business Editor's pick Uncategorized

H&M forgoes fashion week for three-day immersive theater format

H&M is set to introduce its SS19 Studio collection on a three-day trip to the desert in Sedona, Arizona, forgoing its yearly Paris Fashion Week show. The collection, launching on March 11, will be unfolded in front of key influencers and members of the global press through a series of immersive events taking place during the trip, casting guests as active participants. 

“H&M has always been an innovation-led company and we are proud to launch the H&M Studio SS19 collection, with this new format,” said Kattis Barhke, H&M’s head of creative marketing and communication. “We hope that our guests will have a unique experience, partaking in the immersive theatre set-up and narrative we have devised, and that our customers will in turn be able to see the new collection, which combines practical utility pieces with glamorous after-dark options, in a context of wanderlust.”

The Swedish brand worked alongside London-based creativity agency Sunshine, creative and production agency PRODJECT and creative consultant Connie Harrison to develop the experience.

“Many fashion brands are moving towards creating fashion shows that are more experiential, but this is the first time a brand has fully embraced theater and invited guests to come along with them,” adds Keith Baptista, co-founder and managing director at PRODJECT. “We have devised a fictional narrative with multiple layers, so that participants can engage with the story on either a basic or much deeper level. Above all, we want to celebrate the spirituality, beauty and sense of exploration connected with Sedona, Arizona with an event that is truly unique.”

H&M’s move further questions the once-unanimous importance of the official fashion week calendar, which has been losing strength year after year as brands release collections beyond the traditional bi-seasonal model and consumers become more accustomed with see-now-buy-now. Tommy Hilfiger is another great example of a brand that is launching its collections by creating unique moments beyond the noise of fashion week. So far, its TOMMY NOW catwalk experience has traveled to New York, Los Angeles, London, Milan and Shanghai.

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.


Ba&sh’s new NY store offers free clothing rentals

Ba&sh in New York City

French label Ba&sh’s new store in New York allows shoppers to borrow the brand’s clothes at no cost, as long as they are returned after the weekend.

The 1,700-square-foot space, located in Soho, aims to act as a “dream closet” and position the brand as a friend the customer can borrow clothes from whenever they have a special event. Customers borrowing clothes can only do so every Friday between 5-7pm, and they must be returned by Monday at 7pm.

The opening is part of a bigger expansion strategy from the company in the North American market, as well as a customer engagement push that includes a series of permanent in-store activities.

“It’s an experiential store, the first one designed to thoughtfully elevate the existing experience to a new level. The store was a natural evolution. Our brand has always been rooted in special relationships,” said global CEO, Pierre-Arnaud Grenade, to WWD.

The brand, which currently operates 200 stores globally but only five in the US, hopes the new space also works for customer awareness and acquisition – by making clothes available to rent free of charge, it allows customers to discover the brand more easily. For this launch, a pop-up area will promote other French brands who have no US presence, such as jewelry label Atelier Paulin and luxury candlemaker Baobab.

The space will also offer a series of events that encourage customers to bring a friend, such as monthly supper clubs, weekly French lessons (of which 75% of the cost is subsidized by the brand), weekly complimentary French breakfast and a children’s play area so customers can shop in peace.

As part of the strategy, the brand’s e-commerce team has also relocated to the city. Currently, 20% of the brand’s US sales are completed online, which is higher than the rest of the world.

The moves comes as consumers increasingly look to the notion of the sharing economy – borrowing or renting items rather than having ownership of them. It’s through this that businesses including Rent the Runway have grown in relevancy in today’s market. One  fifth of millennials reportedly now say they would consider renting clothing, according to Hammerson and Verdict.

How are you thinking about retail 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.

Editor's pick Retail

Maybelline unveils branded concept space at NYC’s Color Factory

Color Factory in NYC
Color Factory in NYC

Maybelline is launching an immersive experience at NYC’s Color Factory that will invite fans to play and share. The space will feature a dance floor, bar, photo booth and glitter wall, all while promoting existing and exclusive products.

“We want to have true consumer-facing experiences [as we continue to evolve Maybelline],” said Amy Whang, senior vice president of marketing at Maybelline in the US. “The younger consumer today is looking beyond just the regular shopping experience. Basically, we want to show that we’re not just an old heritage brand of drugstore makeup, and that we can provide them with high-performance products that are on-trend.”

