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business Podcast product Retail

Dirty Lemon on feeding a constant need for newness

“We’re operating under the thesis that billion dollar brands will not exist in the future,” says Zak Normandin, founder and CEO of Iris Nova, the company behind wellness drink brand, Dirty Lemon, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

“I know Dirty Lemon isn’t going to be popular in a few years. And I want to already have three type of products in the pipeline that we’re launching right now, because consumers are very transient in their decisions to buy products,” he explains.

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Dirty Lemon launched in 2015 and quickly gained the type of cult following that only brands born online manage to achieve. It did so through a mixture of being at the right place, at the right time – in this case, right in the middle of the wellness boom – and carefully crafted branding that positioned it as a lifestyle offering, rather than just a product.

But Normandin, a CPG entrepreneur at heart, has much bigger plans than creating fleeting frenzy around a single product line. From inception, his Instagrammable bottles could only be bought online, with purchase being completed via text message. In 2018, it launched the Drug Store, an unmanned retail concept where customers could pick up a Dirty Lemon drink and simply walk out, texting to complete their purchase as they did so. This innovative retail model, alongside a stream of new product launches happening over the next few months, demonstrates Normandin’s ambitions to keep reacting to customer needs and behaviors before they move onto the next hot thing.

During this conversation, recorded at this year’s SXSW at the Current Global’s Innovation Mansion, Normandin also share with Liz Bacelar the new products launching under the Iris Nova family, what the retail experience is doing to inform future product development, and how Coca Cola is not only one of the brand’s biggest investors, but also its competitor.

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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Campaigns Editor's pick

Nike encourages Mexican women to exercise with digital competition

Nike Mexico “Juntas Imparables”

Nike Women in Mexico is encouraging women to exercise more with a group competition that sees combined exercise minutes tallied for the chance of winning a final prize.

In order to join the competition, titled “Juntas Imparables” (Unstoppable Together), women must register their teams of four on a dedicated website, and from there continue to log their minutes of exercise through the Nike Training Club or Nike Running Club apps. The group that collectively tallies the most exercise minutes within a six week period (September 10 – October 19) will win a year’s worth of Nike sponsorship.

Nike is further supporting the participating teams by creating WhatsApp group chats where they will be connected to a Nike representative who will coach them throughout the competition. Groups are also able to monitor their progress and position in the ranking by visiting the Nike Imparables site, which features a leaderboard.

To promote the initiative, Nike has released a TV spot that sees top female Mexican athletes, such as football player Nayeli Rangel and boxer Mariana Juárez, sprinting through the streets of Mexico City while being faced with challenges such as men wolf-whistling, traffic and construction sites.

The campaign features a charitable aspect too – Nike has vouched that for every minute of exercise registered, it will fund another minute of play or exercise in collaboration with the NEMI foundation next year. This is part of the sportswear brand’s Hecho para Jugar (Made to Play) program, which was created to help Mexican children live happier and healthier lives.

Are you thinking innovatively enough? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent 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

Reebok launches shape-shifting bra inspired by NASA fabric

Reebok PureMove
Reebok PureMove

Reebok has announced the launch of PureMove, a sports bra that adapts to the movement of its wearer in real time. This means that when the wearer is moving quickly, the bra material stiffens to provide extra support, while when the movement is slower and requires more flexibility, the material softens.

The US-based sportswear brand took four years to develop the innovation, adapting it from a material that has been previously used in NASA spacesuits and bulletproof vests.

“Innovation has always been in Reebok’s DNA and placing an emphasis on transforming and improving one of the most important fitness garments for women is no exception,” said Barbara Ebersberger, VP of performance apparel at Reebok. “We could not be prouder to come to market with a product that breaks down barriers in a category that has dissatisfied consumers for far too long, lacking any true technological advancements.”

To achieve the innovation, Reebok developed the Motion Sense Technology by combining performance-based fabric with a sheer-thickening fluid (or STF), which is a gel-like solution. Originally developed by the University of Delaware in 2005, STF takes liquid when in a slow-moving state and stiffens it into a solid when moving at high speed.

