There was a healthy dose of optimism in London last night as the industry’s leading fashion and tech names gathered to celebrate this year’s Fashion Futures Awards.
“What fashion and tech have in common is they’re both about the future,” said host Angela Scanlon, as she opened the Decoded Fashion evening in partnership with the British Fashion Council.
Big winners during the night included Snapchat, which walked away with the tech visionary award for the fact it’s giving fashion brands new ways to infuse storytelling into their marketing. And Grindr, which picked up the Beyond the Runway title, for its collaboration with JW Anderson in January 2016, which saw it live stream the brand’s menswear show to its audience of predominantly gay men. The judges crowned the collaboration’s “out of the box thinking” and focus on brilliantly connecting consumers in the moments that matter.
Burberry was also celebrated – winning the fashion visionary award for the way in which it has helped make the idea of “disruption” more of a norm in the industry. That came in spite of the fact it’s operating in increasingly tough market conditions; announcing adjusted pre-tax profits were down 10% for the year to March 31, just yesterday morning.
Other brands with prizes included ASOS in the Killer Experience category for its new A-list loyalty programme, and Sephora in Bytes and Bricks, for its high-tech concept Flash store in Paris.
The awards are as much about those daring to innovate on the brand side, as it is about the tech founders that have created the best new tools that allow them to do so. On that basis, digital knitwear start-up Unmade won for its collaboration with designer Christopher Raeburn, for instance, while personal stylist site Thread won in the Real-Time Innovator category for its application of artificial intelligence alongside human insight to provide a particularly unique and forward-thinking proposition for menswear.
Meanwhile, delivery start-up Parcel for Me walked away with two awards – one for being the Master of Mobile and the other as this year’s Game Changer: the entrant considered most likely to disrupt fashion and retail in the future.
Other winners in the start-up space included Semaine, a content meets commerce platform taking home the New e-Store on the Block title, and custom footwear line Myswear, which scooped up the Big Idea award.
Zach Duane, CEO of Victoria Beckham sat down at Decoded Fashion in London yesterday to share insights on how he believes the brand has managed to gain credibility in the tough celebrity designer space, how VB is viewed in China, and exactly why he thinks the whole see-now, buy-now model can’t work for everyone.
Here’s a recap of the highlights…
“There was obviously huge cynicism around Victoria in the fashion world to begin with. We wanted her to be taken seriously as a designer, so we tried to learn our craft and convince through the collection and the value of the product. From day one every media outlet was following our steps, so it was a very public journey from the beginning. It therefore worked to be very open. Victoria is very like that anyway; she’s prolific on Instagram. But it’s not contrived. The content we share is very natural and real even though the concept behind it is a strategy we have – it’s always carefully considered.”
“We know it’s not ok to film a highly produced and polished video and push it out three months later and assume that’s going to be a relevant story. You have to be a bit raw these days. It’s not that it’s dumbing it down, it’s just that people are so used to seeing stuff so constantly on social that it’s fine to post iPhone photos, or mash a collage together. It’s the idea that has to be right – as long as it’s relevant to your brand. The world has moved in that direction in my view. There are some things we do that are much higher production value – like our look books or our show – and it’s fine to have a mixture like that. We’re not, and we don’t pretend to be, a heritage brand. If you’ve got a history of crafting leather goods, or a designer that founded the house in the 50s, then maybe you have to take a certain approach. But for us, in the lifespan of fashion, we’re a new thing, and we’re not shackled by the rules of the past. We’re doing what’s relevant now.”
On a welcoming store environment
“From day one Victoria had a global audience. Spice Girls were a global phenomenon and everyone was interested in her. So we now try to cater to everyone – our current customers, future customers or people just interested in us and what we’re doing. In our first store on Dover Street we really made sure that everyone who came in would feel very welcome. And I really mean that. We headhunted and Victoria and I personally interviewed every single person for it. Our store manager Lin [Aima Hellem], got the job because when asked what she would do if 200 Spice Girls fans come in, she said she would give them the best tour of the store possible. It shouldn’t be a closed space – a student who wants to come in and understand Victoria’s vision should be as relevant as someone spending £10,000.”
On perception in China
“We don’t ship to Asia which is a slight anomaly, but we do trunk shows there; e-commerce pop-ups basically. What we’ve learnt from China is that our shopper is much younger, and she didn’t know Spice Girls at all. She knew Victoria was famous, but she thinks it’s because she’s a designer. So the way we treat them is so different to someone who has lived and breathed that journey with Victoria. Those insights are so important for merchandising, for comms direction and more. With China we don’t have to focus on the credibility part. It’s about immersing [consumers] in the collection, getting them to understand the theme of the season. It’s much more of a fashion-focused educational process. If we’re talking about new clients in other markets like America however, then it’s about going back to basics a little bit. We have to tackle the fact they may think of Victoria as a Spice Girl first; so it’s about credibility and then about getting them into fashion later.”
On the see-now, buy-now movement
“The media is always looking for headline problems for headline solutions. But whether we’re showing in February and shipping in August is a basic issue – there are much bigger problems around things like international shipping and so forth. What Burberry is doing makes total sense for them – it’s a retail business, they sell predominantly through their own stores. If you’re going to spend millions of pounds on amazing shows, you may as well do it when collections are in store so you convert those consumers. But for emerging brands, it’s just impossible. Your business is predominantly a wholesale business. Your show is a trade show; it’s to buyers and editors. They’re coming to have a view and see what resonates with them, and if it does then they come and place their orders. In terms of what the consumer accesses – the answer is not ‘one size fits all’. Our ready-to-wear line needs to be reviewed; it needs that industry perspective and buy-in, that’s the nature of it. But with our Victoria Victoria Beckham line, then it’s different. We’ve done a show in Korea for instance, we’ve partnered with an artist, we’ve done events in London as it hits the store – so we’re constantly connecting with the consumer with it; it’s just a different rhythm. You have to be specific about who you’re trying to talk to, why you’re trying to talk to them and what the message is.”
On never standing still
“We were very humble at the beginning. Victoria really felt, and she still does to this day, that she had to earn her place in fashion. She’s always challenging herself. From a creative standpoint, that is a constant in our business – never stand still, constantly push yourself. We’re always questioning whether the business model we’ve got is innovative enough too. Could we be doing more? It’s that push to prove ourselves that has kept us driving forward.”