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3 ways streetwear is reinventing the product ‘drop’

The streetwear ‘drop’ model of drip-feeding products in order to generate a constant sense of newness is now a tried and tested one. But as luxury brands and retailers borrow from its success recipe, the big question is: is the hype bubble about to burst?

While many of streetwear’s forefathers now claim the once-niche movement is long-dead, brands are still finding different ways to capitalize on such an invested audience. Beyond product releases that draw crowds outside stores at major capitals, from New York to Tokyo, there is a new level of creativity being deployed in order to keep the momentum going.

Here, we highlight the most disruptive ways in which streetwear brands are continuing to achieve the same level of frenzy:

Reinventing the scavenger hunt
Fred Perry x Raf Simons

The traditional ‘drop’ strategy involved feeding the audience with specific release dates and locations, and waiting for the masses of eager streetwear fanatics to show up and queue. But as a system of resale and unfair buying behaviors began to develop, brands had to rethink their strategy.

By gamifying the drop experience, consumers feel a bigger sense of ownership and emotional response to the whole experience – in other words, by making them work for it, they value their purchases, and the brand, more.

At last year’s ComplexCon taking place in Long Beach, California, adidas was arguably the biggest sportswear presence with a number of activation booths throughout. But it took advantage of the larger-than-life venue by deploying giant cubes that hung from the ceiling and facilitated the purchase of limited edition shoes.

Through the ComplexCon app, it told Con-goers of the exact time a new model was about to drop. Users were then encouraged to stand under one of the cubes and scan to gain access to the e-commerce page and proceed to purchase. As a result, before the clock struck every few hours, one could see small crowds gathering under the cubes, hoping to be able to ‘cop’ the shoe before anyone else.

Fred Perry meanwhile, took it to the digital sphere to promote its latest collaboration with Belgian designer Raf Simons. It created a Google Streetview-like experience where, by visiting a virtual map of a suburban English town, users could navigate its empty streets to spot people wearing the latest collection. Once they found someone sporting the new look, they could click it to purchase, and be led to an e-commerce page.

Rewarding post-purchase
Converse’s Chuck Stop café

If digital channels have made it far too easy to get one’s hands on a limited edition item, then brands should also be focusing on the important post-purchase moment as an opportunity for creating longer-term bonds. In doing so, brands are creating a never-ending cycle of engagement, with a clear reward keeping fans coming back for more.

To promote Air Max Day, Nike’s yearly celebration of the Air Max shoe, the brand launched a virtual store where limited edition items could only be accessed if the consumer showed proof they had already purchased the latest model of the shoe in the first place. Logging in a purchase number generated Air Max ‘credits’ that were put into a virtual wallet, which then allowed access to items such as bottles, socks and stickers.

Meanwhile, when launching the latest iteration of its much-hyped collaboration with Off-White last October, Converse rewarded consumers with access to an exclusive experience at Selfridges in London. Any consumer wearing any item of Chuck Taylor clothing, and having bought the new shoes at sneaker retailer Offspring’s concession at the store, were given a Converse “coffee loyalty card”.

This granted them access to the Chuck Stop café, where they could enjoy a drink and a bagel, pick up freebies like tote bags and socks, and add their own graffiti to a wall.

Tapping into social
Nike x HQ Trivia’s limited edition kicks

Social media is arguably the most important driver of the popularity of streetwear – from enabling users to discover and covet new brands or products, as well as connecting labels to a larger community that keep their popularity going.

Ultimate rivals Nike and adidas are often the first ones to tap into new channels of engagement, in a constant battle for the top spot in positive consumer sentiment (and spending). Last year, amid the craze surrounding live gaming app HQ Trivia, Nike sponsored a live game that included access to exclusive shoes and a cash giveaway of $100,000. Previously, it had taken to Snapchat to pre-release Air Jordans at an NBA after-party in Los Angeles. Only guests on-site could scan Snapcodes to gain access to purchase.

Adidas has also played with Snapchat, and recently used Apple’s “AirDrop” functionality on the iPhone to gift attendees at Coachella Valley Music Festival with a new shoe collaboration with musician Donald Glover (also known as Childish Gambino).

