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business Podcast product Retail

Thom Browne: Choosing authenticity over hype

A brand’s success depends on authentic relationships and good design over hype, says Rodrigo Bazan, CEO of designer label Thom Browne, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

“I tend to like less anything based on hype or cool, or the hot thing of the moment, because by definition that’s going to cool down at some point. So I still believe that the big things that are happening are led by a very, very strong design idea,” he explains.

It’s for the same reason that dressing rapper Cardi B for this year’s Met Gala in a larger-than-life ruby ballgown made sense for the luxury label, he notes. 

The Thom Browne team does little PR and has no internal VIP team, meaning the relationship with Cardi, as well as sports superstars like basketballer LeBron James, happen organically.

Since launching in 2004, the brand has gained a loyal audience that appreciates its modern take on classic silhouettes. The designer’s discrete nature (he himself is not on social media) and timeless designs mean it has managed to stand out in a world of overconsumption and celebrity designers that rule social media, from Virgil Abloh at Off White and Louis Vuitton to Olivier Rousteing at Balmain. 

Bazan explains how the brand is averse to overexposure and flashiness, instead focusing on creating more of these meaningful partnerships, from dressing Barcelona FC players off the field to creating bespoke tailoring with Barneys. As a result, it is steadily growing a business aiming to survive the influencer fatigue that is starting to pick up speed. 

Join us to learn more from Bazan about what that means in practice, including how music and celebrity help fuel its success, why the brand believes in sportswear over streetwear, and just how its thinking about the balance of data and design today.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, 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. 

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business social media sustainability

Binge shopping leads to emotional hangovers for consumers, Greenpeace study shows

The excitement of shopping doesn't last too long according to a new study by Greenpeace
The excitement of shopping doesn’t last too long, according to a new study by Greenpeace

Compulsive shopping isn’t only bad for the planet, it’s also not making consumers in Europe and Asia very happy, according to a new report from Greenpeace, released ahead of this week’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit.

The environmental organisation’s study shows fashion shoppers regularly overspend on new clothes, with the excitement of doing so often turning into guilt after less than a day.

In all the countries surveyed (including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Italy and Germany), most consumers admitted to owning more clothes than they needed, with many of them having multiple items in their wardrobes that have never been worn.

Some consumers are more affected than others – 41% of all Chinese consumers are found to be excessive or compulsive shoppers for instance, with 59% of them saying they can’t stop themselves making impulse buys even though they realise they are buying too much. A quarter of respondents in Germany, a third in Italy, 42% in Hong Kong and a staggering 46% in China admit that they often buy more clothes than they can afford.

While the average consumer buys clothes around once or twice a month, the excessive shopper rarely goes more than a week without purchasing something new. In China again, 31% said they feel empty, bored or lost when not shopping, and in Hong Kong and Taiwan, 50% of consumers revealed they sometimes hide or conceal their purchases from others out of fear of negative reactions.

Unsurprisingly, one of the big triggers is social media, with platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook or WeChat in China, driving shopping mania, especially among young digitally connected consumers. Other influencing factors include celebrity endorsements, peer pressure and sales promotions.


That insight comes off the back of a study last year from McKinsey & Company, which showed that annual clothing production exceeded 100 billion for the first time in 2014. It also highlighted that consumers now keep clothing items for about half as long as they did 15 years ago, and that nearly three-fifths of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being made.

The Greenpeace research further highlights that the majority of shoppers – ranging from 65% in Germany and Italy to 48% in China – think the excitement of buying fashion wears off after a day or less, while a third say they feel even emptier once it does so.

“Our surveys show that binge shopping is followed by an emotional hangover – made of emptiness, guilt and shame. People start to realise they are trapped in an unsatisfying cycle of cheap, disposable fashion trends and that their overconsumption does not lead to lasting happiness. This should serve as a warning to companies and advertisers that promote the current fast fashion model. Fast fashion clothing brands should radically change their business model by shifting focus away from high volume production towards quality and durability,” said Kirsten Brodde, project lead of the Detox my Fashion campaign at Greenpeace.

The campaign has committed 79 global textile brands and suppliers to ban hazardous chemicals from their supply chains by 2020. In order to protect the planet further, it is also calling for a change in the way we consume clothing.

“In today’s broken fashion system, companies spend billions of ad dollars to sell us false dreams of happiness, beauty and connection tied to shopping products. But we would be much happier if fashion labels provided clothes that are high quality, durable companions for life, and offered support for customers to care, share and repair our clothes. We and the planet deserve nothing less,” Brodde added.

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business data e-commerce Editor's pick mobile social media

10 things fashion retailers need to know from Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends report

Internet Trends Mary Meeker
Mary Meeker delivering her 2016 Internet Trends report

If there’s one place to get a good overview of shifting digital consumption habits, it’s from Mary Meeker, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers’, annual Internet Trends report. To save you having to trawl through the 200+ slides from the 2016 release, here are a handful of need-to-know insights for those in the fashion and retail space:

1. Visual platforms continue to win, particularly for those in the Millennial generation (aged circa 18-34 years old today). Leading platforms in terms of both engagement and reach include Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

1.MaryMeeker_socialnetworks

2. This is even more the case with Generation Z, who communicate via visuals far more so than text. They also operate more screens than their Millennial counterparts at once (five versus two), and tend to be creators and collaborators over curators and sharers.

