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2019 highlights: The year in innovation news

2019 was a big year for innovation and the Current Daily has been tracking it all throughout – from the rise of 5G-enabled experiences to the continued push towards a circular economy. 

Here, we highlight some of the most interesting stories from the year, outlining why they are an important indication of where the industry is moving in 2020 and beyond.

5G will drive 100m people to shop in AR

Augmented reality took center stage this year as its user-friendly features meant a growing number of brands – and social media platforms like Instagram – started adopting it as a core engagement strategy.

In April, a Gartner report highlighted that 100 million people will shop in AR once high-speed 5G mobile services roll out more extensively. This means the experience is going to be more seamless than ever, giving it better real-time rendering, shorter download times and reduced latency. Retailers seem to be on board, as 46% of them plan to deploy either AR or VR. Check out our piece exploring what other benefits 5G will bring retail.

Fashion brands have only met 21% of their circularity targets for 2020

If there’s one thing to be sure, there’s no escaping the growing momentum around shifting to more sustainable practices as an industry. But is there really progress being made? In July, the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) launched its second yearly assessment of fashion brands and retailers to find that only reached 45 (21%) of the 213 targets the industry has set for 2020 will be met. 

This means the 90 signatories of the GFA’s 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment, which includes fashion companies like adidas, PVH Group and Inditex, will have to hurry if they want to achieve more in the next year. We talked a lot about the need for action in this space when a further collaborative group was announced: the G7 Fashion Pact. If you ask us, it’s time to say enough to the pledges, rather give us some tangible outputs.

H&M to trial clothing rental for the first time

Talking of sustainability, one are where we have seen a lot of action and experimentation this year is in new business models. Rental is making serious strides at all ends of the market, but perhaps most interestingly within fast fashion just recently as the H&M Group announced it will trial clothing rental at one of its H&M Stockholm stores. Members of its customer loyalty program can now rent selected party dresses and skirts from its 2012-2019 Conscious Exclusive collections.

Recently, its brand COS also launched a pilot where it is renting out clothes through Chinese subscription rental platform YCloset, which customers can access through a monthly flat rate. We also published a deep-dive into the different opportunities we see for the industry in rental, here.

Allbirds CEO calls out Amazon product copying

In November, Allbirds’ co-founder and CEO, Joey Zwilinger, wrote an open letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos after discovering the e-commerce platform was producing its own wool sneakers similar to the brand’s most popular style.

Instead of going the usual lawsuit route, the founder took this as an opportunity to highlight his brand’s sustainability mission. In the letter, Zwilinger highlights that Allbirds’ sustainable philosophy is open source, and it has thus far helped over 100 brands who were interested in implementing its renewable materials into their products, suggesting Amazon might like to do the same. It was a bold move but one that sparked a conversation around the role of collaboration once more, and its critical place in true innovation.

Gen Z loves TikTok. Can fashion brands learn to love it too?

Gen Z quickly adopted Chinese social media platform TikTok as their app du jour this year for its bite-sized video content. Currently, 66% of the platform’s 500 million global users are under 30, according to data analytics firm, Business of Apps.

Brands have started to follow suit, tapping the app to drive engagement and ultimately sales. Content varies from crowdsourced, as in a recent Burberry campaign that saw users challenged to create the brand’s logo with their fingers, through to more refined, such as in a snippet of an interview with singer Shawn Mendes for Calvin Klein. We explored various other brands setting TikTok precedent, here.

Lush abandons social media

While TikTok has been taking off, elsewhere social media is slowing for some. Vegan cosmetics brand, Lush, for instance decided to shut down all of its activity in the UK as it became “tired of fighting with algorithms” or paying to appear on news feeds. Instead, it suggested a hashtag where fans would still be able to speak to the brand.

Lush’s bold move speaks to fight playing out for anything still resembling organic reach. As consumers become jaded over being ‘sold to’, brands are having to find novel ways to reach them, beyond the influencer route. One other area we’re tracking here is those owning their own conversation channels, as with both Glossier and H&M of late.

Coty acquires majority stake in Kylie Jenner’s beauty business

2019 was the year of major acquisitions in both beauty and fashion. While LVMH recently announced it was snapping up Tiffany & Co for $16bn, other names included Farfetch buying New Guards Group, which operates streetwear favorite Off White for $675m; Shiseido acquiring cult skincare brand Drunk Elephant for $845m; and more recently, Coty acquiring a majority stake in Kylie Jenner’s beauty business, Kylie Cosmetics, for $600m. 

The latter served as particular confirmation of how brands build and grow in this day and age. Jenner, who was 18 when she started a single ‘lip kit’ line, used Instagram to form a direct conversation with her audience. In 2019, this seems like an obvious strategy, but the reality star’s foresight to do so in 2015 has undoubtedly been her recipe for success.

How luxury fashion learned to love the blockchain

Amid growing concerns over the proliferation of counterfeit goods, luxury brands also began to embrace blockchain as an important authentication tool this year. 

