Luxury has a lot to learn from the way streetwear brands trade on creating desire, says Ferdinando Verderi, co-founder and creative director of NY-based agency Johannes Leonardo, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
As the creative lead behind the adidas Originals and Alexander Wang collaboration, his experience shows that relevancy in today’s market is all about bringing the customer close, but keeping products scarce.
Accordingly, tapping into a mentality of belonging is at the heart of what makes the streetwear industry so successful and as a result, a strategy that luxury is keen to follow, he explains. “It’s easy to forget how the streetwear phenomenon started. [It] started with the will of people to belong to a real community that has a point of view that is different from others,” he says.
His award-winning work for adidas Originals has involved unpicking what creativity stands for, and how a sportswear giant can challenge the status quo. This has meant ideas like crossing out the brand’s iconic three stripes, expressing the importance of being a work in progress (see “Original is never finished”) and even turning the brand’s logo upside down.
When the agency helped broker adidas Originals’ partnership with Alexander Wang, it consequently ended up almost laying the groundwork for what luxury-meets-street collaborations, now popularized through many other deals, entail.
The collab was built on the concept of purposively disrespecting industry rules, says Verderi. Over three seasons they have done everything from a reseller-inspired retail strategy to analog marketing activity that involved text messaging.
During this conversation with TheCurrent’s innovation strategist, Bia Bezamat, Verderi dives into what all of that has meant, all the while also talking about why brands need to think like publishers in the way they drop content over product, how another movement will come to replace streetwear now that it’s become so mass, and why distilling a point of view needs to be done in a very careful way.
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.
Adidas sold its latest sneakers through a fashion show hosted exclusively on Snapchat, making it a platform first.
The brand launched an iteration of its Adidas Originals Falcon W style on “Fashion 5 Ways”, a new show that premiered on the social media platform’s Discover page last week.
Fans watching the show could purchase the shoe by swiping up, which revealed an e-commerce page powered by Shopify, with delivery fulfilled by Darkstore. This marks the first time Snapchat users can purchase a product through one of its shows.
“Fashion 5 Ways”, produced by Thumb Candy Media, is a show catering to young women who want to explore different ways to wear fashion staples such as sneakers. According to Snapchat, millions of viewers watched this specific episode, with 70% of the overall audience for it being women aged 13 to 24.
Brands are increasingly finding ways of gamifying real life interactions with the help of their customer’s mobile behaviors. Beyond quirky mobile games, this trend now includes an important final touchpoint: retail. By creating demand and providing tools to fulfil it on the spot, these brands are locking consumers into their ecosystems.
Another example happened in February this year, when Nike became the first brand to sell a product on Snapchat by allowing users to scan an exclusive Snap code at an afterparty in Los Angeles that they could use to purchase shoes and receive them on the same night. In this instance, all of the sneakers sold out within 23 minutes.
A further indication that sportswear labels are spearheading this movement: during this year’s SXSW festival, cult label Outdoor Voices launched an AR experience that surfaced exclusive styles of clothing depending on the user’s location. The user could then purchase the items exclusively.
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Adidas Originals’ latest offline campaign speaks to a group of influencers individually through a series of personalized billboards in Los Angeles and New York, promoting the launch of the P.O.D. shoe.
The brand worked with Clear Channel Outdoor to create 16 out of home ads calling out each influencer, including Tony Mui, who works at Complex magazine and hosts a YouTube channel; Kalysse Anthony, model and stylist; and Scott Reyes, an LA-based photographer.
Each billboard references the influencer’s social media handle and a message directly related to their personal lives that they have shared on social media, with a call to action to head to the nearest Adidas store to pick up the new sneakers. User Jacques Slade (@kustoo), for instance, was told to grab a pair for his next unboxing episode, while Tyler Glickman (@t_glick) was congratulated for recently getting married.
Adidas has been increasingly experimenting with personalized marketing to engage with an audience that is highly distracted by their digital behaviours. During 2018’s Boston Marathon, the sportswear brand created 30,000 personalized videos, one for each runner participating, by using data generated by the RFID-enabled running bibs. That data, combined with footage from seven different cameras stretched throughout the course, generated individual videos available to watch and share online after the race.
At the same time, out of home advertising is experiencing somewhat of a reawakening as marketers tap into the young consumer’s need for creating content. At this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Glossier president and COO. Henry Davis, explained that billboards are a great strategy for the cult beauty brand because they are just the beginning of the conversation – as consumers spot the billboard, they feel compelled to photograph it and create and share (digital) content themselves, thus taking ownership of that conversation with the brand.
It was a quieter New York Fashion Week season than usual, as big-name designers including Altuzarra and Tommy Hilfiger chose to decamp to other cities – Paris and Milan, respectively – to host their much buzzed-about runway shows. Even fashion week parties, which in the past provided magazine fodder for weeks to come, have also been scaled down, with the industry seemingly more subdued in general.
That didn’t stop various buzzworthy moments however, including subtle nods to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, various more immersive runway presentations, and a dash of the futuristic with Google TiltBrush and an oversized robot.
