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Friday, 17 June 2022 19:02

ChicGeek Comment - Made For Resale

made for resale retail trends fashion kidswear collective SelfridgesThe secondhand, resale and pre-loved market is booming. Recent research from eBay Ads UK found, from a survey of 1,000 consumers, that consumers are increasingly turning to shopping for second-hand goods as the cost of living crisis deepens and ‘climate consciousness’ increases. 25% of UK consumers bought secondhand fashion in 2021. A quarter of those surveyed said that they try to upcycle or repair their current belongings before buying anything new, and 20% reported that they frequently buy second-hand, upcycled or refurbished items.

Left - Kidswear Collective at Selfridges

In January 2022 searches for ‘upcycled’ rose 40% on eBay UK compared to the month before, and searches for ‘second hand’ and ‘repair kit’ rose 24% and 21% respectively.

Searches for ‘pre-owned’ rose 19% in January 2021 compared to January 2020 and increased a further 38% in January 2022.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Thredup, the American secondhand online store, expects the secondhand market to grow 127% by 2026. It predicts the market to be worth $84 billion by 2030, while fast fashion is predicted to be worth about $40 billion dollar in comparison.

While the UK has always embraced vintage, charity and secondhand stores, it seems like America is finally losing its love of the new and brands are piling into the market.

Brands with their own resale shops increased 275%, from 8 in 2020 to 30 in 2021 with names such as Hugo Boss, Lululemon, Coach and Oscar de la Renta are all moving into resale, not only as a growing market, but also to improve their sustainability and green credentials.

The Thredup report also revealed that 52% of retail executives say offering resale is becoming ‘a must’ for retailers, while 88% of retail executives who currently offer the service say it is helping increase revenue. The resale market is growing at a rapid rate and brands will want to fulfil the demand and give a good, rounded offer to the consumer.

But, desirable resale is a finite resource and just as brands make for outlet, will we start to see brands tempted to fill those resale gaps with new product?

The margins, particularly on designer products, are so big that selling at resale would still give a decent level of return. What is the difference between brand new with tags (BNWT) resale and older outlet product? Nothing.

To give you an idea of scale, one of the market leaders in designer resale, Vestiaire Collective, currently has over 3 million items and 10,000 brands available with over 20,000 new fashion items listed every day. Orders grew 90% globally, over the past year, highlighted by a 100% increase in the US, now its largest market.

This kind of inventory level is unsustainable, especially if more outlets and brands are competing for it.

Rónán Ó Dálaigh, co-founder of Thriftify, which develops technology to help charities sell online, says, “Whenever I see a brand announce resale, I want to know what else are they doing. Are they going to sell less new fashion? If not, it’s a pure marketing exercise.” he says.

Thriftify allows charities in the UK and Ireland to seamlessly upload their product online, giving me them a larger audience and potentially raising more money in the process.

“If we can get them all online we create a genuine alternative.” he says. “In 3-5 years, we will be able to shop the same volume of fashion sizes, colour prices in used as you can new.”

Ó Dálaigh thinks consumers will see through brands making for resale. “I wouldn’t be surprised what the industry does.” he says. “They hold onto for a year and they’re already doing that, but we need to talk about production. We need less new fashion.” he says.

Lampoo is Milan’s leading luxury re-sale fashion platform, with a focus on retail bricks and mortar stores alongside its digital presence and about to open its first ever store in London later this June. Enrico Trombini, founder & CEO, says, “When we think about the second-hand portion of our wardrobes, for most people it’s probably still quite low.” he says. “However there are now a lot of resale businesses in the market, and I do think that like any other sector, it will reach a point where just a few key players will survive and all the others will be bought out or will unfortunately shut down.

“Sourcing is the main challenge for us and companies like us.” he says. “A company that wants to become a market leader needs to grow its inventory at a fast pace but if they want to remain well-positioned amongst other players, they also need to retain quality, ensuring they are constantly sourcing the most coveted and sought-after items.

“Some competitors have decided to enter the race by lowering their commission, or by buying the most desirable items upfront at a high cost, but many of these businesses do not have a unique proposition, so their strategies can be more immediate and less forward-thinking.”

Trombini thinks luxury brands have to embrace resale because they know they are missing a huge market opportunity if they don’t, and because their own customers will increasingly adopt sustainable ways to consume fashion like resale, rental or restoration. “The difficult thing for luxury brands is how to be an integral part of this market evolution without undermining their own brand equity.” he says.

"There will always be a difference between a brand new piece of clothing bought in a boutique and one in identical condition with tags attached that was bought from someone else's wardrobe. Whilst the items may be indistinguishable, the perception can understandably differ, especially in luxury where consumers are buying into a certain level of aspiration.” he says. “Despite that, savvy resale shoppers know that new with tag products are usually the best deal around, since despite being brand new, they are much more affordable.” says Trombini.

Founded in 2016 by Lewis Hull, Marrkt is a menswear online managed marketplace selling pre-owned items on behalf of individuals and brands. Originally a platform for deadstock menswear, the site switched its main focus to pre-owned in 2018 as a response to the growing narrative around sustainability and creating a circular economy. Marrkt currently has 12,000 items in stock from over 1,000 individual sellers from the UK and increasingly the USA, Europe and Australasia. Turnover has nearly doubled every year as the resale market continues to grow. Sales figures went from £300,000 in 2019, to £636,167 in 2020, to £1,109,505 in 2021.

On more brands entering the resale market, Hull says, “I guess it’s a good thing that more commercial brands are becoming more conscious, and finding their owns ways to operate in a more responsible way.”

“We only sell ‘new with tags’ if it’s deadstock from a brand.” he says.

“Rather than making for ‘resale’, I think more and more brands are re-considering their impact and adopting more circular initiatives likes offering ‘buy back schemes on used garments’ or selling ‘production samples’ at a discounted price. We’re all for re-using what’s already out there.” he says.

“Each platform out there serves a specific purpose, and it’s about finding a niche. Our demographic is different to Depop or Grailed for instance, as we cater for timeless quality brands, rather than hyped brands.” says Hull.

Shoshana Kazab is CEO and co-founder of Kidswear Collective, an online store selling pre-loved and past season designer fashion for children from birth to 14 years, where items are sold at up to 80% off their original retail price. It also has a concession in Selfridges.

She says, “Now is a very exciting time to be in the resale market. It’s so encouraging to see retailers and brands embrace this space and see it as an opportunity rather than a threat.

There are definitely a lot more platforms around compared to when we launched but we are still at an early stage of adoption. Resale is the fastest growing segment in fashion yet, by most estimates, it still only represents less than 5% of the entire market so there’s plenty of scope for growth.” she says.

Inventory is key to any resale business. I have worked in the kids industry for over 15 years and during this time have built trusted relationships with a lot of the key players ranging from influencers to stylists, which is where a lot of our stock comes from.”