Earlier this year, we heard about how LVMH launched its own platform, Aura, which is currently being piloted with some of the brands in its portfolio and will further expand in the future. Kering and Richemont meanwhile are said to be exploring this too, while De Beers is using it to trace its diamonds. Once matured, the technology will undoubtedly make its way into the hands of the consumer, who will be able to better understand where their possessions are coming from. We also tracked some of the other innovations in the transparency space; an area that continues to heat up.

Automation in retail: an executive overview for getting ready

Automation was another big tech focus this year, particularly for its potential impact on retail, from supply chain management to last mile delivery. This shift is putting pressure on retailers to rethink their operating models, distribution centres and headquarters, with McKinsey warning that brands that fail to implement it into their strategy risk falling behind. 

Automation is something we’ve long been talking about for the sake of efficiency, but there also comes a significant ethics conversation to be had here, which the industry is exploring. We agree, now is the time.

What Fortnite could mean for fashion

The global gaming market is expected to reach $180bn by 2021, and fashion brands are realizing the valuable potential in this. Free-to-play video game Fortnite has grown into a multi-million dollar business by selling clothing to image-conscious gamers, for instance. This monetization of player aesthetics, more commonly known as ‘skins’, has opened the door for retailers to cash in on the virtual world. 

Going forward, we expect more brands to invest in digital garments or utilize gaming to drive product discovery. We accordingly explored how gamification is being used in the shopping journey by brands like Kenzo and Nike to both increase engagement and build brand loyalty.

How are you thinking about innovation? 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. Get in touch to learn more.

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CEO Agenda 2019 launches at Davos, urges fashion industry to address climate change?

Sustainable organisation Global Fashion Agenda has released the second edition of its CEO Agenda at Davos this week, presenting the eight sustainability priorities every fashion CEO needs to address in order to become more sustainable – including climate change. Presented at Davos House during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, the report was developed in collaboration with leading players in the fashion sustainability field, including brands such as Bestseller, H&M Group, Kering and Target.

Sustainability is no longer a trend, but a business imperative, says the Agenda. With that sense of urgency, the report has been updated from 2018 to add climate change as one of its core priorities, echoing what other sustainability experts have been saying at major conferences over the past few months.

“Climate change is an unprecedented threat to people and the planet. We only have 11 years to rectify the catastrophic impact we’ve had on our planet or we’ll miss the objective of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5 degree Celsius,” said Eva Kruse, CEO and president of the Global Fashion Agenda. “We know that change is not easy, but overall progress is too slow, and we simply can’t afford to lose another year. The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest and most powerful industries. Therefore, we need to take leadership to secure the future of our industry – and our planet.”

The report further explains that although fashion has increasingly been working on pressing issues such as chemical usage and circularity, it must also address the impact on climate change more proactively. At present, new research by UNFCCC states that total greenhouse gas emissions from textile production amount to 1.2bn tonnes annually, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

The updated Agenda now highlights four core priorities for immediate implementation, with climate change being the new addition. This includes: supply chain traceability; efficient use of water, energy and chemicals; respectful and secure work environments; and lastly, combating climate change. The other four transformational priorities for fundamental change remain the same from 2018, as follows: sustainable material mix; circular fashion system; promotion of better wage systems; and fourth industrial revolution.

The report also directly speaks to fashion leaders and asks them to further engage in the topic of conversation in light with how slow progress has been: at present, only 50% of the industry has taken any action on sustainability. “As fashion leaders you’re in a unique position to turn things around, holding the power to make sustainability an integral part of your business strategy, and thus of the fashion industry as a whole,” reads the report.

The organization has also announced ASOS, Nike and PVH Corp. as new Strategic Partners who will be working with the Global Fashion Agenda on providing expert opinions to help shape the agenda and play a role in developing though leadership content. 

“We believe that the world needs to urgently work towards creating a sustainable future – one where everyone thrives on a healthy planet and a level-playing field,” adds Nike CEO Mark Parker. “We are committed to innovating our way into that future, both within Nike and in partnership with others.”

The CEO Agenda 2019 is available to read online.

How are you thinking about sustainability? 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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ICYMI: beauty tech takes over CES, UK retail’s year of doom, the fake influencer problem

