Donita Fashions: Launched on Traditions of Quality and Value

Having met Mike Berens several years ago while he was selling children’s apparel at trade shows, I contacted him with interest in 2011 when I heard he was the Sales and Marketing Director for Donita Fashions, a new brand of girls’ dresses from Indonesia soon to be launched under his leadership in North America. I made an appointment for Mike to preview the brand to me in Los Angeles, and was excited to hear about all the plans for selling the collection to specialty stores.

But what really took me by surprise was when I saw the buyers’ reaction to this new brand over three seasons exhibiting at KIDShow Las Vegas. The buyer audience was SRO and Mike and his national sales reps were selling furiously fast throughout the show, staying busy until the lights were turned off! The buzzworthy introduction was amazing to me, as well as to other exhibitors and buyers. Donita obviously was doing something right on the money!

Donita was well received because it was offering high-quality dresses, good designs, and very affordable prices. Even as a new brand in the U.S., retailers were willing to back the brand because of the attractive margins and equally beautiful dresses, from casual through party attire, holiday and special occasion.

Mike Berens and Donita have developed a strong working relationship based on the ability to anticipate and read buyers’ needs and reliably deliver on their quality assurance. With success comes expansion, and for 2013 Donita has added a new line of activewear, Bubble; extended its size range to include a tween assortment; and designed a limited Couture Collection of floor-length gowns at mini-skirt price points!

Mike Berens gives us a look behind the Donita brand and an insight on the journey to build an international brand in a new world of children’s fashion.

When was the Donita brand born and what was its inspiration?

In 2004, Donita Fashions launched as a brand extension of the international children’s clothing company, Liza Christina Garment Industry, located in Indonesia. Following the brand’s success in Europe and Asia, in 2011 Donita Fashions was introduced to the U.S. and Canadian markets.
Liza Christina began as a home industry in 1976 and grew to become an international supplier of girls’ dresses for all occasions, formal to casual with new designs annually for spring/summer, fall, holiday and special occasions. The company exports its apparel to countries around the world, including Australia, France, the UK, Japan, the Middle East and now the United States.

Owner Budi Setiawan of Liza Garment in Indonesia attended both high school and college in the United States. Following the Donita brand’s launch in other countries, he was inspired to bring Donita to the U.S. because he saw the potential for a children’s dress brand to combine both style and quality with attractive pricing to meet the needs of independent retailers in North America.

With over 20 years of experience launching new brands and developing business in the children’s apparel industry, I (Mike Berens) was chosen to build and lead the team in the U.S., hire a sales force, manage marketing and trade shows and work with both a U.S. designer and a designer and factory manager in Indonesia to ensure that the styles appeal to U.S. tastes and trends.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting?

I was immediately impressed by the top quality and variety of the Donita dresses, and was encouraged by its international success. I also knew that by working with a family-owned factory in Indonesia that had already shown consistent growth and success that I could trust that the brand would be backed by the integrity of its owners and its year-round production capabilities, flexibility and volume potential.

When I discussed pricing with the corporate owners, I knew that U.S. buyers that saw the quality of the product would be blown away by the incredible prices. Here was a product line that looked like it belonged in top specialty stores, but was priced so that buyers could buy more styles and increase their profits. The challenge then just became getting out in the marketplace and spreading the good news, backed by great dresses, delivery, prices and customer service.

What are the 3 keys to your success?

An important key to the successful introduction of Donita in North America was that, while controlling its operating costs, Budi chose someone in the U.S. that knew the children’s industry, had developed relationships with retailers and sales representatives and understood what buyers wanted. I was humbled and honored that Donita chose me to introduce the brand stateside. I welcomed equally the opportunity and the challenge.

Another key ingredient is the combination of quality and pricing. The dresses really sell themselves. Buyers have recognize the quality and appreciate the margins. Variety of styles, from casual to special occasion has also been an important selling point.

The Donita Immediate-Buy Service has also been a program that sets us apart. Because of the year-round high-volume production schedule in Indonesia, we are able to overrun every season in anticipation of demand for immediates. Sales closer to or in season have become much more important. Some buyers simply cannot buy as much six months in advance. For example, at the upcoming KidShow in Las Vegas and ENK Children’s Club, Donita will be selling both 2013 Fall and Winter Collections and 2013 Spring/Summer. In fact, at the trade shows we offer bonus incentives for buyers to purchase immediates that earn them credit on their fall purchases.

What trends are you seeing in the marketplace?

Not a new trend, but a trend that is still growing, is the demand for tween sizes and dresses that appeal to girls from sizes 7 to 14. The highest volume sizes are for infants and tweens. Also, new colors trend through each season. For 2013 Fall/Winter, Donita introduces a variety of treatments in pink and grey and also experiments with golden mustard and turquoise. Although patterned designs and finishing touches are still part of the Donita look, we also offer more solids that mirror the traditional styling that connotes the Donita brand.

How does your business make use of the Internet?

Donita USA recently launched a U.S. version of its website for its Spring Collection, plus a Facebook page and Twitter account. In addition, we issue a few e-blasts to our customers and prospects to keep them informed about our trade show schedule and buyer promotions. We are currently working on updates for all our online and social media communications.

What has had a positive impact for your business in the last year?

Since Donita only launched in the U.S. in 2011, everything we have done to date has had an impact on our business. Our trade show appearances at KIDShow Las Vegas and ENK Children’s Club, as well as regional sales events in Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta attracted incredible buyer attention and positive buzz. In addition, building our experienced team of sales representatives in the U.S. and Canada established a stronger presence and acceptance.

What advice can you share for someone entering the children’s market?

Find your niche, know your brand and be true to it. Whatever you decide to do, be great at it. Focus attention on what you do best, and surround yourself with a talented, diverse team of self-starters that share your passion and desire to succeed. Appreciate and recognize the contributions of others to your brand’s growth and success.

More About Donita Fashions

“From blushing leaves to crystallized snowflakes” captures the thematic season and fashions of the 2013 Fall/Winter Collection from Donita Fashions. “Our Fall/Winter Collections include a wide selection of traditional and on-trend styling, matched with quality craftsmanship and the affordable wholesale prices that have kept our trade show appearances crowded and our sales growth climbing over the past three seasons,” reports Sales and Marketing Director Michael Berens.

Appointments are now being taken by Donita’s U.S. and Canadian sales representatives to preview the 2013 Fall/Winter Collection. See the newest Donita collections at KIDShow Bally’s Las Vegas (February 18-20,2013), ENK Children’s Club (March 10-12, 2013) and KIDShow Miami (March 17-18, 2013).

Donita Fashions USA
Michael Berens
Sales & Marketing Director
(310) 968-5558

More To See