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.

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. 


Balmain to host public music concerts around menswear show

Balmain is adding a musical element to its spring/summer 2020 menswear runway show in Paris, with a series of live concerts that will follow the close of the catwalk.

In the spirit of Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing’s ambition to “democratize and modernize fashion”, the events will also be accessible to the public. A total of 1,500 free tickets will be made available on the Balmain website.

The show’s musical elements tie into the annual Fête De La Musique, a celebration that takes place on the same day, June 21, throughout the French capital.

For the activation, Balmain is set to take over the Jardin des Plantes, erecting a temporary space for its audience. The runway show’s soundtrack will be provided by French DJ Gesaffelstein, whom Balmain dressed for his show at Coachella.

Olivier Rousteing has in the past already championed his ambition to democratize customer’s access to the brand’s universe. In January he launched a dedicated app that allowed fans to see the houses couture live on their phone, as well as play with augmented reality content. In 2015, the French luxury brand also collaborated with fast-fashion retailer H&M on a capsule collection at affordable prices.

This menswear show also encompasses a philanthropic element, supporting the fight against AIDS through the RED organization. All revenue made from food and drink served at the event, alongside merchandise of limited-edition products, will be donated to the fund.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. 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

business Campaigns Editor's pick

ComplexCon: Tommy Hilfiger on aligning with the cultural conversation since the 1990s

Tommy Hlifiger and Gigi Hadid
Tommy Hilfiger and Gigi Hadid

Tommy Hilfiger has always had culture and music at the forefront of how it communicates with consumers, said its namesake designer at ComplexCon this weekend.

The designer was headlining a conversation at the consumer-facing event held in Long Beach, California, alongside Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton and 90s rapper Grand Puba. He used the opportunity to explain that incorporating artists and celebrities who are at the peak of the cultural conversation is core to the brand’s strategy, as seen by the highly popular collaboration with model Gigi Hadid, as well as racing driver Hamilton and Gen Z actress Zendaya (upcoming).

“Doing collabs is really part of the excitement I look forward to every day,” Hilfiger noted. But he believes that in order for them to remain authentic, the brand should only guide and execute their artist’s ideas. This is something he has always focused on.

Aaliyah for Tommy Hlfiger
Aaliyah for Tommy Hlfiger

Although the American brand is soon to be celebrating its 35th anniversary, it was the mid 90s and its popularity among hip hop artists that truly propelled it onto the world stage, Hilfiger explained. Pushing a contemporary aesthetic with an urban New York style of big logos and baggy clothes made the brand stand out among other American names that were expanding at the same time.

Grand Puba first referenced the then mid-sized brand in a 1992 single with Mary J Blige, titled “What’s the 411”. This soon caught Hilfiger’s attention, who started dressing more artists and eventually included singer Aaliyah in a 1995 campaign. From then, the brand featured hip hop and R&B performances on its runways, which Hilfiger cites as the beginning of its entertainment-based fashion shows.

The most recent iteration of this approach lies in the brand’s see-now-buy-now strategy, which has seen elaborate fashion shows taking place for the last several seasons in different locations – from Los Angeles to London, Milan and Shanghai, with the aforementioned current celebrities fronting each occasion.

“We believe consumers want immediate gratification and great experiences,” Hilfiger explained. “My idea is to disrupt and continue to break the rules.”

Earlier this year, Tommy Hilfiger’s chief brand officer, Avery Baker, joined us on the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent, to talk about how risk, authenticity and understanding your consumer are the keys to innovation.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent 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.

Campaigns film

Kenzo explores cultural identities in mini feature film

Le Renard Bleu, Kenzo, Luxury Fashion, Fashion Film
Le Renard Bleu

Kenzo has released a 20-minute film that brings to life the Fall 2018 collection in a cinematic composition of music, performance and dance, in support of the second edition of its Folio publication.

Entitled Le Renard Bleu, the fashion film is inspired by the chilling Icelandic fable The Blue Fox, which in its original form gives a haunting account of human nature. Kenzo’s re-interpretation is directed by artist Partel Olivia, who decided to expand beyond the initial cultural identities and incorporate ancient Dogon and Japanese folktales, which give a portrayal of the fox as an animal susceptible to chaos and of a cunning nature.

The resulting intertwining of different cultural heritage lies at the heart of the brand’s creative output, with the atmospheric video chronicling the journey of the fox as a spirit animal, portrayed by street dance artist Qwenga. He is accompanied by a musical composition which was especially created through a collaboration between musician Midori Takada and LA pop-artist Lafawndah, whose spontaneous creative output imagines her own conversation with the animal. 