The business operates on selling commissions and consignment selling.

The more fashion businesses that embrace the resale movement the better.” says Kazab. “It’s not about buying less, but simply about buying better. Hugo Boss garments are very well made - it is actually one of our best-selling brands - which means that having a pre-owned offering will most likely be very successful for them.” she says.

We want to encourage people to re-wear the same item as many times as possible. However, as many parents know, babies and children can often grow out of their clothes before they have had a chance to wear them. This means that many pieces come to us still with their tags on, and this is simply because the children haven’t had a chance to wear them.  We give customers the option to buy ‘Past season’ as well as ‘Pre-loved’ for this reason.”

Kazab hopes brands don’t start to make for resale.It will be far better for brands to partner with businesses like ours or Reflaunt in the adult fashion space. As professionals in this area, we can source and process stock on behalf of brands.” she says.

There is no doubt the resale market is growing, but this will only increase the pressure on quality inventory. In order to grow, these businesses will need increases in hyped product.

New with tags, pre-loved, pre-owned and secondhand are all terms used in the resale market. It could be argued that TK Maxx is a resaler when you consider unworn, new with tags, especially for it’s older, designer Gold Label product. ‘Resale’ has simply rebranded a lot of product that already existed.

If this area proves successful for brands, it will be very tempting to move product destined for outlet or even make popular product for resale. For many brands, such as Ralph Lauren, outlet makes up a huge proportion of their business and they could view resale as simply an extension of that. ‘Made for resale’ could be the next opportunity for big brands, but they certainly won’t be talking about it.

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Published in Comment
Friday, 27 May 2022 16:49

ChicGeek Comment Stand By Your Brand

stand by your brand celebrity fashion david gandyWhat makes a celebrity brand a ‘celebrity brand’? Does the celebrity have to live and breathe the brand, or can they discreetly linger in the background as a footnote of its ownership and still expect it to be successful?

Irish actor, Jamie Dornan, recently announced the launch of his new menswear brand, Eleven Eleven, to his 3 million Instagram followers. Receiving over 420K likes, the post featured snapshots of Dornan wearing the new basics-focussed menswear label with text saying, "I hate shopping and want all men to dress like me. So my mate and I have created a timeless capsule wardrobe over at @thisiseleven_eleven.

"Have a look and buy yourself/boyfriend/husband/lover/ex/brother/stranger something that he’ll always look good in. #thisiseleveneleven #capsulewardrobe”.

The mate in question, and fellow owner, is Jolyon Bohling, who has a background of launching celebrity and influencer brands. A marketing professional with 25 years’ experience, Bohling is the founder of ‘Group Seventy One' which “create and support brands from inception through design and production and onto D2C channels”.

Left - David Gandy wearing his own Wellwear brand

The Eleven Eleven brand currently has 11K followers on Instagram, but the brand doesn’t feature Dornan’s image anywhere on its channels or website. It is worth noting that Dornan started his career as a fashion model, even making it to the heady heights of being a scantily clad Calvin Klein underwear model.

Eleven Eleven states on its website, “Our aim is to make men’s staple products that last, that are thought through in design and detailing, that can be worn alone or together, that can be dressed up or down.

“Eleven Eleven was born out of having to visit many different shops to pull together our wardrobe basics. It was born out of a need to provide strong, interchangeable, simple colour palettes without costing the earth.”

The brand currently offers polo shirts for £45, long sleeve polos for £50, T-shirts for £30, pique shirts for £52, slim fit shirts for £75, chinos for £75 and jumpers for £85.

Confusingly, there are at least two other brands with the Eleven Eleven name. One is called 11.11 / ELEVEN ELEVEN and is sold at matchesfashion.com and another is called eleven eleven fashion. With his background in modelling and, clearly, a huge fan base, is it a mis-step for Dornan to not feature heavily in his new brand’s imagery?

When people buy into celebrity brands they are buying into that person’s image and style. Is it a mistake not to front the campaign and promote the brand yourself and stand by it?

Launching any fashion brand is hard right now, not taking this huge advantage feels like an error.

Recent celebrity brands to run into trouble include Alexa Chung’s namesake brand, which was recently wound up with a loss of more than £11million, Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green which was sold to JD Sports in April 2019 after entering administration with reported debts of £18million and David Beckham’s Kent & Curwen which ceased trading in Nov. 2021. David Beckham bought a stake in the brand in 2016 through his Seven Global company and had ended his partnership with Kent & Curwen previously in April 2020.

Gallagher was rarely pictured wearing his indie-inspired label while Chung’s was priced considerably higher than most of her fan base could afford. For Chung it was difficult for her to remain the girl to watch in her late 30s, especially when the social scene had been completely shut down during Covid.

One recent celebrity launch with the name firmly in front of the camera is David Gandy’s Wellwear, “a world-first concept bringing apparel and well-being together in a lifestyle brand that fuses fashion, function and feeling based on the scientific benefits of wearing soft, comfortable clothing.”

The model told TheIndustry.fashion, “I have never been someone to just put my name or face to something then walk away. I have to believe in something and be fully immersed in the process; my collaborations with M&S and Aspinal are examples of this.” he says. “Starting my own label is one of the last big things I wanted to achieve in the fashion industry, and one that I knew would be incredibly hard to do, so knowledge and timing had to be just right.”

Gandy stars in and fronts his brand’s imagery and social media alongside other models.

“For me, it is a little different as I have come from the modelling world. This is what people have come to know me for, and the Wellwear team believed it’s what people still wanted to see while we are building our audience.” says Gandy. “But I didn’t want the brand to solely be about me. I wanted to use our Wellwear platform to give other upcoming talent the opportunity to be the face of the brand, and grow with us as we do. I want Wellwear to inspire all ages and demographics. Eventually, my vision is for them to take over all the campaigns and Wellwear to become its own entity, rather than always be linked to me visually.” he says.

What does Gandy think about other celebrity brands minus their celebrity’s image?

“It’s each to their own as there is not a right or a wrong way.” he says. “You can look at many top designers with their own brands i.e. Tom Ford or Ralph Lauren.  Sometimes they put themselves in the campaign and creative, and sometimes they don’t.

“You can still be the spokesperson, face and founder of a brand without having to be in the creative visually. The one advantage of founding your own brand is that you can make those decisions. But, have to remember if you get those decisions wrong, there is no blaming anyone else, that’s the responsibility you have.” he says.

It can be difficult for celebrities to 100% commit to wearing their own labels when they have lucrative contracts with other brands, but, wearing other labels often confuses consumers and questions how much input they have in their own label and how much they actually own of it. It’s like when A instead of his own label. It sent the message that his eponymous menswear was inferior or not good enough. If you have your own label why would you not make something you wanted to wear?

