Innovation 2018: A year in review


Innovation in the fashion, beauty and luxury industries during 2018 focused on everything from more experiential retail to streetwear collection drops and a growing push around sustainability.

Here are the five big themes to know about based on insights from our strategy team combined with data from the most-read stories on TheCurrent Daily this year:

Streetwear’s influence
Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton
Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton

Streetwear continued to have a significant influence with the announcement of Virgil Abloh taking on the role of artistic director at Louis Vuitton menswear. Riccardo Tisci meanwhile arrived at Burberry, quickly launching collection drops to compete in the hype world of Supreme, Off-White, Palace and others. Palace also had one of the most successful collaborations of the season with Ralph Lauren.

Rounding out the year otherwise was Farfetch’s acquisition of sneaker and streetwear marketplace, Stadium Goods., which came off the back of its IPO at the end of the summer. And our mega personal highlight: experiencing the frenzy firsthand at ComplexCon.

Experiential retail
MatchesFashion.com at Carlos Place
MatchesFashion.com at Carlos Place

Retail meanwhile was unsurprisingly all about experience. MatchesFashion.com opened a new five-storey townhouse in London focused on shopping, live events and art exhibitions. It also features in-built recording facilities, a fully functioning kitchen and a courtyard garden. Meanwhile, pop-ups from brands including Cartier, Moncler, The Arrivals, Google and many more all honed in on this idea of experiential and immersive initiatives.

Alongside that is the fact we saw numerous direct-to-consumer brands opening brick-and-mortar stores this year, from Heist to Casper, Everlane, Away and beyond. And that at a time when elsewhere much of traditional retail continues to flail.

Connected retail
Amazon's 4-star store
Amazon’s 4-star store

Otherwise, the role of technology played a big role in physical retail too, from Zara’s new London store and augmented reality tie-in, to the announcement of Chanel’s “augmented retail” space and the opening of Nike’s new flagship, which unlocks a new level of convenience by allowing customers to navigate the shopping experience in-store entirely on their phones.

Amazon also continued to push forward – launching an interactive pop-up with Calvin Klein on the one hand, while introducing its own 4-star store, which only stocks products based on favorable customer reviews, on the other. It also continued with its automated Amazon Go stores, announcing it will open 3,000 of them by 2021. But it wasn’t the only one – numerous others from Jack & Jones with WeChat and Hema with Alibaba in China, to Albert Heijn in the Netherlands and Lotte in South Korea, all experimenting in this space.

Artificial intelligence
Uniqlo IQ
Uniqlo IQ

Voice technology’s role in retail also pushed full steam ahead, with numerous new launches built for Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant particularly, including from H&M Home, Uniqlo and ASOS within the fashion space, and from Coty, Kohler and others within beauty.

Artificial intelligence (AI) otherwise continued to make an impact on the design side of the industry. Yoox particularly made a splash when it announced the launch of 8 by Yoox, a new collection that is generated by data. According to Federico Marchetti, CEO of the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, the line is informed by AI, but still designed by a creative team.

Sustainable progress  
Adidas x Parley for the Oceans SXSW 2018
Adidas x Parley for the Oceans

Last but not least, sustainability undoubtedly continued as the single biggest challenge facing the industry, with a multitude of big announcements and a continuation of experiments pushing things forward in 2018. From a negative perspective came news of the waste produced (and often burned) by brands such as H&M and Burberry, which resulted in big headlines calling for change. Sometimes it takes such insight to spur brands into further action of course.

Elsewhere, Adidas announced a moonshot to only use recycled plastics by 2024, Gucci launched an online platform to promote sustainable purpose, Levi’s focused on a more sustainable supply chain, and Kering introduced an organic cotton that is 100% scientifically traceable, thanks to a new supply chain transparency innovation. On top of that, just this month, Stella McCartney rallied the industry to come together to launch the United Nations’ new Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.

Here’s to much more in the way of innovation for 2019! Happy New Year everyone.

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