“If you think about accessories, watches are pieces of jewelry that happen to tell time.”
– Mark Parker, Managing Director of TRIWA Asia.
SEE ALSO : Q&A: Alexander Westin of TRIWA watches
It’s not just the perfect clothes and make-up, the ultimate accessory too is important.
And no prizes for guessing that watches score over most other categories when it comes to accessorizing.
The Stockholm-based watch manufacturer TRIWA has set out to breathe fresh air into the wristwatch industry.
Founded in 2007 by four friends, TRIWA was created to reflect the attitude of the wearer.
We sat down with Mark Parker to discuss the changing watch market, Sweden’s global influence on design and much more.
RiA: What is the concept behind TRIWA?
Mark: TRIWA is a lifestyle brand that conveys the essence of Stockholm.
The whole idea for the founders was to design products for them, their friends and other like-minded people which embodied the Stockholm lifestyle.
One happens to tell time and one doesn’t, but they are both part of an individual’s wardrobe of accessories.
RiA: What would you say is the common denominator among all the products that symbolize Stockholm lifestyle?
Mark: A key common denominator to TRIWA is “Personality” as we always try to bring the unique Stockholm soul to the product.
All our products have underlying Scandinavian fundamentals such as efficiency, cleanliness and purity in the look, but we add to that mix the Stockholm personality characteristics.
The people of Stockholm are curious, passionate, and open to new people and experiences. This diverse set of personalities the city holds brings a unique experience to customers.
RiA: We have recently seen a proliferation of Swedish design brands landing in HK. In which way is TRIWA leveraging on the Swedish design image and how does it target a more international audience which might be not aware of those features?
Mark: The Swedish style speaks to many mindsets, but Stockholm is different from other parts of the region as it hosts a wide variety of product categories where lots of Swedish brands come into play, each having their unique point of view.
However, we do see an overlap of ethos, so where we see a common spirit we will establish collaborations to promote and express this confluence of soul.
We recently collaborated with Happy Socks, a Stockholm brand which embodies that fun exploratory spirit for socks which, previously, had been a relatively boring category, but is certainly not anymore.
Other collaboration examples include Sudio and Marshall headphones.
We also look for brands which are complimentary to ours to build a whole Stockholm world.
Through our collaborations, customers who know TRIWA can be introduced to some of those other brands and vice-versa.
I think that this is also something that really speaks to what Stockholm and Sweden are all about: reaching out, working together, and collaborating.
RiA: Do you do collaborations with Swedish design representatives or do you actually engage with locals based in your market?
Mark: As we believe it is in the DNA and spirit of the TRIWA brand, we decided to reach out to a number of regional artists and musicians who are fans of TRIWA.
We aim for true collaborations which represent a never-ending back and forth process.
For example, ELVA and SVALAN are products created specifically for Asia.
The physical wrist structure of Asians is often different from European heritage nationalities.
In talking with our Asian female customers, we noticed they loved the product, but it was just too big, too large.
They wanted the Stockholm look, but needed it to be in a dimension set appropriate for their lifestyle which is why our Stockholm design team came up with those two new watch ‘families’: ELVA and SVALAN. These two families, all driven by the collaboration we had with our customers in Asia, have become a huge success globally.
Through these collaborations with designers, partners and customers we continuously find sweet spots to do interesting things together.
RiA: What is your customer profile, does it vary from Europe to Asia?
Mark: Yes, I think it does.
As Sweden is home to the TRIWA brand, it speaks to a broader audience.
In Asia, we brought TRIWA to Korea, Greater China and Japan first and are now starting to ship our first products to David Jones, the leading Australian Department Store.
Our customers are generally young curious and socially conscious new professionals, which is important as Sweden is deeply involved in “doing the right thing”.
Personality-wise, they are proactive people who enjoy exploring, traveling and having fun, they are not reactive nor sedentary.
RiA: How do you target them?
Mark: Founded in the digital age, TRIWA has always embraced the digital world experience, building our omnichannel presence through experiential engagement.
We recently hosted Asian influencers and media in Sweden to give them a first-hand taste of the Stockholm lifestyle.