Also leveraging social is NTWRK, a new social media platform by Aaron Levant, the former founder of Complexcon. Dubbed as the “HSN of streetwear” and with ambitions to become a full-on entertainment platform, the app works by broadcasting live bite-sized ‘shows’ that feature exclusive product drops. Users who wish to get their hands on product, which includes collabs with the likes of Levi’s and New Balance, need to log into the app at the exact time the show airs.

How are you thinking about retail and product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global 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.

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Campaigns technology

Tommy Hilfiger launches Instagram Stories templates ahead of fashion week show

Tommy Hilfiger is celebrating the launch of its collection with actress Zendaya, which is to be unveiled at Paris Fashion Week tomorrow, by encouraging social media followers to post branded Instagram Stories.

Ahead of the upcoming launch of the TommyXZendaya collaboration the label is partnering with app Unfold, which creates templates for Instagram Stories, on a series of 15 Tommy-branded templates that include prints and logos.

Upon using the Unfold app users can select the Tommy group of templates, and from then work on top of them by adding their own imagery and copy. Designs include variations of the Tommy Hilfiger logo, as well as colorful prints exclusive to the TommyXZendaya collection.

Templates will be available until March 12, while during the show tomorrow, Unfold will take over the brand’s Instagram Stories coverage.

Tommy Hilfiger’s fashion week presentations have become the brand’s platform of choice to test out new technologies that further invite its audience – whether watching the show in person or at home – into its universe. For example for its spring 2018 show in Milan, Formula 1-inspired TOMMYNOW DRIVE, attendees could scan QR codes to unlock more content on the collection and the manufacturing of a Mercedes racing car.

Last year the Current Global’s Innovators podcast spoke to Avery Baker, recently departed chief brand officer at Tommy Hilfiger, on the brand’s innovation strategy and how risk and authenticity play major roles in achieving it.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business Editor's pick Events product

ComplexCon: key takeaways from the streetwear mecca

Takashi Murakami at ComplexCon
Takashi Murakami at ComplexCon 2018

Now in its third year, Complexcon, a consumer-focused event targeting streetwear fanatics, took place to much expected hype last weekend in Long Beach, California.

The event, which is a spin-off of media company Complex, focused on feeding its Gen Z and Millennial community through a series of retail experiences, activations and panel discussions. Here we highlight the key takeaways of the weekend:

Retail frenzy

An adidas cube at ComplexCon
An adidas cube at ComplexCon 2018

For the consumer, the biggest goal of the two-day event was to shop, plain and simple. But for an audience that is prone to forming lines outside of stores for days before a drop, brands had to think creatively on how to create shopping experiences that blended that thrill of the chase with physical and digital tools.

Adidas was arguably the biggest name on the floor, hosting two experiences – one which involved a physical booth and another which took visitors on a wild goose chase for physical cubes that unlocked a new sneaker drop every hour. These gigantic cubes were seen throughout the venue, and on the hour, the user had to stand under the cube to scan it using the Complexcon app to unlock the ability to shop for the specific style. Unsurprisingly, Adidas fanatics were seen standing under the cube for hours before their preferred drop would take place.

Gradual product drops kept the customer engaged and most importantly, wanting to attend both days of the Con for fear of missing out. Reebok’s booth featured perspex cubes filled with fog, while timers underneath each individual plinth counted down the hours until the content inside the cube (a sneaker) was revealed.

The festival also teamed up with Frenzy, a location-based drop app, to allow consumers to shop for exclusive collabs through their phones while at the venue. The fulfilment of that experience left room for improvement, however, as shoppers could only pick up their goods four hours after purchase, a wait which for many stretched to 24 hours.

Experiential moments

HBO's The Shop
HBO’s The Shop at ComplexCon 2018

In such a noisy environment of endless queues and product drops, independent brands worked hard to stand out with booths that encouraged discovery and social sharing. Cult streetwear label Lotas, for example, chose to spend its budget not on an attractive booth, but by casting a group of The Sopranos lookalikes to play poker throughout, creating an unusual opportunity for visitors to snap and share.

The Pangaia, a global collective investigating the future of sustainable clothing, showcased its inaugural collection among a floor of empty plastic bottles, encouraging visitors to dispose of the same as they walked past. On Sunday, the collective also co-hosted a beach clean-up nearby with the support of ComplexCon.

