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Innovation 2018: A year in review

Innovation in the fashion, beauty and luxury industries during 2018 focused on everything from more experiential retail to streetwear collection drops and a growing push around sustainability.

Here are the five big themes to know about based on insights from our strategy team combined with data from the most-read stories on TheCurrent Daily this year:

Streetwear’s influence
Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton
Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton

Streetwear continued to have a significant influence with the announcement of Virgil Abloh taking on the role of artistic director at Louis Vuitton menswear. Riccardo Tisci meanwhile arrived at Burberry, quickly launching collection drops to compete in the hype world of Supreme, Off-White, Palace and others. Palace also had one of the most successful collaborations of the season with Ralph Lauren.

Rounding out the year otherwise was Farfetch’s acquisition of sneaker and streetwear marketplace, Stadium Goods., which came off the back of its IPO at the end of the summer. And our mega personal highlight: experiencing the frenzy firsthand at ComplexCon.

Experiential retail
MatchesFashion.com at Carlos Place
MatchesFashion.com at Carlos Place

Retail meanwhile was unsurprisingly all about experience. MatchesFashion.com opened a new five-storey townhouse in London focused on shopping, live events and art exhibitions. It also features in-built recording facilities, a fully functioning kitchen and a courtyard garden. Meanwhile, pop-ups from brands including Cartier, Moncler, The Arrivals, Google and many more all honed in on this idea of experiential and immersive initiatives.

Alongside that is the fact we saw numerous direct-to-consumer brands opening brick-and-mortar stores this year, from Heist to Casper, Everlane, Away and beyond. And that at a time when elsewhere much of traditional retail continues to flail.

Connected retail
Amazon's 4-star store
Amazon’s 4-star store

Otherwise, the role of technology played a big role in physical retail too, from Zara’s new London store and augmented reality tie-in, to the announcement of Chanel’s “augmented retail” space and the opening of Nike’s new flagship, which unlocks a new level of convenience by allowing customers to navigate the shopping experience in-store entirely on their phones.

Amazon also continued to push forward – launching an interactive pop-up with Calvin Klein on the one hand, while introducing its own 4-star store, which only stocks products based on favorable customer reviews, on the other. It also continued with its automated Amazon Go stores, announcing it will open 3,000 of them by 2021. But it wasn’t the only one – numerous others from Jack & Jones with WeChat and Hema with Alibaba in China, to Albert Heijn in the Netherlands and Lotte in South Korea, all experimenting in this space.

Artificial intelligence
Uniqlo IQ
Uniqlo IQ

Voice technology’s role in retail also pushed full steam ahead, with numerous new launches built for Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant particularly, including from H&M Home, Uniqlo and ASOS within the fashion space, and from Coty, Kohler and others within beauty.

Artificial intelligence (AI) otherwise continued to make an impact on the design side of the industry. Yoox particularly made a splash when it announced the launch of 8 by Yoox, a new collection that is generated by data. According to Federico Marchetti, CEO of the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, the line is informed by AI, but still designed by a creative team.

Sustainable progress  
Adidas x Parley for the Oceans SXSW 2018
Adidas x Parley for the Oceans

Last but not least, sustainability undoubtedly continued as the single biggest challenge facing the industry, with a multitude of big announcements and a continuation of experiments pushing things forward in 2018. From a negative perspective came news of the waste produced (and often burned) by brands such as H&M and Burberry, which resulted in big headlines calling for change. Sometimes it takes such insight to spur brands into further action of course.

Elsewhere, Adidas announced a moonshot to only use recycled plastics by 2024, Gucci launched an online platform to promote sustainable purpose, Levi’s focused on a more sustainable supply chain, and Kering introduced an organic cotton that is 100% scientifically traceable, thanks to a new supply chain transparency innovation. On top of that, just this month, Stella McCartney rallied the industry to come together to launch the United Nations’ new Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.

Here’s to much more in the way of innovation for 2019! Happy New Year everyone.

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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business Editor's pick Events product

ComplexCon: key takeaways from the streetwear mecca

Takashi Murakami at ComplexCon
Takashi Murakami at ComplexCon 2018

Now in its third year, Complexcon, a consumer-focused event targeting streetwear fanatics, took place to much expected hype last weekend in Long Beach, California.

The event, which is a spin-off of media company Complex, focused on feeding its Gen Z and Millennial community through a series of retail experiences, activations and panel discussions. Here we highlight the key takeaways of the weekend:

Retail frenzy

An adidas cube at ComplexCon
An adidas cube at ComplexCon 2018

For the consumer, the biggest goal of the two-day event was to shop, plain and simple. But for an audience that is prone to forming lines outside of stores for days before a drop, brands had to think creatively on how to create shopping experiences that blended that thrill of the chase with physical and digital tools.

Adidas was arguably the biggest name on the floor, hosting two experiences – one which involved a physical booth and another which took visitors on a wild goose chase for physical cubes that unlocked a new sneaker drop every hour. These gigantic cubes were seen throughout the venue, and on the hour, the user had to stand under the cube to scan it using the Complexcon app to unlock the ability to shop for the specific style. Unsurprisingly, Adidas fanatics were seen standing under the cube for hours before their preferred drop would take place.

