Editor's pick mobile technology

Why it matters: Eminem enhances Coachella set with augmented reality

Eminem AR experience at Coachella
Eminem AR experience at Coachella

The new ‘Why it matters’ content series from TheCurrent Daily highlights cross-industry innovations and analyses why they are relevant to the fashion and retail space. 

Eminem may not be a name that first springs to mind when considering innovation, but during his headline slot at this year’s Coachella music festival, the rapper used augmented reality to enhance the live music experience.

Coachella goers could download the Eminem Augmented app and throughout the set see visuals surrounding the stage that will be present during Eminem’s upcoming US and European tours.

Footage of the show highlights just how powerful adding a digital layer to live experiences can be, and accordingly the potential this could present to fashion and retail brands.

Given the growth of e-commerce and the increasingly connected expectations of today’s younger consumer, it has become vital for brands to develop engagement strategies around enhancing the physical world with a digital layer – from the new role of a flagship store to creating consumer-friendly immersive experiences.

While we have seen the likes of Zara, Outdoor Voices and Gucci experiment with AR technology to trigger small experiences on mobile, Eminem’s larger than life feature shows an unforeseen layer of immersion suitable for a group setting.

Unlike virtual reality, which isolates the user to a new alternate reality, AR is by its very nature a more communal, sociable technology because of the way it layers on top of the existing world around you.

The music industry is frequently vocal against fans viewing gigs through their mobile phone screens, but in Eminem’s case comes a certain sense of not just accepting this as standard but innovating on it accordingly.

As the CEO of his record label, Def Jam’s Paul Rosenberg, said: “We figured, if the phones are going to be there and people are going to be putting them up in the air and looking at them anyway, why don’t we provide a way to maybe change the way they’re perceiving the show.”

The Coachella experience was time-stamped and geo-tagged to ensure that the visuals were exclusively available to attendees and could only be seen within a few hundred yards from the stage.

The app also provided access to some other exclusive AR content, including a humorous ‘Mom’s Spaghetti’ interface that used image recognition to identify the festival’s universal food containers and layered graphics over it.

According to Rich Lee, creative director of Drive Studios who developed the experience, the app is an initial step that could signify a new portal to connect with music fans.

Editor's pick sustainability

Global fashion brand transparency is on the rise, says new industry report

Fashion Revolution
Fashion Revolution

Adidas and Reebok are leading the way towards greater transparency among major corporate players, according to a new report from sustainable non-profit organization, Fashion Revolution.

Research released in the 2018 Fashion Transparency Index shows improvement across the industry, with the 100 brands reviewed showing an overall increase of 5% in their transparency levels.

The study reviews and ranks major global brands and retailers according to their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts. The top 10 brands for transparency in 2018 also include Puma, H&M, Esprit, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, C&A and Marks & Spencer.

On the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, Fashion Revolution highlights the importance for brands to be fair and transparent, particularly when it comes to impact on the lives of workers in the supply chain and on the environment.

The non-profit is also holding a weeklong series of events with designers around the world, sharing their ideas, processes and best practice when it comes to transparency. Designers taking part include Stella McCartney, Phoebe English, Christopher Raeburn and Vivienne Westwood with aims of engaging the consumer further in the conversation of who makes their clothes.

Fashion Revolution’s global operations director and founder Carry Somers said: “Over the last five years, millions of consumers have demanded a fairer, safer, cleaner industry. It’s working. We can see that brands are listening and the industry is starting to change.

“We’re calling upon the global fashion industry to turn its commitment to responsible sourcing into effective action this Fashion Revolution Week. Too many people working in the fashion industry, mostly women, are still underpaid, unsafe and mistreated. It’s time for change”.

In a plea to promote the conversation around supply chain transparency on a wider scale, Fashion Revolution has also launched its manifesto, laying out action points they believe will achieve a cleaner and safer fashion industry. Beyond the actionable steps, the company is also calling on consumers in general to spread the word via shareable social media assets and additional reading material.

