Farfetch is betting on blockchain as part of the future of luxury with the announcement of its role as a founding member of new platform, Libra Association.
It is joining forces with companies including Facebook, Andreessen Horowitz, Ebay, Spotify and Uber for the fashion-focused platform, which will launch at the beginning of 2020.
It will include a digital currency designed to ensure efficient and secure cross-border payments, as well as a focus on product authentication and transparency.
The move will see Farfetch add digital identities, such as QR codes on labels, to its inventory of 600,000 items, according to Vogue Business. It will be working with Eon, a startup from its Dream Assembly accelerator that creates digital profiles of physical products, to do so.
Farfetch CEO José Neves says he especially wants to use the technology for its resell business, which it is currently piloting under the “Second Life” header. This lets users trade designer handbags for Farfetch credit. The value of blockchain here will sit particularly in that product authenticity and provenance area – showing where an item comes from and that it is indeed real.
“Blockchain is still in its relative infancy, but we think it holds a lot of promise with regards to how it could assist the luxury fashion industry scale solutions to these consumer expectations,” Neves said. “Having data intelligence around the life cycle of a product is what really empowers the circular economy.”
Farfetch’s strategy for the blockchain platform will be developed by its new chief data officer, Kshitij Kumar.
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British cycling brand Rapha has teamed up with software company Unmade to launch a personalized design service that enables customers to create their own team kits.
Rapha Custom allows cyclists to design their team’s own kits by starting from a template, and then choosing from a variety of layouts (such as plain or chevron) and over 40 color combinations. To further personalize it, they can upload their team logos and add text. The software will then show photorealistic renders of the final design onto any photography, including lifestyle imagery of a group in any location-based scenario. Designs are digitally printed on demand, and delivered within eight weeks.
“When launching Rapha Custom we looked to address some of the biggest constraints for groups of cyclists creating custom kit,” said Ed Clifford, head of Rapha Custom. “The market was crying out for a design led and fully digital customer experience that was seamless in manufacturing and delivery. Unmade’s software provides us with a best in class system that is fully automated and integrated throughout the entire process.”
Traditionally, creating a custom team kit requires long lead times and a poor experience for the user, as well as from a production perspective, high manual involvement in the design and production of it. This service however offers brands seamless integration through a dedicated platform within the e-commerce site, and a much more efficient customer journey as a result.
“At Unmade it is extremely important for us to work in partnership with forward-thinking brands who share our vision for creating real change within the fashion and sportswear industries, through bespoke experiences and collections that are both innovative and efficiently manufactured,” said Hal Watts, co-founder and CEO of Unmade. “Working in collaboration with the world leading cycle brand Rapha has allowed us to expand our capabilities from a knitwear focus into print.”
Beyond the customer-facing element of this service, Rapha will also be able to create time-limited content or designs for special editions, partner collaborations as well as internally, bespoke products on-demand for prototyping and short runs.
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Gucci has launched Gucci Equilibrium, an online communications platform designed to connect “people, planet and purpose” and to bring positive change in order to secure our collective future.
The aim is to promote the label’s commitment to sustainability and transparency both to its customers as well as internally to its 13,000 employees, its suppliers and the wider Gucci family. Focusing on purpose, the site explains, is about demonstrating integrity.
“These are critical times when we can all play our part in helping to deliver on the UN Global Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement,” Gucci CEO Marco Bizarri told WWD. “The only way to do that is by bringing people together, sharing ideas, innovation and experiences. This is the objective we have set for Gucci Equilibrium.”
The name reportedly comes from a balance between the aesthetic of what the brand produces, with the ethics in which it believes. The launch is accordingly part of a 10-year sustainability plan announced by the brand, which will be anchored in three pillars: environment, people and innovation.
“Environment” sees Gucci setting the target to guarantee the traceability of 95% of its raw materials, as well as the recent announcement it is banning furs; “People” includes a series of empowerment and diversity campaigns and social initiatives; and “Innovation” focuses on scouting and incubating startups, an approach also seen with the launch of its ArtLab space.
Visiting the platform allows the user to learn more about each specific initiative Gucci is embarking on under each pillar. In doing so, the brand is providing a content platform not only to celebrate and promote its achievements, but ensure it is held accountable for its actions in-keeping with its newly announced purpose.
Gucci has also announced a company-wide program alongside encouraging staff to dedicate 1% of their working time to volunteering in local communities.
Alibaba and JD.com have long competed with each other to become the dominant e-commerce force in China. Lately, their battle has escalated in the luxury arena.
Over the past few months, each has welcomed a wave of new luxury brands that have launched or are about to launch on their respective platforms. For example, Kering-owned Saint Laurent and Swiss jewelry and watch label Chopard chose JD.com, while most labels under the conglomerate LVMH (such as watchmaker Tag Heuer, beauty brands Fresh and Guerlain, and most recently the Spanish luxury brand Loewe) have chosen to work with Alibaba’s business to consumer (B2C) site Tmall.
