The most diverse fashion season ever on the runway, but not the front row [NY Times]
Met Costume Institute embraces ‘Camp’ for 2019 blockbuster show [NY Times]
‘Gender Bending Fashion’ to be focus of new show at Museum of Fine Arts in Boston next March [WWD]
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and 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.
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 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.”
Fashion and technology are increasing bedfellows, but at no time of year do we see experimentation between these two worlds integrate more than during fashion week season. In the past, we’ve been welcomed by drones flying overhead at Fendi, virtual reality adopted at Topshop Unique, and Google Glass (ahem) walking down the catwalk at Diane von Furstenberg. More often than not, such moves are part of an elaborate scheme to generate press headlines and consumer interest as the shows become re-engineered to appeal to the public rather than the trade audience they once were.
Meanwhile, in the technology realm, corporations are turning to the fashion world to a greater degree than ever before too. Apple teamed up with Hermès to launch a special luxury edition of the Apple Watch in 2015, while Virgin Galactic announced a partnership with Y-3 (the adidas and Yohji Yamamoto line) to create the outfits for its future astronauts, pilots and passengers (as pictured above).
So all of that got us thinking: If budget were no issue and innovation truly knew no bounds in the traditional fashion houses of New York, London, Milan and Paris, what dream technology tie-ups would we really love to see hit the catwalks? Read on below for everything from artificial intelligence to Elon Musk’s Hyperloop playing a part.
Call them all a gimmick, but they beat another Instagram takeover or Snapchat reveal… no?
Burberry and the invisibility “poncho”
Wearable technology has been pretty disappointing from a fashion perspective thus far. Smart watches and fitness tracking devices aside, the only thing that’s ever really stood out is Hussein Chalayan’s animatronics-based show in 2007, which presented the idea of clothes that changed shape. The question on everyone’s lips now then, is when will tech advancement actually hit the design of our clothes? Fibre science is the key, with smart textiles evolving so they’ll eventually be able to do everything from alter colour to indeed shift shape as Chalayan imagined. The one to really be excited about though? Scientists are exploring the way refracted light creates the bold colour of the Morpho butterfly in a bid to understand how we can create that much-desired invisibility cloak. Given the success of Burberry’s monogrammed ponchos, our first technology wish would be for such a collaboration on the London Fashion Week catwalk. Magic.
Alexander McQueen’s global holographic show
Speaking of illusions, we’ve seen a number of holograms being used in fashion shows in the past, from Polo Ralph Lauren’ 4D water projection for spring/summer 2015, to Alexander McQueen’s Kate Moss trick (as per the video above) in 2006. But these concepts are improving all the time. What if we took the idea further and had tele-presence technology in place so that when McQueen’s show occurred in Paris, it could also be seen in Shanghai, Dubai, Moscow and São Paulo at the same time – with a different audience but the same models, looks and experience portrayed. A win for VIP customers around the world.
Louis Vuitton as sponsor of the Hyperloop
Transport around fashion weeks is constantly troublesome for attendees. Heavy traffic, poor weather not to mention high heels makes for a laborious experience, especially if you’re in it for the full month of shows. If only there were some speedy way to get from one venue to the next? Or one city to the next even. Elon Musk is who we need, and more specifically, his vision for the Hyperloop – a high-speed transportation system enabled thanks to a reduced air pressure tube that could carry pods at up to 700mph. Originally imagined to run between Los Angeles and San Francisco (with an average travel time of 35 minutes), we quite fancy a short version of it like the High Line in New York to take us from say Milk Studios to the new Hudson Yards. Or from Milan to Paris perhaps. As far as luxury travel goes, Louis Vuitton inevitably springs to mind. Even more appropriately, it already ran a campaign with Buzz Aldrin some years ago (as pictured above), so has an interest in space travel, meaning its team is bound to get along like a house on fire with Musk, who does of course also run SpaceX.
Alexander Wang and data visualisation
Last year, fans of Swedish designer Ida Klamborn were able to watch her Fashion Week Stockholm show from home via virtual reality using Google Cardboard. Better than that, they were also able to leave feedback on their favourite looks, providing data that showed in real-time on robots put in place to represent them on the front row. Those sorts of insights are hugely valuable for a brand, but what about if they could be gleaned from the audience of influencers actually present too? London-based science and design company, The Unseen, unveiled a sculpture called EIGHTHSENSE in 2015 that changed in colour based on the wearer’s brain patterns. Created in collaboration with digital studio Holition, it read EEG data through a headset and reflected different signals accordingly. That sort of sentiment analysis could make for a beautiful visual feast during a fashion show (albeit potentially a controversial one), if the audience were looped up in the same way. This one’s got Alexander Wang written all over it.
Gucci’s downloadable dreams
While we’re on the subject of the brain and data, dream reading is another science being explored. What could we do if we could not only understand dreams and be able to re-watch them, but also share them from one person to the next? By monitoring electrical activity in the brain it’s not impossible we’ll get to that stage; even a future where we can interact with what we’re experiencing too. Apply that to fashion week and perhaps we’ll have a future show taking us one step on from virtual reality and instead able to enter the dream of the designer and eventually manipulate what they see. We’ll take an Alessandro Michele at Gucci dream tonight; perhaps a Miu Miu one tomorrow.