For more content on brands striving to achieve a more sustainable supply chain, see TheCurrent Daily’s Sustainability category, which includes innovations by winners of this year’s Index such as Stella McCartney’s mushroom leather handbag and adidas’ pledge to use only recycled ocean plastics by 2020.

Editor's pick Podcast sustainability

How Naadam is driving the sustainable cashmere industry

Liz Bacelar and Matt Scanlan, Naadam
Liz Bacelar and Matt Scanlan, Naadam

Building deep relationships with the communities trading raw materials is a key factor in establishing a more sustainable supply chain, argues Matt Scanlan of disruptive cashmere brand, Naadam.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast, the CEO and co-founder of the company, opens up about how important it is to think about the human side of what we, as an industry, are doing.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

“There are fundamental shared experiences across the human experience that we don’t think about when we’re making clothing; that we don’t think about when we’re trying to look nice. That was eye-opening to me, and I try really hard to continually push that narrative for people,” he says.

His entire business was built first on relationships, he explains, which led him to want to support those he had gotten to know. In this case, we’re talking Mongolian goat herders.

His story of how he got there is a well known one – in short he spent a month with local communities in the Gobi Desert and then returned with $2 million stashed in plastic bags to buy tons of raw cashmere directly from them. Doing so allows those goat herders to earn 50% more profit.

Since then, his ambition to transform the cashmere supply chain alongside business partner, Diederik Rijsemus, has grown rapidly. Simultaneously, the consumer mindset on what sustainability is and why it matters is finally starting to take hold, he notes, outlining his drive to keep pushing this forward.

“All I care about is building the biggest platform to share my message which is a very simple passion around why I did it in the first place. The bigger the platform is, the happier I am. I just want more people to know that if you’re really thoughtful about sustainability it can foster innovation that lets you make products across a spectrum that are more affordable for the customer and better quality.”

Also in the conversation, Scanlan talks about why 100% sustainability is both fake and impossible, the challenges faced by growing and scaling such a brand, and why he now operates via wholesale channels as well as his direct-to-consumer model. The death of traditional retail is hyperbolic, he says.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Retail technology

Balmain takes customers on a creative journey using virtual reality

Balmain's creative director Olivier Rousteing
Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing

Balmain has unveiled its new concept store in Milan, featuring a virtual reality experience based around the dream-like inspirations behind the designs of creative director Olivier Rousteing.

The experience, named “My City of Lights” aims to take visitors into the mind of Rousteing; to follow the creative influences behind his collections. Visitors putting on one of the custom Oculus VR headsets, designed by Rousteing himself, will find themselves inside the empty rooms of a Baroque castle, a high cathedral and even the rooftops of Paris.

The store showcases the first in a series of VR experiences as part of Balmain’s Wonderlabs marketing strategy focusing on entertainment and technology. Balmain’s strategy demonstrates its desire to transform the retail experience and forge the way in using technology in fashion retail.


Speaking to Vogue, Rousteing revealed that democracy is a driving force for these kind of experiences in store. “Fashion is more inclusive than ever, and there’s no better way to include more people than through technology and digital,” he said.

Rousteing isn’t new to technology collaborations in store. The opening of Balmain’s Melrose Place site also marked the launch of a collaboration between Rousteing and Beats headphones.

The Milan store however, is the luxury brand’s first flagship in Italy and has been launched to coincide with Salone del Mobile, the international furniture and design show taking place in the city. The My City of Lights experience in it will next travel to other Balmain stores around the world.


mobile Retail technology

Fred Segal partners with Mastercard on shoppable storefront

Fred Segal’s shoppable window by Mastercard

US retailer Fred Segal has partnered with Mastercard to open an interactive Sunset Strip-themed pop-up shop in Los Angeles, which includes a shoppable window to allow customers to shop anytime, day or night.

The immersive experience aims to capture the history of the Sunset Strip and offer stories, insights and memories from influential local minds. It has been dubbed a “Rock ‘n Roll Holy Land” and blends a vintage shopping experience with digital technology.

