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The innovation mullet: How Levi’s looks at sophisticated tech to simplify shopping

Levi's president James JC Curleigh speaking at NRF’s Big Show in New York this week
Levi’s president James JC Curleigh speaking at NRF’s Big Show in New York this week

Levi’s thinks about a balance between simplicity and sophistication as the key to relevancy in today’s market, according to the brand’s president James JC Curleigh, who opened NRF’s Big Show in New York this week.

He referenced the idea of the 1980s mullet haircut as to how this should be seen by consumers. “What did it say? Business in the front, party in the back. Well, the new brand and business mullet should be simple in the front, sophisticated in the back. The best brands on earth, the most powerful brands on earth, have found a way to deliver simplicity on the front side through a very sophisticated platform on the back side,” he explained.

“In today’s world, there are more choices, more angst points, more obstacle courses than ever before for our fans. We make jeans, and products you wear with your jeans. Let’s be simple. In a world of difficult decisions, picking out your favourite pair of jeans should not be one of them. We need to put you on a simplified course to make sure we can either keep you in Levi’s or introduce you to Levi’s in a simple way.”

To do this, modern organisations have to take a level of sophistication in the supply chain and in how they show up at retail, he said. The most relevant future innovation platforms are ones that consumers don’t see; they’re powered by partners interested in managing big data, artificial intelligence, RFID and productivity solutions. But ultimately what that’s about is a better experience for shoppers than ever before.

“We have a basic fundamental promise to our fan, to our consumer, that we can meet and exceed their expectations. It’s expected to have points of distribution – that the product is actually there, that their size is available and that they can navigate to the fit that is right for them. There are lots of modern ways through technology and innovation, and tried and tested ways through relationship and service to do this in the moment of truth. Delivering the expected has never been more important than it is today,” he noted.

He also nodded to the importance of turning moments into momentum, referring to the laws of Sir Isaac Newton, which infers that retailers at rest will stay at rest.

Referencing CEO Chip Bergh, he said Levi’s wants to always keep one foot rooted in the heritage of the past in order to remember where they came from, and one foot confidently in the future, to keep driving the brand forward.

To really achieve this momentum, he nodded to the idea of protecting the core and expanding for more. “Our vision for the Levi’s brand is to be the most relevant, most loved, lifestyle brand again,” he said. He talked about moving beyond jeans to various other lifestyle solutions, like the Commuter Jacket, its wearable tech offering in partnership with Google’s Project Jacquard team, which Curleigh demonstrated as he arrived on stage riding a bike.

He also referenced other key platforms introduced in the last five years on behalf of its fans, including the Levi’s stadium and the Levi’s music lounge.

“[We] started to look at the whole lifestyle brand we wanted to create for two reasons: first to keep inspiring the fans that never left us, and second to re-inspire those who never stopped loving us, but have left for other brands. We want them to come back,” he explained.

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business e-commerce Editor's pick

Will Alibaba’s anti-counterfeiting deal with Kering stall luxury counterfeits?

Gucci - Kering anti-counterfeiting
Gucci

French luxury conglomerate Kering Group and China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group reached an agreement August 3 to jointly fight against the counterfeits on Alibaba’s online marketplaces to protect brands’ intellectual property rights.

As part of the agreement, the details of which were made public in a press release co-issued by the two parties, Kering has also decided to withdraw a lawsuit that it filed against Alibaba in 2015 in New York district court accusing the e-commerce site of being involved in the sales of fake handbags, watches and other items under the names of brands owned by Kering. The cooperation marks an official end to the legal dispute between the two companies.

Alibaba and Kering have established a “joint task force” to collaborate on the anti-counterfeiting actions, the public statement said. The two companies will exchange useful information and work closely with law enforcement bodies. Kering will also benefit from Alibaba’s advanced technology capabilities in identifying counterfeiters on its platforms.


Will this move by Alibaba really assure luxury brands?

Owning elite luxury labels including Saint Laurent, Gucci and Balenciaga, Kering’s endorsement represents a milestone for Alibaba’s ongoing efforts to combat the counterfeit issues on its platforms in order to attract more luxury brands to work with.

However, it is interesting that Saint Laurent has just decided to work with Alibaba’s major rival JD.com earlier this week. Moreover, one major reason for that cooperation, according to the brand’s CEO Francesca Bellettini, is that the presence of Farfetch (of which JD.com acquired a nearly $400 million stake in June) has helped mitigate their worries over the counterfeiting issue.

There is little doubt that Alibaba has been working hard on this area in recent years. The group set up the “Alibaba Big Data Anti-counterfeiting Alliance” in mid-2016, which aims to use modern technology to identify counterfeiters. A number of luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Shiseido, and Swarovski are all members of the Alliance.

On many public occasions, Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma, has been quite outspoken about the counterfeiting problems in China and has publicly called for the government to devote more legal efforts to it.

A recent article published by Luxury Daily, nonetheless, views the company’s current coalition as a failure to achieve what it has promised, namely, to curb the sale of counterfeit luxury goods on the Chinese e-commerce site. According to the publication, Alibaba is still “lax about counterfeiting,” while counterfeiters have become much more sophisticated than ever and consumers have better access to fake goods due to the flourishing of social media and modern technologies.