Discreet celebrity can work. One successful brand which has the celebrity founders firmly in the background is the super expensive, The Row. Almost cult-like in status, The Row was established in 2006 by twins Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen and has stuck to its format of ultra-luxe, minimal fashion. The twins keep a rarefied distance and a nun-like silence around their label.

Another is Totême. Founded in 2014 by Swedish fashion blogger, fashion journalist, Elin Kling. She stays firmly in the background and has created a buzz with a clear point of view and design DNA.

Victoria Beckham on the other hand has found it difficult. She has tried to stay aloof, but has struggled. She started with the wrong categories. She should have followed Tom Ford’s lead and opened with beauty and sunglasses. You need to produce something people can buy into. She has recently reduced her prices by almost 40% by switching to simpler silhouettes and fewer embellished fabrics. The brand launched in 2008 with many consecutive years of no profits.

Other recent discreet celeb. brands to launch include Coldplay’s Guy Berryman’s ‘Applied Art Forms’, but he has less of a public image to put into the brand.

The undisputed queens of self-promotion are the Kardashians. Kim Kardashian launched her Skims label in September 2019 and it sold out in minutes. She has tapped into the expertise of Frame founder, Jens Grede, who has also partnered with her sister, Khloe with Good American. Kim K is happy to front the campaign for her shapewear brand and her image is now synonymous with the Skims brand.

Over in the UK, Trinny Woodall’s almost religious promotion of beauty brand ‘Trinny London’ has railroaded it into people’s consciousness. Starring in her campaigns, her almost QVC-like self-promotion has made a gross profit of £27.4million in the year to March 2021, a massive increase on the previous year's £8.5million. She understands the competitive nature of the beauty business and also the need to swear by your products.

Today, you need to be gratuitous in your promotion. American almost. British politeness won’t cut it. People need to be continually reminded you have a brand, you stand by your brand and you love your brand. You wouldn’t wear or use anything else. Without buying it, you are missing out, that should be the message, loud and proud.

Having a celebrity front a brand is a huge advantage. Them not wearing it or fronting the brand seems like a huge opportunity wasted, especially given the increased competitiveness of social media and direct to consumer selling.

It is rather difficult to sell a brand that you have backed if you are never seen in it. People want to know why and see it as a negative. Celebrities have to get involved. If you don’t wear the product, the signal is you don’t like it and why the hell would somebody else buy it?

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Published in Comment
Wednesday, 08 December 2021 14:45

The Gen-Z ‘Contemporary Vintage’ Hard Sell

NFTs fashion dolce gabbana investing gen z

There was a time when buying fashion was solely an investment in yourself. You bought fashion, at varying price points, thinking little or nothing of its intrinsic value after you’d finished using or wearing it. If it was lucky it would make a few pounds at a local charity shop after being donated. It was only very special showpieces or clothing worn by famous people that held any real value.

Left - Dolce & Gabbana sold its last Alta Moda Couture collection in NFT format

Today, designer fashion is being spun as ‘Contemporary Vintage’ or ‘Future Vintage’. It is being sold on the promise that it will retain some type of value or even increase. A generation of younger people are being asked to pay increasing prices for trainers and clothes on the pretence that they are an astute investment. Sounding like a giant Ponzi scheme, and adding in things like NFTs, are we seeing a new generation being hoodwinked into ‘investing’ into fashion?

I think it's a complex landscape here, almost half of the UK Generation Z saw some negative alteration to their employment through the pandemic period, and for this generation, it's increasingly hard to get into meaningful work.” says Petah Marian, founder of Future Narrative, a retail, culture and consumer trends expert.

“This sense that the system is rigged against them is leading to all sorts of speculative behaviours, be it trying to get access to limited-edition trainers to flip, or in some cases crypto currencies. Some people do make considerable amounts of money out of selling items, but, unless you know what's going to hold value, it's a risky game, as a lot of the future value lies in how well it will resonate later on.” she says.

In November, London designer fashion retailer, Machine-A, with self-described 'contemporary vintage’ e-commerce site Byronesque, launched a vintage area selling archival and rare runway pieces from the like of Rick Owens and Raf Simons.

As I understand it, contemporary vintage is just a new way of marketing vintage items. The way that Machine B is positioning itself is that the contemporary vintage selection will be key vintage items from a series of iconic designers that have a certain cult appeal.” says Marian.

Called Machine-B, it launched at the Machine-A store in Soho and online. What was interesting was how Machine-A was using these archival pieces to promote its other contemporary designer offering and labelling it as ‘future vintage’. This speculative retail approach included small and lesser known brands such as Stefan Cooke and Kiki Kostadinov.

Kerry Taylor, founder of Kerry Taylor Auctions, the world's leading auction house specialising in vintage fashion, fine antique costume and textiles, says, “I have concerns about people purchasing trainers for hundreds of thousands of dollars – when we know that items made from rubber or plastics in the 1960s have started to revert/disintegrate. High quality artisanal items such as Hermès handbags however are probably only going to increase.” she says. “I would trust vintage vintage as it has an established track record rather than ‘contemporary vintage’ which is a bit of a contradiction in terms. We have no idea of the marketing hype will come true.” says Taylor.

Taylor thinks brands and designers are marketing their clothes and product like this to make them seem more special in a world flooded with brands and garments. If you were to ‘invest’, what would you look for?
They should buy what they like rather than just for an investment. Investments can go up or down – but if you love a piece – then it doesn’t matter so much. Always check condition – avoid anything altered or with damage.” says Taylor.

NFTs fashion dolce gabbana investing gen zMarian thinks brands that have a strong and passionate fan base or items that either speak to a brand's codes or are exceptional examples of where it departs from it are more shrewd investments, as well as items that have a limited release.

“It's part of the broader narrative around circularity and retailers slowing consumption around new items, while also generating buzz around key designers by elevating second-hand items as "archive pieces" that are special and rare.” says Marian.

Right - Burberry's first NFT collection launched in August 2021

Fashion brands are offering other avenues to invest, and making their brands look more attractive in the process. NFTs or non-fungible tokens, offer a chance to buy digital versions of an item. Individuals need to establish a digital wallet to store your cryptocurrency in order to purchase an NFT.

In June, Gucci partnered with Christie’s selling an NFT video called ‘Aria’, the title of its AW21 collection, for $25,000, while in September, Dolce & Gabbana sold an NFT couture Alta Moda suit for £740,000 at auction. The new owner also got a physical suit for that price. Dolce & Gabbana grossed $5.7 million from its first auction of NFT collectibles.

Tying fashion items and collections to NFTs raises the investment levels, but are NFTs likely to be a good long-term investment?

“It's very early to say what the mass uptake will look like.” says Marian. “There's a passionate community of collectors that are driving up the value of NFTs at the moment, but I can't say what the long term value of the current releases of NFTs. I think NFTs are here for the longer term, but it's very early to say what the value or the market will look like for individual assets in a year or two years from now yet.” she says.