By incorporating STF into the fabric, the PureMove bra immediately responds to changes in movement by the wearer.

Reebok also worked with the University of Delaware to undertake vigorous testing on the new material, employing 54 different motion sensors to test bra prototypes. By comparison, the brand says typical testing only uses five sensors.

It furthermore cites a study that was published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health Journal as a key influence when developing the bra, which outlines that one in five women actively opt out of workouts because they don’t have a sports bra that is comfortable enough.

Reebok’s innovation places the brand in the race for developing material innovation that is increasingly adaptive to the wearer’s immediate needs, which is particularly relevant to the sporting industry. Similarly, earlier this year Puma worked with MIT to showcase how biodesign could increase performance, presenting prototypes such as insoles that collate realtime biofeedback to measure things like fatigue.

For more on material innovation in fashion, listen to our TheCurrent Innovators episode with Dan Widmaier, CEO of Bolt Threads, the company responsible for sustainable textiles such as spider silk and, most recently, mushroom leather.

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

How Equinox services the luxury wellness consumer

Liz Bacelar and Vimla Gupta

The mass appeal of ‘wellness as a lifestyle’ may be something trending with consumers today, but it’s a mindset that’s been central to Equinox since its inception in 1991, says Vimla Gupta, CMO of the premium fitness brand, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Equinox has paved the way by offering consumers support and service beyond typical gym classes by understanding how their fitness behaviors have always been a pivotal part of their lifestyles. In doing so it’s become not just a ‘gym’ brand, but an entire lifestyle group that will even open its own hotel in New York in 2019.

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

Its success comes from the fact it quickly understood that with the rise of the internet, consumers were going above and beyond normal exercise behavior to better understand their needs and goals. “What we seek to do as a brand is intrinsically understand our consumer and what her needs are; what drives her,” says Gupta. “And what we are seeing is the consumer has a PHD in everything; unlimited access to information.”

Modern gym-goers, Gupta says, are information-obsessed and think of every step of the journey, from understanding their nutrition and dietary needs, to researching the efficacy of the latest workout and even what sportswear they wear. This pushes brands like Equinox to become the vehicles to satisfy their learning needs and provide them with an experience that will correspond to their high performance expectations.

At the heart of Equinox’s interaction with its clients is the need to keep innovating by introducing services and technologies that help maximize the potential in their consumers lives, she adds. Technology in this case acts as an engagement and recommendation tool through leveraging individual data, such as the recent launch of a digital coach – or a bot – to its 10-year-old mobile app, which learns from a user’s activities and helps them stay on track.

During this conversation with Liz Bacelar, founder of TheCurrent, Gupta also divulges more on what tech means for the Equinox gym experience, how the company is evolving from fitness to lifestyle and retail, and its upcoming plans to keep enabling clients to live their best lives.

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.

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product Retail technology

SoulCycle teams up with Ultracor to create personalized leggings

SoulCycle x Ultracor
SoulCycle x Ultracor

Fitness brand SoulCycle is working with performance wear line Ultracor to give customers the opportunity to personalize their own pair of leggings in minutes.

A continuation of the duo’s collaboration in the summer of 2017, the partnership sees new Ultracor kiosks set up in select SoulCycle studios that allow indoor cycling guests, or “riders” as they’re known, to design and personalize their individual styles.

The kiosks are launching with five different legging designs; each one using next generation digital printing, patented built-in shapewear and breathable fabric.

The result means riders are able to customize their leggings in a number of ways to make them a perfect fit. By including height in the design process, the Ultracor kiosk is able to ensure that the knee break and waistband heights of the leggings are in a comfortable position for the wearer.

Customers can also select the exact shades they’d like to use for parts of their pants from a full color scale, rather than a few options. The designs can then be further personalized with the addition of up to 10 characters of text that are added to the back right side.

Soulcycle x Ultracor
Soulcycle x Ultracor

Each design is priced at circa $200 and new styles will be added to the kiosks every couple of weeks. The leggings are delivered to the customer within three business days.

The initiative is an interesting example of SoulCycle thinking beyond the idea of being a fitness studio and instead considering its role as a lifestyle brand; thinking about the retail side of things to drive consumer engagement and new revenue streams.

