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Editor's pick Podcast product Retail Startups

Away luggage on going beyond the VC hype

Jen Rubio and Liz Bacelar
Jen Rubio and Liz Bacelar

Direct-to-consumer brands don’t often live up to the hype placed on them by endless amounts of VC funding and Silicon Valley fandom, says Jen Rubio, co-founder of travel brand Away, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar, founder of TheCurrent, at the British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum in London, Rubio explains that from its inception in 2016, she and her co-founder Steph Korey (who she met while both working at Warby Parker), were careful not to run their business like a lot of other brands in the space.

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“If you go back in time a little bit, a lot of new brands and e-commerce companies were positioning themselves as tech companies and raising a lot of VC money at tech valuations that would never live up to the public market at how retail companies are valued, and then run into the trouble of needing these stores and claiming they are a retail company and not a tech one,” she explains. “We saw a lot of this happening in the industry and from the beginning Steph and I said, this is not how we are going to run our business.

After pitching Away as a brand aiming to make travel more seamless, as opposed to simply making luggage, the business famously received a first round of investment before even having a physical product, for instance.

From the lightbulb moment for the brand’s concept through to its launch, Away spoke to over 800 people about what elements would make the perfect suitcase. It is that open approach to constant feedback that it continues to focus on to this day – helping to inform its product collaborations, new features and color palettes, and even locations for pop-ups and permanent retail spaces.

In this conversation, Rubio also tells Liz how its first major hurdle – airline regulation that meant their smart suitcase was no longer allowed onboard – was an important opportunity to strengthen the relationship with Away customers; how retail landlords are finally giving non-legacy brands a chance; and why understanding your consumer is key to constant innovation.

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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business data digital snippets e-commerce film mobile technology

What you missed: Luxury on Amazon, understanding data, Nike’s Mark Parker

Luxury is resistant to selling on Amazon
Luxury is resistant to selling on Amazon

The big news this week surrounds the ongoing resistance from luxury to sell on Amazon. Jean-Jacques Guiony, CFO of LVMH, said last week, there is “no way” it would do business with Amazon. “We believe that the existing business of Amazon… doesn’t fit our luxury, full stop, but also doesn’t fit with our brands,” he explained.

Quartz writer Marc Bain has a great overview on this. As he starts his story: “Next year [Amazon is] expected to become the biggest apparel seller in the US, and it boasts an enviable customer base for higher-end brands”. Yet of course, it also presents the problem of being too accessible and not reflective of the high quality customer experience luxury brands are aiming for online – many of them only recently.

Meanwhile, also worth reading this week is a piece on Nike’s Mark Parker and his view on imagination, innovation and art, another on how tech hubs are helping luxury brands return to their roots, and one on the way in which artificial intelligence is changing retail forever. If that wasn’t enough, be sure to also check out new campaigns from Abercrombie & Fitch through to Patagonia.


TOP STORIES
  • Is it even possible to sell “luxury” on Amazon? [QZ]
  • Fashion marketing is failing to understand data [Glossy]
  • Nike’s Mark Parker on imagination, innovation and art [Another]
  • How Silicon Valley (and other global tech hubs) are helping luxury return to its roots [LeanLuxe]
  • Number of Europeans using mobile payments triples, Visa study finds [Internet Retailing]

BUSINESS
  • How Brexit is set to affect how we shop [Daily Telegraph]
  • How do you sell a $6,000 bag your customer can’t touch? [QZ]
  • In stagnant luxury market, luggage brands roll on [BoF]

ADVERTISING
  • Abercrombie & Fitch tries on a new attitude: friendly [WSJ]
  • New Patagonia short film shows how fair trade shopping is good for business [Co.Create]
  • In REI’s tearjerker, people carry out a fellow hiker’s lifelong dream in tribute to his life [AdWeek]
  • Longchamp takes virtual stroll through Paris to mark boutique renovation [Luxury Daily]
  • Avon calling: #BeautyBoss campaign reboots brand [BrandChannel]

RETAIL
  • How artificial intelligence is changing online retail forever [TechCrunch]
  • Karen Millen launches B2B-only tech concept store [Decoded Fashion]
  • British Telecom launches connected store concept [Decoded Fashion]

TECHNOLOGY
  • We’re getting closer to clothing made entirely by robots [QZ]
  • How mobile is transforming product search — and why voice may be next [Retail Dive]
  • Alibaba’s new payment system lets virtual reality shoppers pay by nodding [Reuters]
  • VR is where my fashion dreams can become reality [The Verge]
  • Silkworms spin super-silk after eating carbon nanotubes and graphene [Scientific American]
  • Elle’s augmented reality experiment: fad or future of media? [WWD]

UPCOMING EVENTS
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Editor's pick technology

10 wearable tech gifts for the fashionistas in your life

wearabletech_GIFTGUIDE

If the new Hermès Apple Watch is a little out of price range, but you’re after something more than the standard fitness band to fulfill your wearable tech gift giving quest this holiday, look no further…

In honour of those thinking about fashion and not just function, our Forbes round-up of 10 wearables now on the market, is well worth checking out. Ranging from Everpurse x Kate Spade New York, to Altruis, The Unseen and Topshop x bPay, they not only do neat things like pay for products or help charge your other devices, but look pretty good too. There’s also Unmade, Gemio, Ringly, Away, Misfit x BaubleBar and Love & Robots.