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Podcast product

Heist’s Olympic designer on product innovation

You have to be bold and brave to do meaningful innovation, says Fiona Fairhurst, VP of innovation at underwear brand, Heist Studios, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent Global.

“We’re trying to make better products that make people’s lives better,” she explains.  

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The first product under the newly-appointed designer’s remit at Heist is shapewear that not only looks more aesthetically pleasing than existing alternatives in the market, but removes any stigma for women wearing it. Fairhurst’s background is in sport, a world built around product innovation focused on the importance of performance.

She rose to fame during the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 where, while working at Speedo, she introduced a bodysuit using biomimetic sharkskin technology that went on to help 13 out of 15 swimming world records achieved during the competition. It was also eventually banned from the sport because it gave competitors an unfair advantage.

Her background has enabled her to strike the balance between the emotional side of design and the material innovation that leads to better product performance. Much like getting swimmers to swap their small Speedos for full bodysuits, for Heist it is about getting women to trust their expertise. “We very much want to base everything on science, technology and the innovation – and also what the consumer wants, which for Heist is about women.”  

During this conversation with Rachel Arthur at a FashMash event in London, Fairhurst also explains what excites her for the future of material innovation, the challenge of scaling sustainability, and what game-changing product Heist is working on next.

Heist Studios’ new Shapewear

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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Editor's pick product

Heist’s new shapewear comes from the inventor of the Speedo SharkSkin suit

The Outer Body by Heist Studios

Three years after taking on the hosiery market with its reimagination of tights, Heist is moving into shapewear with a bodysuit inspired by the wearer’s own support system.

Called The Outer Body, the undergarment is meant to support the body instead of squeezing it, and it’s a big push in innovation that’s making that viable. Behind the design is performance-wear inventor Fiona Fairhurst, who is renowned for the multi-gold-medal-winning SharkSkin swimsuit for Speedo.

With her first product release for Heist, she is combining two cutting-edge fabric technologies. The first, NoSew™, allows the garment to have just one sewn seam, eliminating discomforting bulky seams. The second, FlowFree™, features engineered perforations that promote and enhance breathability instead of retaining moisture like traditional elastics and meshes.

“Traditional shapewear puts pressure all over the body, which might work, but it’s not comfortable. I didn’t want to touch it the same way, I wanted to support the body, not necessarily control it”, said Fairhurst at a launch event for the product in London.

The bodysuit is composed of ultrasonically bonded, contouring, breathable panels made of film technology modeled on the body’s fascia matrix – the connective tissue beneath the skin that stabilizes the muscles and internal organs. 20,000 tiny laser-perforations increase airflow to reduce sweating.

According to Heist’s CEO, Toby Darbyshire, the company is on a mission to change the future of underwear. “Women’s bodywear has been neglected, overlooking an important scientific and technological focus that it deserves. With this new launch, we have applied our philosophy of innovation and expert knowledge of the anatomy to a very specific product that has been crying out for an overhaul.”

Before creating the shapewear, Heist asked 1,025 women who wear bodysuits what they wanted most from the product. “This disillusioned and dissatisfied group told us: no squeezing, sweating, or struggling into something that’s not worth it. So, we applied high-performing technology to our bodysuit from top to bottom”, said Darbyshire.

The company also launched an amusing campaign, as its marketing style, to tease the shapewear, with various comedians attempting to get into more traditional bodysuits to varying degrees of difficulty. I don’t think women should have to compromise when it comes to shapewear. I’ve designed for comfort – this is a new product you can move in.” Fairhurst explained.

Considering the global underwear market is expected to reach $145bn by 2021 after generating sales of $112bn in 2016, according to Statista, it’s about time the industry started paying attention to innovative, female-targeted products.

The Outer Body is priced at £120 and available online today at www.heist-studios.com. A limited supply is also available in-store at the Heist DemoStudio in London, where customers can book a 30-minute Shape + Fit appointment via Instagram.

For more on how Heist approaches innovation – from product to communications – listen to TheCurrent Innovators podcast episode with Darbyshire, published earlier this year.

How are you thinking about product 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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Editor's pick product

Heist uses crowdsourced data to launch inclusive line of tights

Heist Studios
Heist Studios

Heist Studios has announced the release of five new tights in a variety of nude shades as a result of crowdsourced data from over 1,000 women. The new additions will add five new shades to Heist’s current line of nude tights when released later this week.

The diverse colour palette was sourced from “The Nude Project”, a crowdsourcing effort for which Heist created a dedicated microsite where it is asking women globally to share their own unique “nude” skin tones. Launched back in 2017, the project aims to create an ongoing range that reflects the needs of its audience accurately, says the brand.