The shoppable window enables shoppers to interact with merchandise from MadeWorn, an LA based brand specializing in American craftsmanship. Visitors can place items – such as merchandise from bands including KISS and Def Leppard – in their cart and make purchases directly from their phones using a unique link that is sent to them by text. Purchases are then delivered directly to their homes.

In store, shoppers are able to shop from a carefully curated selection of products from historic neon signs to photographs and other vintage treasures. Over 300 vintage and custom garments are also available to shop in time for the music festival season.

The store is the first in a series of activations blending interactive and in store shopping that Mastercard will collaborate with Fred Segal on. The aim of the partnership is to deliver an experiential environment where connected devices and digital technology bring a seamless, customizable experience to consumers.

“Fred Segal is a retailer known for offering its customers an innovative and differentiated shopping experience. It makes them an ideal collaborator to bring to life the latest in experiential retail technology, like our shoppable store front windows,” says Sherri Haymond, executive vice president of digital partnerships at Mastercard.

She continues: “Today, people want to step into store and do more than just shop; they want it to be a destination that seamlessly blends the digital technology that is a core part of their day to day life with their physical environment.”

Mastercard is additionally developing different ways to enable interactive shopping experiences through brand partnerships. For instance, it is currently working with Snapchat to offer shopping capabilities to their cardholders by connecting Snapcodes directly to retail moments.

e-commerce Retail technology

Shoppers are craving more augmented reality tools for online shopping

Wayfair augmented reality

Almost half of shoppers (45%) say they would spend larger amounts online if they had access to technology to help them better visualize what they’re buying, according to new research from e-commerce agency, PushON.

The survey of 1,000 shoppers, also showed 40% of them more specifically would like to use augmented reality (AR) technology to test a product out virtually before they buy it to get a feel for how it would look in real life.

Over half of shoppers (52%) believe retailers should be investing in technology to create a seamless link between in-store and online shopping, which we’re increasingly seeing AR enable.

According to Sam Rutley, managing director of PushON, utilizing AR in this way will help to provide shoppers with the same level of service and information that they’d receive in store. “This will go a long way towards increasing consumer buying confidence through the higher levels of assurance this technology can offer, meaning they’ll feel comfortable spending more online. Technology is the future and retailers can’t afford to ignore the changes that are happening within the sector – particularly when consumers themselves have clocked on to the benefits of investing in it.”

The research comes as more retailers are indeed beginning to invest in such technology to enhance the online shopping experience for customers.

Earlier this year, Ikea launched its Place app, using Apple’s ARkit to allow customers to virtually try out furniture in their own homes. The app places 3D, true-to-scale models of Ikea’s range of furniture to help give an accurate indication of the item’s size, design and functionality in your own home. Other homeware stores including Wayfair and Lowe’s are doing similar things.

Meanwhile, AR is also becoming important for fashion. Zara has recently begun trialling the technology in its physical stores to encourage shoppers to see models come to life on their mobile phones, while luxury brands such as Gucci are using it for immersive storytelling.


product Retail technology

SoulCycle teams up with Ultracor to create personalized leggings

SoulCycle x Ultracor
SoulCycle x Ultracor

Fitness brand SoulCycle is working with performance wear line Ultracor to give customers the opportunity to personalize their own pair of leggings in minutes.

A continuation of the duo’s collaboration in the summer of 2017, the partnership sees new Ultracor kiosks set up in select SoulCycle studios that allow indoor cycling guests, or “riders” as they’re known, to design and personalize their individual styles.

The kiosks are launching with five different legging designs; each one using next generation digital printing, patented built-in shapewear and breathable fabric.

The result means riders are able to customize their leggings in a number of ways to make them a perfect fit. By including height in the design process, the Ultracor kiosk is able to ensure that the knee break and waistband heights of the leggings are in a comfortable position for the wearer.