2.MaryMeeker_GenZ

3. This visual playground is Snapchat’s world, and everyone else is just living in it. Snapchat has nailed how to host visual content in an advertising sense that works because it’s authentic, entertaining, in context and often brief, said Meeker. As a result, it now sees users playing with things like its sponsored lenses for an average of 20 seconds at a time.

3.MaryMeeker_snapchatlenses

4. Let’s not forget, when we’re talking about visual content, video plays a massive role. Its usage, sophistication and relevancy continues to grow rapidly, explained Meeker. Facebook now sees 8bn video views per day, while Snapchat is getting 10bn.

4.MaryMeeker_videoviews

5. Live video is also becoming more important. Over the past century we’ve moved from live linear viewing on the TV to on-demand streaming, to semi-live content like that of Snapchat Stories in and around 2013, to today’s “real-live” feeds via the likes of Periscope and Facebook Live. Meeker referred to the recent Chewbacca Facebook Live video, which referenced retailer Kohl’s, as “user generated content at whole new orders of viewing magnitude”. Kohl’s not only sold out of the Star Wars mask at the centre of the video, but became the leading app in the iOS app store in the US.

5.MaryMeeker_livevideo

6. Getting video right – being authentic, creative and valued through your content – is key by the way because ad blocking is also majorly on the rise. Today, 93% of internet users have or will consider using ad blocking software, according to Unruly. This software is especially a big deal in China, India and Indonesia, and around the world 420m users are now using it, which is a rise of 94% year-on-year. “If there has ever been a call to arms to create better ads, this is it,” said Meeker.

6.MaryMeeker_adblocking

7. The role of messaging apps is also growing and especially relevant for retail businesses. The secret sauce is the magic of the thread – it’s conversational, it remembers identity, time, specifics, preferences and context. Using such platforms is a boon to customer satisfaction, Meeker added, explaining that it’s also leading, of course, to commerce.

7.MaryMeeker_conversationalcommerce

8. Brands emerging in the retail space (and playing with all the aforementioned tools) are being heavily impacted and influenced by the Millennial generation, Meeker explained, with the below chart showing the sorts of companies founded by decade over the past 100+ years. Today, internet-enabled retailers, products and brands are significantly on the rise, bolstered by always-on connectivity, hyper-targeted marketing, the role of images and personalisation. StitchFix is a great example of this, said Meeker, for the fact it brings Spotify and Netflix-like discovery to fashion, with each customer getting a differentiated experience thanks to its advanced algorithm.

8.MaryMeeker_retailchanges

9. All of this also means there are numerous internet brands that have managed to reach $100m in annual sales within five years (including the likes of Birchbox, Everlane, Rent the Runway, Bonobos, Nasty Gal and more), compared to Nike, which took 14 years, Lululemon, which took nine years and Under Armour, which took eight years. “It’s fast and it’s impressive,” said Meeker.

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10. Lastly, when it comes to customer service, no surprises here: social media and instant chat is preferred by Millennials than the telephone is.

10.MaryMeeker_businesscontact

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Embracing the #longread: how digital consumption is shifting, plus five fashion stories to find the time for

TLDR

If you’re anything like me, you constantly have dozens of tabs open, bookmarks saved, emails placed in a strategic folder, and apps in use to keep track of all the stories you’re intending to go back and read.

It’s all too easy to let that accumulate, put off by the fact some of the pieces are just that little bit too long (#TLDR) to comfortably whizz through in a spare moment, rather needing you to find some dedicated time to sit down and concentrate on them. But, while we might be used to shorter and shorter formats through our social media postings – 140 characters here, six seconds there – not to mention an entirely visual-based strategy through Instagram particularly, there’s a growing trend for a lot more in the way of this long form content. Twitter itself is indeed thinking about extending to a 10,000 character limit, first page results on Google reportedly contain an average of 1,890 words (that’s mind blowing), and platforms like Medium have taken off for the very fact they enable users to easily spout words without any true perimeters.

Media companies from Buzzfeed to The Guardian, Esquire, The New York Times and Wired all also publish dedicated “long reads” or “big stories” today. The move comes down to an understanding that readers increasingly desire access to longer form content (and the involved insight, knowledge and informed opinions it provides). And more importantly, though counter to popular belief, they’re willingly engaging with it on mobile. In fact, a 6,000-word piece from Buzzfeed in early 2014, saw readers on tablets spend an average of more than 12 minutes with the story, while those on phones spent more than 25 minutes. As The Atlantic wrote: “[That’s] a small eternity, in internet time.”

reading_mobile

No surprise then, there’s an increasing number of highly relevant fashion stories being released that also tick the box for indulgent consumption. As Imran Amed of The Business of Fashion wrote this weekend in a post about his venture into long form with a landmark piece on the Net-a-Porter / Yoox merger (as below): “The idea to do this kind of story came during a conversation I had in September with Graydon Carter, editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, who advised me: ‘Every once in a while, write an in-depth story that everyone in the fashion industry would want to read’.”

