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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. 

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product sustainability technology

Nike creates circular design guide

Nike has created a circular design guide that aims to give the fashion industry a common language for circularity.

The guide comes with 10 principles of circular design, including topics such as “material choices” and “waste avoidance”.

Nike’s 10 principles of circular design

Each of these are explained in more depth within it, including via case studies of successful design innovation by Nike and other brands.

They include video footage of a Central Saint Martins student and Nike staff talking on the principles, as well as an inspirational quote.

What follows are thought-starters for designers to think about the concept in more depth. Under the “material choices” principle for instance, it asks: “How could your material choice increase the lifecycle or durability of the product?”

A number of case study examples then follow, such as an outline of Nike’s Flyleather material, a sustainable leather alternative made of leftover factory off-cuts. Other case studies come from brands such as Levi’s, Fjallraven, Patagonia, Outerknown and Eileen Fisher.

The last section features inspirational publications, including “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, which outlines the founding principles of the circular economy, according to the non-profit Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

It is freely accessible to anyone interested in knowing more about circularity. The launch coincides with the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit, one of the industry’s most important sustainability events of the year.

How are you thinking about your sustainable innovation strategy? Want to learn more about how we worked with Google? The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion 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 hear more.

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Editor's pick Retail

Adidas uses AirDrop to gift sneaker collab to Coachella festival goers

Adidas used Apple’s AirDrop feature to gift lucky attendees at Coachella Valley Music Festival this weekend with a new shoe collaboration with musician Donald Glover (also known as Childish Gambino).

A randomly selected number of people who were attending the festival were sent an image of the shoe, dubbed “Nizzas”, via AirDrop. Those who accepted the image then had one hour to pick up a free pair of the kicks at a designated area.

Inside the shoe box, a small note outlined certain “responsibilities” that came with receiving the shoe. New owners of the coveted “Nizzas” were encouraged to take three actions at the festival to promote the shoes: wear them, keep them on all weekend and lastly, watch the Childish Gambino performance.

Also at the festival, Childish Gambino collaborated with Google to launch “Brighter in the Dark”, a custom tech and music installation where attendees could take photographs in the dark and explore the musician’s creative world. This was part of a larger collaboration between Childish Gambino and Google which started in February, where the musician joined the tech giant’s camera feature “Playground” as Playmoji (an AR avatar) that users can interact with.

Meanwhile for adidas, this experience is another clever activation that adds an element of excitement and surprise to the consumer when they are least expecting it. For example at last year’s ComplexCon, the brand dropped new sneakers by asking users to scan giant cubes located across the venue at designated time slots.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. 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.

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Podcast product

Heist’s Olympic designer on product innovation

You have to be bold and brave to do meaningful innovation, says Fiona Fairhurst, VP of innovation at underwear brand, Heist Studios, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent Global.

“We’re trying to make better products that make people’s lives better,” she explains.  

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

The first product under the newly-appointed designer’s remit at Heist is shapewear that not only looks more aesthetically pleasing than existing alternatives in the market, but removes any stigma for women wearing it. Fairhurst’s background is in sport, a world built around product innovation focused on the importance of performance.

She rose to fame during the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 where, while working at Speedo, she introduced a bodysuit using biomimetic sharkskin technology that went on to help 13 out of 15 swimming world records achieved during the competition. It was also eventually banned from the sport because it gave competitors an unfair advantage.

Her background has enabled her to strike the balance between the emotional side of design and the material innovation that leads to better product performance. Much like getting swimmers to swap their small Speedos for full bodysuits, for Heist it is about getting women to trust their expertise. “We very much want to base everything on science, technology and the innovation – and also what the consumer wants, which for Heist is about women.”  

During this conversation with Rachel Arthur at a FashMash event in London, Fairhurst also explains what excites her for the future of material innovation, the challenge of scaling sustainability, and what game-changing product Heist is working on next.

Heist Studios’ new Shapewear

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.

