It was recently announced that Dutch house Ladybird, a long-run family business, has been acquired by Pronovias Group, the leading luxury bridal house from Barcelona. Wedding Trader talked to CEO Olaf van den Brink about the future of his brand, which is represented in the UK by Richard Lill
How did this all come about – had you been looking to partner with another house?
Ladybird is a big, well-established brand, with a number of collections each designed to cater to specific market sectors. We have long enjoyed a strong position in northern Europe, in particular in the Benelux and German-speaking area and, of course, we’ve started very successfully in the UK. With more than 500 loyal stockists we have to always be one step ahead and recognise early the changing market needs. Delivery times are crucial today when brides expect a fast turnaround from order, and the need for a sizeable stock-holding is great. It’s more complicated to achieve our development ambitions as a solo company; a partnership with a big, international house was our chosen way forward.
Was it a difficult decision?
Difficult because since 1995 I have been building the company up and together with my sister Ingrid and a wonderful team supporting us, there was the consideration as to whether we would lose our independence and personality. But at the same time it was challenging and exciting, seeing where the right collaboration would take us. We met with the Pronovias team in Barcelona and they were so welcoming. That confirmed our thinking that this partnership would make Ladybird stronger.
What are the key advantages?
Ladybird has such great potential to broaden its reach into countries that are new to our network – notably southern Europe and the USA – and now that will be possible through our relationship with Pronovias. The appeal of our labels is the combination of a fashion-forward image and an excellent price-to-quality ratio. Add to that equation our reputation for service and promotion, and our top-level photography, and you can see how we sit well with the Pronovias and Nicole brands. The collaboration is one of complementary companies that each maintain their independent signature. The dominant global positioning of Pronovias will be of huge benefit to us.
Will you and Ingrid continue to be the driving force behind Ladybird?
Absolutely. It is business as usual for us. We have committed staff and agents and they are key to our operation ongoing.
And what about design influences, and pricing, production and service – will there be changes in those areas?
As I said, Ladybird will retain its identity in every area and that, of course, includes design where we have an established personality. Our staff know existing customers well and will continue to raise the bar and deliver the best service. And where we are now able to enter new markets, the high level of support that Pronovias is able to give us will secure awareness in those territories and open avenues for sales. We will now be building a whole new customer network and our total operation will be backed by the promise of faster deliveries, quality checks and a substantial stock holding. Ingrid is now on the board of the Pronovias Group which means we have a voice and will be heard in any decision-making process.
So what do you see as the biggest changes that this new chapter in Ladybird’s life will bring?
We will become more international, that goes without saying. The ability to sell world-wide – and indeed to countries we have not been able to serve previously because we have lacked sales representation there – will bring huge changes and place us firmly on the global stage. Our design style and price-to-quality ratio will make us stand out, and that has been made possible through our new partnership.
What will be the first stages of change?
In addition to the growing of our distribution network, we will be able to piggyback in areas on which we have not really focused. We have always put our heart and soul into the collection, our brand and our customers. Our strength lies to a lesser extent in the area of automation.
A good IT infrastructure is a natural part of a modern company and that must today include a perfect login portal for customers. We have a fairly basic portal that we would like to update. We will take advantage of the knowledge of the Pronovias Group so that we can continue to do what we enjoy: serving our customers and creating our collection.
Is there a concern that if Pronovias continues to acquire more businesses, Ladybird will be lost in the picture?
We are confident that even when the Pronovias portfolio continues to grow with further acquisitions, we will stand on our own platform as an individual label of consequence. It is vital to us that we focus on the development of Ladybird and its portfolio and continue to be known as a powerful force in bridal.
Over the years we have gained respect and support from our retailers. Moving forward, there will be more retailers as new areas open up to us, and it is paramount that the same respect and support is integral to the mix. This is an exciting time for us, and our existing customer base.will benefit from it.
Ladybird is based in Huizen (Netherlands), and was established in 1970 under the name Sarlini. In 1995 the company’s interests were split into Sarlini Accessories and Ladybird. With the arrival of Ingrid van den Brink in 2009, Ladybird grew from a distributor to a leading bridalwear brand in Northern Europe.
Based in Barcelona, the Pronovias Group has an unmatched portfolio of renowned brands like Pronovias, St Patrick, White One, Nicole and now Ladybird. It has been the only bridal firm on the Deloitte Top 100 Global Powers of Luxury Goods report. The company’s bridal and occasionwear lines are distributed through 155 Pronovias boutiques and 4,000 independent retailers.
“I am excited to start working closely together with Amandine Ohayon and the talented teams of the Pronovias Group. Their efficient network and international expertise will allow us to offer Ladybird’s beautiful dresses and service to new customers around the world.”
Olaf van den Brink, Ladybird
“I greatly admire Olaf and Ingrid’s vision and talent and how they grew the company so successfully to become a highly regarded and leading brand in Northern Europe. The strategic combination of Pronovias and Ladybird is not only very complementary from a geographical and product point of view, but as both companies share the same values and focus on customer service, it will allow a smooth integration. We are very excited to welcome Ladybird to the Pronovias family.`’
Amandine Ohayon, CEO of the Pronovias Group
“I am really proud, happy and eager to be a part of this highly-renowned company. The Pronovias Group share my love for wedding dresses, and I feel we connect in a very strong way, which is for me the most important basis to start a successful partnership.”
Ingrid van den Brink, Managing Director and Creative Director of Ladybird