Gradual product drops kept the customer engaged and most importantly, wanting to attend both days of the Con for fear of missing out. Reebok’s booth featured perspex cubes filled with fog, while timers underneath each individual plinth counted down the hours until the content inside the cube (a sneaker) was revealed.

The festival also teamed up with Frenzy, a location-based drop app, to allow consumers to shop for exclusive collabs through their phones while at the venue. The fulfilment of that experience left room for improvement, however, as shoppers could only pick up their goods four hours after purchase, a wait which for many stretched to 24 hours.

Experiential moments

HBO's The Shop
HBO’s The Shop at ComplexCon 2018

In such a noisy environment of endless queues and product drops, independent brands worked hard to stand out with booths that encouraged discovery and social sharing. Cult streetwear label Lotas, for example, chose to spend its budget not on an attractive booth, but by casting a group of The Sopranos lookalikes to play poker throughout, creating an unusual opportunity for visitors to snap and share.

The Pangaia, a global collective investigating the future of sustainable clothing, showcased its inaugural collection among a floor of empty plastic bottles, encouraging visitors to dispose of the same as they walked past. On Sunday, the collective also co-hosted a beach clean-up nearby with the support of ComplexCon.

Meanwhile beyond fashion, brands across food, automotive and media were on hand to talk about the bigger lifestyle that this community is a part of. Cadillac created a booth that showcased one of its models amid a digital jungle of screens and a photo backdrop; similar to SXSW, HBO recreated the classic barbershop experience to promote the launch of LeBron James’s new unscripted series, The Shop, featuring free haircuts and sneaker cleaning; and to promote the release of Creed II, guests could join in a VR experience, as well as watch boxing matches taking place in a life-sized ring.

Finally, McDonald’s quickly became a fan favorite as it hosted a customization station with special guests and, most importantly, free hamburgers for all.

Practical conversations

Issa Rae at ComplexCon 2018
Issa Rae at ComplexCon 2018

Conversations on the floor flip-flopped between who ‘copped’ the latest drop and what new endeavor someone may have been working on, from promoting their new podcast to monetizing their photography work. As a result, ComplexCon worked hard to promote conversations that had an underlying entrepreneurial spirit and was particularly relevant to the younger generation that is multifaceted in their goals.

“How to make it in America”, saw entrepreneur and social media star Gary Vaynerchuk talking about how to avoid the pitfalls and be part of the small percentage that does succeed in the country. Meanwhile actresses Issa Rae and Yara Shahidi, joined a conversation on females in media and how to overcome hurdles and balance public and personal life. And Louis Vuitton and Off White designer, Virgil Abloh, brought on stage three designers he believes are the next generation of fashion.

The spirit of giving visitors the tools to succeed and thrive also permeated throughout the festival booths. Entrepreneur Karen Civil was on hand at the Simple Mobile stand to offer one-to-one career advice, while the festival’s creative director, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, worked with six relatively unknown footwear designers to reimagine his artwork on limited edition sneakers, which were being auctioned off on eBay.

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.

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Campaigns product Retail

Nike is dropping a new Air Jordan 1 sneaker everyday this week

Nike's "The Week of The Ones"
Nike’s “The Week of The Ones”

Nike UK will be releasing different iterations of its iconic Air Jordan 1 sneaker everyday this week as part of an event series it is calling “The Week of The Ones”.

The aim is to “celebrate the icon” of the Air Jordan 1 sneaker, which was first released in 1984 and has since cemented its status as “sneaker royalty, forever associated with streetwear, style and His Airness himself”, according to the brand.

The exclusive sneakers are available for European customers, and can only be purchased through the brand’s SNKRS UK app.

Upon opening the app, a GIF on an all-white design of the coveted sneaker will flash up in different colorways to reveal the editions available throughout the week.

The first two styles have already been confirmed at this point, called the “PSG” and “Not For Resale”.

Such a move from Nike comes at a time when we’re seeing an increase in retailers capitalizing on the hype around the streetwear inspired drop-culture. Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus recently embraced limited releases in their respective department stores in June of this year, and the newly opened MatchesFashion.com store in London is investing in refreshing its product assortment every two weeks.

Luxury brands have also been embracing this model, with Burberry as one example introducing monthly-recurring product drops of exclusive merchandise under the supervision of its new creative director Riccardo Tisci.

The phenomenon of streetwear culture and its impact on luxury specifically is analyzed in more depth on an episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent, where we interviewed Ferdinando Verderi, co-founder and creative director of NY-based agency Johannes Leonardo, and the man responsible for much of the work between Adidas and Alexander Wang.

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.

 

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Editor's pick Retail social media

Burberry to drop first Tisci products through exclusive 24-hour releases

Burberry
Burberry

Burberry is releasing limited edition products through a series of 24-hour releases across its Instagram and WeChat channels, as well as in-store at its flagship in London.