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Editor's pick product

Reebok launches shape-shifting bra inspired by NASA fabric

Reebok PureMove
Reebok PureMove

Reebok has announced the launch of PureMove, a sports bra that adapts to the movement of its wearer in real time. This means that when the wearer is moving quickly, the bra material stiffens to provide extra support, while when the movement is slower and requires more flexibility, the material softens.

The US-based sportswear brand took four years to develop the innovation, adapting it from a material that has been previously used in NASA spacesuits and bulletproof vests.

“Innovation has always been in Reebok’s DNA and placing an emphasis on transforming and improving one of the most important fitness garments for women is no exception,” said Barbara Ebersberger, VP of performance apparel at Reebok. “We could not be prouder to come to market with a product that breaks down barriers in a category that has dissatisfied consumers for far too long, lacking any true technological advancements.”

To achieve the innovation, Reebok developed the Motion Sense Technology by combining performance-based fabric with a sheer-thickening fluid (or STF), which is a gel-like solution. Originally developed by the University of Delaware in 2005, STF takes liquid when in a slow-moving state and stiffens it into a solid when moving at high speed.

By incorporating STF into the fabric, the PureMove bra immediately responds to changes in movement by the wearer.

Reebok also worked with the University of Delaware to undertake vigorous testing on the new material, employing 54 different motion sensors to test bra prototypes. By comparison, the brand says typical testing only uses five sensors.

It furthermore cites a study that was published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health Journal as a key influence when developing the bra, which outlines that one in five women actively opt out of workouts because they don’t have a sports bra that is comfortable enough.

Reebok’s innovation places the brand in the race for developing material innovation that is increasingly adaptive to the wearer’s immediate needs, which is particularly relevant to the sporting industry. Similarly, earlier this year Puma worked with MIT to showcase how biodesign could increase performance, presenting prototypes such as insoles that collate realtime biofeedback to measure things like fatigue.

For more on material innovation in fashion, listen to our TheCurrent Innovators episode with Dan Widmaier, CEO of Bolt Threads, the company responsible for sustainable textiles such as spider silk and, most recently, mushroom leather.

How are you thinking about 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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Editor's pick product sustainability

Puma and MIT exhibit examines how biodesign can enhance performance

Puma x MIT Adaptive Packaging

Puma has teamed up with the MIT Design Lab to explore how using living organisms can enhance a person’s performance when wearing sportswear.

Four initial experiments that derived from that study were exhibited at this year’s Milan Design Week, which took place in Italy last week.

Through this partnership, which initiated a little over a year ago, Puma and MIT have been conducting research on how biodesign – the practice of using living materials such as algae or mycelium – can bring the advances in science and biotechnologies to the consumer’s daily lives through sports products. For the MIT Design Lab, its long term aim is to make athletic gear that is “highly adaptable, personalized, and future-proof”.

The four initial projects include a Breathing Shoe, which is a biologically active shoe that enables personalised ventilation by growing its own air passageways to keep the foot cool; Deep Learning Insoles, which collate realtime biofeedback by using organisms to measure chemical phenomena that indicates things like fatigue; Carbon Eaters, which is a microbially-active t-shirt that responds to its environment to change its appearance and inform the wearer about air quality; and Adaptive Packaging, a biologically programmable material that can change its shape and structure to become a new type of alive, biodegradable and adaptive packaging.

Puma x MIT Carbon Eaters
Puma x MIT Carbon Eaters

The exhibition was powered by a desktop bio-prototyping platform by Biorealize, which brings the capabilities of a biology wetlab into a single piece of hardware that enables the user to design, culture and test organisms.

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Editor's pick sustainability

Global fashion brand transparency is on the rise, says new industry report

Fashion Revolution
Fashion Revolution

Adidas and Reebok are leading the way towards greater transparency among major corporate players, according to a new report from sustainable non-profit organization, Fashion Revolution.

Research released in the 2018 Fashion Transparency Index shows improvement across the industry, with the 100 brands reviewed showing an overall increase of 5% in their transparency levels.

The study reviews and ranks major global brands and retailers according to their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts. The top 10 brands for transparency in 2018 also include Puma, H&M, Esprit, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, C&A and Marks & Spencer.