This is the first time in 20 years Takada, has created music; a decision that she traces back to her love for the brand (she wore Kenzo for her very first musical performance) and the compelling nature of the fox in her own culture. 

The tone of the music as well as the performance is at first pensive but soon becomes tenser, with scenes capturing fragmented sequences of dance, performance, and moments of stillness, all accompanied by the dramatic musical interlude. 

Ultimately, the focus is on the clothes however, which act as strong visual cues while also being seamlessly integrated into the overall atmosphere of the video. Fittingly, the Fall collection, entitled La Collection Memento N°2, blurs the line between Western and Eastern fashion iconography, paying homage to Japanese and Hawaiian style elements. 

Le Renard Bleu was released on the brand’s YouTube channel, with the print publication of Folio available soon on the Antenne Books website. This magazine is rooted in the brand’s aspiration to show and explore different aspects of culture and cultural identities, which in this second installation are prominently formed by the cultural aesthetics of the East, as per the latest collection. It follows the publication of Folio #1 from April 2017, entitled Gidi gidi bu ugwu eze — Unity is Strength

Editor's pick Podcast technology

Pandora Music on innovating in an era of change

Jeff Zuckowski and Liz Bacelar
Jeff Zuckowski and Liz Bacelar

“Everybody is always trying to figure out what’s next, and sometimes you’ve got to live in the now,” says Jeff Zuckowski, vice president of industry relations at music service Pandora, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar, he highlights the importance of balancing newness and familiarity, and how companies should be striving to innovate in the present, and not the future in order to stay ahead.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

For Pandora, disruption began when consumers flocked to digital to listen to music how they wanted, when they wanted, says Zuchowski. But every disruption is preceded by a phase of resistance, he notes. For digital music, it took big industry players a while to realize the power of investing in platforms that tap into the growing consumer needs for convenience and discoverability.

Although Pandora currently sits at number two in the US market behind Spotify, many would discard the company’s recent attempts to stay in line with competition. Zuchowski disagrees with that notion, saying the platform already has a large fanbase (circa 80 million), which simply needs to be reignited. “I don’t look at Pandora as an underdog, I look at is as a sleeping giant,” he says.

Pandora constantly adds touches to make the usability more seamless and relevant, he says. A recent feature, for instance, enables users to just pick one or two songs, and Pandora will generate an entire playlist off the back of them. Users can then eliminate or add songs along the way, and an algorithm will learn from their behaviour.

“When we set out to go to the next level, and we had to do something to compete, we did it by using what’s always been Pandora’s backbone, which is the Genome,” Zuchowski further explains. The Music Genome Project is a proprietary music rating system developed by Pandora where trained musicologists rate songs on 450 different attributes – such as “aggressive drumming” or “jazz influencers” and cross-reference the results with other songs in order to make recommendations. The platform is betting on its human-meets-AI approach to provide a more curated selection of music.

Zuchowski’s competitive nature, however, means he never thinks a project is done, a trait he believes most disruptors have. At the core of that approach is the need to go beyond his own industry to learn things from people who are in other spaces, facing similar problems. Fashion, he believes, is going through a large amount of change and could learn from talking to peers in other industries such as music, who often face the same hurdles, but at different times in culture.

His advice for the industry is to “take chances.. to throw a lot of s**t against the wall and see what sticks”. No one can afford to do the same thing they did a year ago, he notes.

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.

product Retail

Justin Timberlake pop-up cements the mass appeal of hipster tour merch

Justin Timberlake and Heston Preston at the pop-up
Justin Timberlake and Heston Preston at the pop-up

To promote the launch of his fifth album titled “Man of the Woods”, pop singer Justin Timberlake has hosted a NYC pop-up offering products developed through several brand collaborations.

Inside the Wooster St, Soho space, visitors encountered a hipster and nostalgically American aesthetic, similar to Timberlake’s personal style reinvention. Walls were framed with branches, while burgundy rugs and comfortable chairs lined the space. Products were then displayed against a white wall on hooks, plinths and shelves, accompanied by museum-like plaques.

Customers could only order items on display by filling out a paper form, thus giving the shopping experience a more exclusive touch.

Available to buy were one item per song in the album, which included: a Lucchese workman’s boot inspired by “Young Man”, a letter to the singer’s son; a Levi’s flannel jacket inspired by “Montana”; a Moleskine notepad inspired by “Say Something”; and a Pendleton blanket inspired by “Morning Light”.

Also on display was a Nike Air Jordan 3s collaboration with legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, inspired by the fifth track, “Higher, Higher”. The shoe was first available for purchase on Nike’s SNKRS app during Timberlake’s Super Bowl LII half-time show on February 4, and it will go back on sale once the singer’s tour commences.