Brand collaboration has been long been a feature of SoulCycle’s strategy. It recently partnered with luxury fragrance company Le Labo to update its locker room amenities, for instance.

It has also partnered with a number of fashion brands to create capsule collections, and in a surprising twist, New York bakery Milk Bar, to create a protein post-workout cookie.

At SXSW this year, the company’s CEO Melanie Whelan joined Milk Bar’s Christina Tossi in a panel to discuss the importance of collaboration as part of a cult brand’s DNA. “Introducing new moments to surprise and delight consumers is key,” Whelan said.

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Editor's pick technology

Fitbit’s collaboration with Public School aims to cement its place in the fashion world

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 14: A model poses backstage at Fitbit and PUBLIC SCHOOL Collaborate On Accessories Collection For Fitbit Alta on February 14, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Fitbit)

When Public School – one of New York Fashion Week’s hottest young designer brands – took to the runway with its Fall 2016 collection this week, it wasn’t just the clothes that garnered attention.

Adorning the wrists of several models were two new wearable technology accessories. A collaboration with Fitbit, both designs encompass the fitness tracking company’s new Alta product.

Slimmer and sleeker than previous Fitbit devices, the major additional selling point of Alta lies in its customisable, and thus interchangeable wristbands – something that has given Public School a lot of freedom to be creative with its concepts.

Indeed, rather than looking like a piece of technology, or a health or sports device, the results articulate a sense of style that bring wearables up to date with where contemporary fashion is headed.

Separate to its existing (and more feminine) collaboration with Tory Burch, this relationship with Public School is about aligning with the much more urban aesthetic that design duo and co-founders, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, bring.

“We draw our inspiration from New York City’s vibrant, active street culture and the people that surround us where we work, live and thrive,” they said. “As we work with Fitbit to design the collection for Alta, our goal is to create accessories that inspire, delight and have the versatility to become a modern extension of our users.”

While the Alta itself launches in March, the Public School accessories won’t hit retail until later this year. The collection will include five pieces (from fine metals to cheaper printed sports bands) in total, and if rumour is anything to go by, an impressive launch for the final styles during the next round of fashion week shows in September.

Head over to Forbes to read my interview with Tim Rosa, VP of global marketing at Fitbit, for the full lowdown on the collaboration and what’s ahead.

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business e-commerce technology

Under Armour’s power performance: Athleisure & connected fitness

underarmour1

How important is ‘athleisure’ as a trend that’s impacting sales figures for sportswear companies? Well, sports brands never really own up to that. But the sales growth some of the big names are seeing suggests that it’s a real sales driver. Just look at Under Armour’s latest results.

The company released its Q4 figures this week, turning in an eye-popping 31% revenue rise to $1.17bn. Wow. You don’t get that from just selling to committed sports and fitness fanatics.

Under Armour is one of those companies that has really been benefitting from the athleisure trend and while yesterday’s upbeat news wasn’t all about sportswear as a lifestyle choice (rather than a sports one), the lifestyle factor obviously did loom large. Interestingly, lifestyle is giving a major boost to sports clothing sales. Where once upon a time all the sexy news was about footwear, now apparel is enjoying its time in the spotlight.

Apparel sales for Under Armour rose a massive 22.2% and at $864.8m in the three months to December 31 they obviously make up the biggest chunk of the firm’s revenue, driven by demand for training, running, golf and basketball duds. Obviously, you don’t see 20%-plus growth in each quarter for 25 consecutive quarters by just supplying clothes for active sports. That means a lot of people bought those training, running, golf and basketball pieces for working in, for relaxing, posing and partying in… as well as for getting fit.

womenshoe_UA

Footwear had a good quarter too though, with sales almost doubling to $166.9m as new running shoes and the signature Stephen Curry basketball line proved hugely popular. Again, you only have to look around any group of friends at work or off-duty to see how even the most high-performance shoes have transitioned from the track and court to the bar and office.

And accessories sales soared as well, rising 23% to $97.1m, driven primarily by new bags. Meanwhile online sales grew 25% in Q4 and now make up 36% of total Under Armour revenue, and international net revenues rose 70% (or 85% currency-neutral) to make up 12% of the total. That all helped net profit to rise 20.4% to $105.6m, or 48 cents per share.