On the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, Fashion Revolution highlights the importance for brands to be fair and transparent, particularly when it comes to impact on the lives of workers in the supply chain and on the environment.

The non-profit is also holding a weeklong series of events with designers around the world, sharing their ideas, processes and best practice when it comes to transparency. Designers taking part include Stella McCartney, Phoebe English, Christopher Raeburn and Vivienne Westwood with aims of engaging the consumer further in the conversation of who makes their clothes.

Fashion Revolution’s global operations director and founder Carry Somers said: “Over the last five years, millions of consumers have demanded a fairer, safer, cleaner industry. It’s working. We can see that brands are listening and the industry is starting to change.

“We’re calling upon the global fashion industry to turn its commitment to responsible sourcing into effective action this Fashion Revolution Week. Too many people working in the fashion industry, mostly women, are still underpaid, unsafe and mistreated. It’s time for change”.

In a plea to promote the conversation around supply chain transparency on a wider scale, Fashion Revolution has also launched its manifesto, laying out action points they believe will achieve a cleaner and safer fashion industry. Beyond the actionable steps, the company is also calling on consumers in general to spread the word via shareable social media assets and additional reading material.

For more content on brands striving to achieve a more sustainable supply chain, see TheCurrent Daily’s Sustainability category, which includes innovations by winners of this year’s Index such as Stella McCartney’s mushroom leather handbag and adidas’ pledge to use only recycled ocean plastics by 2020.

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Editor's pick product technology

Ralph Lauren introduces heat-conducting smart jacket for USA Olympics team

Ralph Lauren has launched a smart jacket that will allow the USA Olympics team to keep warm at this year’s Winter games, taking place in PyeongChang, South Korea.

As part of the team’s official uniform, which the brand has been designing for six years, a parka and a bomber jacket each use heat-conducting ink that generates warmth similar to an electric blanket.

“We’re looking back and celebrating what’s iconic and symbolic of America, and merging that with where we’re headed,” says David Lauren, the brand’s chief innovation officer. The uniform, which includes classics of American fashion such as jeans and thick suede gloves, nod to different American frontiers, he adds. “The frontiers of the 1800s and 1900s, and then the frontier of today, which is technology.”

Lauren explains that the design’s top priority was to allow for flexibility: while temperatures in South Korea can reach below zero in the winter, athletes needed to feel equally comfortable wearing the jacket while waiting at the backstage area ahead of the Opening Ceremony. After investigating suitable fabrics, the brand landed on technology.

 

Ralph Lauren's Heated Parka, tech-enabled textiles
Ralph Lauren’s Heated Parka

The garment’s heat is achieved through a special type of carbon and silver ink bonded to the jacket lining, which in keeping with the brand’s roots, were sewn in the shape of an American flag.

The ink connects to a battery pack sewn into the garment, which when fully charged can heat the jacket for up to 11 hours. Athletes can then adjust the temperature up or down via an app.

To develop the jacket, the RL innovation team worked with several US-based  partners such as engineers at Delaware-based tech giant DuPont, who had previously developed heated garments which were deemed to heavy for everyday wear. The brand also worked with Butler Technologies, a high-tech precision screen-printer based in Pittsburgh; apparel manufacturer 99Degrees, who helped bond the heater to the jacket’s lining; Key Tech, a high-tech design firm that helped design the battery packs with user experience in mind; and Principled Design, who designed the connectors that attach the battery pack to the heater in a streamlined way.

A sketch of Ralph Lauren's Olympics opening ceremony outfit connected tech, textiles
A sketch of Ralph Lauren’s Olympics opening ceremony outfit

Lauren explains that the jacket is an experiment towards launching a consumer-facing connected product this year: “Our hope is that we’ll learn enough that we’ll be able to go into production with a different, limited edition jacket for this fall.”

For years, the brand has been experimenting with technology and how it can improve performance when embedded in textiles. In 2015, it launched the PoloTech smart shirt, which captures biometric information and transmits it to an accompanying app, while for the 2016 Summer Olympics, it created a blazer with electroluminescent panels for torch-bearer Michael Phelps.