Here we highlight some of the most interesting conversations that took place, and where there was still room left for improvement…
There was little direct acknowledgement of the powerful conversation around the #MeToo movement, but shows attempted to create a stage for female empowerment. For Tom Ford, the approach was literal and included models strutting down the runway donning shoulder pads and a “Pussy Power” handbag. For Prabal Gurung, which The Washington Post has previously described as the “most woke man in fashion”, it was a nod to the #TimesUp conversation as models closed the show as a group, carrying white roses.
Also alluding to the message of empowerment, designer Jonathan Simkhai presented a Suffragette-inspired collection, while Kesha’s song on speaking out on harassment, “Praying”, greeted guests.
Following the second yearly Woman’s March, which took place globally on January 20, Brother Vellies teamed up with a roster of labels, such as Clare V. and Rachel Comey, to design a capsule collection benefitting the march and Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile designer Rebecca Minkoff, who was due to give birth to her third child during the week, forwent a formal presentation, instead opting to showcase her see-now-buy-now on 20 powerful women online. That cast includes members of the Women’s March committee, as well as actress Zosia Mamet and fashion presenter Zanna Roberts Rassi. The designer also teamed up with networking app Bumble Bizz to host a speaker night titled “Trailblazers: Women who have started their own company or have forged their own way within their industry”.
The topic of diversity was ever-present during NYFW too, though perhaps rather positively it was less buzzed about as more designers included a variation of ethnicities and sizes on their runway. Designers such as Christian Siriano and one of this season’s favourites, Eckhaus Latta, enlisted models at each end of the spectrum. Meanwhile model Kendall Jenner hosted an Adidas Originals presentation that featured a colourful cast and the showcase of the brand’s first hijab.
In addition to the designers whose presence was missed in New York this season, many others moved away from formal runway shows to explore new ways to engage with a new, savvier audience.
Adidas teamed up with trendy New York label and lifestyle store VFiles to host a multimedia photoshoot at the Terminal 5 venue in Hell’s Kitchen, for instance. As music played for partygoers, models stood on stage posing against white backdrops, thus partaking in a live photoshoot. The immersive event aimed to respond to a community who wants to participate, rather than watch from the sidelines, said Julie Anne Quay, founder of VFiles.
Meanwhile, Nicole Miller teamed up with AI and image recognition company RevelGlam to pilot their software on her runway show. The software analyses insights from fashion shows as well as celebrity sightings and influencer activities in order to predict trends.
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, it was German designer Philipp Plein who became a major topic of conversation however; giving the week a much-needed injection of futuristic tech. In a display of extravagance he has become known for, model Irina Shayk entered the runway from a spaceship and strutted alongside a giant bot with the designer’s logo plastered all over it.
In a week where most designers arguably played safe on many fronts – from not taking a truly clear stand on serious conversations to engaging with new technologies – Plein’s stunt may have trumped the collection being shown, but it simultaneously provided an irreverent and timely take on the future.
Adidas is a “brand in beta”, according to its global creative director, Paul Gaudio. Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity today, he referred to the idea of operating via an open-source model appropriated from the technology world.
“We firmly believe the idea that we are a brand in beta. We are never finished. Instead of having all the answers, we prefer to come and ask questions,” he said about the near 70-year old brand. “It’s about constant reinvention… I like to talk about the idea that we’re on a journey. As a brand we’re a story, a narrative; it’s not a fixed thing.”
It’s on that basis the company launched its “Original is never finished” campaign for Adidas Originals earlier this year, which features the likes of Snoop Dogg through to basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and artist Petra Collins. They represent the idea of what it means to be a true original – the idea that things can be done multiple times over, that the brand is never finished. It’s set to a reworking of Frank Sinatra’s My Way.
But this idea of exploring self-identity, of connecting closely with culture and community, and indeed the notion of open-source creativity, is also how Adidas approaches its collaborations.
“You can’t do everything inside a little walled garden… you have to bring ideas in from the outside. We do it with athletes, we do it with chemical companies… we know we can’t do this alone,” Gaudio added.
Athlete Stan Smith and fashion designer Alexander Wang were also on stage to discuss the way they have partnered with the brand.
The Adidas Originals x Alexander Wang collaboration was launched with a campaign that took inspiration from the reseller market, for instance. It secretly dropped in different cities around the world out the back of 17 trucks in trash bags as though the items were on the black market. The initiative led to 3 billion media impressions worldwide and the items selling out within one day.
“It was spot on, it was perfect; it captured everything I wanted to say about the collection,” said Wang. But why it worked was largely because of the openness he was met with at Adidas, he explained. “In all my partnerships, I have never been in a conversation that’s been so collaborative and open to ideas. From a creative point of view, I’ve always appreciated that.”
Gaudio added: “I ask myself all the time, ‘why bother?’ If we don’t allow someone like you to bring newness into the brand, what’s the point?”
It’s about releasing control with that open-source mentality working both internally and externally, he explained. “We have to enable creativity within the brand too – we have to create space for people to express themselves and chase their dreams… It’s about creating a framework and then leaving space for people to create; to take the brand to new levels. Good ideas rarely come from the top.”