Add the growing noise around the Metaverse - the British Fashion Council (BFC) recently announced a brand new category as part of The Fashion Awards 2021—the first ever Fashion Award for Metaverse Design exclusively with Roblox - and the way digital and physical items are blurring, these new ways of owning or consuming as item are selling themselves as investment opportunities to a younger and more engaged consumer.

NFTs fashion dolce gabbana investing gen zAll investments are speculative. By linking and promoting positive examples of fashion items increasing in or holding their value, brands are cleverly giving the illusion that it is a certain. This is targeted at the younger consumer queuing at stores in Soho or entering ballots for items happy to pay significant sums of money with the idea lurking in the background that they will be able to resell it at some point or even flip at a profit. Websites like Stock X continue to propel the hyped hysteria.

Left - Hyped kids? Luxury brands are invested in giving the perception their goods will retain or even increase their value to younger, Gen Z consumers

Fashion has never really been a serious investment before. Fashion, in its nature, is fickle and unpredictable. Implying that something is resellable at a price close to what you paid for it and/or a solid investment is another pull brands are using to activate the purchasing power of their expensive products. It doesn’t feel like you’re chucking your money away like it did in the past to a generation more careful with money. This bubble is getting bigger and we all know what happens to bubbles when they get too big.

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balenciaga gucci hackNo creative worth their salt will ever admit to being out of ideas. Even no idea is an idea these days. Collabs. have become the go-to to fill the gaps in fashion’s creativity and its continual appetite for product over the past decade. Two empty heads are always better than one?

Fashion is a cycle and like the Ouroboros, an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail, it goes around and around. But, today, that coil has become so tight it has almost devoured itself. In a ‘pop will eat itself’ moment, former rivals are now collaborating and even swapping creative roles, while retailers, desperate for new ideas are trying to incubate new designers, labels and ideas to fill the ideas vacuum. 

Is fashion officially out of ideas?

The biggest ‘hacking’ of the season, (not a collab. anymore - FYI), was the tie up between Balenciaga and Gucci. Both Kering brands, and in Gucci’s centenary year, Gucci’s ‘Aria’ collection, meaning air in Italian, featured no-doubt sell out product the resellers will only dream about. 

Left - Balenciaga & Gucci's 'Hack' in retail form

Tagged as Balenciagucci or (Gucciaga), the internet blew up in April when Alessandro Michele added Balenciaga’s silhouettes and branding across Gucci product. 

Two of the biggest and most desirable names in luxury fashion merging like this is unprecedented. A classic Jackie bag was emblazoned with the diagonal Balenciaga font, while Balenciaga’s Triple S was reimagined with the recognisable Gucci Flora print.

If this wasn’t enough rehashing of ideas, the collection also mined the famous Tom Ford era of the mid to late 90’s, reproducing some of his vintage looks from the Gucci archive. Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia said on Instagram Stories after the Gucci show with regards to the homage to Tom Ford’s Gucci. “It really defined the decade in fashion, I think. But I love how today everything mixes in together — ’70s, ’90s, ’00s, etc. Anything is really possible and fashion is such a melting pot of the past, present, and future. That’s what makes it so special and intriguing I guess.” 

This product will be in great demand - it isn’t currently available on the main Gucci website - and is therefore guaranteed that it will be swapping hands for a premium when it enters the market. While fun, it does a reek of an ideas cul-de-sac.

Mario Abad, Fashion Editor at Paper Magazine wrote on Twitter (Nov 8th) “Something about Balenciaga tagging their stores with “Gucci” to mark the collab’s launch is making me lose it.”

fendi fendace versace swapThe biggest ‘swap’ of the SS22 season, (not a collab. anymore - FYI), was Fendi by Versace, Versace by Fendi. Donatella Versace and Fendi’s Kim Jones swapped roles and designed collections for each other’s brands. Versace and Fendi, Capri Holdings and LVMH brands, respectively, unveiled “two iconic collections that celebrate their friendship and the cultural impact of Versace and Fendi.” 

Right - Versace's Medusa looks very natural with Fendi's Greek key

Labelled ‘Fendace’, the collection saw Fendi directors Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini Fendi create 25 Versace looks while Donatella Versace reciprocated with 25 Fendi ensembles. Items included Fendi Baguette bags with Medusa heads and Versace’s signature safety pins scattered across Fendi looks all set to hit stores next spring.

fendace kim jones donatella versaceConsidering Kim Jones only joined Fendi as artistic director of women's collections in September 2020, we’ve yet to clearly see what he can do with the brand. He is also men’s creative director at the giant, LVMH owned, Dior. Fashion conglomerates are finding it increasingly hard to attract big names designers to their houses. Note Daniel Lee just exciting Bottega Veneta.

Left - Kim Jones & Donatella Versace at the launch of 'Fendace'

On the retailer front, MRPORTER.COM announced a competition to find the next menswear design stars to celebrate its 10th anniversary in April 2021. Called MR PORTER FUTURES, the three lucky candidates could not already own a registered or trademarked business with an annual turnover of over €10,000 and was open to anybody regardless of experience of background.

Sam Kershaw, Mr Porter buying director, “We have always been committed to championing a diverse mix of new and emerging designers throughout Mr Porter's decade in business, but if this year has taught us anything, it is that we have the responsibility to use our global platform to give equal opportunities to all new aspiring menswear voices, no matter their experience or background”

Announcing the winners in September 2021, MRPORTER said. “Fashion, after all, can be a tough place to succeed, and, if we’re being honest, isn’t quite as diverse as it could be. For all that it speaks to a global audience, the industry that drives it is largely centralised in just a handful of cities – historically New York, London, Milan and Paris – while talent is disproportionately drawn from a small number of high-profile schools.”

The winners began a year-long design programme to turn their ideas into reality. At the end of the year, they will debut their very own menswear collections exclusively on MR PORTER.

Exclusivity is the way forward for multi-brand luxury sites all battling for the same customers. This also offers MR PORTER the potential of a fresh wave of ideas and a newness that isn’t just another collaboration. It also looks as though it is supporting the fashion industry and diversity.

Tiffany SupremeAnother brand desperate for cool is Tiffany & Co. A much-rumoured high profile collaboration between Supreme and Tiffany & Co. is set to drop this week.

 Right - Would you return this to Tiffany? Tiffany & Co.s collab with Supreme

The VF and LVMH owned businesses’ collection called ‘Return To Tiffany’ is inspired by pieces originally launched in the 1960s and comprised of pendants, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, and keyrings. Tiffany’s new CEO, Alexandre Arnault, was also the head of Rimowa when they did a collaboration with Supreme.

Fashion consumers have reached collaboration fatigue and this is why the big brands are spinning these as ‘hacks’ or ‘swaps’. It is also why they are upping the ante by partnering with brands of equal stature. Collaborations needed to get bigger to have any impact. Collaborations before were always a David and Goliath type relationship of big brand supporting little. There was no threat there and everybody knew who was the bigger and more important of the two. Where will the brands go from here?