For this experiential push, Maybelline is focusing on promoting the Super Stay Matte Ink liquid lipstick, which is a key product category for the brand. However over the course of the nine months that the installation will take place, the cosmetics brand intends on launching exclusive products tied to the experience.

In September, Maybelline will also open the Maybelline House pop-up during New York Fashion Week, a consumer-facing space that will host master classes and also welcome editors and influencers.

Color Factory in NYC is an offshoot of the original SF-based outpost that opened in 2017 as a month-long celebration of colour and creativity. For this outpost, 16 artists will also be exhibiting their work, while LA-based kidswear brand Gymboree, a brand who following bankruptcy has recently undergone a revamp, will also be hosting their own room.

Retail with an element of escapism and play has gained traction among experience-hungry consumers. Interactive pop-up spaces have become a successful tool to not only increase brand awareness, but drive exclusivity around its products, which are often tied to that specific time and place. For instance in June, Coach hosted a self-discovery fairground experience, also in the American city.

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.

e-commerce Editor's pick mobile Retail technology

Zara launches tech-enabled pop-up ahead of new London flagship

Zara's new tech-enabled pop-up store
Zara’s new tech-enabled pop-up store

Zara is launching a tech-enabled pop-up store in London designed for click and collect purchases ahead of a new permanent flagship space.

The Westfield Stratford City pop-up, opening today, offers a small edit of men’s and women’s clothing that shoppers can purchase online while there in person. Doing so enables delivery same day if placed before 2pm, or the next day if placed in the afternoon. They can also access the full catalogue of the collections to choose from online.

Staff are on hand to assist with mobile devices, while an easy payment system operated by Bluetooth is also aiming to facilitate a frictionless experience. Meanwhile, a product recommendation system based on RFID technology means customers are able to use mirrors to scan items to get more information about them, as well as see other suggested coordinating pieces.

The pop-up will be open until May while the retailer’s flagship is refurbished and seriously upgraded. The new space to follow will then be 48,000 sq ft and similarly focus on placing technology at its heart.

Zara's new flagship due to open in May
Zara’s new flagship due to open in May

It will feature four sections: women’s, men’s, kid’s and click and collect. The latter will see automated collection points where an optical barcode reader can scan QR codes or PINs received by customers. Orders are then delivered to a mailbox manned by a robot behind-the-scenes for customers to then collect items at their convenience. The robot has the capacity to handle 2,400 packages simultaneously.

Further tech features include mobile payments either through the Zara app or the Inditex group app, InWallet, and a self-checkout area that sits alongside the regular associate-serviced desks.

Meanwhile, the two-storey store will feature sensors on the top floor that project images on the windows when shoppers approach them.

Pablo Isla, the chairman and CEO of parent company Inditex, said: “[Both stores] mark another milestone in our strategy of integrating our stores with the online world, which defines our identity as a business.”

The move comes after Inditex rolled out in-store mobile payments through all its stores in Spain, and the trial of interactive fitting rooms and self-service checkouts in Spain, Germany and the US in 2016.

business data digital snippets e-commerce film social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: Browns’ new tech store, Gucci’s millennial advisors, Amazon’s fashion gap

The new Browns concept store in east London
The new Browns concept store in east London

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past fortnight.

  • Browns opens a nomadic concept (tech) store in London’s Shoreditch [Wallpaper]
  • Gucci has a “shadow committee” of millennial advisors [QZ]
  • Amazon ‘still has a long way to go’ in conquering fashion market, says report [BoF]
  • Alibaba’s 11.11 shopping festival is ready for its biggest global event [BrandChannel]
  • Opinion: What’s wrong with fashion’s sustainability strategy [Glossy]
  • ‘Terry Richardson is just the tip of the iceberg’ [NY Times]

  • Hilfiger says making clothes in America remains unrealistic [Bloomberg]
  • H&M denies burning good, unsold product [Racked]
  • Greenpeace on why fashion is at a crossroads [FashionUnited]
  • Vogue and Vice are starting a new website together [Jezebel]

  • You can now PayPal friends in Messenger and get help via chat [TechCrunch]
  • WeChat is becoming a sales tool for luxury brand sales associates [Jing Daily]
  • Snap’s misfire on Spectacles [The Information]

  • Sephora cast its own store employees for its most diverse campaign yet [Racked]
  • Selena Gomez is party-ready in Coach’s glitzy holiday ad campaign [Fashionista]
  • Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter unveil “Party with the Porters” holiday campaign [TheIndustry]
  • The land of Fenty: The Rihanna masterclass in brand-building [BrandChannel]
  • Why visceral storytelling is the next brand-building territory [LeanLuxe]

