Categories
business data e-commerce product Retail social media sustainability technology

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.

Categories
Editor's pick sustainability

H&M now lists supplier and factory information on all of its products

H&M has launched a new tool that lists all suppliers and factories attached to an individual product, giving consumers an unprecedented level of access and transparency to its supply chain.

Available from today on all 47 local H&M websites, a ‘product sustainability’ button on individual product pages will display details on materials, as well as the country, city and factory (including address and number of workers) that garment was created in. In-store, that information can be obtained by scanning price tags through the H&M app.

“We are so proud to be the first global fashion retailer of our size to launch this level of product transparency,” said Isak Roth, head of sustainability at H&M. “By being open and transparent about where our products are made we hope to set the bar for our industry and encourage customers to make more sustainable choices.”

As consumers become increasingly worried about social and environmental issues (such as fair labor and sustainable resources), radical transparency has surfaced as one of the top 10 trends that will shape the industry in 2019, according to The State of Fashion Report 2019 by McKinsey & Company and the Business of Fashion. According to the report, 42% of millennials say they want to know what goes into products and how they’re made before they buy, compared with 37% of Gen Z.

Meanwhile the H&M Group, which includes brands such as H&M, Arket and COS, has been working hard towards reaching is 2030 sustainability goals through a number of new initiatives, some of which detailed in their latest annual Sustainable Report published earlier this month. This includes announcing that 57% of all materials used by the Group now come from either recycled or sustainable sources, up from 35% in 2018; and deploying technology such as VR to ensure the design process is run more efficiently.

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainability strategy. 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.

Categories
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.

Categories
Campaigns Retail

H&M Group launches shoppable style advice platform

H&M Group has launched Itsapark, an online platform that lets users seek style-related advice from its consumer community and shop both its group of brands and others.

“Sometimes fashion can be rather confusing and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be,” reads the site’s About page. “Our mission is to create a meeting place where people can exchange ideas and advice around fashion.”

Currently open to public in beta mode, the site allows its users to pose style questions to the community, such as what to wear at a job interview, or how to nail a spring color trend. Questions can then be answered by other members themselves, or become visual guides generated by ‘creators’ enlisted by the brand. Guides are then entirely shoppable and feature a mixture H&M Group brands (such as H&M and Arket) and others.

A screenshot of Itsapark’s “Explore” section

For example, a user question on how to make cycling shorts work inspired community answers and a dedicated guide, which suggests pieces from the likes of H&M Group-owned Weekday, Topshop and River Island.

Other sections on the site focus on discoverability, such as exploring current fashion trends (animal prints, 80s blazers), with content provided by its creators.

By creating Itsapark, the group is attempting to own more channels of conversations that are already happening at established social platforms elsewhere, such as Instagram. A similar strategy was also hinted at by Henry Davis, former COO of Glossier, last year at Cannes. Founder Emily Weiss later explained that this will be part of the company’s Phase Two, and will likely launch in the shape of a ‘social commerce’ platform that leverages its audience’s loyal behavior.

How are you thinking about e-commerce innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. 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.

Categories
business Retail sustainability

H&M enlists Lyft for convenient fashion recycling

H&M has partnered with ride-hailing service Lyft to make it more convenient for New Yorkers to donate unwanted clothing through its Garment Collecting program. From January 22-27, the first 5,000 customers to order a Lyft using a special discount code, HMRECYCLES, will be able to grab a free ride to their nearest H&M store.

“H&M is thrilled to partner with Lyft in a joint effort to give garments a second life through H&M’s Garment Collecting program,” said Martino Pessina, president of H&M North America. “Sustainability is a part of everything we do, and we are excited this initiative will allow more New Yorkers to both learn about and get involved in the program.”

The partnership will enable both brands further drive their respective sustainability goals.

In 2018, Lyft committed to full carbon neutrality and 100% renewable energy by offsetting the carbon emission from all its rides – meaning every ride in NYC is now carbon-neutral. The service has also partnered with cities and public transit agencies across the US to launch bike and scooter schemes.

H&M, on the other hand, has been developing tools and services that aim to help the fashion industry – and its consumers – be more accountable for their actions. The Garment Collection program, which launched in 2013, has so far collected over 163m pounds of textiles globally. In order to incentivize consumers to come into their stores and donate clothing, it offers a 15% discount for future purchases.

Last year, TheCurrent Daily spoke to Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at the H&M Group, on the Innovators podcast about the company’s ambitious goals to become 100% circular by 2030.

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainability strategy. 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.