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • The future of beauty is on display at CES [CNN]
  • UK retail sales suffer worst year in more than a decade [BoF]
  • Fake influencers cost brands more than 200 million dollars [Fashion United]
TECHNOLOGY
  • IBM unveils its first commercial quantum computer [TechCrunch]
  • Amazon sets up virtual furniture showroom online [RetailDive]
  • Baidu announces Apollo Enterprise, its new platform for mass-produced autonomous vehicles [TechCrunch]
  • Here’s everything Google announced at CES 2019 [TechCrunch]
  • Bell’s hybrid-electric flying car will be available via Uber by the ‘mid-2020s’ [The Verge]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Boohoo faux fur jumper found to contain real fur [Fashion United]
  • Survey finds ‘conscious consumerism’ a top priority for Gen Z shoppers [WWD]
  • Asos and PVH Corp. join Global Fashion Agenda as strategic partners [Fashion Network]
  • NHL, Adidas to create sustainable jerseys for All-Star Game [WWD]
  • Los Angeles is hosting the very first Vegan Fashion Week [Dazed]
  • Bangladesh strikes: thousands of garment workers clash with police over poor pay [The Guardian]
  • Reusing, upcycling and innovation to be integral at the upcoming Circular Fashion Games [WWD]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Outlet malls seize WeChat to bring online traffic offline [Jing Daily]
  • Microsoft and Kroger to create data-driven connected grocery stores [Venture Beat]
  • Calvin Klein to rebrand 205W39NYC line, close Madison Avenue store [Fashionista]
  • The sweater you don’t like is a trillion-dollar problem for retailers. These companies want to fix it [CNBC]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Lululemon’s next target is mindfulness for men [Quartz]
  • Novak Djokovic takes time out to meet his greatest opponent, thanks to SEIKO [PR Newswire]
PRODUCT
  • Neutrogena unveils personalized, 3-D-printed sheet masks at CES [WWD]
  • L’Oréal’s newest prototype detects wearers’ skin pH levels [The Verge]
  • Simplehuman looks to upgrade beauty accessories business with CES launch [WWD]
  • Nike stretches into Lululemon’s space with 1st yoga line [RetailDive]
  • Goop alumni launch the “Sephora of CBD” to target the cannabis curious [FastCompany]
  • The North Face debuts new outerwear technology [Fashion United]
BUSINESS
  • CFDA report highlights what it will take to achieve a truly diverse and inclusive fashion [W24]
  • These latina Avon sellers have dominated a beauty company modeled on white womanhood [Buzzfeed]
  • Tommy Hilfiger and Zendaya to show at Paris Fashion Week [Fashionista]
  • L’Occitane acquires Elemis for $900 million, eyes Asia expansion [WWD]
  • 38 percent of fashion and beauty brands plan to launch collaborations in 2019 [Fashion United]
  • Moschino has a code word for black shoppers, according to damning new lawsuit [The Fashion Law]
  • Dior switches Paris catwalk date to avoid ‘yellow vest’ protests [Reuters]
  • Debenhams rescue plan could involve closure of more than half of its stores [The Industry]
  • HSBC predicts luxury market to slow down in 2019 [Fashion United]
CULTURE
  • Gucci Garden opens exhibition dedicated to reflections on masculinity [WWD]
  • Miuccia Prada’s take on freedom of speech, cultural appropriation [WWD]

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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Editor's pick sustainability

Copenhagen Fashion Summit: Sustainability has a leadership problem, not a technology one

David Roberts of Singularity University at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit
David Roberts of Singularity University at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit

“Having technology, and having leadership that adopts it, are two very different things,” David Roberts, thought leader and distinguished faculty member at Singular University, said at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in Denmark this week.

Keynoting the second day of an event dedicated to sustainability, he urged the audience to recognize just how much innovation is out there – from new materials to recycling tech. “This isn’t a technology problem, it’s a leadership one,” he explained.

Arguably, there is still big work to get such tech to the sort of scale the industry needs, but the wider challenge of uptake in order to make that possible as well as viable, is key.

Roberts pushed for the leaders in the room to therefore be the ones that stand up and try to make a difference – or to kickstart the industry into doing so. He referenced a quote from Robert F. Kennedy to illustrate it: “Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, they send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a wave that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

The notion of the summit is indeed to inspire those sort of ripples to start taking place from individual sources, but this year’s underlying theme was also about collaboration. Speakers from Dame Ellen MacArthur to Eric Sprunk, COO of Nike, pushed for the industry to truly start working together.

“When it comes to igniting sustainable innovation, we believe in the power of collaboration. To design the future, we must do it together,” said Sprunk.

Complementing that notion is the CEO Agenda, a recently published list of seven priorities from the Global Fashion Agenda, the organization behind the summit.

Three of those priorities – supply chain traceability, efficient use of water, energy and chemicals, and respectful and secure work environments, can be implemented right away, Morten Lehmann, CSO of the Global Fashion Agenda, said on stage. But the other four – sustainable material mix, closed loop fashion system, promotion of better wage systems and the fourth industrial revolution – are focused more on the future. “They are transformational. You need to be aware of them, but no company can act on these alone. It needs to be the industry together.”

Added Sprunk: “This event is a catalyst for action for all of us. No single person, company or government will be able to do it alone… Just as in the design process, the best ideas come from a mash up of perspectives, talents and capabilities.”

MacArthur further pushed for regulation to drive this forward: “Regulation is important, but a common vision for that regulation is critical. We need collaboration around a vision so that everyone is working in the same direction, and only through that will this be possible.”