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Editor's pick film

3 new sportswear ads you need to watch – Adidas, Reebok and Nike

FKA Twigs x Nike - sportswear campaigns
FKA Twigs x Nike: Do You Believe in More?

Unsurprisingly, inspiration for great storytelling, and for films that don’t merely push product, but sell big ideas, often come from outside the fashion space.

Sportswear, albeit only one step removed, is one such area. It always has been.

Three weeks into the New Year and we’re already seeing why that’s set to continue for 2017. Below are three new campaigns from Adidas, Reebok and Nike that you might want to pay attention to…


Reebok: Be More Human – Hands

Reebok is back with its “Be More Human” campaign, once again focusing on the idea that physicality unlocks a better version of yourself. At the heart of that is a 60-second spot called “Hands”, which highlights the idea of our hands as the “perfect metaphor for the change that happens when you are physical”, Yan Martin, Reebok’s VP of brand management and creative direction, told AdWeek.

“Because as we push and pull and fight, our hands collect calluses, and blisters and scars. They’re almost like journals in this way. But as our hands, and bodies, change, we also change on the inside. Becoming braver and kinder and more connected,” he adds. “We’re not just talking about fitness for the sake of fitness, or winning and losing. This is about the transformation that happens when we move—physically, mentally and socially. So that gives us a lot of areas to play in, and a lot to respond to within culture and the current mind-set of the world.” The ad was created by Venables Bell & Partners and is accompanied by a handful of additional spots following the same theme.


FKA Twigs x Nike: Do You Believe in More?

Nike Women has launched a new campaign fronted by FKA Twigs, who also plays the part of creative director. The result is a two-minute music video set to the artist’s new song Trust in Me and starring a cast of 12 athletes alongside her. In a statement, Twigs said: “When Nike first came to me with this project, I saw it as an opportunity to let young people know they have the power to become the best versions of themselves. I put together a cast of 12 incredible athletes to show that it’s about what you do in fitness gear. It’s about how you train. It’s about how those things help your movement.”


Adidas Originals: Original is Never Finished

Music is also central to a new global campaign from Adidas Originals to relaunch its EQT shoe line. The above 90-second film, called “Original is Never Finished” features a version of Frank Sinatra’s My Way, to reinforce the idea that despite being a track that’s been covered multiple times before, original is indeed, never finished. Stars include Snoop Dogg, hip-hop artist Stormzy, basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, skateboarder Lucas Puig, artist Petra Collins and more. It was created by New York agency Johannes Leonardo.

Alegra O’Hare, VP-global communications at Adidas Originals & Core, said: “We have in the past challenged ‘outward’-facing concepts like what it meant to be a superstar, or the dystopian notion of the future. For the first time ever, we decided to point the attention in, and challenge the very ethos of our brand and the notion of what it means to be a true original.”

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product technology

Reebok designs performance version of Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit

Reebok concept pantsuits for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
Reebok’s concept pantsuits for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

Reebok has reimagined US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s infamous pantsuit using its high-tech performance materials ahead of the final presidential debate tonight.

In both a marketing move and a statement of its allegiance for the election, the brand is positioning the three-look line as one that will help Clinton survive the heat of the battle, much like its elite athletes have to endure. The concept suits would be crafted from Reebok’s proprietary ActivChill fabric, a unique ventilation technology built with irregular, pentagon-shaped fibres, the team explains, all of which is designed to increase air flow through the fabric so the body stays cool and focused.

Reebok’s senior director of brand management, Inga Stenta said: “We wanted to imagine a collection of pantsuits that highlighted power and strength. Women like Clinton are tough and unapologetic. Although we don’t often see candidates sweat, the bright lights of the debate and the pressure of the national stage can raise temperatures. Performance wear seems to be the perfect choice for situations like this.

Also thrown into the suggested designs is an on-trend jumpsuit, cape and mesh neckline. The brand’s existing Dance Strappy Bra also makes an appearance. Clinton actually wore a Ralph Lauren pantsuit for the last debate.