The move is to launch the inaugural collection from new chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci. It will see the first product released 30 minutes after the beginning of the brand’s show at London Fashion Week, happening on September 17 at 5pm.

This ‘drop’ culture is reflective of the strategy applied in the streetwear market, whereby new items are released on given days, often for a set amount of time only, in order to drive hype around their exclusivity. The luxury industry is increasingly jumping in this same direction in order to capitalize on the consumer appetite it’s created, and arguably build conversions in the somewhat complicated see-now-buy-now era.

For Burberry, the initiative also marks another step towards a complete brand overhaul under Tisci’s guise. The Italian designer has also recently introduced a rebrand that modernizes Burberry’s traditional logo.

During the month of September, he will translate this new aesthetic via an installation at the brand’s London flagship. Commissioned British artist Graham Hudson, will create ‘Sisyphus Reclined’, an immersive three-storey installation in the store, with themed rooms celebrating the brand’s rich history.

Burberry’s London flagship

The reimagined flagship will be open to the public from September 15, with Hudson’s installation remaining on display until early October.

It’s 24-hour product drops are also expected to continue beyond fashion week. This is not the first time Burberry has launched a bespoke e-commerce experience through its social channels. The luxury retailer has previously tapped into the potential of WeChat to sell product – for Chinese Valentine’s Day this year, it launched a WeChat mini-program that encouraged couples to take a quiz which, once completed, gave them access to a range of products created exclusively for the event.

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.

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Retail

Barneys and Neiman Marcus embrace new retail experiences

thedropLA@Barneys
thedropLA@Barneys

The idea that consumers require more than just product to drive them into department stores in the current retail climate, is being heavily backed by the likes of Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus of late.

Both have recently launched experience-led pop-ups, designed to drive customer engagement, create hype via social media and ultimately translate visitors into purchasers.

While the two department stores differ in their approach, the aim for both is clearly driven by their realization that modern consumers require more than one-off events to continuously drive footfall and conversion.

In the spirit of thinking outside the box, Barneys New York has launched a strategy inspired by streetwear’s “drop” culture and how to build hype back into retail. The initiative launched in October 2017, but it has recently matured into a two-day event titled thedropLA@Barneys, where the retailer once again teamed up with media publisher Highsnobiety to offer over 90+ brands and 20+ exclusive partnerships with streetwear-meets-luxury designers, as well as to host designer appearances and immersive installations.

Spread across five floors, the event was attended by 12,000 people and saw a 50% uplift in sales compared to the same weekend in 2017.

Neiman Marcus is similarly translating its new strategy with the “Idea Factory” concept, which launched with a variety of in-store activities that aim to bring customers and creatives together through one-off services such as product personalization and classes. The event is happening over the next two weeks in five stores across the US.

These installations are supposed to only be the beginning for a series of initiatives, with phase two anticipated in September. For the second instalment, the retailer is looking at concepts in epicure, food & beverage, travel, wellness and social consciousness, in a bid to become more culturally relevant, says Ed Burstell, Neiman Marcus’ SVP of product innovation

The new approach shows that ultimately, the future of retail, particularly when it comes to multibrand stores, depends on embracing the values of the younger consumers, as their high spending power can’t be denied, says Jeff Carvalho, managing director of Highsnobiety.

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Campaigns Retail

Converse pushes hype beast culture with London hotel activation

The Converse One Star Hotel in London
The Converse One Star Hotel in London

Converse is opening a pop-up hotel in London to mark the drop of its new One Star collection this weekend.

The One Star Hotel, based in Shoreditch, will see rooms curated by artists including A$AP Nast, Yung Lean and MadeMe, as well as two days of gigs, workshops and conversations.

A dream for sneakerheads and music fans alike, the activation promises “staff with attitude, loud neighbours, the freshest sneakers as standard and all-nighters in shoebox rooms”. Live music will also reportedly come from Princess Nokia, IAMDDB, SlowThai, Skinny Macho and more.

What’s interesting is to see how Converse is building hype by following numerous tried and tested rules emerging in sneaker drop culture.

Teaser information from both the brand and influencers involved in the project has been released in advance, for instance. Included is a supposed product list driving curiosity among fans interested in key pieces, such as the collaboration with A$AP Nast that was only released in limited edition in the US previously.

A dedicated microsite meanwhile, provides not only further details of the event, but a series of tongue-in-cheek hotel reviews.

The campaign, which happens to fall during London Fashion Week, taps heavily into a cultural movement surrounding streetwear and sneakers at present, whereby pushing scarcity is king, not just in terms of limited edition products, but particularly unique experiences in which to get hold of them.

We’ve seen this achieved by brands including Supreme, Palace, adidas and Nike in a big way. Meanwhile, the likes of Vetements launching a laundry pop-up in Los Angeles is another example, as is the first Adidas Originals x Alexander Wang collaboration, which secretly dropped in different cities around the world out the back of 17 trucks in trash bags as though the items were on the black market.

The Converse One Star Hotel opens February 16-17 at 155 New North Road, London N1 6TA.