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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.

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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 Editor's pick product Retail technology

6 brands driving consumer engagement through customization

The availability of data and an increased purchasing power has pushed retailers to create products and services beyond the standard selection. Whilst traditionally customization was seen as a luxury feature, the democratization of fashion has led to many high street retailers offering the service as another way to engage consumers.

In today’s digital era, the abundance of data has made it easier for retailers to personalize marketing content, but this is now going one step further to individual design and styling. Consumers want products tailored to their own specific needs and style, and by offering customization, retailers can increase their value and differentiate from the competition. 

From a business perspective, offering customization can be financially rewarding too, as 1 in 5 consumers will pay a 20% premium for personalized products or services. Customization can also be a sustainable method of production, as products are created to meet the exact demand, thus minimizing the risk of excess stock. 

Meanwhile, as manufacturing processes become more sophisticated and streamlined through features like 3D printing and automation, customization is something we will see more of in the future. As we continue to watch this trend develop, here are 6 brands driving engagement  through customization.

Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton custom Run Away sneaker

The sneaker industry is expected to be worth $95.14billion by 2025, and Louis Vuitton is another luxury brand hoping to tap into that booming market by offering consumers customized sneakers. Consumers will have the option to customize the Run Away sneaker by changing its colour, material and stripes and for an extra personal touch, get their initials printed or hot stamped on the shoe.

Fame & Partners
Fame & Partners bridemaids dresses

Fame and Partners is a contemporary womenswear brand based in LA trying to combat overproduction in the fashion industry by offering made-to-order garments. Through their Custom Clothing studio, consumers can customize any item by choosing the silhouette, sleeve length or neckline. The brand’s strategy eliminates the need for excess stock, helping to reduce waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill. 

Function of Beauty
Function of Beauty custom hair care

This DTC beauty brand has taken over social media with its Instagrammable hair care line that target Gen Z consumers who are seeking products unique to their needs. Consumers can go online and take a quiz to determine their hair profiles, selecting up to five hair goals, ranging from color protection to curl definition. They can also choose both the scent and color of their products, creating a customized product from design to function. Each bottle is then formulated using clean ingredients, which are cruelty-free and 100% vegan.

Rapha
Rapha custom collection

Cult British brand Rapha is disrupting the cycling market by partnering with Unmade to create a customizable team collection. Customers are given the opportunity to create their own unique jersey designs, including team logos, which are then manufactured into a bespoke product. Poor user experience and long lead times are usually a set back when it comes to customization, but Unmade’s print solution allows for quick bespoke manufacturing on a smaller scale.

Puma
Puma’s new NYC flagship

To enhance customer experience in store, Puma has created an exclusive customization studio at its new flagship store in New York. Customers can customize a range of footwear and apparel using paints, patchwork, embroidery, 3D knitting, laser printing and material upcycling. The studio also collaborates with new artists on a bi-weekly basis, with Sue Tsai, BWOOD and Maria Jahnkoy being the most recent.

Levi’s
Levi’s customization patches

Levi’s brand strategy has revolved around making products your own since the original blue jean was patented in 1873. These days, many Levi’s shops have a dedicated tailor shop that can customize and repair products, such as adding patches, studs, embroidery, stencilling and distressing, so consumers can have a one-of-a-kind product. To align with its sustainability initiatives, the brand also offers a full repair service which does anything from fixing rips and holes to color fading, helping well-worn jeans gain a new lease of life.

How are you thinking about 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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business Editor's pick Retail sustainability technology

9 brands pushing sustainable store design

With sustainability an increasing priority on the agenda for fashion and retail businesses around the globe today, attention is also turning to their brick-and-mortar stores – how they’re resourced, designed and constructed. 

According to Schneider Electric, retail buildings are the largest consumers of energy among non-residential buildings in Europe, contributing $20 billion each year. Factors such as electricity, air conditioning and lighting all contribute to a brand’s carbon footprint and emissions. 