These do look like a desperate grappling for new ideas and attention. Brands not coming up with fresh ideas and therefore not impressing the retailers is making them look elsewhere to nurture a new crop of ideas and designers, especially outside of the main fashion capitals. Considering fashion had something of a pandemic break, for the last 18 months, the latest round of shows in September didn’t feel like a group of creatives burgeoning with fresh ideas. It felt like an industry fully burnt out and these partnerships do nothing to argue against that.

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Published in Comment
Wednesday, 20 October 2021 13:14

ChicGeek Comment Creative Influence

Kendall Jenner as creative director influencersHow valuable is influence? Modern marketeers are continually grappling with how to use ‘influence’ and where to put their time, focus and investment. ‘Influence’ is nothing new, but, thanks to social media, it has become the Holy Grail of marketing as traditional channels have declined. While measured in followers, engagement etc. the ultimate measurement is sales. And volumes speak volumes for the majority of brands.

Left - Super-influencer Kendall Jenner was made Creative Director of designer multi-brand site FWRD

Brands have partnered and collaborated with influential people for many years, but, in order for them to be more invested, many brands are now appointing influencers as  ‘Creative Directors’ or inviting them in as shareholders or investors. This creates longer term relationships and exclusive parties both invested in the success of the arrangement.

Recently in womenswear, PrettyLittleThing announced Love Island’s Molly-Mae Hague, while FRWD announced Kendall Jenner as Creative Directors.

Molly-Mae Hague, 22 years-old with 6 million followers on Instagram, found fame on the ITV dating show. In August, she was announced as UK and EU Creative Director as well as launching her first exclusively designed collection since her announcing new role.

She had previously worked with the brand as their UK Brand Ambassador ‘curating iconic edits’, BTS videos and podcast interviews. In her newly appointed role, the brand said Mae-Hague will take an active position in creatively directing upcoming campaigns for the brand and signing new faces within the UK and EU. Umar Kamani, CEO at PrettyLittleThing said, “This felt like a natural fit for us. Molly has been a huge part of our PrettyLittleThing journey.”

Amy Simon, Global Head of PR and VIP at PrettyLittleThing says, “We have been working with Molly for a few years, way back when she had a much smaller following and she has always been a supporter of the brand.

“We have followed Molly’s career and she was a no-brainer for us when it came to selecting our new Brand Ambassador for the UK. As our relationship has grown with Molly, her input into her shoots and creative has been amazing and she is the PLT customer. She knows what our PLT customer wants, so the choice to then take it a step further was for her to come on board as Creative Director.” says Simon.

Mae-Hague’s current role will be for one year and hopefully way beyond this says the brand.

“She will be meeting the teams at HQ regularly and working across ambassador shoots, seasonal campaigns, our Influencer Marketing strategies, showroom openings, YouTube and so much more. Her role as Creative Director goes beyond her previous Brand Ambassadorship.” says Simon.

Many people are quite sceptical and snobbish about influencers being appointed creative directors at brands. It could be viewed as a kick in the teeth for true designers and creatives, but on the other is this just a natural extension of the brand/influencer relationship?

Influencers have been a huge part of the brand’s success since the beginning, and we work with influencers of a varied following across the globe.” says Simon.

“The influencer marketing team have great relationships with the ones that we work with and we know our audience relate to the Influencer. We regularly expand beyond just posts, we’ve had many successful edits, interviews for our podcast and collaborations across all our key markets.” she says.

In the US, luxury womenswear fashion destination FORWARD [FWRD], part of the REVOLVE Group has announced Kendall Jenner, 25, as the new Creative Director. Jenner has 192 million followers on Instagram.

“I grew up loving fashion and have been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the most brilliant people in this business. As FWRD’s Creative Director, I am excited to help curate the site’s offering with emerging designers and brands.” said Jenner on her appointment.

The multi-brand site says, as the new Creative Director, Jenner will be in charge of the look and feel of the site, curation of brands sold, monthly edits of must-have trends, styles, and looks, as well as marketing ideas, brand partnerships and brand activations. Jenner kicked off her new role during New York Fashion Week this month.

“Kendall as the Creative Director for FWRD is the perfect choice as we continue to invest in the next generation luxury consumer. We have always had an extreme admiration for Kendall’s style, creativity, and overall exquisite taste. Her multifaceted experience in the fashion industry and the vision she has outlined for the FWRD business has the potential to transform our business and the luxury business as a whole.” Michael Mente, Co-CEO and Co-Founder REVOLVE Group, Inc.

Revolve Group (RVLV) says it ‘is the next-generation fashion retailer for Millennial and Generation Z consumers’ with two sites REVOLVE and FORWARD. REVOLVE offers a more affordable assortment of premium female apparel and footwear, accessories, and beauty products from emerging established and owned brands. At FORWARD, they ‘offer a highly curated assortment of iconic and emerging luxury brands’.

Andy Murray AMC clothing CastoreKendall and Mae-Hague are the same age as the target customer for both of these brands.

Manchester based, In The Style, actively works with influencers to create collections and the influencer gets a cut of sales so has a vested interest in the success.

It’s interesting that they would choose to be so deeply embedded with one brand as it would preclude them (dependent on the contract) of taking money from others, so they deals would have to be favourable. On the flip side for consumers, are they really still mindlessly following what celebrities do? How much longer is that going to last?

Right - Sports stars are the ultimate influencers in menswear - AMC clothing from Castore with tennis player, Andy Murray

Over in menswear, it is sports stars, and more specifically footballers, who wield the greatest influence. Remember how David Beckham wearing that Superdry jacket catapulted the brand? Product placement on influential friends of friends of the brands can really kick start brands, particularly sportswear.

Two such British success stories are Castore and Bee Inspired. Brothers Tom and Phil Beahon, who both came from professional sporting backgrounds, founded Castore with a mission to deliver the ‘lightest, most durable, highest performing sportswear in the market’ and, since its launch in 2015, the digitally native business model has grown rapidly and now sells in more than 50 countries around the world. In 2019, British tennis star, Andy Murray, become a shareholder in the business and took on the role of board advisor, as part of its ongoing long-term partnership. His AMC range of sportswear under the Castore umbrella was recently seen on 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu’s coaching staff. Castore recently launched a collection with Olympic and Strictly Come Dancing swimmer Adam Peaty and are forecasting to turnover £14m this year.

In 2013 professional footballers Steven Robb and Mark Corcoran hung up their boots and were inspired to embark on a journey to change the landscape of streetwear. They launched Bee Inspired. Gifting their footballer friends and being featured on their subsequent social media channels helped the Glasgow based brand to grow extremely quickly. Lionel Messi (269 million Instagram followers), Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho have all worn Bee Inspired. They recently launched womenswear.