Any negatives?

Can this impressive performance continue? Well, the firm expects revenue growth of 25% this year so, yes. That prediction obviously countered any worries investors may have had that the athleisure trend fuelling such explosive growth might end any time soon.

Some analysts and investors were concerned about reports that Under Armour is losing womenswear market share – a particularly disconcerting thought given that women are helping to drive the athleisure trend. The Wall Street Journal quoted data from SportScanInfo saying the company saw a 7.7% drop in womenswear sales in December (compared to a 6.6% rise for Nike). But Under Armour has countered this saying the data captured only represents 40% of its business (it doesn’t include wholesale or online sales, for instance).

Yet there are still some downsides in Under Armour’s performance. The company’s margin slipped in Q4 as it boosted inventory levels to ensure it could meet demand and keep shelves stocked. The negative aspect of this high inventory level is unsold product that ends up being marked down.

underarmour2

And lower margins make analysts nervous, especially when they’re already worried that a fashion trend (athleisure) fuelling massive sales growth could flip suddenly and become yesterday’s fashion news.

But is athleisure really a fashion trend any more or has it evolved into a true lifestyle phenomenon that’s a reflection of society’s increasing move away from formal clothing? I’m inclined to think the latter. In many ways it’s the logical conclusion of a trend that started over 50 years ago and I don’t think it’s going to go away, even when the fashion pendulum swings in another direction.

Future focus

So, assuming that athleisure is here to stay and that the firm’s power growth can continue (for a while at least), what will Under Armour be offering this year to make it happen?

CEO Kevin Plank said the firm will deliver new iterations of signature product across premium price points and distribution throughout this year. It’s doubling its “elevated running” offerings priced above $100 including the launch of its first smart shoe, SpeedForm Gemini 2 RE, and SpeedForm Slingshot, made with a 3D knitting process.

In apparel, it will debut two new HeatGear apparel cooling technologies, Microthread and CoolSwitch, while also launching a proprietary ColdGear insulation story called Reactor.

OK, a lot of people are going to buy into that sport-focused tech for nothing more vigorous than the walk to the bus stop. But the company is also going to offer plenty for the true fitness-focused community, not only with clothes and shoes, but via major developments in Connected Fitness.

Earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show, it unveiled the new UA Record, the digital dashboard app for health & fitness, and a suite of new products led by Under Armour HealthBox, which it described as “the world’s first complete Connected Fitness system.”

And while all that can help consumers monitor their fitness, importantly, it can help Under Armour monitor its consumers too! That’s not as creepy as it sounds; the company isn’t watching us. But CEO Kevin Plank did say it could achieve a “more complete picture of [its] consumer”. He added: “We are establishing our data-driven math house that will provide us with real-time information to make better decisions and build even better products. More importantly, it will provide deeper insights, recommendations, and personalised content.”

So there you have it – something for everyone no matter how fitness-focused you are. As for me, I think I’ll stick to the hoodie and leggings for lounging around and watching TV…

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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Editor's pick technology

How a biometric bra at CES pointed to the future of wearable technology

ombra2

Amid the smart watches, fitness bands and other wrist-based devices dominating the wearable tech scene at CES this year, there was… a bra. In a sea of gadgets targeted predominantly to men, one product stood out for the very fact it could be nothing but aimed at women.

The OMbra, as it’s called, is an intelligent sports bra. Created by OMsignal, the team behind the Ralph Lauren PoloTech Shirt, it tracks the biometric basics you’d expect, including heart rate, distance and calories burned. But there also some exclusive metrics created by the company, such as “breathing rhythm” to help moderate your respiratory system and enable you to use less energy when running; “fatigue” to gauge what state of cumulative fatigue your body is in based on previous training; and “biometric effort”, which tells you exactly the level of effort you’ve put into each run.

All of that syncs to your mobile under the new OMrun platform, aiming to help you improve efficiency and performance over time. It also connects with other apps including Apple Health, Strava, Nike+, MapMyFitness and Runtastic.