The interesting thing is that going green is proven to not only help retailers reduce their impact on the planet, but significantly save them money. A 20% cut in energy costs can represent the same bottom line benefit as a 5% increase in sales, according to Carbon Trust. 

Investing in sustainable store design, therefore, has a positive effect on profit, people and the planet. From locally-sourced materials, to energy saving light bulbs, and even the removal of any plastic packaging, there is an incredibly wide range of ways retailers can make their stores more environmentally friendly. 

Here we highlight some of the best examples of brands going above and beyond with their stores in order to do so: 

Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney London flagship store

Last year Stella McCartney opened a new flagship store in London that expands four floors and embodies sustainability throughout. The outposts of the store are lined with recycled foam and card that were made from waste paper from the London offices. The space is also the first to use biodegradable mannequins,  made from 72% sugarcane bioplastic, which significantly reduces CO2 emissions. To help combat air pollution, the store has a hidden ventilation systems that removes 95% of air pollutants and harmful gases, such as nitrogen dioxide. At launch, Stella herself said: “The store really tells the story of the world of Stella McCartney, seamlessly incorporating sustainability, fashion and luxury.”

Ikea
Inside Ikea’s Greenwich Store

Ikea opened a sustainable store in London’s Greenwich, built from a range of renewable materials in 2019. The roof is covered with 75% solar panels, which power the store, and rainwater is harvested to help reduce the store’s water consumption by 50%. The store not only helps the environment, but is also working towards improving the community around it. Ikea holds an array of classes such as bunting making, which utilizes off-cuts of IKEA fabric, helping spread the message of full utilization. The design of the store has been awarded an ‘Outstanding’ BREEAM certification, which is the highest award for sustainable construction, covering areas such as energy, land use and materials. Efforts to incorporate geothermal heating, 100% LED lighting and textile recycling, have also elevated it to become the most sustainable retail store in the UK.

Patagonia
Patagonia Store in Victoria, Canada

Patagonia is not only leading the way with sustainability in manufacturing, but is going above and beyond with its store design strategy. Each outpost is uniquely designed to reflect the history and culture of its location, while simultaneously keeping the planet in mind. The Victoria store in Canada, which opened several years ago now, for instance, had three main goals when it was being designed: to use sustainable construction methods, utilize reclaimed materials and become the best retail space for outdoor activities in the area. It features a range of wooden details throughout, from wall decorations to shelving units, giving it a grounded earthy feel. The wood was wastage retrieved from the Pacific Ocean and leftover material from the local yacht club.

Country Road
Country Road store in Melbourne

Australian fashion retailer Country Road opened its flagship store in Melbourne this summer also with sustainability in mind. The space is made from recycled materials such as yoghurt containers, fishing nets and recycled paper. It is the first to receive a 5-star Green Design review from the Green Building Council of Australia. It also includes details like fitting room hooks that have been made using ocean plastic and tables from recycled plastic. The brand hopes this store design will be the first of many, as it continues to expand in the country.

Starbucks
Starbucks sustainable store design

Starbucks is leading the way in the coffee sphere by building LEED-certified stores, which stands for ‘leadership in energy and environmental design’. These green stores use LED lighting, recycled flooring tiles and wood products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship council. They are 25% more energy efficient and 30% more water efficient. In countries with solar and wind projects, the stores are run on   100% renewable energy. Starbucks already has 1,612 LEED-certified stores, but is intending to extend the framework to 10,000 by 2025, which could save $50m in utility costs over the next 10 years alongside reducing impact on the planet.

Bottletop
Bottletop’s London store

Sustainable accessories brand, Bottletop, opened the world’s first 3D printed store, created by robots using upcycled plastic, in London. Based on Regent Street, it is zero waste and home to the brand’s sustainable handcrafted collection of leather goods. The space embodies the company’s core mission to empower people through sustainable design and creative culture. The flooring of the store is made from reworked rubber tyres and the interior is made from 60,000 upcycled plastic bottles. Overall, the store aims to re-imagine the future of ecologically responsible construction through zero waste design.

