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business Editor's pick sustainability

Clare Press on why brand activism matters today

“I think that it is absolutely indisputable that customers are asking for brands to have vision and to have purpose and to stand for more than just making something pretty,” says Clare Press, sustainability editor-at-large at Vogue Australia and author of the book Rise & Resist, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

This new wave of brand activism is backed by the fact there is plenty of evidence younger consumers are the most socially-engaged generation we’ve seen, she explains. The fight for social and political justice that is happening around the world, is feeding into a demanding for more from the goods and services they consume. “They’re looking for brands to represent something that strikes a chord with them, and that is meaningful to them,” she adds.

We haven’t seen consumer restlessness in as big a way as we’re seeing right now since the 1960s, she explains. But addressing that as brands, also comes with balance.

Gucci pre-fall 2018 campaign, #GucciDansLesRues


Numerous businesses have stepped into this space – Gucci for instance made headlines when it donated money to March For Our Lives, and the gun control movement in the US, in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Meanwhile Patagonia announced it is donating all of the $10m it saved from a tax cut in the Trump presidency towards environmental protection groups. But that only works when it’s authentic, Press notes.

“Customers can see when they’re being green washed; when things completely lack integrity, and it can backfire. Let’s not pretend that brands aren’t in the business of making money. Of course, they are. However, if we can use that in order to also try to do some good, well, doing good business, I think that’s a valid thing.”

Press’ role at Vogue Australia is the first dedicated to sustainability in any of the Vogue titles worldwide. It comes at a time when the industry is increasingly focused on making sustainability and purpose a long-term business imperative, which ties to her mission to continue driving momentum in this space. It’s on that basis she believes everything from climate change to gender equality, modern slavery and more are intertwined.

In conversation with TheCurrent’s Rachel Arthur, she explores exactly what that means, talks about the importance of every individual voice in the supply chain, and reveals just what feminism really has to do with fashion.

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Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent 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.

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business Editor's pick product sustainability

Circularity is a business imperative, say Swarovski innovation speakers

Circularity is at the heart of the sustainable conversation for any brand that is concerned about its longevity in the industry, said speakers at Swarovski Professional’s Sustainable Innovation event in London.

This is about shifting from the current linear method of production and consumption the industry is focused on, where we take, make and dispose of garments, and instead focusing on a circular economy, whereby all products become resources once again, the panel event, which was curated by TheCurrent, highlighted.

Those involved emphasized the importance of this in the context of population growth estimates. There is expected to be 9.8 billion people on earth by 2050, according to the United Nations, which is contrasted by the fact the planet’s resources are becoming increasingly finite.

Haeckel's Dom Bridges in Margate
Haeckel’s Dom Bridges in Margate

Dom Bridges, founder of beauty brand, Haeckels, said it’s therefore essential to think about only putting something out in the world if the planet really needs it. The core ingredients in his skincare line are based on surplus algae and chalk reef from the beaches of Margate in the UK, making circularity a central focus of his strategy.

Numbers on material waste alone should be enough to spur any company into a more sustainable model, he further noted. Only 1% of the world’s textiles are currently recycled back into the system, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, for instance.

That means 99% of what we are all wearing is waste, explained Claire Bergkamp, worldwide director of sustainability and innovation at Stella McCartney, adding that the industry has yet to build a system to successfully recycle product waste.

Stella McCartney has worked with Bolt Threads to launch a mushroom leather handbag
Stella McCartney has worked with Bolt Threads to launch a mushroom leather handbag

In spite of this, she noted that recycling alone is not going to save us. “Single-use” was recently named the word of the year by Collins Dictionary, off the back of rising public concern surrounding the environmental impact of throwaway plastics. Bergkamp accordingly emphasised that across any industry, we have to move away from designing things that are meant to eventually be disposed of.