Chinese markets have become a pillar of Kering’s various businesses as per recent earnings reports. The conglomerate’s core brand, Gucci, has just tapped into the country’s online market through establishing its own e-commerce site. It is thus not so surprising to see Kering ceasing fire on the dominant market player over the counterfeiting issue. But the partnership, for either side, is possibly far from being worthy of celebration.

By Yiling Pan @SiennaPan

This article was originally published on Jing Daily, a Fashion & Mash content partner.

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data digital snippets e-commerce mobile product social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: Pokémon Go, McQueen’s DNA, luxury’s executive changes, AI, VR and more

McQueen pure human - digital snippets
Alexander McQueen’s DNA turned into leather in designer Tina Gorjanc’s Pure Human project

If there’s one thing that’s grabbed everyone’s attention this past fortnight, it has of course been Pokémon Go. The augmented reality mobile game has reportedly gained as many users as Uber and Tinder, topped Twitter’s daily users, and started seeing people spend more time with it than in Facebook. It also caused Nintendo’s share price to increase by more than $7bn.

We published a great piece looking at what retailers can learn from it in a broader location-marketing sense.  Also worth reading is this story tracking the retail invasion of Pokémons, via Racked, and another looking at why retailers should care about Pokémon’s forthcoming ads.

Beyond that, the news to know in the fashion, digital comms and technology space this week (and there’s a lot of it!), spans everything from an experiment with DNA in textile design to the plethora of changes at the helm of the industry’s luxury houses, the impact artificial intelligence might have on brands, not to mention how we’re faring with virtual reality so far…


  • Fashion that gets under the skin – designer creates leather prototypes grown from Alexander McQueen DNA (as pictured) [NY Times]

  • Luxury fashion: a year of big moves [The Industry]

  • Amazon Prime Day: Wow… but not yet a fashion must-buy [Trendwalk]

  • What Amazon could learn from Yoox Net-a-Porter, the “world’s biggest luxury fashion store” [Quartz]

  • Fashion apparel retailing in the age of artificial intelligence [WWD]

  • Luxury brands get off to an awkward start with virtual reality [Glossy]

  • Is a holographic fashion show for VR clothing the future? [The Creators Project]

  • The store of the future: physical retailers must stage experiences, embrace omnichannel and harness data [BoF]

  • 5 ways shoppers are using mobile to make purchase decisions, according to Google [Fashionista]

  • Sephora is driving mobile sales with Tinder-like features and digital mad libs [Ad Week]

  • Stores must learn to think like Facebook [BoF]

  • Warby Parker is offering Snapchat-exclusive sunglasses [Techcrunch]

  • Birchbox tests Snapchat for customer service – turns to revamped video and voice calling feature [Digiday]

  • Why advertisers are forking over big bucks for custom Snapchat lenses [Ad Week]

  • Snapchat is looking at a way to recognize objects in your snaps and serve you related ads [Business Insider]

  • New study says people are more likely to buy from brands that use virtual reality [Ad Week]

  • Luxury brands embrace digital, but still wary of programmatic [The Drum]

  • Using an algorithm to figure out what luxury customers really want [HBR]

  • Amazon is developing a 3D modelling system to solve online clothes shopping’s biggest problem [Quartz]

  • How the future of fit could spell the end of retail returns [Retail Dive]

  • Back to bricks and mortar: how e-commerce has embraced the real world [The Guardian]

  • Where machines could replace humans—and where they can’t (yet) [McKinsey]

  • Confessions of a fashion start-up founder: ‘Fashion tech is the Wild West’ [Glossy]

  • 3 need-to-know live streaming apps in China (and how bloggers & brands are using them) [WGSN]

  • Payments firm Klarna adds Lyst to its collection [Reuters]

  • How valuable is trend forecasting in the post-internet age? [NJAL]

  • These acrylic nails double as an Oyster Card [PSFK]
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digital snippets e-commerce film social media technology

Digital snippets: Hussein Chalayan’s dissolving dresses, Tom Ford replaces show with Lady Gaga video, Anrealage’s hidden digital detail

Here’s a round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…

Hussein-Chalayan-melting-clothes-Spring-Summer-2016-Paris-Fashion-Week_dezeen_ss_2

  • Clothes dissolve on the catwalk during Hussein Chalayan show (as pictured above) [Dezeen]
  • Tom Ford releases video for spring 2016 collection starring Lady Gaga [Fashionista]
  • Anrealage plays with flash in collection’s hidden digital detail [NY Times]
  • It’s a trap: Macy’s sets up a selfie wall to lure millennials [Digiday]
  • How Tiffany increased its WeChat fanbase by 1,000% [FT]
  • Apple invents ring-style wearable device with voice control, haptics, cameras and more [Apple Insider]
  • Anouk Wipprecht is building future fashion out of AI and microcontrollers [Inverse]
  • Who’s winning the fashion e-commerce race? [BoF]
  • Female shoppers no longer trust ads or celebrity endorsements, prefer YouTube stars [Fast Company]
  • Here’s how luxury brands are doing social media very wrong (& the few who break the mold) [Refinery29]
  • Inside Vogue’s New York Fashion Week digital wrap party [Digiday]
  • The digital Asia effect [BoF]