So here are five lengthy pieces (2,500-10,000 words) truly worth carving out some time for. Some of them date back to early 2015 (courtesy of my aforementioned bookmarking habit and some power reading this weekend), but if you didn’t get through them then, like me, now is your chance to revisit.

1. The secret deal to merge Net-a-Porter with Yoox – The Business of Fashion

Needless to say, top of this list of long reads, is the aforementioned story from The Business of Fashion last week. If you haven’t yet bitten the bullet, it’s broken down into four parts, chronicling exactly what happened between both parties and Compagnie Financière Richemont (much of which was behind the back of Natalie Massenet). This one is time consuming, but it’s insightful and worthwhile. As someone posted in the comments below: “Noting the tell-all film trend: fun to imagine who will be cast as Massenet, Marchetti and Rupert.”

2. A huge underclass of ghost workers are making your shirts in their homes – Quartz

Informally employed homeworkers in developing countries make up a substantial portion of the (subcontracted) manufacturing process for fashion retailers. This story dives into who they are, what they do and how to go about changing it so that they’re treated fairly and under the same laws as other workers. “The first step is to bring them out of the shadows and acknowledge that they exist,” writes author Marc Bain. It’s an insightful piece – detailed and warranted of its length – on an area rarely touched upon elsewhere.

3. Losing the thread: how textiles repeatedly revolutionised human technology – Aeon

With all the obsession with wearable technology of late, there’s a lot to be said for this essay, which outlines the very fact that textiles are indeed a technology of themselves. “More ancient than bronze and as contemporary as nanowires,” it reads. It goes on to highlight how pertinent textiles have been on economic development and global trade, and calls the industry out for thinking that ‘wearable tech’ is about gadgets pretending to be accessories rather than the cloth we actually wear against our skins. The piece takes us from the development of aniline dyes and cellulose-based synthetics to the performance-based materials we take for granted today. There’s also a great analogy of weaving (the original binary system) rather than mining when referring to the Bitcoin Blockchain.

4. Fashion week, reinvented – The New York Times

Vanessa Friedman penned this piece on how New York Fashion Week is evolving at the beginning of last season (September 2015). Largely a focus on how WME/IMG were bringing designers into its new venues, it explores how the aim is to make the whole affair seem less commercial yet simultaneously a feat of entertainment for the masses. It sets the scene comprehensively, and outlines the ambition on many fronts to evolve what fashion week is and what it could be. Since then, there have been multiple additional stories released, especially around the CFDA’s plans to hire the Boston Consulting Group to conduct a study on whether or not NYFW should become a consumer-facing event presenting collections more closely aligned with retail drops. Lots of food for thought as we approach the autumn/winter 2016 shows.

5. How menswear took over the internet – Esquire

Men’s fashion is growing by more than 100% a year. With that as context, this long form story from Esquire dives into where and how that is happening, talking to executives from Luisa Via Roma, Mr Porter and Matches Fashion. According to the latter, the online men’s market is highly valued for the fact returns are lower and loyalty often higher. Some 50% of its male customers return to buy something else within a year. The story also highlights such tidbits as more money coming from shoes on Mr Porter than Net-a-Porter, and Natalie Massenet saying that the rise of a more creative economy could lead to menswear becoming as big as womenswear over the next decade.

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Comment e-commerce Editor's pick social media

Social media-proofing our wardrobes is a real thing

tkmaxx_socialmediaproofing

Are selfies now impacting our spending habits? Perhaps that goes without saying on the basis of wanting to look good, but new research from TK Maxx in the UK, also shows the population is buying more in a bid to not appear online in the same clothes twice.

In a move that sounds more Kim Kardashian than Kate Middleton, the retailer asserts that while the ultimate fashion faux pas used to be turning up to a party in the same outfit as someone else, today it’s all about being tagged more than once in it on social media.

A reported 28% of Brits admitted they buy new clothes just to avoid being multi-tagged in the same outfit, while 18% of them said they wouldn’t wear a look again if they knew there was a chance of it appearing online.

Better yet – men appear the biggest culprits, spending an average of £61 to “safeguard against this modern day anxiety”, as opposed to women’s £53.50. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were cited as relevant platforms.

The study from TK Maxx, which polled 2,000 men and women from ages 18 to over 60, follows the launch of its spring/summer 2015 campaign celebrating the style of 10 of its customers.

Association with such insights is of course a smart move for a retailer that bases its branding on offering more for less. As Deborah Dolce, group brand and marketing director at TK Maxx, encourages: “We encourage people of all ages, shapes and tastes to enjoy expressing their style from within the wide and ever changing selection of designer finds and unique gems in our stores. Since our savings are outstanding, we’d love people to have some fun creating their own looks. Shoppers can find great labels and quality and curate many outfits that they love for less to ensure that their wardrobe is socially media-proofed.”

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs