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business Editor's pick product Retail

From Pharrell to Barneys: the importance of collaboration

Pharrell Williams at the Fast Company Festival
Pharrell Williams at the Fast Company Festival

Collaborations were a recurring theme at the Fast Company Innovation Festival, which took place in New York this week, with a push for retailers to increasingly step out of their comfort zones.

On a panel about strategies for wooing younger customers, Daniella Vitale, CEO of Barneys New York, said that finding good partners to collaborate with is hard. “They need to have a willingness to look outside the model that already exists, but there’s this desire to control the brand a certain way,” she explained. “It’s not all the time that it’s easy to convince people to do it our way.”

This is an even bigger challenge when working with legacy brands that have been successful with the same approach for 30 years, she added. “Brands have to think about how Barneys can add value when they participate in a drop, or by doing an exclusive capsule line with us, or doing something online when normally they don’t sell their product online. We need partners to come on this journey with us.”

The creative industry has a lot to teach retail about the importance of taking a risk in order to achieve success through collaboration, other speakers noted. Pharrell Williams, for example, talked to taking a leap of faith when he recorded Happy, the 2014 best-selling single that earned him an Oscar nomination. “The career risks we take are the ones most rewarding,” Williams remarked in a panel about creativity and collaboration.

Pointing across the stage to Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of film and animation studio Illumination, and his collaborator on the track, Williams added: “I’m grateful when people see things I can’t see.” The two worked together on Happy for 2010’s animated film Despicable Me. This was the first time the artist had ever recorded a soundtrack.

Melendandri, who was previously president at the 20th Century Fox Animation studio, also weighed in on the importance of constant self-disruption. “The natural tendency when you hit a period of success is to stop taking risks because you think there’s safety in replicating what you’ve done before. That’s the greatest danger,” he warned.

“Comfort is very sneaky,” agreed Williams. “It feels good, and sometimes you don’t even realize you’re comfortable. But to get the best out of yourself, you have to put yourself into positions where you’re uncomfortable or vulnerable.”

Collaborations between brands that complement one another from a lifestyle perspective have long been a successful recipe for many brands, as also noted earlier this year at the SXSW festival, in a discussion between SoulCycle, Madewell and Milk Bar.

Increasingly, however, legacy brands and retailers are deploying a collaborative approach to target a younger consumer who thinks beyond seasons, and shops and discovers brands in a much less linear fashion. Many would argue that collaborations with younger, more cult brands are also a shortcut into getting the consumer to think differently about a more established player, as recently seen by the announcement of Ralph Lauren’s first collaboration with British skatewear label Palace.

How are you thinking about brand collaborations? 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

Madewell launches sustainable denim dyed with shrimp shells

Madewell 'Eco Collection'
Madewell ‘Eco Collection’

Madewell has launched a new line of sustainable denim that uses shrimp shell fibers in the dying process, significantly reducing the use of chemicals and water needed during manufacturing.

The J.Crew-owned brand is working with the Candiani mill in Italy to use its Kitotex® product, which is made with byproducts of the food industry (such as thrown away shrimp or lobster shells) to dye textiles. The exoskeleton of crustaceans contains chitosan, which is a fiber that helps bind dyes to fabric, while eliminating some of the chemicals traditionally used in the manufacturing of denim.

By using Kitotex and organic cotton also supplied by the Italian factory, Madewell’s Eco Collection is using 65% less chemicals and 75% less H2O than conventional material.

Once the fabric has been manufactured and dyed it gets sent to Saitex, the same Vietnamese factory responsible for G-Star RAW’s and Everlane’s sustainable denim. The factory recycles 98% of its water and turns manufacturing waste into bricks for affordable housing.

Madewell 'Eco Collection'
Madewell ‘Eco Collection’

For this inaugural collection, the American label is launching six styles of eco denim, from jeans to overalls. This is a part of its fall 2018 launch, which also includes the introduction of bigger sizes to 40% of its collection. Recently, J.Crew’s CEO Jim Brett has also noted that the brand will soon be launching a menswear line for the very first time, which should help push it towards its billion-dollar goal.