Ganni
Ganni store

Danish fashion brand Ganni recently opened its new London store following a number of doors in Copenhagen and Stockholm. While it features bubblegum pink walls fit for every Instagrammer’s dream, it is also underpinned with a green strategy in mind. The store incorporates  sustainable features such as recycled plastic displays made from old plastic bottles, plant pots, food packaging and coffee grounds. Decorations throughout are either vintage pieces or upcycled products, including rugs that have been remade from old Ganni collections. The company also uses renewable energy across all of its stores, with the aim to have 100% green sources by the end of 2019. 

Lush
Lush’s plastic free products

As one of the sustainability leaders in beauty, Lush recently stepped up its game by stripping back several of its stores in Berlin, Milan and Manchester, in a bid to go entirely plastic free. The ‘Naked’ stores, as they’re called, are part of the brand’s initiative to tackle the plastic waste problem in the cosmetic industry. They all feature products like the brand’s solid shampoos, which don’t necessitate any packaging. Each of them further serve as an open space for NGOs and activist groups to educate and increase consumer awareness on the topics of zero waste and ocean plastics.

Reformation
Reformation store

Cult fashion brand Reformation puts sustainability at the core of everything it does, from local manufacturing and sustainable dyeing to green buildings and fabrics. Its Los Angeles stores and headquarters are all Green Business certified, meaning they implement strategies to save energy, improve water efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. Reformation offsets its store build by 100%, by calculating the construction footprint. The materials in store are also sustainable with LED fixtures,  recycled fabric insulations and natural rammed earth materials.

How are you thinking about sustainable innovations? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Each of the rules referenced above is matched by one of our products and services. Interested in how? Get in touch to learn more.

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product sustainability

Native Shoes is releasing a plant-based sneaker fit for composting

Vancouver- based sustainable shoe brand, Native Shoes, is launching a sneaker made of fully plant-based and biodegradable materials, which can even be composted at the end of its life.

For the design of the new sneaker, dubbed the Plant Shoe, the brand focused on including exclusively natural materials, down to the stitching and glue used to put the individual materials together.

By making the Shoe biodegradable and suitable for composting, Native Shoes aims to fight the increasing problem of shoe waste, citing that nearly 300 million pairs end up in landfill every year.

The design is purposely kept simplistic and embraces a vintage look. The upper material is made up of a mix of organic cotton and Pinatex, which is made of discarded pineapple waste. As an industry first, the material mix uses no polyurethane coating, a process that is usually applied to textiles to make them more durable.

The shoe’s sole further builds on the sustainable credentials of the brand, using pure hevea latex, a derivative of the rubber tree. However, it uses no artificial additions such as fillers or petrochemical catalysts, which are traditionally used in other “natural” rubber soles.

The brand, which originally launched in 2009 with a sustainable ethos and focused on mainly rubber-based shoes, also collaborated with Goop in 2018 and 2019 to provide rubber slides to the lifestyle brand’s annual In Goop Health events.  

Over the past year, labels including Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Everlane have released their own versions of more sustainable sneakers, experimenting with different, more sustainable materials and tapping into circular design principles.

Nike’s Flyleather design, for example, uses 50% recycled natural leather fiber, while Adidas’ Futurecraft Loop sneaker is made up of only one material and therefore is the first to be fully recyclable. Reebok furthermore launched its biodegradable Cotton + Corn shoe in 2018. Everlane launched its Tread shoe this year, using a combination of natural and recycled rubber for its sole.

Meanwhile, direct-to-consumer start-up Allbirds launched its SweetFoam material initiative last year, an environmentally friendly- alternative to the traditionally used acetate compound that is used in shoe soles today.  Marking a collaborative spirit, Allbirds also made its new solution open-source, hoping to encourage competitors to also adopt this material.

How are you thinking about sustainable 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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product sustainability technology

Nike creates circular design guide

Nike has created a circular design guide that aims to give the fashion industry a common language for circularity.