“We know from our customers that women shy away from wearing nude garments for the most part because, with only a limited range of shades on offer, they are unable to find a suitable match,” says Heist. “We saw the furore around Meghan Markle’s tights at her first royal engagement as Duchess of Sussex, with the press lambasting the shade of nude. Our extended range seeks to solve this problem.”

Heist Studios
Heist Studios

The new range will be available to purchase from July 30 in the UK market in sizes ranging 4 to 14, while an extended sizing range from 16 to 24 will be released in October.

By launching the range in a wider variety of both shades and sizing, Heist continues to make strides towards inclusivity and diversity, which have been at the core of its DNA since inception. Additionally, reflecting its consumers’ voices in both product and advertising allows the brand to remain a strongly authentic voice in the market.

The strategy has allowed the UK-based company to quickly position itself as a true disruptor in both direct-to-consumer retail and the hosiery category itself, as CEO Toby Darbyshire told us on TheCurrent Innovators podcast in April. 

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Editor's pick Podcast

How Heist looks at inclusivity to keep innovating its tights

Heist's Toby Darbyshire and Rachel Arthur
Heist’s Toby Darbyshire and Rachel Arthur

Inclusivity for women of all shapes, sizes and skintones is at the core of the strategy behind direct-to-consumer underwear brand Heist, according to its CEO Toby Darbyshire, who features on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to Rachel Arthur, he explains how the underwear industry is one that’s ripe for innovation as a category that is underperforming against societal needs. As it stands, it is designed to drive revenue, rather than to serve its customers, he notes.

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“It struck us that in the age of Harvey Weinstein, the fact that my wife, who is a pretty modern woman, walks into Selfridges’ underwear section and it says ‘listen love, put this on – one of sort of four or five societal normalized views of sexy – and then you can fulfil your purpose’. That seems like an industry at its fundamental that is both broken from a brand point of view but also totally out of kilter with the cultural discourse,” he comments.

The first product Heist decided to tackle was tights. Widely regarded as uncomfortable, Heist’s innovative design includes no seams, a flexible waistband and a reduction in snagging and laddering. The brand worked with real women to ensure their concerns were met.

Since then, that has also meant exploring color and shape, and it’s this approach to inclusivity that keeps the brand, which recently received investment from Natalie Massenet’s new Imaginary Ventures fund, driving forward.

Last summer, it launched ‘The Nude Project’, crowdsourcing a full color palette index of different skintones based on over 100,000 customers. What’s more, the team opted to make this an open source model, explains Darbyshire, meaning they are sharing the results with the wider industry in the hope it will encourage others to diversify their product offerings.

Heist also launched tights to cater up to size 24 in 2017, again working with real body shapes to create the best fit. The line debuted with a successful and innovative campaign, featuring different shapes and sizes of fruits and vegetables inside Heist tights to promote a body positive and inclusive message.

On that decision, Darbyshire says: “How do you talk about plus size in a way that is inclusive and isn’t Dove. Not because Dove didn’t do it brilliantly, because they actually did it brilliantly, but then kept on doing it for 20 years, so now no one else can do it because it’s lame. It’s really clever. So how not to be Dove is the challenge.”

Also on the podcast, he talks about innovation in the product itself as inspired by the likes of Nike and Speedo, how to successfully cut out the middleman and why they might introduce their own store next year.

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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digital snippets film Uncategorized

Digital snippets: Donna Karan, Kate Spade, Natalie Massenet, Tommy Hilfiger, Alexander Wang

Some more great stories from around the web surrounding all things fashion and digital over the past week:

  • Anjelica Huston gets behind the camera for Donna Karan hosiery film (as pictured) [Telegraph Fashion]
  • Kate Spade’s digital play [WWD]
  • British fashion gets a web dynamo: Natalie Massenet [NY Times]
  • Tommy Hilfiger launches “le voyage seafarious” campaign, first ever webisode [Vogue.it]
  • T by Alexander Wang taps Bon Qui Qui for spring video [AdAge]
  • Rachel Roy opts for digital runway show [WWD]
  • Whistles launches new website [Whistles]
  • Milk Made’s top 10 Instagrams to follow for NYFW [Milk Made]
  • How Pose became the ‘Instagram of fashion’ [Mashable]
  • Here’s Net-a-Porter’s new magazine The Edit [Fashionista]
  • Pinterest’s retail problem [AdWeek]
  • Ebay in agency talks over fashion project [Campaign]
  • Seven apps perfect for fashion week (or any week) [Refinery29]
  • Branded mini-movies as China marketing tool: boom or bust? [JingDaily]