Adding to the momentum, the singer also worked with Heston Preston, a designer who consulted on early seasons of Kanye West’s Yeezy and has worked with the likes of Nike and Nasa, to design the tour’s apparel (such as t-shirts and hoodies).

Over the last couple of years, artists such as Jay Z, Frank Ocean and Justin Bieber have leveraged hype beast culture to stimulate similar buzz with temporary retail environments promoting their upcoming tours or album releases. Launched in 2016, Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo” album pop-ups across multiple cities elevated the artist’s merchandise to cult-like status, and ignited a much-needed refresh of artist merchandise.

Justin Timberlake’s “Man of the Woods” pop-up

business e-commerce technology

LVMH’s Ian Rogers on viewing ‘digital’ as oxygen, focusing on ‘internet’ as culture

LVMH Ian Rogers
The Business of Fashion’s Imran Amed interviewing LVMH’s Ian Rogers during #BoFVoices (Image: BoF)

The fashion industry has to get rid of digital as a silo and integrate it throughout its organisations, said Ian Rogers, chief digital officer at LVMH, during the Business of Fashion’s Voices conference this weekend.

“When you make sure [digital] is a part of communications, a part of retail… that’s when companies do well,” he explained. But more than that, he urged for everyone to actually stop calling it digital.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” he continued. Hailing from the music world where he was senior director at Apple Music and before that CEO of Beats Music, he added: “We didn’t talk about digital when we were at Apple, that’s like talking about oxygen; it’s everywhere.”

Instead, he suggested we use the word “internet” instead. “A lot of what’s happening right now… there’s a technological part that people are really scared of. This is not a technological revolution, it’s a cultural one. It’s about the internet, which is much more specific.”

The internet, he explained, has fundamentally changed culture, and changed humans in the process. “If you replace digital with the word internet, then you start talking about this thing that connects people. So you’re contextualising it properly. Or use the word innovation where you would have used digital. So how is the internet changing culture and how do we innovate to get to the next place?”

What’s great about that, is that fashion is, at its core, also a culture business, he noted. “We sell culture as a prerequisite to selling product. If you don’t buy into the culture of a brand, you’re not going to buy a €3,000 handbag.”

Since arriving at LVMH, Rogers said the main bulk of his work has been around “untangling knots” – presumably tied to the silos the group works in across its brands including Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Loewe, Céline, Givenchy and others. But he also spoke positively about the future of the industry based on this idea of digital or the internet, as a shift in culture. “The great thing for me, is that underneath [the knots at LVMH], there are still the same lessons that we learnt in music about how culture has changed.”

The positive side for the luxury business, he added, is that the disruption music felt when consumers shifted to digital, will be less impactful.

“[Luxury] doesn’t suffer from the same fundamental value loss as music, because you can’t put that product on a thumb drive and hand it to a friend. You have these products that are made traditionally and I think there is more value to handmade and craftsmanship than ever in a digital world.”

His shift to working for a luxury business lies in the fact he believes the industry is in a great position in terms of the way the world is going. “This is a super smart industry that understands culture better than any other,” he added.

business digital snippets film product social media technology

What you missed: See-now, buy-now at #NYFW, Levi’s musical roots, Amazon’s fashion ambitions

adidas alexander wang see-now buy-now
Alexander Wang’s surprise Adidas collaboration at New York Fashion Week

With New York Fashion Week well and truly in full swing, the main conversation this past week (and weekend) has been around the whole see-now, buy-now collection strategy from various designers. Alongside that have been the way in which tools like Snapchat and Facebook Live are being used at the shows, as well as the introduction of street style shopping on Google thanks to a new partnership between the search giant and LiketoKnow.It.

Also hitting the headlines has been everything from Ted Baker’s new shoppable film produced by Guy Ritchie to the role music is playing over at Levi’s and a look into Amazon’s fashion ambitions. Don’t forget to check out our full list of upcoming events at the bottom too…

  • The complications of ‘see-now-buy-now’ [Glossy]
  • “See-now-buy-now” is New York’s hot new reality show – Suzy Menkes on Thakoon [Vogue]
  • Alexander Wang threw a mini-music festival to celebrate his secret Adidas collab and spring show [Fashionista]
  • Google is making street style fashions shoppable in new LiketoKnow.It partnership [Forbes]
  • Why Levi’s is looking to its musical roots to drive relevance for young consumers [The Drum]

  • How Tommy Hilfiger is rewiring for fashion immediacy [BoF]
  • adds see-now, buy-now collections [WWD]
  • Is Herschel Supply Co. building the first modern luxury empire (right under our noses)? [LeanLuxe]