The guide comes with 10 principles of circular design, including topics such as “material choices” and “waste avoidance”.

Nike’s 10 principles of circular design

Each of these are explained in more depth within it, including via case studies of successful design innovation by Nike and other brands.

They include video footage of a Central Saint Martins student and Nike staff talking on the principles, as well as an inspirational quote.

What follows are thought-starters for designers to think about the concept in more depth. Under the “material choices” principle for instance, it asks: “How could your material choice increase the lifecycle or durability of the product?”

A number of case study examples then follow, such as an outline of Nike’s Flyleather material, a sustainable leather alternative made of leftover factory off-cuts. Other case studies come from brands such as Levi’s, Fjallraven, Patagonia, Outerknown and Eileen Fisher.

The last section features inspirational publications, including “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, which outlines the founding principles of the circular economy, according to the non-profit Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

It is freely accessible to anyone interested in knowing more about circularity. The launch coincides with the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit, one of the industry’s most important sustainability events of the year.

How are you thinking about your sustainable innovation strategy? Want to learn more about how we worked with Google? The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion 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 hear more.

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product technology Uncategorized

Zac Posen 3D-prints celebrity looks at this year’s Met Gala

Zac Posen used 3D printing techniques to create four custom outfits for celebrities attending the annual Met Gala yesterday, including two gowns and two accessory pieces.

Jourdan Dunn and Nina Dobrev wore dresses that were 3D printed using their exact body measurements; Deepika Padukone wore 3D printed embroidery on her design; while Katie Holmes and Julia Garner were outfitted with 3D printed accessories.

Posen collaborated with GE Additive and Protolabs for 12 months to design, engineer and print the concepts respectively, for the Costume Institute’s annual event at New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

“We flew to Pittsburgh to see a printing facility, and learned about plastics and polymers and polyamides and all these different materials,” Posen explained to CNBC. “Then I started to learn with different materials what was possible, what’s not possible. And really the answer is, almost everything is possible.”

The custom dresses took a long time to create especially, he explained, with multiple versions being designed and improved upon over the course of the year. Both gowns were fitted exactly to the wearer’s body, using body scanning technology that took up to an hour of standing still each.

Jourdan Dunn’s rose-petal gown took over 1,100 hours to print and finish. The dress is made up of 21 individual durable plastic petals that are fastened together through a titanium cage. Every batch of three petals took up to five days to print.

For Nina Dobrev’s translucent mini dress, 200 hours were spent on the bustier alone – one of the four pieces that made up the dress. To give the dress a glassy appearance, it was then sanded and sprayed with a clear coat, going through two iterations before it was deemed transparent enough by Posen. The final dress was assembled in New York ahead of the Gala, requiring five people to put the bustier onto Dobrev due to its extremely delicate nature.

Katie Holmes and actress Julia Garner wore 3D printed accessories; a collar and a headpiece, which took 56 and 22 hours to print and finish respectively. Meanwhile, Deepika Padukone’s gown was embellished with 408 printed 3-D embroidery, which took over 160 hours to print and finish.

The designs were inspired by the idea of capturing natural forms in motion, befitting the “camp” theme of this year’s gala and corresponding museum exhibition, which celebrates all things “artifice and exaggeration”, as interpreted by Susan Sontag in her 1964 essay, Notes on camp.

The technology used for the dresses, as well as Katie Holmes’ headpiece and Deepika Padukone embroidery, is called stereolithography (or SLA), which involves layering very thin pieces of liquid plastic (thinner than a piece of hair) on top of each other. These are then shaped by a laser to take incredibly intricate shapes. The gowns and accessories were manufactured in Protolab facilities in Germany as well as North Carolina.

This year is not the first time the designer has put a focus on using technology to bring innovative new design ideas to life for the gala. In 2016, he made headlines for creating a dress for actress Claire Danes, which glowed in the dark.

How are you thinking about product 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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Editor's pick product technology

H&M Group deploys VR to design more sustainably

H&M Group is investing in virtual reality to enable its design team to design more sustainably, says Christopher Wylie, research director at the brand.