This is something that is central to the H&M Group’s sustainability goals. It has outlined ambitions to only use sustainably sourced materials by 2030 and to be climate positive throughout the entire value chain by 2040, which ensures its suppliers also take responsibility. “When we set our sustainability goals, we didn’t know how we were going to get there,” said Nina Shariati, the transparency and innovation business expert within the H&M Group’s sustainability department. “But we didn’t set out those goals because we knew we would reach them, we set them because we had to.”

The pressure is on for all brands to become greener in how they manage their environmental footprint, and fairer throughout their supply chains, said Dax Lovegrove, Global Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Swarovski.

Today, a third of the energy used at Swarovski’s Austrian production facility comes from renewable energy, while 70% of the water used in crystal making comes from recycled sources. It is also in the process of assessing the environmental impact of its crystals and raw ingredients, which will be disclosed in early 2019.

How are you thinking about sustainability? 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

Beboe on creating a luxury cannabis brand

“In fashion, I sold things to people that they didn’t need. You don’t need a beautiful bustier dress from Dolce & Gabbana, you want it, so it is about a want-based marketing,” says Clement Kwan, co-founder of luxury cannabis brand Beboe, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

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“In marijuana what we realized was everything was about the product. How high can you get? At what price? So we flipped the script,” Kwan, who is a former executive at YOOX and Dolce & Gabbana, notes.  

Beboe launched in 2017 at a time when cannabis consumption was riding high. Off the back of the growing wellness trend, consumers have become increasingly educated on the physical and mental benefits of the plant, and a series of new products and retail models have entered the market to respond to the demand. The plant has now been legalized for medicinal use in 33 US states, and for recreational use in 10. The country now accounts for 90% of the global legal marijuana trade, valued at $8.5bn.

Beboe
Beboe

For Kwan and his business partner, tattoo artist Scott Campbell, the ambition was to create the first luxury global cannabis brand, so its product design and marketing approach played a key role in helping destigmatize the plant and attract a more influential clientele.

By creating a desirable product that acted as a conversation starter, consumers would naturally become brand advocates, he explains. The approach has so far made Beboe stand out from the crowd, and earn the nickname of the “Hermès of cannabis”, as coined by the New York Times.

During the conversation, Kwan tells TheCurrent’s Liz Bacelar how he is applying his learnings from fashion into creating a desirable wellness and lifestyle brand, why education is the industry’s biggest challenge, and what’s next for Beboe’s growing portfolio.

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Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent 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.


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e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast

NET-A-PORTER on personalizing the customer experience

Rosanna Falconer and Matthew Woolsey

The future of e-commerce may not be about a traditional website at all, but about existing on multiple other platforms, expresses Matthew Woolsey, managing director at online luxury retailer, NET-A-PORTER, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

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The company sees many of its big customers making purchases over platforms including Whatsapp, iMessage and WeChat, which have become their primary entry point to e-commerce through their relationships with personal shoppers, he explains.

“We want to be in the platform where our customer is engaging with content, seeing the product or speaking with the personal shopper. It’s about what’s best for her. We never want to be in a position where we are forcing or imposing a platform or methodology on our customers, because that’s the opposite of customer centricity,” he explains.

“It’s very easy to imagine a time when NET-A-PORTER doesn’t even have a website, in the traditional sort of desktop sense, and really what it exists as is more of a concierge, on-demand, service offering. I think that’s the future of where this industry is headed and it’s something we are really well suited for because we have that infrastructure, we have that service component but we also know a lot more about our customer than just what she is buying.”

Data is central to being able to personalize the experience for individual customers in this way, he explains, outlining how the company is constantly looking at how to give its personal shoppers greater tools through technology.

The company is currently experimenting with how it can use artificial intelligence to merge data between purchase history and fashion trends to give personal shoppers recommendations and ideas in advance that are personalized to the customer, for instance.

Eventually the idea is for this to be scalable across the seven million consumers NET-A-PORTER talks to, but hitting its EIPs, or extremely important people, is the core focus, given the fact this 3% of its customer base, make up 40% of its revenue.