While those digital aspects are central, key to the delivery of this product, according to OMsignal co-founder and CEO Stephane Marceau, was ensuring it actually functioned as a comfortable and supportive item to wear first and foremost. Significant research was done into biomechanics for instance, focusing on such details as straps being the most common complaints about sports bras, and that the way a woman runs will change depending on how her breasts are supported.

Head over to Forbes to read my full interview with Marceau.

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digital snippets technology

Digital snippets: all the wearable tech news from #CES

under-armour-hb-2

Trawling the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES is the equivalent of perusing 38 football fields of shoulder-to-shoulder booths featuring endless displays of new technology.

The great news about the internet: you don’t have to actually do that hard work yourself. So here’s a round-up of all the fashion-related and wearable technology news that came out of the week, as written by other people all over the web (I too gave it a miss this year!)…

  • How Under Armour plans to turn your clothes into gadgets [Wired]
  • Under Armour’s Gemini 2 sneakers are fitness trackers for your feet (as pictured) [Mashable]
  • Misfit’s wearables hide their tech behind cool minimalism [Wired]
  • Fitbit Blaze launches as $200 Apple Watch competitor [TechRepublic]
  • Samsung unveils ‘Smart Suit’ as part of family of wearables [Mashable]
  • Samsung made a smart belt that doesn’t suck [The Verge]
  • Fossil to roll out 100 wearables [WWD]
  • OMbra biometric smart sports bra woos women [BrandChannel]
  • L’Oréal patch measures UV exposure [TrendWalk]
  • Fashion icon Iris Apfel debuts luxury smart bracelets that track health [MedicalDaily]
  • Mira’s new smart jewellery combines tech and high fashion [DigitalTrends]
  • Futuristic sneakers tighten automatically, warm your feet and are controlled by an app [MailOnline]
  • Casio maps out smartwatch territory in cyclists and hikers [FT]
  • SCOTTeVEST’s new jacket lets users cleverly store a laptop inside their clothing [iDigitalTimes]
  • Clothes at the CES fashion show actually looked pretty normal [CNET]
  • A look at some of the wackiest wearables on show [Wareable]

Image via Mashable

Categories
Editor's pick technology

Kmart’s Joe Boxer mocks wearables market with ‘inactivity tracker’

joeboxer_inactivitytracker

If there’s one thing the past 12 months has seen, it’s brands at the dozen jumping on the wearables bandwagon with some kind of gratuitous marketing tie up or another. Here comes another, but this time quite a winning one.

In a bid to promote its pyjamas, Kmart’s Joe Boxer line has teamed up with FCB Chicago to come up with the idea of the “inactivity tracker”. Yep, forget counting your steps like every other fitness band out there, and instead get comfortable with doing absolutely nothing at all. The hashtag #chillhard is attached accordingly.

“The whole idea is to turn the tracking trend on its ear. It plays off of Joe Boxer’s irreverent brand personality really well,” Jamie Stein, a spokeswoman for Kmart, told AdAge.

The device, which was genuinely available to consumers (in limited edition and for free to the first 50 who purchased from Kmart’s New York Astor Place store this weekend), connects to a mobile app available on both iOS and Android. From there it rewards the wearer’s laziness and chill time.

joeboxer_tracker

As per the promotional material, the step-by-step process is to: 1. Put on Joe Boxer pajamas and your Inactivity Tracker; 2. Download the app. Pair Inactivity Tracker with your smartphone. Earn badges; 3. No more steps.

Levels can be reached including “Human Sloth”, “Genghis Yawn”, “Are you dead?” “Couch Commander”, “Cryogenic” and “You Rock!” To achieve the latter, one needs less than 2,500 steps in five days; perhaps not the most responsible of suggestions to today’s population, but a fun mockery of the route wearable tech has taken us so far otherwise. The product description similarly highlights things like “little itsy bitsy lights” and “cool vibrating thing”.

Accompanying the launch of the device is a 60-minute video of two men competing in the “2015 Joe Boxer Lounger Games”. Amusing commentary ensues as it focuses on the PJ-clad individuals chilling in their armchairs.