of people, and to invite them to be part of that story. To invite them to engage with a connection to an idea, a lifestyle, a motto, and that translates into buying a little piece of that world.


How do you discover and support emerging designers and brands within your store, and what criteria do you use when selecting new products to feature?

When we look at a brand or a product we ask a few questions, is it different, is it new, is it fresh, is it exciting, is it unique and is it responsibly made? We like to bring products and brands in that are not overly seen and distributed. We have been supporting emerging talent from day one and giving them a platform in London to showcase their designs. We want to show the amazing global talent that is out there.

How can you encourage shoppers to keep supporting local independents, and how do you envision the future of independent retail?

I think being part of a brand’s community is important and rewarding. Shopping locally is important too, and it’s nice to have that great neighbourhood store that you love to pop into. I encourage people to think outside the box when they are looking to purchase, because as I have said we all have too much of everything. So, I encourage buying gems, special things that will bring joy for that special event, a trip away, date night or any occasion, as the feeling and the memories those pieces contribute to are forever. The future is bleak for independent retail as the industry consolidates and conglomerates take over the fashion world. However, the big players have always been the threat and the small scale is where thought, creativity, independence and taste come from, so I think we stand a chance if we have a customer that values those things. 

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