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business Podcast product Retail

Thom Browne: Choosing authenticity over hype

A brand’s success depends on authentic relationships and good design over hype, says Rodrigo Bazan, CEO of designer label Thom Browne, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

“I tend to like less anything based on hype or cool, or the hot thing of the moment, because by definition that’s going to cool down at some point. So I still believe that the big things that are happening are led by a very, very strong design idea,” he explains.

It’s for the same reason that dressing rapper Cardi B for this year’s Met Gala in a larger-than-life ruby ballgown made sense for the luxury label, he notes. 

The Thom Browne team does little PR and has no internal VIP team, meaning the relationship with Cardi, as well as sports superstars like basketballer LeBron James, happen organically.

Since launching in 2004, the brand has gained a loyal audience that appreciates its modern take on classic silhouettes. The designer’s discrete nature (he himself is not on social media) and timeless designs mean it has managed to stand out in a world of overconsumption and celebrity designers that rule social media, from Virgil Abloh at Off White and Louis Vuitton to Olivier Rousteing at Balmain. 

Bazan explains how the brand is averse to overexposure and flashiness, instead focusing on creating more of these meaningful partnerships, from dressing Barcelona FC players off the field to creating bespoke tailoring with Barneys. As a result, it is steadily growing a business aiming to survive the influencer fatigue that is starting to pick up speed. 

Join us to learn more from Bazan about what that means in practice, including how music and celebrity help fuel its success, why the brand believes in sportswear over streetwear, and just how its thinking about the balance of data and design today.

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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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business Podcast Retail social media technology

MatchesFashion.com: Why retail ‘experience’ is jargon

Creating retail experiences is essential for successful brick and mortar today, but it’s not a silver bullet, explains Jess Christie, chief brand officer of MatchesFashion.com, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

This is a luxury retailer that opened a new physical store in London’s Mayfair last year and hosted more than 100 different events in its first 9 months. If anyone knows what it takes to pull this sort of thing off, it’s Christie. 

“I think everyone should be doing it, but I think the problem is that you can’t just say we’re all going to do experiences, and then say that means we’re going to do loads of ‘in-conversations’ and that’s what an experience is, and then be cookie cutter. You have to really challenge yourself to know what your brand is, who your customer is, and what would engage and inspire them,” she explains.  

Indeed, by not thinking like this, the word ‘experience’ in itself has become almost meaningless, Christie suggests. It’s overused and often without direction – believed by many to be the answer to saving a challenged industry. Which is why we see everything from yoga classes to floristry workshops and ball pits taking over shop windows. 

A recent study shows that one-third of chief marketing officers will dedicate up to 50% of their budgets to experiential marketing over the next five years. The winners will be those who, as suggested by Christie, don’t just think of it as a silver bullet. 

There are of course examples of this truly working in the market. Apple, Nike and Lululemon have all made a name for themselves for their approach. MatchesFashion.com is now taking its strategy on tour around the world. 

Jess Christie, Chief Brand Officer at MatchesFashion.com & Rachel Arthur, co-founder & chief innovation officer at Current Global

Join us for this live conversation with Christie held at a FashMash event in London as we explore her view on all things experiences, as well as what it means to think about personal shopping through the eyes of technology today, and the role content plays in connecting online and offline together.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

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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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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business Editor's pick

Beboe on creating a luxury cannabis brand

“In fashion, I sold things to people that they didn’t need. You don’t need a beautiful bustier dress from Dolce & Gabbana, you want it, so it is about a want-based marketing,” says Clement Kwan, co-founder of luxury cannabis brand Beboe, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

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“In marijuana what we realized was everything was about the product. How high can you get? At what price? So we flipped the script,” Kwan, who is a former executive at YOOX and Dolce & Gabbana, notes.  

Beboe launched in 2017 at a time when cannabis consumption was riding high. Off the back of the growing wellness trend, consumers have become increasingly educated on the physical and mental benefits of the plant, and a series of new products and retail models have entered the market to respond to the demand. The plant has now been legalized for medicinal use in 33 US states, and for recreational use in 10. The country now accounts for 90% of the global legal marijuana trade, valued at $8.5bn.