Customers can also select the exact shades they’d like to use for parts of their pants from a full color scale, rather than a few options. The designs can then be further personalized with the addition of up to 10 characters of text that are added to the back right side.

Soulcycle x Ultracor
Soulcycle x Ultracor

Each design is priced at circa $200 and new styles will be added to the kiosks every couple of weeks. The leggings are delivered to the customer within three business days.

The initiative is an interesting example of SoulCycle thinking beyond the idea of being a fitness studio and instead considering its role as a lifestyle brand; thinking about the retail side of things to drive consumer engagement and new revenue streams.

Brand collaboration has been long been a feature of SoulCycle’s strategy. It recently partnered with luxury fragrance company Le Labo to update its locker room amenities, for instance.

It has also partnered with a number of fashion brands to create capsule collections, and in a surprising twist, New York bakery Milk Bar, to create a protein post-workout cookie.

At SXSW this year, the company’s CEO Melanie Whelan joined Milk Bar’s Christina Tossi in a panel to discuss the importance of collaboration as part of a cult brand’s DNA. “Introducing new moments to surprise and delight consumers is key,” Whelan said.

Editor's pick Retail technology

Nordstrom’s new NYC menswear store is enhancing the retail experience with technology


Nordstrom is opening a new tech-enabled menswear store located in the heart of New York City, as part of its ongoing focus on new retail formats.

The three-floor location at 57th Street and Broadway, aims to combine an old school retail experience with cutting edge technology to provide a unique shopping experience to its customers.

It will be home to Nordstrom’s full-line of menswear, shoes and grooming supplies with a focus on streetwear. Brands that will be present in the store include high-end names like Comme des Garçons and Christian Louboutin, as well Vans and Adidas.

While shoe shines and tailoring are part of the traditional focus of the store (there are 16 tailors on staff, contributing to one of the largest network of tailors in North America, as well as five personal shoppers), there’s also a big interactive element enabled to drive both convenience and experience for shoppers.

Technology in its tailoring section for instance, includes digital screens that display an avatar of the shopper so they can try on an array of custom-made jackets.

Meanwhile, a new fully digital returns system will also be in place to assist on the customer journey. Returned items can be scanned at a digital kiosk and deposited in a bin, limiting the need for human contact throughout the process. The only other Nordstrom store to use this system is in Seattle.

The store also enhances the online shopping process by offering 24-hour collection. This means customers can order items online and collect them from the store – a Nordstrom employee will meet them at the store entrance no matter the time of day.

Nordstrom already operates two of its Nordstrom Rack discount stores in the city, but the investment will serve as a test of the future of department stores as people choose to shop online more frequently.

It also follows the launch of the retailer’s Nordstrom Local concept, a service-orientated store that doesn’t hold any inventory, and instead focuses on appointment-only services including alterations, tailoring and personal styling, as well as online collections and returns.

The store serves as a prelude to the opening of Nordstrom’s womenswear location, expected in 2019.

Editor's pick technology

5 beauty brands experimenting with customization

Schwarzkopf SalonLab Analyzer
Schwarzkopf SalonLab Analyzer

While thousands of new beauty products hit the shelves every year, 2018 is proving to be the year that customization is really taking hold, incorporating skincare, hair products and cosmetics.

For customers, having bespoke products created just for them to address their individual concerns is becoming more important. As a result, personalization of beauty products is an area where brands seem set to invest.

Here are five examples of those experimenting in the space.

Skinceuticals D.O.S.E laboratory
Skinceuticals DOSE
Skinceuticals DOSE

Debuted at SXSW, L’Oréal’s D.O.S.E acts as a mini skincare laboratory creating custom-made serums. Developed for L’Oréal-owned brand, Skinceuticals, the experience starts with a one-to-one consultation with a professional who can advise on which skincare ingredients would be most beneficial. The information is then transferred to the D.O.S.E machine, which creates the serum in a matter of minutes. This just one of the ways L’Oréal is tapping into customization in the beauty industry – they’ve also launched the L’Oréal Professionel’s Style My Hair app, which suggests real-time hair colour services, and the Le Teint Particulier Unique custom foundation for Lancôme.