The sports shoe brand, On, an investment from Swiss tennis star Roger Federer, is eyeing a valuation of more than $6 billion in a U.S. initial public offering (IPO), a recent regulatory filing showed. On was founded in 2010 by running enthusiasts Olivier Bernhard, David Allemann and Caspar Coppetti, with Federer investing an undisclosed sum in the company in 2019.

“When we spotted Roger wearing On shoes around the world, we just got in touch. Turns out, he has been an On fan for a while. Switzerland is relatively small and it wasn’t long before Roger was catching up with our senior leadership team over dinner.” says the brand. Asian private equity firm Hillhouse also owns a stake.

Long term collaborations often turn into these arrangements. Many sports starts with money to invest are looking for income into retirement.

Somebody like Lewis Hamilton, who recently took a table at the Met Gala for young designers, is showing a strong interest in fashion. His collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger started in 2018, with his latest collection being entirely vegan. It wouldn’t take a genius for somebody at PVH, Tommy Hilfiger’s parent company, to want to tie him in and his 24 million Instagram followers into a permanent and invested relationship like his own label. Something sustainable, possibly?

Not all influencer investments have worked out as well. Just look at Rhianna’s Fenty clothing line or David Beckham with Kent & Curwen, where there was a price disconnect between the product and the audience. Aspiration is one thing, being unaffordable is another. The super-influencer needs to feel like the customer, but they also need to produce something that people can afford.

Super-influencers know their value and in a world becoming immune to sponsored posts it requires brands to think deeper and bigger. Tying them into a proper contracts or investments, but also allowing them to create what they want and then promote it is a major attraction to brands. The super-influencers get a deeper financial, creative and more fulfilling relationship and the chance to be part of something that could be really big. Having both invested parties pulling in the same direction and making product for the same audience is the ultimate in influence. 

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Published in Comment
Tuesday, 25 May 2021 11:48

ChicGeek Comment The Age of Independents

Independent retailers growing BroardstairsWhen a mighty oak falls the sunlight blazes in. The resulting glade sees green shoots appear with all manner of species stimulated to grow and compete for this finite opportunity.  A metaphor for business, the British high-street has seen many old oaks fall over and die recently, and, with optimism, the light that this allows to shine into the market could make it a boom time for new independents to open. With people shopping more locally, wanting the opposite of chain stores and craving something different, it is predicted that we will see a flood of independent brands and stores grasping to fill this void.

Left - Image from @ollyrzysko Twitter documenting the new independent stores in Broadstairs

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira (British Independent Retailers Association) says, “It is a fact that people who have lost jobs often look to start their own businesses.”

It is worth noting how much better the leaner, and more flexible independent businesses weathered the pandemic. Recent research from the Local Data Company, the UK's most accurate retail location data company, confirmed there were 31,405 openings of independent units in 2020. Though openings were outweighed by 32,847 closures and resulted in the independent market shrinking by -0.4% (-1,442 units), it compares much more favourably to the chain market which declined by -4.5%, almost 10,000 units.

“We have also seen a resurgence in people shopping locally and there has been a significant increase in service retailing – barbers, hairdressers, cafes, etc.” says Goodacre.

“Indies have a personality and connection with their local communities that cannot be matched by the large chains. This is a good time because more people are shopping locally and care more about their local economy.

“Shopping locally, away from the large city centres, has happened throughout the UK, including London, as the boroughs have prospered at the expense of those shops in the centre or near high volume commuter stations.” says Goodacre.

Olly Rzysko, Founder of Good Candles, recently charted the arrival of numerous new independent retailers in the seaside town of Broadstairs through his Twitter channel @ollyrzysko, “I saw a lot of new units opening up, stores that were previously closed or maybe very tired reinventing themselves.” he says.

“Some of what had been previously pretty dead spots of high street were coming alive with new spaces from Affinity Brewery, a new lifestyle store and one of the most successful stores upgrading to a bigger unit. There were at least 6 new stores and several new places to eat and drink in a tiny town.” says Rzysko.

Why do you think so many independents are opening right now? And why there?

“I think it’s a mix of relatively affordably retail property, a mindset from people that they want local stores and a growing population by the coast that are willing to spend money here.” he says. “E-commerce is amazing if you have a unique product or a specific proposition but a real store can be so versatile and be a hub for the community and the brand.

“Independents can offer some choice, curated choice. I love Selfridges and their curation of product but I can’t go every week. Having some stores locally that can bring together interesting products and in some cases more local ones is really powerful. We’ve had a year of ’buy local’ messaging and I do think people really do want to spend more near to home.” he says.

“A lot of people are going back to offices this year but for many of us that will prob be 3 days a week. That has some significant impact. City centres lose 20% of footfall for every day we work from home (eg 20% of the Mon-Fri traffic for each day), this traffic is now local to where the workers live. They still want to buy lunch or a birthday card or a bottle of wine, but the money will be spent nearer to home.

“It is much easier to change tactics when you’re one store in a small town, much harder when you have shareholders and growth targets.” he says.

To kick start retail after lockdown many within the retail industry were calling for a ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ scheme, urging the government to support the sector by offering customers 50% off the cost of goods at independent retailers up to a maximum price of £10. Positively, since then retail sales volumes grew sharply in April 2021 with a monthly increase of 9.2%, reflecting the effect of the easing of coronavirus restrictions according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. Non-food stores provided the largest contribution to the monthly growth in April 2021 sales volumes, aided by strong increases of 69.4% and 25.3% in clothing stores and other non-food stores respectively.

Independent retailers growing Durham

Masato Jones is an independent fashion designer who has recently opened his first store in Leeds. Originally from Japan, he studied at Central St. Martins and  started his eponymous label in 2012. He was based in London.

“London is so expensive, and doing bespoke I need to be somewhere in a city.” he says. “London has become slightly too commercial and I found Leeds has a very individual style. I saw young people wearing quite a unique style.

Right - Durham

“It seems the north like my style, the south are very quiet, my first impression was go north. We looked at Manchester and Liverpool, but I like what is going on in Leeds.” he says.

Selling men’s and womenswear, the newly opened store is in Thornton Arcade, just around the corner from Louis Vuitton in the centre of Leeds. It has an atelier on the 1st floor, open for pattern cutting and garment making classes, all tutored by Jones. Speaking before the move, he said, “It is very difficult to survive here in London right now, especially if a small business. The Leeds arcade has all independent shops apart from Starbucks, and we will stock artists’ work as well.”

Independents' Day is the national campaign to celebrate and promote the UK's independent retailers on 4th July. It started out as a small idea in the North of England and has grown into a multi-award-winning worldwide movement. Independents' Day UK is a not-for-profit campaign that exists to support and promote independent retail businesses across the UK all year round, but with an annual focus on July 4th. On July 4th retailers get involved by running special events and promotions including themed window displays, high street festivities, discounts and offers.There is now a network of ‘Totally Locally Towns’ across the world, sharing ideas, working together and making a difference to their independent businesses.

