adidas is strengthening its strategic partnership with US footwear retailer Foot Locker by introducing an initiative that will co-create sneakers inspired by consumers at various moments throughout the year. The pilot will deploy the sportswear brand’s SPEEDFACTORY production process, which creates limited runs of shoes on-demand up to 36 times faster than industry standard lead times.
“We’re working with Foot Locker to create incredible product for consumers and deliver it faster than ever before,” said Zion Armstrong, president of adidas North America. “With its cutting-edge technology, SPEEDFACTORY is enabling us to reach this shared ambition. We’re excited to kick off this first-of-its-kind partnership with Foot Locker and co-create the future together.”
The initiative aims to reflect the three strategic choices of Adidas’ 2020 business plan called Creating the New, announced back in 2015: Speed, exemplified through SPEEDFACTORY; Cities, wherein the group has strategically selected six key cities globally (including Tokyo and London) to disproportionally invest in marketing and retail; and Open Source, which aims to bring in external collaboration in order to spur more creativity and innovation.
The shoes, which will fall under the Made For (AM4) SPEEDFACTORY line, will be introduced across the country at various cultural and sporting moments of the year. The first run, called the AM4ATL (pictured), will be a collection of running shoes and cleats celebrating different heritages and cultures of players who make up a team and showcase how they are united as one. It will debut on pro football players during a game this week and be available for purchase online and at select Atlanta-area stores.
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Ask any direct-to-consumer brand and the answer is clear: the death of retail is greatly exaggerated.
Throughout the year, the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent Global spoke to some of the top businesses disrupting the markets they’re in to uncover the secrets to their success.
The one thing they seem to have in common is finding an industry that has long been left untapped, and focusing on a single product category – whether it be shoes, luggage, underwear and more. But they’re also winning by bringing in strong elements of community, having a sustainable story at their heart and launching into physical retail.
Here are our top ones from this year’s podcast episodes:
In April, TheCurrent Global spoke to Toby Darbyshire, CEO of UK-based hosiery brand Heist Studios, on how the brand is innovating such a traditional category. “It struck us that in the age of Harvey Weinstein, the fact that my wife, who is a pretty modern woman, walks into Selfridges’ underwear section and it says ‘listen love, put this on – one of sort of four or five societal normalized views of sexy – and then you can fulfil your purpose’. That seems like an industry at its fundamental that is both broken from a brand point of view but also totally out of kilter with the cultural discourse,” he said at the time.
Heist plans on fixing the industry by placing a large focus on its product development, which begins at the customer and how they feel about tights, to product innovation that takes cues from other industries, such as sports, to better understand the performance and wear of textiles.
Mattress brand Casper is arguably one of the category’s biggest success stories, said to be worth over $750m today, with plans to open over 200 retail locations over the next three years. Today, brands should be deploying three different tools to achieve a successful retail experience, said chief experience officer Eleanor Morgan: trial, service and entertainment.
The brand, which introduced the mattress-in-a-box experience to American homes and beyond in 2014, now paves the way for digitally-native brands that are transitioning from online to offline spaces. Its stores, most recently the Dreamery space in NY, don’t focus on inventory availability and convenience. Instead, the focus is giving customers the ability to enjoy moments with the brand, which involves more practical elements such as try-on and expert consultation.
Cashmere brand Nadaam has built its entire business on relationships, said founder Matt Scanlan. “There are fundamental shared experiences across the human experience that we don’t think about when we’re making clothing; that we don’t think about when we’re trying to look nice” he told co-host Liz Bacelar earlier this year.
Since inception, Nadaam has focused on building a strong bond with the communities that trade raw materials that become its products. That was an important factor to establishing a more sustainable supply chain, and part of a plan to build the biggest platform he could in order to share his message. Consumers are ready for this, he said, which only helps drive his message forward. During the conversation, Scanlan also talked about why 100% sustainability is both fake and impossible, and the challenges of growing such a brand.
These days, Away’s mindset of creating a lifestyle rather than a single-product brand is exemplified by a travel magazine called Here, several successful collaborations with everyone from model Karlie Kloss to basketball Dwayne Wade and a slew of physical stores that sell beyond the simple suitcase.
Footwear label Allbirds was conceived on the idea of creating a simple shoe that had two main focuses: sustainability and comfort. The aim was two-fold because according to co-founder Tim Brown, people don’t buy solely based on a brand’s sustainability credentials, but whether the product itself does what it says on the tin.
During this podcast conversation, Brown also honed in on the importance of businesses taking a responsibility in ensuring a greener future, rather than expecting the consumer to do it themselves. He also talked about the fact the brand has been making strides in product development that aligns with its ethos of sustainability: it recently launched a new flip flop range made with renewable sugarcane soles, the “recipe” of which is open source so other industry names can join in.
Soon after the episode was initially published, Allbirds took its mission online with Meet Your Shoes, a platform that showcased the provenance of the wool and tree styles. For wool, for example, users can read the ‘sheep dossier’ and even pet individual sheep as they stroll across the screen in a video.
Heist Studios has announced the release of five new tights in a variety of nude shades as a result of crowdsourced data from over 1,000 women. The new additions will add five new shades to Heist’s current line of nude tights when released later this week.
The diverse colour palette was sourced from “The Nude Project”, a crowdsourcing effort for which Heist created a dedicated microsite where it is asking women globally to share their own unique “nude” skin tones. Launched back in 2017, the project aims to create an ongoing range that reflects the needs of its audience accurately, says the brand.
“We know from our customers that women shy away from wearing nude garments for the most part because, with only a limited range of shades on offer, they are unable to find a suitable match,” says Heist. “We saw the furore around Meghan Markle’s tights at her first royal engagement as Duchess of Sussex, with the press lambasting the shade of nude. Our extended range seeks to solve this problem.”
The new range will be available to purchase from July 30 in the UK market in sizes ranging 4 to 14, while an extended sizing range from 16 to 24 will be released in October.
By launching the range in a wider variety of both shades and sizing, Heist continues to make strides towards inclusivity and diversity, which have been at the core of its DNA since inception. Additionally, reflecting its consumers’ voices in both product and advertising allows the brand to remain a strongly authentic voice in the market.
The strategy has allowed the UK-based company to quickly position itself as a true disruptor in both direct-to-consumer retail and the hosiery category itself, as CEO Toby Darbyshire told us on TheCurrent Innovators podcast in April.