Beboe
Beboe

For Kwan and his business partner, tattoo artist Scott Campbell, the ambition was to create the first luxury global cannabis brand, so its product design and marketing approach played a key role in helping destigmatize the plant and attract a more influential clientele.

By creating a desirable product that acted as a conversation starter, consumers would naturally become brand advocates, he explains. The approach has so far made Beboe stand out from the crowd, and earn the nickname of the “Hermès of cannabis”, as coined by the New York Times.

During the conversation, Kwan tells TheCurrent’s Liz Bacelar how he is applying his learnings from fashion into creating a desirable wellness and lifestyle brand, why education is the industry’s biggest challenge, and what’s next for Beboe’s growing portfolio.

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Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent 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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e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast

NET-A-PORTER on personalizing the customer experience

Rosanna Falconer and Matthew Woolsey

The future of e-commerce may not be about a traditional website at all, but about existing on multiple other platforms, expresses Matthew Woolsey, managing director at online luxury retailer, NET-A-PORTER, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

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The company sees many of its big customers making purchases over platforms including Whatsapp, iMessage and WeChat, which have become their primary entry point to e-commerce through their relationships with personal shoppers, he explains.

“We want to be in the platform where our customer is engaging with content, seeing the product or speaking with the personal shopper. It’s about what’s best for her. We never want to be in a position where we are forcing or imposing a platform or methodology on our customers, because that’s the opposite of customer centricity,” he explains.

“It’s very easy to imagine a time when NET-A-PORTER doesn’t even have a website, in the traditional sort of desktop sense, and really what it exists as is more of a concierge, on-demand, service offering. I think that’s the future of where this industry is headed and it’s something we are really well suited for because we have that infrastructure, we have that service component but we also know a lot more about our customer than just what she is buying.”

Data is central to being able to personalize the experience for individual customers in this way, he explains, outlining how the company is constantly looking at how to give its personal shoppers greater tools through technology.

The company is currently experimenting with how it can use artificial intelligence to merge data between purchase history and fashion trends to give personal shoppers recommendations and ideas in advance that are personalized to the customer, for instance.

Eventually the idea is for this to be scalable across the seven million consumers NET-A-PORTER talks to, but hitting its EIPs, or extremely important people, is the core focus, given the fact this 3% of its customer base, make up 40% of its revenue.

Speaking with Rosanna Falconer at a FashMash event in London, Woolsey also reveals why the most expensive item ever bought via a messaging app is so significant, whether NET-A-PORTER would ever think about physical retail, and how to manage the modern day tension between algorithms and inspiration.  

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current 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 Podcast product Retail

How Casper is designing experiential retail moments

Liz Bacelar and Casper's Eleanor Morgan
Liz Bacelar and Casper’s Eleanor Morgan

Successful retail experience today is about trial, service and entertainment, says Eleanor Morgan, chief experience officer of direct-to-consumer mattress brand Casper, on the latest episode of The Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar at The Lead Summit in New York, she says the company really focuses on designing experiences that are optimized for those three things rather than inventory availability and convenience. What’s key is giving customers the ability to try out products, get consultation from experts in house and enjoy moments with the brand.

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Casper has grown from an online retailer to a brick-and-mortar business with 20 stores across the US, along with an innovative sleep bar. The Dreamery, as it’s called, is a new napping space in New York built around experiential aims. It offers nap pods in a peaceful lounge along with a Casper mattress where consumers can pay $25 for a 45-minute snooze.

It also serves as an extension of the brand’s aim to drive a cultural change around sleep. “The Dreamery is a provocation and a way to essentially say, it’s not only acceptable to take a nap during the day and take a break, but it’s celebrated, and we can actually build a community of people that really value this and feel like it’s a socially fun behavior,” Morgan explains.

Casper was founded in 2014 with the mission of bringing great sleep to more people. With the diet and exercise industries booming, the founders saw a gap where sleep was completely ignored. Today, Casper is worth over $750m and has plans to open 200 store locations within the next three years.

Morgan attributes much of the brand’s growth to staying customer centered and focused on data. The company opened 18 pop-up stores in four months to test consumer engagement before opening its first permanent location, for instance. Through feedback and reviews from its consumers, it has been able to understand what their needs are, how they purchase their products, and how to improve their shopping experience.