Further north, the City of Durham Parish Council has launched ‘Indie Durham City’. Managed by Gateshead-based retail consultants CannyInsights.com. It has been running since May 2020 to support and promote independent shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and other businesses in Durham’s historic city centre.

Graham Soult, Retail Consultant at Canny Insights says, “Indie Durham City was created in response to the pandemic to support and promote independent businesses. I’m helping make them more digital, update their Google listings, Facebook etc. all with free support from me.”

By helping them digitally it has increased awareness of the physical place to draw shoppers in.

“Initially they were really cautious about using those channels, but they are embracing them a lot more, all sharing updates in a given location which makes it a destination place.” he says.

The city social media has amplified the message. “Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are really important in providing footfall, people will check you out beforehand. You get that verification, the retailers are telling me they came in today and said they saw me on Facebook.” he says.

“There has been a flurry of independents,” says Soult. “We saw this before Christmas when 5 new independents opened in that period, and there’s another 4 new independents in a 200 metres stretch in the city. There’s clearly an appetite.” he says.

“The smaller towns that already have a independent cohort already, those places are proving quote robust with people living close by.” says Soult.

"It’s the in-between towns, they aren’t top tier, nor small market towns, places like Warrington and Middlesborough, who have the biggest reinvention ahead of them.” he says. “Get all the key stakeholders, like the council and landlords all working together, and the places doing that have that energy all pushing in the right direction.” says Soult.

People are seeing more independents because they are spending more time in their locales. There’s also not as much pull from the city or shopping centres with the widespread and much publicised bankruptcies of huge retail chains. There’s something quite sad about city centres right now with empty shops and boarded up retail units. It’s currently cooler and more original shopping local and doing business directly with the owner. There’s also a need and desire to tap into their knowledge and expertise and have a human connection.

These independent businesses still need online and social media to drive people to their physical stores, and it works better collectively. It’s very much stronger together. But, they need to do more than simply exist. They are competing for the pounds in people’s pockets, and while they probably won’t be able to match online on price, they can compete on originality, convenience, service and, most importantly of all, that personal touch.

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Published in Comment
Wednesday, 17 February 2021 17:03

ChicGeek Comment Luxury Local

DFS LVMH local shopping Paris

The capitals of Europe were long destinations for foreign tourists, most notably Chinese and Arabic visitors, to fill their shiny Rimowa suitcases to bursting with luxury goods. Buying a new Hermès bag on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré or a bespoke suit on Savile Row felt more authentic and could seduce many an international visitor to spend, spend, spend. 

Left - Interior of LVMH duty-free travel division DFS's T Fondaco dei Tedeschi in Venice

International travel and shopping have always been happy companions. One relied on the other, but, travel has all but stopped, and the millions who once flocked to Selfridges in London or Galeries Layfette in Paris are no longer arriving. This is prompting luxury houses to pivot and focus local. 
In its recent results, the world’s largest luxury group, LVMH, said there was a 28% decline in LVMH’s revenue for the full-year in Europe. It said while the Chinese domestic market saw strong growth it wasn’t enough to make up for the missed sales from their trips abroad.
LVMH’s chief financial officer, Jean-Jacques Guiony, said he hoped the group could grow its local European market to fill the void left by the tourists.
“Growing our local sales by one-third isn’t achievable in a year, or maybe even two, but we believe it’s achievable in a significant way,” he said. “We see no reason we should be shutting down stores, even in Europe where the recovery is less obvious for the moment.”
Traditionally, in the final quarter of the year (Q4) the majority of European luxury sales (50-60%) usually comes from tourism. In their Q4 results LVMH bullishly said, while Europe is still affected by the crisis, the United States saw a good recovery and Asia grew strongly.
In London, Brian Bickell, the chief executive of West End property company Shaftesbury, recently said overseas visitors may not return in numbers before “late 2022, perhaps not until into 2023, being realistic”.
With luxury European sales down by nearly a third, this potential sales time lag of up to two years needs filling by luxury brands in prime city centre locations, but how will they do it?
Darren Skey, Director and Founder of Nieuway Agency, says, “I think brands and retailers alike are finding and will continue to find it hard to grow their domestic customer.  Many stores in particular have been so reliant on the tourist trade, in particular Middle Eastern and Asian.  
“To swing both your marketing message and buy to suddenly attract a different customer takes time.  With LVMH, what accounts to a local audience? They have 5000 stores globally so I'm sure they can localise their sales a lot easier than a store who has 1 or 2 locations in the same country.  We've already heard from stores in the Middle East, they have seen triple digit increases from the localised customer who can no longer travel.” he says.  
“I think the changes to the buy/brand mix will be minimal to be honest.  I believe stores will be going through a process of thinning their brands as opposed to finding new brands to attract a localised customer.  Where brands are being picked up is if the brand has global appeal and can be translated throughout multiple customer profiles.” says Skey.  "Our brand, Holzweiler, has seen this first hand.  We are seeing a really strong reaction which is going to elevate it beyond its perceived Scandinavian success story.  Having products which are all encompassing is paramount.  A good quality sweat top and sweat pant is going to attract a multitude of customers, especially during the global pandemic.  But it's also important to offer products which have longevity and will work post pandemic.” he says.
Will this luxury local sticking plaster turn into a long term strategy?
“I think this will definitely be a short term strategy,” says Skey. “As soon as borders open and the pandemic dissipates (if that fully happens at all) I believe the concentration will return to the section of customers who were previously driving the turnover.  “In fact, I believe we could see a complete juxtaposition from the WFH attire with people wanting to go out and express themselves again. But, who knows when this might be?” he says.
LVMH, in particular with its DFS (Duty Free Shoppers) division was busy building huge temples of duty-free luxury shopping and hotels in Europe to service these high-spending foreign visitors. In its results, it said DFS saw a significant decline in its activity in most destinations due to the total suspension of international travel, but, new services were being developed for its local customers and online sales have strengthened.
But, how many local Venetians will shop at DFS’s hugely impressive T Fondaco dei Tedeschi overlooking the Rialto Bridge? Not to mention the refurbished La Samaritaine in Paris which was scheduled to open in April 2020. 
After nearly 30 months’ of renovation, a department store and a 5-star Cheval Blanc hotel with 72 rooms was to open its doors. It still hasn’t opened. In September 2020, Louis Vuitton gave us a sneak preview of the finished building by holding its womenswear show there. 

DFS LVMH local shopping VeniceDavid M Watts, Fashion Industry Advisor, says, “Given they (LVMH) have deep pockets it will be possible for them to refocus on local markets in Europe but not without its challenges given the continued state of lockdown all across the world. 