Speaking with Rosanna Falconer at a FashMash event in London, Woolsey also reveals why the most expensive item ever bought via a messaging app is so significant, whether NET-A-PORTER would ever think about physical retail, and how to manage the modern day tension between algorithms and inspiration.  

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current 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 Podcast product Retail

How Casper is designing experiential retail moments

Liz Bacelar and Casper's Eleanor Morgan
Liz Bacelar and Casper’s Eleanor Morgan

Successful retail experience today is about trial, service and entertainment, says Eleanor Morgan, chief experience officer of direct-to-consumer mattress brand Casper, on the latest episode of The Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar at The Lead Summit in New York, she says the company really focuses on designing experiences that are optimized for those three things rather than inventory availability and convenience. What’s key is giving customers the ability to try out products, get consultation from experts in house and enjoy moments with the brand.

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Casper has grown from an online retailer to a brick-and-mortar business with 20 stores across the US, along with an innovative sleep bar. The Dreamery, as it’s called, is a new napping space in New York built around experiential aims. It offers nap pods in a peaceful lounge along with a Casper mattress where consumers can pay $25 for a 45-minute snooze.

It also serves as an extension of the brand’s aim to drive a cultural change around sleep. “The Dreamery is a provocation and a way to essentially say, it’s not only acceptable to take a nap during the day and take a break, but it’s celebrated, and we can actually build a community of people that really value this and feel like it’s a socially fun behavior,” Morgan explains.

Casper was founded in 2014 with the mission of bringing great sleep to more people. With the diet and exercise industries booming, the founders saw a gap where sleep was completely ignored. Today, Casper is worth over $750m and has plans to open 200 store locations within the next three years.

Morgan attributes much of the brand’s growth to staying customer centered and focused on data. The company opened 18 pop-up stores in four months to test consumer engagement before opening its first permanent location, for instance. Through feedback and reviews from its consumers, it has been able to understand what their needs are, how they purchase their products, and how to improve their shopping experience.

During the conversation, Morgan also talks about the secret sauce to creating successful pop-up stores, what a modern sleep community looks like, and where Casper will be headed in the future.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Current Innovators 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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business Editor's pick Podcast

LVMH’s Ian Rogers on the death of the chief digital officer

Ian Rogers at the New York Times International Luxury Conference
Ian Rogers at the New York Times International Luxury Conference

The role of the chief digital officer shouldn’t exist, says Ian Rogers, who is himself the chief digital officer at LVMH, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar in Hong Kong during The New York Times International Luxury Conference, he argues that for any large company, the role should be merely transitional as brands become accustomed to a future where digital is simply embedded within everything that they do.

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“The word digital and the insinuation that this transformation is about technology is really misleading and it makes people make the wrong decisions. So what I really want to convince people of is that this is not a technological change, it’s a cultural change,” he explains. Instead, the role should evolve into a chief technical officer who sits at the executive table alongside more established players like the CFO and the CEO itself, he notes.

Rogers joined LVMH in 2015 at a pivotal time for the group, which like many luxury players was navigating a new consumer demand for more digital experiences and introducing e-commerce to its more traditional brands.

Since taking on the role, he has helped LVMH launch multi-designer e-commerce platform, 24 Sèvres, invest in affiliate shopping platform Lyst, and scale LVMH’s presence on China’s TMall platform from zero to 12 portfolio names.

Ian Rogers and Liz Bacelar
Ian Rogers and Liz Bacelar

Rogers big focus is on the customer, he explains. He brings that learning from his previous career in the music industry, where he led the launch of Apple Music after it acquired Beats Music and Beats Electronics for $3bn. Understanding every customer touchpoint, which now begins with digital, is key for a successful experience that navigates seamlessly across all channels, he explains.

During the conversation, Rogers also talks about how it makes sense that luxury took so long to jump into e-commerce; why CEOs don’t need to know technology intrinsically; and what he’s driving at LVMH to keep up with the level of experience the customer expects online.

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.