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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business Editor's pick

SXSW 2018: Why collaboration is part of the DNA of cult brands

Michael Lastoria (&pizza) and Christina Tosi (Milk)
Michael Lastoria (&pizza) and Christina Tosi (Milk)

Cross-brand collaboration can be the oxygen of running a brand in 2018’s turbulent retail environment, said Madewell’s Libby Waddle at SXSW this weekend.

The brand’s president joined a group of pioneering US companies, including &pizza’s Michael Lastoria, Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi and Soulcycle’s Melanie Whelan, to talk about the importance of teaming up with like-minded individuals as the key to running a successful cult label.

What all four companies have in common is a fiercely loyal customer following, which has enabled them to create lifestyle ecosystems that expand beyond their initial product and service offering. Collaborations have been key for customer acquisition by introducing the brands to an entirely new audience, the speakers discussed.

Programs such as Madewell’s Hometown Heroes and &pizza’s Little Giants, not only spotlight local labels, but create a deeper bond with communities who want to engage with brands that micro-target their interactions and enable a sense of belonging, they noted. This strategy has also been an essential element to avoid fatigue from the consumer’s standpoint, and allow the companies to stay on top of their game.

Madewell's Hometown Heroes
Madewell’s Hometown Heroes

For Tosi of Milk Bar, partnerships have allowed the brand to have more ownership in spaces consumers wouldn’t normally associate Milk with. Once they gained the consumer’s trust, it was easier to begin introducing new products that at first seemed left-field, she said, such as a protein-based cookie in collaboration with SoulCycle (while the bakery is famous for indulgent and sugar-filled treats).

Beyond the product itself, the overarching theme was how collaborations have kept consumers constantly coming back for more. In a landscape where there is on-demand access to goods at the touch of a finger, introducing new moments to ‘surprise & delight’ consumers is key, said Soulcycle’s Whelan, who introduced co-branded Jonathan Adler candles to the studio’s changing rooms very early on.

The conversation also focused on how collaborations are key to nurturing the wellbeing of employees internally, which is something Lastoria is a fierce advocate of. The &pizza founder says it is often the company’s ‘friends & family’ who introduce them to new products, and it is vital to their culture that he understands he is there to serve his employers first, and the customer second.

As for the secret sauce for running a cult brand, Lastoria said it is about being human and ensuring your business is wildly personal, which is often something CEOs forget about.

Soulcycle’s Whelan added that when you ensure you are the best part of someone’s day, cult-like interactions happen naturally: “When you can make it about someone else and brighten their day in some way, that’s when the tribal nature starts to take hold.”

Meanwhile, Tosi’s approach balances business acumen with a hint of rebellion, which has enabled her to create a booming baking empire: “Once you learn to paint by numbers, you have to figure out a way to colour outside the lines.”

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digital snippets social media Uncategorized

Digital snippets: Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Coach, Madewell, Hermès, Gucci, John Lewis

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

  • How social media helped Kate Spade become a global brand [Mashable]
  • How digital marketing fuelled fashion label Tory Burch’s global expansion [Mashable]
  • Coach releases Facebook app encouraging users to create animations from handbag tags (as pictured) [FashionablyMarketing.me]
  • Madewell launches fun fashion choose-your-adventure video [T magazine]
  • Hermès’ Paris Mon Ami campaign to run online with interactive ‘Scarf In the City’ game [Trendhunter]
  • Gucci most searched fashion brand on Bing [The New Age]
  • John Lewis launches 24-hour virtual shop [PSFK]
  • GQ partners with new menswear site Park & Bond for pop-up shop in New York [WWD]
  • Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Next rank top in m-commerce sites [NewMediaAge]
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digital snippets e-commerce Uncategorized

Digital snippets: Debenhams, Harrods, Style.com, Target, Vanessa Bruno, J Crew

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

  • Debenhams rewards engagement with Facebook credits [New Media Age]
  • Target takes control of its e-commerce [WWD]
  • Behind-the-scenes on Vanessa Bruno’s new campaign starring Kate Bosworth [Vogue.co.uk]
  • See Alexa Chung’s second Madewell collection: video [The Cut]