During the conversation, Morgan also talks about the secret sauce to creating successful pop-up stores, what a modern sleep community looks like, and where Casper will be headed in the future.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Current Innovators 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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business Editor's pick Podcast

LVMH’s Ian Rogers on the death of the chief digital officer

Ian Rogers at the New York Times International Luxury Conference
Ian Rogers at the New York Times International Luxury Conference

The role of the chief digital officer shouldn’t exist, says Ian Rogers, who is himself the chief digital officer at LVMH, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar in Hong Kong during The New York Times International Luxury Conference, he argues that for any large company, the role should be merely transitional as brands become accustomed to a future where digital is simply embedded within everything that they do.

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“The word digital and the insinuation that this transformation is about technology is really misleading and it makes people make the wrong decisions. So what I really want to convince people of is that this is not a technological change, it’s a cultural change,” he explains. Instead, the role should evolve into a chief technical officer who sits at the executive table alongside more established players like the CFO and the CEO itself, he notes.

Rogers joined LVMH in 2015 at a pivotal time for the group, which like many luxury players was navigating a new consumer demand for more digital experiences and introducing e-commerce to its more traditional brands.

Since taking on the role, he has helped LVMH launch multi-designer e-commerce platform, 24 Sèvres, invest in affiliate shopping platform Lyst, and scale LVMH’s presence on China’s TMall platform from zero to 12 portfolio names.

Ian Rogers and Liz Bacelar
Ian Rogers and Liz Bacelar

Rogers big focus is on the customer, he explains. He brings that learning from his previous career in the music industry, where he led the launch of Apple Music after it acquired Beats Music and Beats Electronics for $3bn. Understanding every customer touchpoint, which now begins with digital, is key for a successful experience that navigates seamlessly across all channels, he explains.

During the conversation, Rogers also talks about how it makes sense that luxury took so long to jump into e-commerce; why CEOs don’t need to know technology intrinsically; and what he’s driving at LVMH to keep up with the level of experience the customer expects online.

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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e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast Retail sustainability

Allbirds on why sustainability is a non-negotiable

Tim Brown of Allbirds with Rachel Arthur
Tim Brown of Allbirds with Rachel Arthur

It’s not incumbent on the consumer to change behaviour, but on businesses to take responsibility, says Tim Brown, co-founder of direct-to-consumer footwear brand Allbirds, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast, by TheCurrent.

Speaking to Rachel Arthur, Brown stresses that brands need to show leadership on the issue of sustainability, and not expect their customers to be the ones to do it for them. “People don’t buy sustainability, they buy great products,” he explains.

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Brown started his career as a professional soccer player in his native New Zealand, which he says is what got him understanding the comfort needs in footwear. It was when he met co-founder Joey Zwillinger, a San Francisco-based biotech engineer and renewables expert, that the idea of creating a shoe that focused on sustainability and comfort together began to take shape.

Fast forward to 2016 and Allbirds launched its very first product, a pair of wool sneakers. Word of mouth quickly spread about the shoe’s simple design, level of comfort and sustainable use of textiles: a winning combination of good product and good storytelling that is at the core of any DTC brand’s strategy, and as a result, so attractive to the Millennial shopper.

Allbirds in London
Allbirds in London

Two years on, the brand has recently announced a new round of funding worth $50m, now valuing it at $1.4bn. With the investment, Brown says, comes the pressure to deliver on the many things they have imagined for the future, with a focus on physical retail, international expansion, and constant material innovation.

The latter has already included everything from a collection using ethically-sourced Eucalyptus fibres and a new flip-flop with a renewable sugarcane sole. The brand has also just opened up its first flagship store in London, as its first international move.

During this conversation, Brown explains how DTC brands succeed by owning every consumer touchpoint, how the narrative of retail being dead is greatly exaggerated, and why, in line with the UN’s recent report on climate change, every brand should strive to be sustainable in 2018.

This episode was recorded at Entale’s studio in London. Entale is a new podcasting app that allows you to interact with exclusive extra content like images, links and maps as you listen to your favourite podcast. You can download Entale from the iOS app store today.

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.