  • Take a look at Apple’s first ‘Town Square,’ its most beautiful retail store yet [TechCrunch]
  • Now Amazon wants to leave a package inside your house [Marketplace]
  • The most successful e-commerce brands build for mainstream America, not Silicon Valley [Recode]
  • Hudson’s Bay to sell Lord & Taylor Fifth Avenue store to WeWork [RetailDive]

  • rolls out augmented reality experience for smartphones [StarTribune]
  • The Under Armour ArmourBox: Subscription gear handpicked by an AI [BrandChannel]
  • Walmart’s Store No. 8 showcases the future of VR [RetailDive]
  • Nike’s focus on robotics threatens Asia’s low-cost workforce [CNBC]
  • Wal-Mart’s new robots scan shelves to restock items faster [Reuters]

  • How Stitch Fix’s data-driven styling could boost its IPO value [Bloomberg]
  • Harvey Nichols partners with Bink on “Payment Linked Loyalty” [TheIndustry]
e-commerce Editor's pick mobile technology

Sephora opens smallest and most digitally enabled store yet

Sephora Studio
Sephora Studio

Beauty retailer Sephora has opened a new store in Boston that not only serves as its smallest footprint yet, but also its most digitally enabled space.

Sephora Studio, as it’s called, is a 2,000 square foot concept store focused on artistry and skincare. Its intimate format, which is about half the size of a usual Sephora store, largely aims to raise the bar for personalised client services.

“In today’s retail environment where very little is constant and clients’ expectations are ever-evolving, one thing has remained true for Sephora: there is no better way to create meaningful connections with clients than through personalised experiences and a customised approach to beauty. We could not be more focused on that notion than we are with the opening of Sephora Studio,” said Calvin McDonald, president and CEO of Sephora Americas.

“The Studio merges the best of an inclusive neighbourhood retail environment with best-in-class digital tools that enable our expert beauty advisors to customise recommendations on an individual basis.”

Sephora Studio
Sephora Studio

At the heart of that are iPhone 7 devices for all of the advisors set up in a way so as to service shoppers with product information and reviews, appointment check-ins, looking up their loyalty or “Beauty Insider” status, enabling point of sale rather than queuing up at the till, and more.

Each phone also has a number of existing Sephora apps installed, including the Digital Makeover Guide, which is an interactive face chart that records the customised product and application tips received for the user to then take home, and a Digital Skincare Guide, which sends a personalised skincare regime to them following consultations.

There are also further screens throughout the store to provide navigation and self-help information for shoppers, as well as to virtually try on products using augmented reality, and make their own reservations and appointments for individual treatments and for the Studio’s group classes.

Clients can also make use of two omnichannel product delivery options, including “order in store” and “same day pick up”, which either enables them to order online and have items delivered home, or pick them up at the nearby Prudential Center store.

Sephora Studio
Sephora Studio

Events product technology

Designers imagine the future of performance-wear with 2040 sport event at Arizona State University

Running man polygonal

Arizona State University will be hosting the fifth annual edition of its Emerge festival tomorrow – an occasion that will bring together the minds of artists, scientists, storytellers, engineers, dancers, roboticists, ethicists and athletes, in creating an imagined future.

Designed to cater to a crowd of innovators and forward thinkers, the focus this year is on “The Future of Sport 2040”. The carnival atmosphere will allow for a wholly interactive experience from advanced robotics demonstrations to group TED talks with influencers from an array of industries.

Topics will include the future of cheating, the future of big data, super-cyborgs and athletes in outer space. The future of performance-wear will also play a major role, with a runway set up in the Wells Fargo Arena to convey the work of 10 designers. Concept pieces created especially for the occasion will be on show, presenting the impact of future technologies through explanations by an emcee in place of such functionality yet being possible. Once the looks have been modelled, they will take to a podium for further observation and designer Q&A.

Arizona designer Angela Johnson and Project Runway participant Emily Payne were both involved. As the owner of LabelHorde – a hub for manufacturing, design services, co-working, education and more – Johnson took the helm on rounding up designers to participate.

Angela Johnson's Future of Sport 2040 look
Angela Johnson’s Future of Sport 2040 look

She also created her own look, a piece she refers to as multi-purpose with a sleek form accompanied by breathable panels. “The technology involved is in the fibre, in that the fabric acts like a video screen. The fabric will show video of the athlete’s name, number, team logo, sponsor logo, etc,” she explains. Typically an eveningwear designer, she describes the best part of participating in the event as “pushing [herself] to think outside of [her] usual box”.