Speaking at the FIT’s Sustainable Business and Design Conference in NYC last week, Wylie gave an insight into how the technology is being integrated at the beginning of the design process.

“When they pick fabrics, it will show them how much water that fabric uses and the amount of carbon,” revealed Wylie. In addition to that, VR is also helping improve the diversity of the garments’ shapes. “When they are doing the virtual cut of the piece, they can look at how it would fit in different shapes of people.”

The goal is to eventually use VR as an informational tool for designers, with initial tests already showing positive results. “It’s interesting when looking at these little experiments that we’ve done that it really influences how a product was made when that information was available,” he added.

H&M Group announced the appointment of Wylie last November as leading the research into data and analytics to drive the company’s sustainability mission. Speaking at the Business of Fashion’s VOICES conference at the time, he said AI could be used to reduce waste in the industry and drive efficiency through the supply chain.

So far, VR in the industry has been deployed at a more experiential level, often offering customer-facing activations at stores or at home. But increasingly brands are looking at enabling their design teams with the relevant digital tools, from VR to 3D printing, that enable them to create more mindfully, reducing waste and the risk of overproduction.

How are you thinking about 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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Editor's pick product technology

Adidas and Foot Locker team up to co-create sneakers inspired by consumers

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.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent 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 product technology

Puma re-releases classic 80s connected sneaker

Puma has re-released its 1986 RS sneaker for the digital age, adding a small computer to the back of the shoe that links to a dedicated smartphone app to track data.

The original shoe, released in 1986, only featured a computer chip built into the heel, which registered data such as time, distance and calories burned when it was worn. Data collected was then transferred to a home computer via a 16-pin connector.

Puma’s new RS sneaker

In its new iteration the shoe still measures the exact same data, but this time it uses bluetooth technology to connect it to smartphone devices and relay it to the user via an app.

In a nostalgic twist, the app’s interface uses the same graphic displays (called 8-bit) as it did in the 80s, and as well as a game.

Only 86 pair of the shoes will be sold at Puma stores in Tokyo, Berlin and London and in the US, at streetwear retailer KITH.

How are you thinking about digital 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 Podcast

Ozwald Boateng on why creatives need to think like startups

Ozwald Boateng
Ozwald Boateng

Designers need to reposition their businesses as startups to tap into much-needed investment, says menswear designer, Ozwald Boateng, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

In conversation with Liz Bacelar at a Spotify event in Paris, Boateng, whose body of work propelled the craftsmanship of London’s Savile Row to international recognition, says he believes the creative world needs to learn from technology in terms of how it approaches funding.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

The fashion industry’s model of investors taking control of designers’ names early on is broken, he explains, saying that we can all learn from new direct-to-consumer businesses that have overcome this by approaching differently the way that they’re backed instead.

“What amazes me is when you see these young creative talents, still owning sizeable chunks of the business after raising so much money and getting these valuations of a billion plus – you kind of go, my god, can that really happen, it’s almost like a dream, but in the tech world, it’s the norm,” he notes.

“This creates a huge amount of independence and opportunity for the designer – you’re no longer forced to follow the rules, so that’s exciting. For me as a business, I’m looking at ways to take advantage of that.”

Conversely, he says the technology world also needs to learn from creatives. “I think if more designers looked at the world of technology and applied their creative to the tech, I am sure we would see some very interesting and groundbreaking ideas,” he comments.

He explains that designers are trained to always look forward, to spot trends and understand needs, so it’s something he believes would work exceptionally well when applied to technology.

“I would happily use a body scanner [for my made-to-measure suits], it makes a lot of sense. But there’s a lot of things I could add in terms of how I need the technology to work,” he notes.

“So I see a partnership. Eventually both [designers and tech companies] will see they need each other, and then they’ll just make it work.”

During the conversation, the duo also talk about his new uniform designs for British Airways, his time as creative director at Givenchy and the role of race and diversity in the industry.

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.