Net-a-Porter and the 3D printer
One of the most concerning issues with fashion weeks as they stand, is the distinct separation between the digital experience consumers have with such events, and the lack of ability to buy the actual products shown. Usually it takes up to six months for the collections to hit the shop floor, by which point the hype generated at the reveal has all but died. Numerous brands are now looking to release items in-season in a bid to capitalise on the engagement achieved, but it’s a complicated model. Which is why 3D printing could be interesting, particularly as such tools become more able to create materials as soft and supple as what we’re used to wearing. Imagine a future where Net-a-Porter, as the luxury e-commerce giant in the space, can offer looks from the catwalk (rightfully gained from the designers) ready “for print”. Customers would be able to download their styles and customise them as they go.
Tommy Hilfiger’s shared deep learning
One thing always missing from fashion weeks in my humble opinion: live commentary of the shows, preferably from the designer themselves. Short of ruining the experience of the event – the music, the set, the lighting – a lot could be achieved by sharing the thoughts of the creative director relevant to each piece as it comes out, especially if such insights could be personalised. Enter artificial intelligence. If Hermès is working with Apple and thus perhaps they’ve got Siri, then how about Tommy Hilfiger and Google Brain? Imagine a process of deep learning enabling the machine to understand what every audience member has bought, featured in their mag, mentioned on social media, reviewed positively or otherwise in the past. From there, it would be able to temper its commentary accordingly. By knowing the new season inside out too, it would be able to provide live intelligence to the viewer via in-ear headphones as the show takes place, helping them do their job better and enjoy the experience all the more as it goes.
Chanel’s robot plant
We’re used to elaborate and theatrical sets during fashion weeks – with everything from a supermarket to casino or airport terminal playing out at Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel in recent years. In a well-rounded view of future tech, and one step on from its data centre last season, the French fashion house will turn to robotics for it’s next endeavour. Imagine a robot plant ready to create the dystopian future of man versus machine we’re so used to seeing from Hollywood. Conveyor belts would circle around the floor churning out next generation robots created as lifelike as in film Ex Machina, but this time kitted out in next season Chanel of course. There’d be the Cara, the Kendall, the Baptiste… even the Karl. While this sort of humanoid artificial intelligence is somewhat of a controversial move (have you seen the end of that movie?), there’s a lot to be said for also having a robotic version of Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette. It doesn’t, after all, get more Instagram-worthy than that.
Happy New Year and welcome to 2017… may it be a fortuitous one for all of us; the industry at large included. On that note, here’s a wrap up of everything you might have missed over the holidays and this past week, from new tech at CES to lots of thoughts on what to expect in the market throughout this year.
Also worth checking out is an interview on sustainability with Kering’s François-Henri Pinault, a deep-dive on all things WeChat (seriously a must-read), and an exploration of the worker robots hitting Japan. If you haven’t seen it, don’t forget to also check out our list of the 8 tech trends that will shape fashion and luxury retail in 2017.
Google moves into augmented reality shopping with BMW and Gap [Bloomberg]
L’Oréal launches smart hairbrush at CES: a bargain at $189? [AdAge]
When the Burberry show walked out at London Fashion Week last night, absolutely everything was available to buy for the first time. The womenswear and menswear apparel, the accessories, even the make-up was shoppable. That’s a total of 83 looks, comprising over 250 pieces. They’re being sold through Burberry’s physical and digital retail network, shipping to over 100 countries.
This shift is what’s being called “see-now, buy-now”, a lengthy phrase for what is essentially the showing of current season stock over the traditional six month timelag.
As perhaps the brand making the biggest move in terms of sheer volume of stock already produced, it was a notable occasion that had to be geared around relevancy – showcasing things one not only wanted to buy, but actually wear right away as the weather starts to draw in. For those of us seeing the collection for the first time, it worked; offering an experience that enabled us to view it as though through the eyes of the excitable consumer (heavily aided by the live orchestra and incredible Makers House setup, which is open to the public for the rest of the week). Many of us, of course, then did become the consumer too.
For others, including long-lead press, it wasn’t of course their initial viewing having had access ahead of time to see the collection in its developmental stages. Many of them commented so during the evening – noting that in some instances they’d even already shot it. And there we have a little hint as to the future of what fashion week is going to look like – an elaborate showcase, a series of consumer events, a collection instantly available to buy, and a trade audience still willing to attend even if they’ve been privy to the line during its creation process beforehand.
If you’re Burberry that is…
Or perhaps if you’re Tom Ford too. Speaking ahead of his show in New York, he told Vogue: “It’s [all ready to go] at Bergdorf’s, it’s at Neiman’s. They’ve photographed it for their catalogs, they had to sign non-disclosure agreements, they couldn’t leak any pictures. So it’s done. It’s all over the world ready to go into our stores.”