In previous trips, we brought influencers to other places in Sweden for them to experience the arts and the like in their natural setting.
Looking at the individual markets we operate in, we employ different approaches for each and every one of them.
Thinking about Asia is like thinking of this gigantic each at various stages of growth and with their own personality.
Certainly, young professionals comprise the core of our customers, but we target mindsets first rather than positions.
When we enter a market, we look for the TRIWA mindset.
Ria : Where are the fun passionate socially conscious proactive individuals gathering and what are they doing?
Mark : We generally look to engage them first digitally, but I think the digital landscape is rapidly changing. Especially, where we are.
You might see less of it but physical retail is more important than it has ever been thus why we recently opened a standalone physical location in Plaza Hollywood, Diamond Hill.
This evolution in the retail market place is exciting and it is challenging brands to approach things differently.
For TRIWA, we needed a physical platform to allow people to experience the brand and its spirit in its entirety.
As a brand we have two experiential locations in Asia (in Tokyo and Hong Kong), but the original physical store remains in Stockholm.
There is so much noise in the market today and we need to find a way to bring products to our audience. Added to that is the challenge brought by the decline in efficiency that organic digital marketing has been experiencing in the past years.
Social media platforms are changing their algorithms so they can drive higher advertising revenues resulting in greater fragmentation.
There are so many tools at our disposal and depending on our customers’ profile, we need to find those tools which are the most appropriate for our brand.
I think the challenge is how to efficiently deploy your capital so that you are engaging with your target consumer in a very genuine and authentic way for your brand.
At TRIWA, we want to reach out in a playful experiential way.
We made the decision to grow slowly because we want genuine engagement from our customers. We do work with a number of KOLs but they are also fans of TRIWA. This is essential to reach sustained engagement as they can truly reach our target customers and have a voice among them.
SEE ALSO : Are influencers worth the money?
RiA: What is your current plan for the Asian market?
Mark: We are taking it step by step.
We have our regional HQ in HK and have successfully opened up Korea, Japan and China.
China is a key region for TRIWA which is why we are currently in the process of setting up our own China subsidiary to directly engage with consumers in their own environment.
We are also opening up physical retail channels in Australia through our partnership with David Jones.
Southeast Asia presents immense opportunity.
Indonesia, 4th most populous country on the planet is a very promising market, but it has a lot of tariff barriers. We have recently been looking at optimizing our supply chain so that we can efficiently get product into this market in a legally compliant way that does not subject our product to the tariff barriers that artificially raises prices.
Having our own operations in China, we can reach the Indonesian and other ASEAN markets directly from our Chinese factories and land our products a price which is competitive with Europe or HK.
This is of paramount importance as we live in the digital era where there is instantaneous price discovery across the globe and it is essential to find a way to give customers a fair value as nobody will pay an excessive premium for a product.
RiA: Any particular reason for Plaza Hollywood in Diamond Hill?
Hong Kong is about Hong Kong people.
We are blessed in that we share our city with a significant number of tourists but there is still nearly as many people permanently living in HK as there are in the entire country of Sweden.
We picked Diamond Hill because we think it speaks to Hong Kong people, unlike most parts of Hong Kong Island. It was our way of saying we want to engage on genuine terms with the local community.
RiA: How do you drive traffic to the offline store then?
Mark: The challenge we have is to spread the word among the local community about where we are.
This is one of the major roles our rotating pop-up stores hold.
Moving our pop ups around HK, introducing the TRIWA brand in an organic way by changing the location allows us to create brand awareness which will turn Diamond Hill into our customers’ final destination.
Our pop-up was located in Mira Place 1, where it stayed until 26 October.
But, as great as smartphones are, you still need to touch and feel, to see how the product sits on your wrist; around your neck or on your face.
For example, we have done a lot of work on our eyewear collection because the bone structure of the Asian face is different from that of the occidental face so we work very specifically with styles that can cater to both.
As a customer, you can think it will fit online but what you really want to do is be able to go to a store and see how it looks.
Retail in Asia will be on the lookout to share what TRIWA is planning for 2019 and beyond!