Meanwhile beyond fashion, brands across food, automotive and media were on hand to talk about the bigger lifestyle that this community is a part of. Cadillac created a booth that showcased one of its models amid a digital jungle of screens and a photo backdrop; similar to SXSW, HBO recreated the classic barbershop experience to promote the launch of LeBron James’s new unscripted series, The Shop, featuring free haircuts and sneaker cleaning; and to promote the release of Creed II, guests could join in a VR experience, as well as watch boxing matches taking place in a life-sized ring.

Finally, McDonald’s quickly became a fan favorite as it hosted a customization station with special guests and, most importantly, free hamburgers for all.

Practical conversations

Issa Rae at ComplexCon 2018
Issa Rae at ComplexCon 2018

Conversations on the floor flip-flopped between who ‘copped’ the latest drop and what new endeavor someone may have been working on, from promoting their new podcast to monetizing their photography work. As a result, ComplexCon worked hard to promote conversations that had an underlying entrepreneurial spirit and was particularly relevant to the younger generation that is multifaceted in their goals.

“How to make it in America”, saw entrepreneur and social media star Gary Vaynerchuk talking about how to avoid the pitfalls and be part of the small percentage that does succeed in the country. Meanwhile actresses Issa Rae and Yara Shahidi, joined a conversation on females in media and how to overcome hurdles and balance public and personal life. And Louis Vuitton and Off White designer, Virgil Abloh, brought on stage three designers he believes are the next generation of fashion.

The spirit of giving visitors the tools to succeed and thrive also permeated throughout the festival booths. Entrepreneur Karen Civil was on hand at the Simple Mobile stand to offer one-to-one career advice, while the festival’s creative director, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, worked with six relatively unknown footwear designers to reimagine his artwork on limited edition sneakers, which were being auctioned off on eBay.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Editor's pick

ComplexCon: Virgil Abloh on community and taste

Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh

“I believe that collectively we’re all the next generation of designers”, said Virgil Abloh at this year’s ComplexCon festival, which took place in Long Beach, California, this past weekend.

Abloh was leading a conversation with a group of young streetwear designers including Bstroy, Ev Bravado and Rhuigi from Rhude, handpicked by the Off White and Louis Vuitton creative director for their strides in making culture a part of the fashion discourse.

The conversation consisted of a mix of insights and industry advice for the many streetwear fanatics and bushy-eyed entrepreneurs in the audience. The biggest topics, however, revolved around how to foster a community and remain authentic to taste:

It takes a village

Early in the conversation Abloh brought to stage long-time collaborator Tremaine Emory, and emphasized the importance of acknowledging the teamwork that makes or breaks a brand. Every creative needs someone who likes an Excel spreadsheet, he said, referencing the relationship between Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy. “We’re all in one community,” he added, urging for designers to put an end to individuality.

It is often easy for those on the outside looking in to idolize the figure who sits at the top, but streetwear in particular thrives on creatives collaborating and lifting each other up, summarized the panel. Prior to securing the top spot at Louis Vuitton menswear and spearheading his own brand, Abloh worked with Kanye West on many of his creative endeavours, from fashion to an award-winning album with Jay Z.

There also seems to be little emphasis on where the designer came from, Abloh said. “It has become ‘cool’ to pretend like you don’t have parents. It’s become part of the culture to pretend you’re brand new.”

A matter of taste

The designers on the panel hailed from Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta, and spoke about how they balance what fashion expects of them, and what truly inspires them.

“On one hand [taste level] is great, but something from our community growing up that we thought wasn’t the highest taste is equally important,” said Abloh. Emory compared it to Picasso being inspired by African art but the latter not receiving the same esteem. “As young people we have to discard the old ways and see the beauty in everything and push it forward,” he explained.