Designer Miqala Salinas meanwhile, constructed football (soccer) uniforms that include pulse-controlled heart monitors and dual temperature controls. Cristy Auble – who is otherwise a fashion merchandising teacher in Arizona – designed cheerleading outfits that are completely flexible, breathable and waterproof. She did so incorporating present day Gore-Tex or PUL fabrics, which she believes to be impressively futuristic. “This fabric is so lightweight, I can’t believe it would be as warm as my heavy wool letterman’s jacket,” she says.

Anya Melkozernova by comparison fabricated her outfit on a truly futuristic concept: “In the year 2040, humans have made it to Jupiter and have employed its magnetic surface for an obstacle course game designed to use magnets to aid the athlete through the challenges. The player will be wearing a magnet plated suit, a space helmet with oxygen supply and LED light-up shoes for the underwater parts of the course,” she explains.

Sketches of Future of Sport 2040 looks
Sketches of Sharane Dorrah, Anya Melkozernova and Miqala Salinas’ Future of Sport 2040 looks

Some designers borrowed from personal experience in coming to future solutions. Sharane Dorrah for instance designed a sleek hooded jacket in direct response to her personal battle with Lyme Disease in 2011, incorporating insect repellent into the fabric.

And industrial design grad student Jacob Sarradet, recalled his time running cross-country and track and field in high school: “I’d feel the pain in my body and wonder what it was. Was it a result of pushing myself or was something wrong?” He devised a wristband that would monitor oxygen levels in order to track the level of performance to answer some of those questions for athletes. Coming from a non-fashion background, he’s left the aesthetics of his piece up to others. A basic LED screen will be customisable, with the true styling of the garment available for download from any number of online retailers.

Joel Garreau, founding chief of imagineering and provocations at the Emerge festival, says: “[The aim] is to invent futures in which we can thrive. Not the ones we fear, but the ones we can love.”

If you happen to be in Phoenix this Friday, step into the future from 5pm to 10pm at Emerge 2016: The Future of Sport 2040.

product technology

This collection is based on 3D-printed textiles resembling traditional fabrics


While 3D printing isn’t a complete stranger to the fashion week catwalk, it’s usually in a conceptual, sculptural form, rather than anything we’d yet consider too wearable. Increasingly however, that technology is getting more sophisticated, and as it does, items more suited to everyday wardrobes are slowly beginning to emerge.

Step aside Iris van Herpen then, and enter The University of Hertfordshire in the UK, which has announced a collection of 3D-printed garments that it says are both wearable and highly customisable.

Modeclix as the line is called, is made from “printed” textiles that are flexible enough they resemble traditional fabrics, and indeed are then assembled in traditional ways – dyed, weaved, stitched and knitted.

The concept collection features eight dresses and two headpieces, and was created by Dr Shaun Borstrock, associate dean and head of the Digital Hack Lab at the university, in collaboration with renowned 3D specialist and designer Mark Bloomfield of Electrobloom.

“We have strived to create stylish 3D printed garments that have sufficient movement to ensure they are fluid, eye-catching and comfortable to wear. These prototypes are made, dyed and finished by hand and our aim now is to produce them for a wider market,” says Borstrock. “It will only be a matter of time before we see 3D collections on the high street and 3D printing technology in stores as part of everyday life. We’re pleased to be part of the movement that is exploring how this might become a reality.”

Bloomfield added: “I’ve spent the last 25 years exploring how technology and 3D printing can enhance production techniques for jewellery and accessories, and this has been a fantastic opportunity to take this research even further. There is a huge amount of potential to develop complex construction techniques that defy traditional pattern cutting and create garments that are multi-functional, customisable and wearable.”

The collection will premier on April 21, 2016 at the Mercedes-Benz Bokeh South Africa International Fashion Film Festival. It will then be available to view online from May 1 on the Modeclix website. It will also be available to view in store from May 23 at Electrobloom in London.

Check out the making-of video below:

Blocks e-commerce Editor's pick technology

Virtual reality for retail gets airtime at #CannesLions

TheApartment_VR_Experience_2_TheApartment - FM

Virtual reality is heavily integrated in the gaming space, but progressively finding avenues into other industries too. Travel is an obvious one, and increasingly, so is retail.