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Editor's pick Retail technology

Mulberry launches interactive retail experience for the holiday season

The #MulberryLights installation
The #MulberryLights installation

British luxury brand Mulberry has teamed up with innovation consultancy, Current Global, to create an interactive retail installation that will travel around the UK for the festive period.

The initiative, which is tied to the brand’s #MulberryLights campaign, celebrates how light, colour, shapes and people come together to create a modern British Christmas.

It is anchored by a smart vending machine that will appear in stores in London, Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh, designed to reward participation, amplify social engagement and capture data. The experience invites users to share their lights-inspired images with the hashtag #MulberryLights, to gain instant access to the prizes stored.

The machine works by verifying that the social media share has taken place on either Instagram or Twitter. It then invites users to interact in a bespoke gaming experience through its digital portal, before rewarding them for taking part. Each day, one lucky player will win the top prize of a £1,000 gift card. Other prizes include small leather goods, stickers and festive chocolate. Every user can also enter the chance to win a further £5,000 to spend on gifts at Mulberry.

The #MulberryLights smart vending machine
The #MulberryLights smart vending machine

The experience was produced by Current Global, an innovation consultancy transforming how fashion and luxury brands intersect with technology.

Liz Bacelar, CEO of Current Global, said: “Mulberry came to us seeking a creative and interactive experience that would help drive store footfall during the holiday period. Smart vending machines are currently having a moment in retail; creating incredible engagement with fans as well as relevancy in a noisy and overly saturated market. With a portfolio of thousands of startups and top technologies from around the globe, Current Global was able to quickly identify the ideal partner to co-create the #MulberryLights concept. This is another example of how open innovation – collaboration with external partners – is the most effective route to real innovation.”

The installation will be in Mulberry’s Regent Street flagship from November 15-18. It kicks off with an immersive pop-up light experience, alongside drinks and live music while the Regent Street lights are turned on. It then travels to Leeds November 22-25, Manchester November 26-28, and Edinburgh November 29 – December 2. A second machine will also appear in New York in December.

Further stickers, fly posters and projections from Mulberry will be dotted around London, Manchester and Edinburgh, encouraging consumers to take photos and tag them on social media with the hashtag.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. Current Global 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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e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast Retail sustainability

Allbirds on why sustainability is a non-negotiable

Tim Brown of Allbirds with Rachel Arthur
Tim Brown of Allbirds with Rachel Arthur

It’s not incumbent on the consumer to change behaviour, but on businesses to take responsibility, says Tim Brown, co-founder of direct-to-consumer footwear brand Allbirds, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast, by TheCurrent.

Speaking to Rachel Arthur, Brown stresses that brands need to show leadership on the issue of sustainability, and not expect their customers to be the ones to do it for them. “People don’t buy sustainability, they buy great products,” he explains.

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Brown started his career as a professional soccer player in his native New Zealand, which he says is what got him understanding the comfort needs in footwear. It was when he met co-founder Joey Zwillinger, a San Francisco-based biotech engineer and renewables expert, that the idea of creating a shoe that focused on sustainability and comfort together began to take shape.

Fast forward to 2016 and Allbirds launched its very first product, a pair of wool sneakers. Word of mouth quickly spread about the shoe’s simple design, level of comfort and sustainable use of textiles: a winning combination of good product and good storytelling that is at the core of any DTC brand’s strategy, and as a result, so attractive to the Millennial shopper.

Allbirds in London
Allbirds in London

Two years on, the brand has recently announced a new round of funding worth $50m, now valuing it at $1.4bn. With the investment, Brown says, comes the pressure to deliver on the many things they have imagined for the future, with a focus on physical retail, international expansion, and constant material innovation.

The latter has already included everything from a collection using ethically-sourced Eucalyptus fibres and a new flip-flop with a renewable sugarcane sole. The brand has also just opened up its first flagship store in London, as its first international move.

During this conversation, Brown explains how DTC brands succeed by owning every consumer touchpoint, how the narrative of retail being dead is greatly exaggerated, and why, in line with the UN’s recent report on climate change, every brand should strive to be sustainable in 2018.