Toun28’s subscription skincare

Korean skincare brand Toun28 is also tackling customization in skincare. The subscription service delivers fresh, organic skincare products to its customers each month wrapped in recyclable paper. While the process is started with an in-person consultation, the bespoke products are created using facial analysis. Once a 28-day cycle is complete, the company also uses its own algorithm to predict the customers needs and keep delivering new product.

Schwarzkopf’s custom hair analysis

It’s not just skincare where advances in customized beauty are being made; Schwarzkopf launched a handheld device during CES that analyzes hair condition and color, and then provides personalized recommendations of products and hair care services. The SalonLab Analyzer uses near infrared spectroscopy and a multi-channel color scanner. While it isn’t intended to replace the expertise of a hair stylist, the technology arms them with the information they need to take the best care of a customer’s hair both in the salon and in between appointments.

Wella Professionals’ Colour DJ
Wella Colour DJ
Wella Colour DJ

Wella Professionals is also exploring customization for hair – it has launched Colour DJ to create an ultra-personalized hair gloss service. Customers have a one-to-one consultation with a stylist and then using a digital application, the Colour DJ device is programmed to create the perfect mask – right down to color intensity, level of care needed and even what scent it should have. The products can be used in the salon and at home so customers are able to maintain their desired color consistently.

Bare Minerals’ Made-2-Fit foundation
Bare Minerals Match-2-Fit
Bare Minerals Match-2-Fit

Customization is also big news for makeup brands. Shiseido-owned Bare Minerals introduced the Made-2-Fit Fresh Faced Foundation, which can be created in bespoke shades to cater to all skin tones. Fronted by an app, powered by MATCHco, it asks users a series of questions to determine an exact color match. Sophisticated technology is then used find the ideal foundation shade that can be delivered to them within 72 hours. As it’s estimated that 94% women are using the wrong shade of foundation, customizable options are proving increasingly relevant and sought after, as demonstrated by numerous other brands including the aforementioned Lancôme, as well as the likes of Sephora.

Want to hear more about the role of customization and tech in the beauty industry? Listen to our podcast with Guive Balooch, global vice president of L’Oréal’s Tech Incubator.

Campaigns Editor's pick

The North Face celebrates female explorers with campaign to inspire future generations

The North Face "Moves Mountains"
The North Face “Moves Mountains”

The North Face has launched its first-ever campaign focusing on women and celebrating the achievements of female explorers around the world.

Move Mountains is an initiative that aims to empower the next generation of explorers by highlighting the stories of courageous and adventurous women, and by partnering on a multi-year outdoor adventure collaboration with Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA).

The campaign features a series of short videos telling the stories of trailblazing women including alpinist Hilaree Nelson, climbers Ashima Shiraishi and Margo Hayes, and ultrarunner and activist Fernanda Maciel. The North Face is also featuring women who are paving the way in their respective fields including NASA scientist Tierra Guinn Fletcher, musician and activist Madame Gandhi and women’s rights advocate, America Ferrera.

According to Tom Herbst, global vice president of marketing at The North Face, the theory behind Move Mountains was simple: if women and girls could see female explorers represented more widely, it will create a new generation of female role models.

As part of the initiative, The North Face has made a commitment to represent women equally in all advertising, social media and content moving forward.

The Move Mountains initiative is also being applied to the internal business with increased investment in women’s product design, a renewed focus on employee development and an ensured closure of the gender pay gap on the athlete team. The brand will also be expanding their Explore Fund grants to $750,000 with a new program focused on enabling female exploration.

Inspiring a new generation of explorers is a cornerstone of the campaign and The North Face is collaborating with GSUSA to enable women to further push the boundaries. The collaboration includes the creation of 12 new Girl Scouts outdoor adventure badges, with skills ranging from mountaineering, backpacking, hiking and trail running.