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At Eton Shirts, Innovating Formal Wear to Meet Evolving Consumer Demand

The Swedish luxury menswear brand is embracing the post-pandemic growth in the formal wear category, while optimising the consumer reach of their core line. BoF sits down with CEO David Thörewik to learn how Eton Shirts are innovating their strategy to drive global expansion.
Eton Shirt signature twill.
Eton Shirt signature twill. (Johan Nilsson)
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In Europe and the US, Euromonitor forecasts that retail sales of shirts and blouses, non-denim trousers and skirts will grow at a faster rate between 2022 and 2026 than the 10 years before the pandemic. Indeed, after two years of decline, the formal wear category began rebounding in 2021 and 2022, according to BoF and McKinsey & Co.’s State of Fashion 2023 Report. This recovery continued into 2023.

Eton Shirts is responding to evolving consumer behaviour through the strategic reinvigoration of a traditional category and, specifically, the demand for their white shirts. The company’s “Endless Aisle” technology allows customers to order pieces from any retailer stocking their designs, while other plug-in tech allows consumers to customise pieces, producing bespoke items within two weeks.

Founded by David and Annie Petterson in Gånghester, Sweden in 1928, Eton Shirts is present in over 50 markets globally with flagships in London, Stockholm, Malmö and New York. To further elevate their retail footprint, the label is gearing up to unveil their new store concept on Madison Avenue in New York.

The brand has been making expansive headway in the US city, with a recent marketing campaign catered to a New York-based audience, winning them a Creative Commerce Bronze award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June 2023. The award was given for its limited edition “Index Shirt”, produced in collaboration with experience innovation company Valtech Radon, used the Nasdaq index to inform the pricing model of the piece, thereby appealing to an urban audience overwhelmed by choice in this category.

Eton Shirts CEO David Thörewik.
Eton Shirts CEO David Thörewik. (Felix Odell)

“Innovation has been a part of our core since we were founded in 1928,” said Eton Shirts CEO David Thörewik. Meanwhile, product quality continues to define the brand’s identity. Recent seasons have seen Eton Shirts transform their range into organic cotton, but also introducing new innovative shirting materials like Superfine Merino.

As the brand looks to innovate in a traditional space, BoF sits down with CEO David Thörewik to learn more about how they are reshaping their strategy for global expansion.

How would you describe the DNA of Eton Shirts?

Three things come to mind — our commitment to quality, a heritage of craftsmanship and a spirit of innovation. For almost one hundred years, we have dedicated ourselves to making shirts that stand the test of time in both style and durability for continued customer satisfaction. Our goal is not just to meet but exceed consumer expectations, which is fundamental to building a brand that endures.

Driven by a desire to constantly evolve, both in our products and services, I believe at the core of our success is our ability to adapt and innovate, blending our storied history with modern technology to create distinctive products like our wrinkle-free shirts.

How does Eton Shirts cater to the evolving demands of its consumer?

We have sought to remain agile and continuously adapt our offering to align with the changing landscape of customer behaviour and demands. Maintaining a strong connection with our customers plays an important role here, which we support through our digital presence. Our e-commerce operations are unified onto one platform, which has enhanced our responsiveness to market trends and customer needs — we can keep a direct line to the preferences and behaviours of our customer online.

Our growth is driven by our exploration of new markets and innovation in how we conduct business, so we keep an eye on shifting trends and preferences. For example, as casual styles in fashion became prevalent in fashion, we removed the focus of the tie and instead incorporated details like contrast collars, adding value and distinction. More recently, we expanded into vests, adding a category reflecting further stylistic evolution.

Integrated platforms also facilitate efficient reordering processes, which reflects our adaptability and allows us to increase options without overproducing.

Eton started in the 1920s and has adapted to cyclical movements in fashion, through major world events and eras. One item which has remained a mainstay in all categories is the white shirt, which our customers consistently demand. We recently launched a campaign centred around this timeless piece, showcasing its relevance.

How does innovation feed into the brand’s production and retail strategies?

Innovation is a key part of our culture and brand DNA. It drives us to continually embrace technological advancements and inspires us to push the boundaries of what is possible. This pursuit of innovation ensures we create seamless experiences across all touchpoints — our integrated digital strategy has been pivotal in this.

We have consolidated our online sales onto a single platform, enhanced by a comprehensive headless system, which has allowed us to streamline both direct-to-consumer and B2B interactions, improving operational efficiencies as well as our ability to quickly respond to market trends and customer needs. It’s this fusion of tradition and technology that exemplifies our commitment to innovation across all channels.

Integrated platforms also facilitate efficient reordering processes, which reflects our adaptability and allows us to increase options without overproducing. The same transformation that digitalisation brought to our industry is also what we anticipate AI will do next, revolutionising our operations and customer interactions. It goes back to our culture of innovation, driven by our curiosity and ambition to constantly learn, which will allow us to anticipate the next wave of change with both our heritage and future in mind.

What role does technology play in evolving Eton Shirts’ customer experience?

Technology plays a key role across all facets, particularly in enhancing the customer experience. We use technology to ensure precision in every shirt we create, achieving a “true to size” fit. We believe this focus on detail not only meets the expectations of our customers’ shopping online, but it also reinforces our dedication to quality craftsmanship.

By investing in advanced cutting technology for our custom-made and made-to-measure services, we have increased our capability to efficiently meet the growing demand for personalised, tailored garments — bespoke in a way, removing barriers from physical inventory constraints for both direct customers and our B2B partners.

It’s this fusion of tradition and technology that exemplifies our commitment to innovation across all channels.

We also have an “Endless Aisle” feature online, which showcases a broader range of products to our customer than what is available in the actual stores. This platform allows for a seamless interaction with our customers and partners, enhancing the omnichannel experience.

What are your plans next for Eton Shirts in the mid to long-term?

We will continue to embrace new technologies while maintaining our strong physical retail. Our vision includes expanding our global presence and deepening the connection with our customers. As a result, we aim to increase our presence in the over 50 existing markets we operate in, while also venturing into new territories, recognising the universal appeal of a well-made shirt.

Embracing change is part of our identity. We continue to invest in key retail locations such as New York City and Stockholm. Our new store concepts are designed to create an environment that reflects Eton and our customers.

As we expand our retail network, we will maintain a steady balance between digital and physical channels. Cultivating genuine connections in our stores allows us to not only uphold our heritage but also extend our global reach. The digital aspect will then add more simplicity and convenience, but I think it’s important we do not neglect that in-person meeting. It’s hard to beat meeting customers in our own home.

This is a sponsored feature paid for by Eton Shirts as part of a BoF partnership.

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