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Saturday, October 10, 2015

To Our Suppliers And Our Customers - May They Never Meet On Instagram

In a really great piece by Wei Koh of The Rake Magazine the owner of the world-renowned shirt maker Charvet of Paris, Mr Jean-Claude Colban, said that when his father took over the business after being one of the main suppliers of the world's oldest "chemisier" he was finally able to use the front entrance of the business he now owned. As Colban says in his own words: “At the time, he rarely visited the old Charvet shop on 8 Place Vendôme. That was because there was a rule that all suppliers had to use the back door. It was rather nice that on the day he purchased the brand, he finally walked in through the front door.”

In years gone by there were distinct lines between suppliers, wholesalers, retailers, customers, workrooms, weavers, manufacturers, cloth merchants and so on that prevented each from meeting the other with the hope that the industry is protected by pockets of knowledge being what glued the various people in the industry taking a clip on whatever function they performed. Over time as businesses try to vertically integrate what they do from top to bottom they spend a great deal of time cultivating relationships from the profiles of their workers right through to their Instagram page tagging customers. Marc Jacobs recently spent a good deal of time on his Instagram creating profiles on his floor staff. The superlative shoe maker Gaziano & Girling has a profile page for their best artisan shoe maker. Tailors show off their customers and their creations. Materials suppliers and workrooms that make items often "like" the products they make on their customers pages. It served to remind me of a now famous letter written by one of the most highly regarded Sydney tailors and his shirt maker upon learning that his shirt maker was trying to start his own label. The gist of it was "when your supplier is trying to steal your customers it's time to cut ties" - although by 'cut ties' he did not mean the silk variety. 

The point being is that quite often these days you have to be wary of who is liking and following your content on Instagram. If they are not a competitor trying to ascertain your competitive advantage or to find out who your core customers are then potentially it is your customer looking to connect the dots about how you do what you do. It is therefore only fitting that I propose a toast:

"To our suppliers and our customers, may you never meet on our Instagram! Bottoms up! "

Famed Parisian shirt maker Charvet of Paris - the old rule was that suppliers used the back door. Source: Wikipedia

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