This episode was recorded at Entale’s studio in London. Entale is a new podcasting app that allows you to interact with exclusive extra content like images, links and maps as you listen to your favourite podcast. You can download Entale from the iOS app store today.

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.
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Podcast sustainability

H&M Group on its ambitious circularity goals

Anna Gedda and Rachel Arthur
Anna Gedda and Rachel Arthur

“We only have one planet, and the toll [the fashion industry] has on resources today is simply unsustainable,” says Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at the H&M Group, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

She was referring to the company’s goal to move towards a 100% circular model by 2030, which means that everything it uses will go back into the system to be either recycled or reused.

Speaking to TheCurrent’s chief innovation officer, Rachel Arthur, at a FashMash event in London, she said the aim of the business is to keep all that is good with the fashion industry – from providing clothes to an ever increasing global population, to contributing to job opportunities and development – but doing so within the planetary boundaries.

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“If you do that, if you only use what is in the system in terms of resources, then we believe that you can continue to consume fashion in the future and you will be able to have prosperous communities that depend on the fashion industry in a good way,” she explains.

It’s a cumbersome road ahead to get there of course, with the industry needing to rethink everything from design, materials, consumption, recycling and more. And while there are already plenty of ideas out there – with H&M’s non-profit Foundation leading the way with an annual award for startups in the space – time, effort and big investment is needed to get many of them to scale.

Anna Gedda
Anna Gedda

“At the moment there is not much out there in terms of what is scalable, but if we look at the pipeline of innovation that is coming, it’s fantastic,” Gedda notes. She’s particularly enthused by some of the work that’s going into recycling technology to get us to high quality upcycled fibres.

She adds that what’s really needed in the industry today to make all of this a reality for mass brands however, is a coordination of innovation efforts so things don’t happen in siloes. “If we’re going to have fast acceleration of this, then whatever is invented needs to complement something else so you can get an effective chain – whether it’s materials or production – to happen. I think that from a challenge perspective, it’s the lack of coordination, or the lack of a bigger platform where all this collaboration can really happen, that’s the key thing I would point out.”

During the conversation, the duo also explore what will make the consumer really care about sustainability, how collaboration in the industry is critical, and just why AI is so pivotal to the future.

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.

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Podcast Retail

Misha Nonoo on pivoting direct-to-consumer

Liz Bacelar and Misha Nono
Liz Bacelar and Misha Nono

“The scariest thing [in the world] is doing something different and not having an example to follow,” says designer Misha Nonoo on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators.

Speaking at a MouthMedia recording, live at Spring Place in New York with TheCurrent’s founder Liz Bacelar, the designer discussed how she pivoted her contemporary namesake brand in 2016 to focusing on selling direct-to-consumer instead. “It was scary and I was doing something completely new, but at the same time it was very exciting,” she explains.

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Such disruption is something that has become second nature to Nonoo in recent years. In 2015, she was one of the first in the industry to forgo an official fashion week presentation and host an Instagram one instead. The next year, she returned to the platform with a see-now-buy-now presentation, which users could shop via influencer platform, rewardStyle.

For a designer who sees herself as an entrepreneur holding the reins for her brand’s success – and her personal happiness – switching to selling directly to the consumer was a very clear direction, she explains. That said, challenging the industry’s statusquo comes with a lot of hard work, which Nonoo does not shy away from.

“One of the most enlightening things that I was ever told was by Anna Wintour (…) she said to me ‘an overnight success is 10 years in the making’,” Nonoo explains. Seven years on, she feels she is just ‘making it’ now.

Time has also given Nonoo the confidence to know that a lot of the industry is based on smoke and mirrors. As a small, independent brand, she now feels confident in having the choice of what to subscribe to.

During this conversation, Nonoo also talks about the importance of building a business based on values, how fashion week has become obsolete, and the challenges of running an on-demand business.

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.