It’s on that basis Sapient Nitro is using the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity as an opportunity to debut its new VR experience designed specifically for shopping. Created as a retail prototype, it’s an immersive piece of content that takes the user on a virtual journey to The Apartment by The Line store, in New York’s Soho (as pictured above).

Wearing a Samsung Gear VR headset with a smartphone attached to the front of it, users can explore the store, focusing in on overlaid diamond shapes in order to activate new pieces of content; like access to another area of the space or to more information about items shown.

Chris Szadkowski, creative director at SapientNitro, said the aim was to demonstrate the possibilities around shopping fashion or lifestyle products through a VR experience. “We’re putting [the items] into the context of how people want to see them. You can appreciate how the clothes fit on regular people, how they look in the room, and how they fall in the light,” he explained.

The virtual pop-up shop even lets users tap on the side of the headset to buy. It stores all the items in a basket ready for checkout once they’ve finished exploring. It’s in there they can add in detail like sizing or colour if necessary too; though the system is also set up to know your personal specifications from the beginning.

In spite of that functionality, the experience is actually a relatively laid-back one. There’s the option to slowly peruse the store, to hear details about what’s on show thanks to headphones you wear over the top, and to meander through different rooms. This isn’t aimed at the on-the-go shopper, but perhaps those after a more luxurious affair.

Szadkowski says the intention was to focus primarily on storytelling, even though a full end-to-end solution, and a drive towards transaction is equally at the heart of it. “Virtual reality is the only piece of tech out there that puts your consumer at the centre of the story. That’s the most exciting part of it. Now they can interact and be a part of a story rather than just watch it.”


Adrian Slobin, global innovation lead at SapientNitro, said the future isn’t going to be about who owns a VR headset, but who you can convince to put one on again. “Brands will need to create stories to get consumers to keep coming back,” he commented.

He imagines retail uptake will begin initially in physical stores – with kiosks or installations created for shoppers to enjoy the new experiences. It makes sense for luxury, he suggested, with reference to a similar initiative Dior has recently launched related to its catwalk show, but also for big box retailers like Target or Home Depot who have informational content that will be relevant to the user.

It’s a clear consumer engagement tool, and one that is swiftly on its way to being seen as more than a gimmick, he insisted. He referred to VR as similarly revolutionary as Netscape in 1995. “A lot of sceptics back then questioned whether they really needed a website. Needless to say those who didn’t do it are the ones who ended up out of business.”

But he admitted there will be mistakes, of course. “This is a conversation starter at this point. It’s nascent. No one knows yet exactly what’s going to work, but this shows one set of possibilities.”

Meanwhile, Google Cardboard, a VR headset made out of – you guessed it – cardboard, took home the mobile Grand Prix at Cannes Lions earlier this week, honoured for the fact it’s an enabler for such technology to easily reach consumers. In doing so it helped prove that VR is gaining attention as the next frontier in content creation at a week dedicated to new creative pursuits.

A number of further VR experiences are set to follow at the festival when the Lions Innovation days – an off-shoot from the main festival dedicated to data, technology and creativity – start on Thursday.

This post first appeared on, where you can also see my full coverage of the Cannes Lions festival.

e-commerce social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: Breaking up with the Apple Watch, NY or London as fashion-tech capital, Ted Baker opens virtual store

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…


  • Vanessa Friedman: Why I’m breaking up with the Apple Watch [NY Times]
  • New York vs London: which is the world’s fashion-tech capital? [BoF]
  • Ted Baker experiments with virtual reality as digital concept store opens in Shoreditch [The Drum]
  • Net-A-Porter moves into profit after a year of digital innovation [Internet Retailing]
  • Bonobos profiting from surge in online menswear sales [The Street]
  • Avon Ladies learn to tweet, embrace e-commerce [Digiday]
  • Knyttan, a customisable knitwear start-up, gets investors’ seal of approval [Fashionista]
  • Why Amazon’s drone delivery is growing trickier [CNBC]
  • 3-D printing will fix the way we order shoe sizes [PSFK]
  • This high-tech hijab will literally make Muslim women cooler [BuzzFeed]
  • Why ‘buy’ buttons will pose big Challenges for Google, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter [re/code]
  • Real-time strategies essential element of retail rehaul: report [Luxury Daily]
  • ShopStyle banks on bloggers, relaunches influencer network [WWD]
  • How a mole in the tech sector is helping shape the look of ‘Silicon Valley’s’ women [LA Times]