  • Gucci sees growth in China with social media sentiment rising [BrandChannel]
  • All the looks from Misha Nonoo’s “live lookbook” on Snapchat [F&M]
  • Vogue uses ‘Runway’ vertical to experiment with live video [Glossy]
  • Refinery29’s fashion week installation is full of Instagram-worthy, interactive art [AdWeek]
  • Snapchat fuels rumours it is creating augmented reality goggles as it joins Bluetooth industry group [The Drum]

  • Ted Baker launches shoppable Guy Ritchie film and Google retail partnership [Forbes]
  • H&M launches Lauren Hutton campaign [Elle]

  • Decoding Amazon’s fashion ambitions [BoF]
  • How Macy’s store closures could help Gap [Fortune]
  • Kit and Ace moves to no-cash policy [Detroit Free Press]
  • Big name brands notably absent from Condé Nast’s new fashion retail website [The Drum]
  • The sneaky genius of America’s lenient return policies [Quartz]

  • Michael Kors brings really, really big design to Android Wear [TechCrunch]
  • Topshop approved: Madison Maxey on smart fabrics beyond LED dresses [Wareable]
  • Death of Apple’s $17,000 gold watch leaves Swiss rivals smiling [Bloomberg]
  • Sewbo claims breakthrough with first robotically sewn garment [The Industry]

e-commerce mobile

Farfetch launches Apple Music channel, integrates tracks with editorial content

Farfetch Apple Music
Farfetch on Apple Music

Farfetch is the latest fashion industry player to jump into the Apple Music game, launching a new channel under the streaming service’s fashion header this week.

The London-based e-commerce marketplace follows in the footsteps of both Alexander Wang and Burberry who already curate their own music for the platform.

Farfetch will use it to share two different playlists. The first, “Songs from the Shoot”, will comprise music selected by the creative team behind the site’s editorial shoots, as well as its featured stars. “Tune Tuesdays” meanwhile, will be curated by Farfetch editors each week and be inspired by current themes and events.

The company will also integrate Apple Music into and its iOS app, Farfetch Discover. Rather than being a bid for shoppers to listen to tracks as they browse specific product pages, this is about connecting the music with Farfetch’s editorial content. On the website homepage at present for instance, there’s a feature with singer Maxwell highlighted with a call to “read, shop and listen”. At the bottom of the interview with him is then the Apple playlist widget.

CMO Stephanie Horton, said: “At Farfetch, we’re always thinking of new ways to enhance our customers’ shopping experience.” She referred to the partnership as a new way to create something immersive for consumers: “[It] will not only allow our customers to feel like they’re part of the creative process that takes place on set, but is also the perfect merging of tech and fashion.”

Of course, there’s also the kudos of being embedded in Apple Music itself that helps. Indeed speaking to WWD, Horton added that the move was particularly about brand awareness (and presumably a customer acquisition drive). “This new partnership allows us to connect with our customers at multiple lifestyle touch points, as they may want to access playlists while working out or driving during their commutes, as well as shopping the app,” she explained.

Editor's pick social media

Alexander Wang launches Apple Music’s new fashion channel

Alexander Wang for Apple Music

Alexander Wang is the latest fashion brand to collaborate with Apple, this time to launch the Apple Music Fashion channel.

The designer has curated three different playlists for the live streaming service accessible via iTunes; each designed to fit with fashion and music lovers’ daily lives.

For unwinding, he presents a Chill playlist including The Weekend, Drake, and Juicy J. A Hype playlist includes Diplo, Skrillex, and M.I.A., and is set to “kick up the energy” on route to a festival or party. And for the in-between moments, Wang’s Vibe playlist rides the highs and lows with music by A$AP Rocky, Chris Brown and Kendrick Lamar.

“I love musicians because they personify their work. It’s always exciting to see a new, up-and-coming musician evolve and watch how their physical appearance evolves as their music evolves because of who they’re collaborating with or what designers they start working with,” Wang told Vogue. “That’s the thing about musicians that I’m attracted to, that their physical appearance and their style play such a big role in how they connect to people. In fashion, the biggest movements that I feel connected to have always been from music, whether it’s grunge, punk, glam rock, hip-hop.”


To introduce the collaboration, a short video was released titled When Fashion Gets Turned Up. The comical spot features Wang prepping for a house party to A$AP Ferg’s “Work”, before ultimately falling asleep prior to the guest arrivals.

Throughout the year, Wang will be adding to the playlists in order to keep fans and listeners up to date with his music preferences. Other channels on Apple Music Fashion come from Burberry, Vogue and Dazed.