Ralph Lauren, Rebecca Minkoff and Topshop Unique are all also playing with full collections available immediately, albeit largely through their own distribution channels (and in some cases, like Tom Ford, a handful of select retail partners).
The entire strategy raises concerns for many businesses otherwise – especially those who are significantly smaller, either without the budget for such extensive showcases, or heavily reliant on winning numerous wholesale partners, making the close-to-season launch less feasible. The outcome of the CFDA’s commissioned report with the Boston Consulting Group into all of this, essentially said every brand would need to look at their own situation differently and try to define where they sit within it accordingly.
Speaking at a pre-fashion week breakfast hosted by Fashion & Mash in partnership with Soho House, Clara Mercer, communications director for the British Fashion Council, largely agreed, suggesting that what we’ll see is varying strategies over the next few seasons before some kind of shape and order is pulled together to make everything clearer.
As Tom Ford said: “I don’t know if this will be sustainable. We’ll have to see. I’ll have to see how it works; see how our customers respond to it.”
Experimentation is what’s been evident throughout both New York and London so far, with many brands trying see-now, buy-now in different ways, several of them releasing just a handful of exclusive products for sale.
Take Tommy Hilfiger for instance. Hosting what was undoubtedly the most extravagant of shows during New York, complete with full-fledged carnival, it showcased a capsule collection designed in partnership with supermodel Gigi Hadid. In that instance, the Hilfiger brand is capitalising on a big name collaboration in order to shift not only this limited edition stock, but the significantly broader lines it has in place all around the world. It’s not so much about numerous wholesale partnerships for this particular collection therefore, but a broader marketing move.
Michael Kors meanwhile made around a dozen products available to purchase straight away, noting ahead of the show: “We’re finding that a hybrid blend is really what works for us.”
Then there’s Alexander Wang, who previously said he wouldn’t participate in see-now, buy-now, but instead surprised his audience by introducing a collaboration with adidas Originals live at the end of the show. Nine items from that 84-piece line were immediately available to purchase the next day via trucks across New York City, and following that in London and Tokyo. The rest goes on sale, as per usual, in spring 2017.
On a smaller scale, Temperley London sold just three pieces from her new collection – a printed dress, embellished jumpsuit and embroidered top. In doing so exclusively via social app Vero, she became one of the first brands to tie together the idea of see-now, buy-now as a fashion week strategy with the trend for social commerce. (Others including Burberry again are selling pieces immediately on channels like WeChat).
And then there’s Hugo Boss, which unveiled just a single bag, the Boss Bespoke Soft, in four colours for sale immediately after its New York show. This is much in line with what Prada did in February – jumping in to the see-now, buy-now world, but only via the delivery of two handbags. And that from one of the slowest brands to the e-commerce game, having literally only launched online via Net-a-Porter this July.
Katie Baron, head of retail, innovation and insights at Stylus, calls these variances in approach part of an understanding that a tiered system might be the outcome of such experimentation. Of note of course is the fact Burberry has long sold the odd item for immediate purchase or at least pre-order from its catwalk.
“The first wave of see-now, buy-now generated a major panic within the luxury sector because it was largely taken as read that it would force luxury businesses anchored in long lead-time, high craft to whip their collections into being at high speed, pulling them uncomfortably close to the mass market. What we’re now seeing is an understanding that see-now, buy-now needn’t be so all-encompassing, as shrewd brands release either selected, controllably limited edition pieces (see Prada) or spin-off collaborations tacked onto the main show (see Alexander Wang X adidas),” Baron explains.
“It’s effectively creating a kind of tiered system to satisfy both the need for instant gratification and possibly younger consumers looking for a way into an otherwise prohibitively expensive world. This notion of ‘tiering’ is only going to become more important as retail, overall, becomes less one-size-fits-all.”
At the other end of the scale therefore are also the brands that have changed tack entirely, opting to forego wholesale models in the main to rather sell direct-to-consumer in the right season, and thus do so at greater speed and flexibility – not to mention regularity.
In London, Matthew Williamson is one of them. Net-a-Porter remains its only retail partner, meaning that team see the line in advance, but for everyone else, it happens in real-time. The latest “Calypso” collection, for instance, went on sale just ahead of London Fashion Week this season, launching with a digital influencer event, coverage on Vogue Runway, and instant pushes to relevant e-commerce pages. For them, this is a no-brainer. Ask Rosanna Falconer, business director at the brand, as to why, and the answer is incredibly simple: consumers have never been happier.
With New York Fashion Week well and truly in full swing, the main conversation this past week (and weekend) has been around the whole see-now, buy-now collection strategy from various designers. Alongside that have been the way in which tools like Snapchat and Facebook Live are being used at the shows, as well as the introduction of street style shopping on Google thanks to a new partnership between the search giant and LiketoKnow.It.
Also hitting the headlines has been everything from Ted Baker’s new shoppable film produced by Guy Ritchie to the role music is playing over at Levi’s and a look into Amazon’s fashion ambitions. Don’t forget to check out our full list of upcoming events at the bottom too…