The history of the Belarusian clothing brand Mark Formelle shows that fortune favors the brave
Andrey Serikov and Svetlana Siparova are the co-founders and creative directors of the popular Belarusian clothing brand, Mark Formelle. They are also long-term clients of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The couple tells us how they managed to expand the business to 170 stores over 10 years and become the “National Brand of Belarus.”
Family business: 12 factories over 10 years
The story of the brand begins in 2009, when two companies, “V. Mark” run by Serikov and “Formelle” run by Siparova, merged. That same year, the family built its first factory and in 2010 they opened the first Mark Formelle lingerie store in the small town of Uzda. Today, 12 factories hum with brand lines.
By 2011, the couple realized that they needed to expand their business, but they lacked sufficient knowledge in branding and marketing. In 2012, they turned to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to implement a consulting project on marketing and brand development. The Bank's Small Business Consulting Program, supported by the EU4Business initiative, provided the impetus for developing the brand. Later, another EU-funded project with international industry experts helped Mark Formelle with new collections, advertising and production planning. At this point, the company rightfully won popular recognition.
Mark Formelle management next recruited young designers who developed eye-catching prints, and several of their collections sold like hot cakes. Foreign visitors began to recognize the brand, buying T-shirts with national embroidered patterns as souvenirs. But what boosted customer love for the brand was a new hosiery store that sells hit collections of socks with images of “Dranik” and “Smyatanka,” two classics of Belarusian cuisine.
Thanks to cooperation with the EBRD and EU4Business, the company expanded its range of clothing, opened its first store in Russia, and expanded both turnover and exports by 87%.
"We repaid our EBRD loan two years ahead of schedule"
Three years later, in 2015, the company again turned to the EBRD for assistance. Demand for Mark Formelle products was on the verge of outstripping their capacities. They needed US $4 million to expand production in Belarus and neighboring countries, which was also issued by the Bank.
“We repaid our loan two years ahead of schedule,” the founders of Mark Formelle note. In 2015, the brand was recognized as the National Brand of Belarus in the nomination “Lingerie Knitwear.” Five years later, Mark Formelle is still the same family business, but it is hardly small anymore: the brand now has 4,000 employees, 170 stores in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and makes 12 million items of clothing a year. It is not an overstatement to say that every Belarusian family knows the Mark Formelle brand: its combination of modern design, high-quality fabrics and reasonable prices are hard to pass by.
“Contrary to popular belief, our day begins, not with coffee, but with clothing that sets the tone for the whole day,” Mark Formelle’s founders explain. “Boring and gray is not us. We’re bright and different, so with Mark Formelle every day is on the bright side.”
For Andrey and Svetlana, the key to success is simple: “Don’t be afraid to experiment!” And it’s hard to argue with this: the brand is growing by leaps and bounds, releasing 170 capsule collections a year, from Belavia flight attendant uniforms to T-shirts with images of endangered Belarusian species.