Winners and losers in failing fashion brand

Hungary’s state-owned fashion brand has fallen into decay over the past years, even though its launch received support from the highest places. While the original goal of providing employment to disabled people was not achieved, the brand did succeed in channeling around €82,000 in funds to an already successful fashion designer.

Four years ago the “Attitude” fashion brand was launched, it even had a retail outlet in one of the Budapest’s most frequented shopping malls. The idea was to provide people with physical and mental impairments job opportunities creating marketable products. The concept was even embraced by Aniko Levai, the wife of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. In spite of these positive beginnings, since then the shop closed, and the Attitude website does not provide any reliable information about what happened.

According to the original plans, Attitude products would have been produced with the cooperation of KEZMU Kozhasznu Nonprofit Kft, a company specializing in the labor market integration of disabled people, and Kati Zoob, an internationally renowned Hungarian fashion designer. While association with a famous fashionista would have given Attitude products a certain glitz, KEZMU already had an established reputation delivering to several international manufacturers of clothes, linens, shoes and other sporting goods.

The terms of the Attitude venture confirmed that Zoob’s Kattiz Kft receive a gross annual sum of €230,000 on average for the designs and prototypes. However, despite the initial hype, the entire venture seemed to be quickly forgotten. As the designer told Atlatszo.hu, the first months were promising, cooperation was well underway and there was buyer interest at home and abroad, as evidenced by good turnover figures, and which also prompted plans to expand.

Zoob said the main reason that the effort lost momentum was the fact that it was backed by a state-owned nonprofit company which lacks the necessary flexibility to develop markets, and this is essential for success in the fashion business.

Gyorgy Becker, KEZMU’s recently appointed chief executive told Atlatszo.hu that even though he leads a state-owned firm, they have to operate on the open market, meaning they too have to adjust to crises and cut costs without losing focus on their core mission to provide job opportunities to disadvantaged people. Becker said Attitude became a lower priority since it was targeted at a premium customer base with low output volumes, and it had difficulty competing with the mass production that is general in the global fashion market. Becker said they now want to amend the contract with Zoob giving her firm far greater tasks in sales and marketing, while KEZMU would stick to actually making the end product.

What is clear nonetheless is who won and who lost out on the arrangement so far. Altogether, the state is in the red by some HUF 163 million (€525,000), the costs include the fee paid to Zoob, who could cash in without apparently having to do all that much in return. Attitude products are still available to those who want them, but they have to get an appointment and visit the one remaining outlet.

Original article in Hungarian.