Elevating every day objects or brands is key to this new generation of brands and designers, who appropriate and remix aesthetics that were once considered mundane or uncool. It is the irony itself that makes it all so appealing, as seen by the overnight success of Vetements and its collaborations with the likes of DHL and Eastpack. For Abloh, his Off White label has become known for surfacing brands that were not previously linked to pop culture, such as Ikea and Rimowa.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Campaigns Editor's pick

ComplexCon: Tommy Hilfiger on aligning with the cultural conversation since the 1990s

Tommy Hlifiger and Gigi Hadid
Tommy Hilfiger and Gigi Hadid

Tommy Hilfiger has always had culture and music at the forefront of how it communicates with consumers, said its namesake designer at ComplexCon this weekend.

The designer was headlining a conversation at the consumer-facing event held in Long Beach, California, alongside Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton and 90s rapper Grand Puba. He used the opportunity to explain that incorporating artists and celebrities who are at the peak of the cultural conversation is core to the brand’s strategy, as seen by the highly popular collaboration with model Gigi Hadid, as well as racing driver Hamilton and Gen Z actress Zendaya (upcoming).

“Doing collabs is really part of the excitement I look forward to every day,” Hilfiger noted. But he believes that in order for them to remain authentic, the brand should only guide and execute their artist’s ideas. This is something he has always focused on.

Aaliyah for Tommy Hlfiger
Aaliyah for Tommy Hlfiger

Although the American brand is soon to be celebrating its 35th anniversary, it was the mid 90s and its popularity among hip hop artists that truly propelled it onto the world stage, Hilfiger explained. Pushing a contemporary aesthetic with an urban New York style of big logos and baggy clothes made the brand stand out among other American names that were expanding at the same time.

Grand Puba first referenced the then mid-sized brand in a 1992 single with Mary J Blige, titled “What’s the 411”. This soon caught Hilfiger’s attention, who started dressing more artists and eventually included singer Aaliyah in a 1995 campaign. From then, the brand featured hip hop and R&B performances on its runways, which Hilfiger cites as the beginning of its entertainment-based fashion shows.

The most recent iteration of this approach lies in the brand’s see-now-buy-now strategy, which has seen elaborate fashion shows taking place for the last several seasons in different locations – from Los Angeles to London, Milan and Shanghai, with the aforementioned current celebrities fronting each occasion.

“We believe consumers want immediate gratification and great experiences,” Hilfiger explained. “My idea is to disrupt and continue to break the rules.”

Earlier this year, Tommy Hilfiger’s chief brand officer, Avery Baker, joined us on the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent, to talk about how risk, authenticity and understanding your consumer are the keys to innovation.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns Editor's pick product

Diesel teams up with cult Berlin kebab shop for latest collab

Diesel x Mustafa
Diesel x Mustafa

Diesel has teamed up with cult Berlin-based kebab kiosk, Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap, for a limited edition collection drop.

The line launched last weekend at Zalando’s customer-facing trade show, Bread & Butter, a model aiming to emulate the success of ComplexCon in the US by hosting immersive customer experiences, exclusive drops and live music. At the event, Mustafa himself was also serving his popular kebab creations.

In line with the Italian brand’s satirical approach to fashion, Diesel is hoping to challenge what is expected of typical collaborations with this launch – where one brand piggybacks on another’s ‘cool’ factor through limited edition clothing that targets the trend-driven demographic. It also serves as commentary on how collab-obsessed the younger generation (and subsequently, brands who wish to target such customer) have become.

The Diesel x Mustafa collaboration includes jumpers, t-shirts and hats, and will also be available for sale on diesel.com and at selected Diesel stores worldwide.

Diesel’s latest initiative follows on from previous marketing activity that serves to reinforce the brand’s commitment to celebrating the unusual, and doing so with a sense of humor.

In January this year, it launched its “Keep the World Flawed” campaign, which included a video with digital Easter eggs in which everything was just slightly off; in February, it launched a “Deisel” pop-up store at NYC’s Chinatown neighborhood, selling ‘fake’ versions of its designs; and most recently in May, it launched the prototype for the world’s most uncomfortable meeting room, aiming to keep meetings as short and efficient as possible, while making fun of the fact they are often unnecessary.

Earlier this year, TheCurrent also featured Stefano Rosso, Diesel’s CEO of North America, on TheCurrent Innovators podcast, where he talked about the idea of challenging conformity.

Diesel x Mustafa
Diesel x Mustafa

Are you thinking innovatively enough about your brand messaging and collaborations? 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.