Categories
business Editor's pick product sustainability

Circularity is a business imperative, say Swarovski innovation speakers

Circularity is at the heart of the sustainable conversation for any brand that is concerned about its longevity in the industry, said speakers at Swarovski Professional’s Sustainable Innovation event in London.

This is about shifting from the current linear method of production and consumption the industry is focused on, where we take, make and dispose of garments, and instead focusing on a circular economy, whereby all products become resources once again, the panel event, which was curated by TheCurrent, highlighted.

Those involved emphasized the importance of this in the context of population growth estimates. There is expected to be 9.8 billion people on earth by 2050, according to the United Nations, which is contrasted by the fact the planet’s resources are becoming increasingly finite.

Haeckel's Dom Bridges in Margate
Haeckel’s Dom Bridges in Margate

Dom Bridges, founder of beauty brand, Haeckels, said it’s therefore essential to think about only putting something out in the world if the planet really needs it. The core ingredients in his skincare line are based on surplus algae and chalk reef from the beaches of Margate in the UK, making circularity a central focus of his strategy.

Numbers on material waste alone should be enough to spur any company into a more sustainable model, he further noted. Only 1% of the world’s textiles are currently recycled back into the system, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, for instance.

That means 99% of what we are all wearing is waste, explained Claire Bergkamp, worldwide director of sustainability and innovation at Stella McCartney, adding that the industry has yet to build a system to successfully recycle product waste.

Stella McCartney has worked with Bolt Threads to launch a mushroom leather handbag
Stella McCartney has worked with Bolt Threads to launch a mushroom leather handbag

In spite of this, she noted that recycling alone is not going to save us. “Single-use” was recently named the word of the year by Collins Dictionary, off the back of rising public concern surrounding the environmental impact of throwaway plastics. Bergkamp accordingly emphasised that across any industry, we have to move away from designing things that are meant to eventually be disposed of.

This is something that is central to the H&M Group’s sustainability goals. It has outlined ambitions to only use sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and to be climate positive throughout the entire value chain by 2040, which ensures its suppliers also take responsibility. “When we set our sustainability goals, we didn’t know how we were going to get there,” said Nina Shariati, the transparency and innovation business expert within the H&M Group’s sustainability department. “But we didn’t set out those goals because we knew we would reach them, we set them because we had to.”

The pressure is on for all brands to become greener in how they manage their environmental footprint, and fairer throughout their supply chains, said Dax Lovegrove, Global Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Swarovski.

Today, a third of the energy used at Swarovski’s Austrian production facility comes from renewable energy, while 70% of the water used in crystal making comes from recycled sources. It is also in the process of assessing the environmental impact of its crystals and raw ingredients, which will be disclosed in early 2019.

How are you thinking about sustainability? 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.

Categories
e-commerce Editor's pick Retail Startups technology

H&M Home to launch Google Assistant app for voice-enabled style advice

H&M Home - google assistant
H&M Home

H&M has teamed up with Google to experiment with voice technology for its homeware brand, providing customers with personalized style advice through Google Assistant.

Announced during Stockholm Fashion Tech Talks, the voice app provides suggestions, mood boards and inspiration for every room in the house.

To make the experience even more personal the H&M Home Stylist, as the assistant is called, will reportedly have an exclusive human voice responding. This comes off the back of the Google I/O event last month, which featured an incredibly human-sounding version of Google Assistant placing a call to book a hair appointment.

H&M’s Monki brand has also announced it has partnered with London-based startup HoloMe to test high-definition human holograms in augmented reality.

The initiative sees images of nine select Monki outfits enhanced with digital effects, allowing the viewer to explore each of them in greater detail via their smartphone or tablet and experience the holograms as though they are present in the room.

“At H&M group we constantly work on innovations that create extraordinary customer experiences. The fashion industry is changing fast and technology is more important than ever as an enabler in adapting to an ever-changing society,” says Elin Frendberg, who leads business development for the H&M group.

Both initiatives come off the back of a tough trading time for H&M and a commitment to technology in order to turn things around.

“We know the industry is undergoing a huge shift – the catalyst for this transformation is technology. It’s not just one technology, but a set that includes artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), robotics and more,” said the group’s CEO Karl-Johan Persson at the company’s Capital Markets Day in February.

“There are changing consumer behaviours as a result – they are expecting more and more. They expect a more tailored offering in how we set up our stores, in how we communicate with [them]. They want a hassle free shopping experience, and the ability to shop anywhere and anytime. And they want even better designs at higher quality and better prices.”