“We see both JD.com and Tmall really ramping up their efforts to create a more high-end experience for luxury brands,” said Liz Flora, editor of Asia-Pacific research at the digital intelligence firm L2.
It is, indeed, good timing for both platforms to step up their expansion into the luxury sector, according to Jacqueline Wong, executive director of the luxury marketing agency Activation Group since the e-commerce giants can offer something that the gray market cannot.
“Chinese consumers have been accustomed to online shopping,” Wong said, “When it comes to purchasing luxury goods online, they are now looking for platforms that can give them more confidence (in contrast to other traditional gray channels such as daigou and local unofficial distributors).”
Also, Wong believes that because the two e-commerce giants have operated in China for years, they’ve been able to collect enough customer data that can be utilised to better serve luxury brands.
However, while the customer need for luxury e-commerce platforms is there for the taking, it shouldn’t be taken for granted and Alibaba and JD.com still have to put up a fight to meet their expectations.
How have their differing models affected the way that luxury brands engage with the platforms?
Alibaba’s Tmall and JD.com offer differing levels of partnership deals to international brands. Alibaba allows brands to launch official flagship stores on the site from which they can self-run their businesses, and sometimes provides them with necessary marketing, data analytics, and logistical assistance.
While JD.com also has flagship stores, it is thought of more like Amazon, a marketplace for a wide variety of products sourced from brands that then get distributed from JD’s own warehouse.
The different models have affected the way that luxury brands engage with the platforms. Currently, in terms of the pace of luxury brand acquisition, Alibaba’s Tmall is leading. According to a recent report by L2, as of 2017, 24% of its index luxury brands own a flagship store on Tmall, while only 10% of that group have one on JD.com.
But JD is quietly catching up. While its share of the market is less than that of Alibaba’s, overall, its warehouse operates 65% of L2’s index luxury brands as of 2017, a figure that is much higher than the number of flagship stores it has. However, without a flagship store, the platform cannot guarantee it has a direct relationship with the brand, necessarily, as luxury goods can also be sold by independent distributors.
The Farfetch partnership is also set to give JD.com a bigger advantage as it has strong relationships with luxury brands: 83% of L2’s index luxury brands are on Farfetch’s China site.
Alibaba’s strength is reflected in its close relationships with two major luxury powerhouses LVMH and Kering, which both own a load of elite luxury labels that are looking to expand further in the Chinese market.
What are some common challenges they are facing?
1. Fashion and Luxury DNA
“It is not the case that you list luxury items on your site, then consumers will just come to buy them,” said Wong from Activation Group when commenting on challenges faced by these two platforms to further tap into the luxury sector.
“These e-commerce platforms need to adjust their branding to show their fashion and luxury DNA. That’s how to uplift Chinese consumers’ expectations and confidence in purchasing luxury items on their sites.”
Unlike international luxury e-tailers such as Yoox Net-a-Porter and Farfetch, which have had luxury in their DNA from the get-go and long been endorsed by brands, Alibaba and JD.com both started with a grassroots profile. Therefore, whether they are able to transform their image through these luxury platforms in the eye of the market remains a pivotal question.
The issue of counterfeits is an old one, but it has been a constant thorn for international luxury brands looking to develop a closer relationship with Chinese domestic e-commerce platforms. It is a topic that cannot be avoided, particularly by Alibaba whose Taobao Marketplace has been flooded with fake goods.
“They are making a lot more progress now than they were last year,” L2’s Flora said and added that these ramped-up efforts are really paying off for them as this year, they have attracted several new brands such as Tag Heuer, Furla and Polo Ralph Lauren.
JD.com, on the other hand, has received less criticism on this front. “JD.com is a bit more advantageous at convincing brands that it could fight fakes,” Flora noted, “because it distributes products from its own warehouses. So it shows that they are able to be more on top of counterfeits than Alibaba.”
3. Customer experience
Another aspect that both platforms need to work on is creating the luxury customer experience online to satisfy buyers looking for exclusivity and premium services like the ones they receive at traditional brick-and-mortar luxury retailers.
Alibaba has relied on the “New Retail” initiative they are experimenting with to deliver a seamless shopping experience for consumers. This new data-driven business model will integrate online stores, physical stores and logistics, which has the potential to create high-end luxury experiences for consumers.
JD.com focuses more on the logistics side. It just unveiled the “white glove” express delivery service for luxury buyers. In some metropolitan cities, consumers can receive their orders within 24 hours and their packages are brought to them by well-dressed deliverymen in luxury cars.
Support the BFC’s Education Foundation, it brings to life the creativity, heritage and craftsmanship of British fashion, pulling together content from big names in the space – including brands, designers, craftspeople, photographers, stylists, models and more – and using technology to tell their stories.
There are immersive digital exhibits from the likes of Burberry, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood for instance, a virtual reality experience of Manolo Blahnik at work in his atelier, and a high resolution capture of a couture dress from Alexander McQueen’s SS17 collection, allowing people to zoom in and see its threadwork in never-before-seen detail.
To mark the launch of the project, Paul Smith has also designed a special-edition Google Cardboard to enable the virtual reality viewing, and created online exhibits around five objects that represent his creative vision and brand.
Caroline Rush CBE, CEO of the BFC said: “The internet has been an incredible resource for opening up the fashion industry to a new audience, giving young people access to information not previously available. This collaboration represents a new step, bringing together diverse information into one, engaging place. We hope this legacy project will not only inspire but also educate – allowing young people wanting to get into fashion to see the breadth of individuals, skills and careers that make up this multifaceted industry.”
In total, there are over 1,000 assets to explore, including 20 multimedia exhibits, 25 videos and three virtual reality experiences, all accessible from anywhere in the world, on desktop, laptop or mobile.
Sarah Mower MBE, American Vogue chief critic and BFC ambassador for emerging talent, has also directed a short film captured in 360 VR so viewers can come face-to-face with industry luminaries. Included are Naomi Campbell, Anya Hindmarch, Edward Enninful and Joan Burstein.
Users can also search archive material from British fashion houses by colour and chronology, explore profiles of numerous of the industry’s other key players, and go behind-the-scenes with top craftspeople and producers of British fashion, including the Royal School of Needlework and Brora Cashmere.
It’s goodbye Hedi Slimane and hello Anthony Vaccarello quite literally on Instagram where Saint Laurent has wiped all of its previous posts on the @YSL account and replaced them with a single portrait of its incoming creative director Vaccarello.
The desire for a clean slate is not a surprising one – providing Vaccarello with the chance (if on Instagram alone) to start afresh with his vision for the brand.
Such erasing of history hasn’t been met kindly by fans however. Comments on the now single image, include: “Why delete Hedi Slimane’s work? Wtf”, “You deleted everything from Hedi’s tenure !! Bye b*tches”, “I found this very disrespectful towards Hedi’s work”, and: “That’s cute about Anthony but why take down Hedi’s photos? Hedi’s DNA will no [doubt] be continued. No issue with a new creative director but why erase the past 4 years?”
Many of the other comments show fans both disgruntled and hopeful about the changes. “We weren’t [buying] Saint Laurent, we were buying Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane…no more Hedi Slimane…no more Saint Laurent! I’m sure they’ll lose a lot in revenue from 2017…another Pilati unselling era ahead!” reads one.
Another by comparison: “Vaccarrello for YSL makes sense to me. He reminds me so much of an early 90s Tom Ford. I have been observing Anthony’s work on Versus and under his namesake brand.. a fresh modernist approach is what this maison needs rn. Someone who can bring some sharp sex appeal and sophistication back. I’m sure he’ll do magic and will be a great fit. Meanwhile, Hedi with his punk rock + grunge vibes was tiresome af. I wish all the best for his career though.”
YSL has over 386,000 fans on Instagram. It seems no noticeable changes have otherwise been made on Twitter or Facebook.
It goes without saying that the digital landscape and where fashion brands fit into it, is evolving around us. Simultaneously, so are the influencers that are increasingly helping those stories get told and products get seen.
Here are seven predictions from Morgan Kaye, VP of community at Bloglovin’, about what all is happening, and what to expect from some of the biggest names this fashion week season:
Many of us have watched bloggers go through personal milestones from brand launches and website redesigns, to engagements and babies. With that said, many of our them are also shifting gears and branching out either to new categories and/or focusing their attention on being lifestyle experts. Lindsey Calla and Hannah Bronfman are just two girls leaving their fashion and lifestyle posts behind to rebrand themselves as fitness experts. This fashion week, we’ll see their expertise called on more than ever before as athleisure continues as a key trend.
Real time content and pulling the curtain back
While precisely planned and staged content still holds worth, the move for real-time/behind-the-scenes content is gaining momentum and receives unprecedented engagement. With the rise of Snapchat and Periscope, our favourite bloggers are lifting the hood to allow their audience to see them in real-time and real life. These platforms will be huge during this fashion week season. As we saw Tommy Hilfiger and Vera Wang embrace its use in September, we can only expect more fashion designers and bloggers to hop on the bandwagon. Behind-the-scenes fashion week content, outtakes, and personal experiences are superseding perfectly planned outfit posts.
Call me an influencer
The debate continues – how do bloggers want to be identified? It seems we have landed on the term “Influencer” for the time being, which is a much broader term than blogger or content creator and that’s why it works. During fashion week season, we’ll see a TON of influencers – such as twins Cailli & Sam Beckerman of Beckerman Blog, Chriselle Lim of The Chriselle Factor and Courtney Trop of Always Judging – in attendance at the hottest shows. As Influencers grow their businesses and grow their audiences on different platforms, it’s important to associate them with a name that can evolve and expand as quickly as this industry itself.
Mid-form content with embedded media
This fashion week, it’s all about words AND images. Bloggers are gearing back toward mid-form and longer form content – even Twitter is getting on board with additional character counts. The key to making their content super engaging is including embedded media. No fashion week post will be complete without a photo, video or gif.
Time for an upgrade
Have you noticed everyone’s shiny new websites? Everyone is stepping up their game this year. Blog formats are a thing of the past and new website designs with a magazine feel are taking over – ultimately raising the bar for new and emerging influencers. Specifically, we love what our friends at Man Repeller and MiniMode have done with their sites. These new layouts coincide with the trend for more diverse content and revenue opportunities such as influencer shops popping up.
Audience is everywhere
Now is a perfect time to get discovered. Never before has there been such a well-rounded variety of platforms to discover content and new influencers. Bloglovin’, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Vine and YouTube allow people of all demographics to engage digitally and discover new influencers and inspiration. Influencers now find it easier than ever to gain new audiences. This fashion week, we’ll see influencers engage their audiences via a combination of all these platforms. Although these audiences may be fragmented, the ability to reach engaged consumers online is highly accessible.
Fashion marketplace Lyst is predicting what will be a top seller during the sales period this Thanksgiving weekend off the back of consumer behaviour witnessed on its platform.
It places bucket bags and luxe backpacks like the Mansur Gavriel styles, as well as luxury lingerie from Myla, Agent Provocateur and Calvin Klein as among the big items. Others include fluffy coats from contemporary labels like Sandro, Maje and Zara, and classic styles like the trench coat, peacoat and robe coats in luxury fabrications from the likes of Burberry and Maxmara.
Brands including J Cew, Alexander Wang, Acne and APC will see uptake across basic sweats, t-shirts and fine knits in navy, grey and black, while statement shoes will play out through Balenciaga, Jimmy Choo, Steve Madden and Sophia Webster choices.
Lyst’s data scientists have pulled information from what’s currently trending on its site, as well as what people are adding to their feeds to receive sales alerts on.
The top 10 most searched-for designers on Lyst right now are: Prada, Givenchy, Gucci, Burberry, Valentino, Saint Laurent, Zara, Kenzo, Balmain and Topshop.
Lyst is expecting to have two million visitors to its site over the four days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday inclusively, and will be generating approximately 500,000 product updates every hour to help customers know immediately when the piece they have been lusting after go on sale, at the best price.
It will also launch The Holiday Shop on November 28, a virtual pop-up area on the site showcasing the hottest offers from the world of fashion in a bid to help facilitate consumers with their shopping. It will likewise provide real-time stock and price updates, this time all in one place across a broad variety of brands.
With an inventory of over one million items from more than 9,000 global fashion designers and retail stores, not to mention a solid group of actively purchasing consumers (a record $10m in sales was generated in a recent month), it might come as no surprise to hear Lyst has also got a lot in the way of data.
The once social curation site, now e-commerce platform, recently showcased that fact in collaboration with Holition.The latter created a projection that visualised the vast amount of data Lyst receives daily, in real-time. As per the video below, it documented around 250,000 items of clothing and accessories on the screen at any one time. Prices were shown, as were brands, combined designed to enable the viewer to understand and spot popular trends.
This “engaging and colourful piece of digital art”, as Holition refers to it, was on show at Lyst Studios, the company’s headquarters, in Shoreditch, London.
Said Holition CTO, Russell Freeman: “[Lyst] sucks up a huge amount of information every day and we wanted to be able to visualise that in a really beautiful way.”
Lyst, which launched in 2010, has also just announced what it refers to as a “complete brand refresh”. A new logo, a content-led homepage (as below) and a redesign across desktop, tablet and mobile are included. Working in partnership with creative agency Wednesday, the company has introduced a new aesthetic that it refers to as “modern, bolder and more distinctive”.
Chris Morton, Lyst CEO and cofounder, said: “We’ve spent much of the last four years focussed on building a deeply engaging product that delivers a truly personalised shopping experience for each of our millions of users around the world, and that’s now generating very meaningful sales for our partner brands and stores globally. I’m delighted that we have now been able to turn more attention to our brand, with this new identity and content based homepage forming the first of several exciting brand- led initiatives in the coming months.”
The move comes off the back of the aforementioned successful sales figures as well as the fact the company is on track to grow 400% year-on-year for the third year in a row. Its universal checkout launched in 2013, which enables shoppers to buy from different fashion brands and stores in one basket on Lyst’s website and mobile apps, is reportedly behind the growth.