Right - Artist's impression of the new, yet to open La Samaritaine in Paris

“I believe they should perhaps consider developing a pop-up shop menu that will allow safe shopping, but also access to digital and commerce which will create a new hybrid. Something bricks and mortar retail was crying out for pre COVID.” he says.
So, what kind of new products or changes do you think they’ll make? “I suspect that homeware, wellness, beauty and casual wear will feature heavily.” says Watts. “Businesses are starting to review their own product offering; sleepwear, blankets, candles, pyjama dressing and track suit iterations abound.” he says.
Can you see this being a long or short term strategy and do you think it will be forgotten about post-COVID if the market and travel rebounds? “I think this new approach to product and more lifestyle focus on product development will become a core part of business. even for pure fashion brands.” says Watts.
“I believe that there will also be a return to stylish dressing with less emphasis on work/corporate and more on fun. The pandemic is forcing many of us to review our social habits and one suspects that people will develop an entirely new approach to meeting with friends and socialising and dressing habits may well change with it too.” he says.
A sales manager selling LVMH products at Harrods, who wished to remain anonymous, said even after the first lockdown locals didn’t have the same money so his brands were starting to launch ‘entry price’ items within the iconic department store. The problem with ‘entry price’ products is you have to sell more to reach the same sales volumes. The international tourists were an easy cash cow for these retailers and now they will have to work harder for less.
Central London’s luxury shops will have to work in stages. It will first have to entice even domestic, ‘local’ shoppers back to the prime shopping districts, and get them spending. Then hope the high-spending tourists follow not too long after that.
 
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Published in Comment

we heart shops campaignPeople love good shops. It might not be cool to admit it, but watching the hordes of people flocking after each and every lockdown to their local high-street is testament to this being true. While online shopping has seen record growth over the past year, nearly £7 in every £10 is still spent offline. According to the UK Government’s Office of National Statistics internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales (ratio) (%) hit a record 36% in November 2020. Online had been growing steadily towards 20% of total retail sales, but, thanks to lockdowns and the COVID outbreak, it has leapt to above 30%. But, eventually the growth with slow and then will plateau. So, where is the optimism around physical retail? 

Left - Do we need a national campaign to remind people how good shops can be?

It sometimes feels like, come results days, retail CEO after retail CEO laments their store networks like it’s a problem they have to deal with, and the press report accordingly. Describe like a millstone around their necks, where are the ones standing up and saying, ‘We love our shops and staff’ and really give them the backing they need and deserve? It’s like they’ve capitulated to online, held their hands up and just surrendered. All shops, big and small, need a ‘We (Heart) Shops’ campaign. Good shops, independents or chains, will never be dead and there is still lots to play for, particularly post-COVID.
Eric Musgrave, fashion industry commentator and former editor of Drapers, says “I cannot fathom how anyone could organise a comprehensive campaign to make people or encourage people to use shops. This is better done at local level.”
Musgrave cites campaigns such as ‘Independents Day’, ‘Save The High Street’ and ‘Small Business Saturday’, but many of these were very much slanted towards the David (Small Independents) against the Goliath of large national chain stores. What has changed is these both need to team up and work against online TOGETHER.
“Shops appear in many different locations, from the traditional city or town centre high street, to covered shopping centres within those settlements, and then on purpose-built out-of-town sites. All have different challenges.” he says. “The one under most pressure, I suppose, is the traditional high street, but as a nation we are over-shopped – in many sectors we have too many physical retailers before we start considering the effect of online sellers. There is not enough money in the UK for all these retailers to prosper or even survive.
“I sincerely believe shops will survive, but how and where will end up being hundreds and thousands of local stories. I believe we as humans are social creatures and shopping is a social activity. I want to examine something closely before I buy it – clothes obviously, but also books or electrical equipment. When I want to buy a power screwdriver, for example, I want to talk face-to-face to someone who knows about them, which is why the local hardware store or Homebase is vital.”
While we don’t like to admit it, shopping is part of our culture. It’s not just about acquiring stuff in the most efficient way. It’s about socialising, history, tradition and feeling inspired. It’s about something as simple as leaving the house. Browsing in real and browsing online are two vastly different experiences. 
It feels a mistake for a large, national chain like John Lewis & Partners to have the ambition to become a 60%-70% online retailer by 2025. Their shops really should be their best asset. They should look to balance and grow both avenues of their sales.
Yvonne Courtney, Founder, CollageLondon,  a bespoke clothing label, says, “People do still love shops, as they offer an alternative sanctuary – for fantasy, serendipity and surprise! 
“The trouble began when chain stores mushroomed across the country, pushing out independents due to opportunist landlords, and making every high street the same. Then they were highjacked by ruthless equity funds who asset stripped their property estates and under invested in the brands, making their stores completely joyless places. Everything is cyclic however, and the return of the independent is being much hailed!” she says. “However this will necessitate landlords taking a reality pill, to reset rents to realistic levels after 20+ years of upwards only extortion!”
Musgrave says, “The economics of running a shop in the UK is very expensive. I do not see any prospect of this government or any government abolishing the business rates system because it brings in so much money. In the post-COVID-19 world, the government will want as much money as it can get.
“Related to finance is the apparent need of local councils to use parking as a revenue stream. BIRA (the British Independent Retailers Association) has had parking charges on its action list for years. Why drive to a town centre to pay over the odds or risk getting a ticket when you can park for free at an out-of-town complex?” he says.
Why do we need a 'We Love Shops' campaign?
It worked wonders for New York back in the 1970s,” says Courtney. “Paid for by their tourism board, it makes millions every year from merchandise sales. Not only is this perfect timing, during/post Covid, but also with the onset of Brexit - shopping local will be the way to go.” she says.
“A ‘We Love Shops' campaign would give a sense of pride, hope and belonging to communities everywhere. We have such a wealth of history in the world of shops, it would be a crying shame if this disappeared. 
“Surely it’s everyone’s interest to keep shops in business, given that online platforms avoid paying full taxes, so reducing coffers for education, health, etc. If brands are talking down shops, I think this is an attempt to veil their laziness/ineptitude for evolving. So many stores come across as being on autopilot, under investing/appreciating their staff and making the whole experience pretty poor.” says Courtney.
“It’s too easy to blame online retail (or COVID) for a shop’s demise - when we know that they’ve either been under invested in or have simply not upped their game in what they are offering.” she says.
We’ve had the best of both worlds over the last few years; being able to browse offline and ordering online, but the balance is swinging and with fewer shops will this wake consumers up to appreciate what is left more? In exclusive TheIndustry.fashion data, when we asked consumers the question about where do you most prefer to shop for clothes, 51% (pretty consistently month-on-month) say physical shops. Yes, they can’t go to them now, but that doesn’t mean to say they won’t when it’s possible.
So, what makes a great shop?
“The recipe has to be product, people and location. Just as people will drive a long way to a decent pub or restaurant, so they will travel to find an interesting shop that satisfies their needs. Conversely, a lot of shops should prosper because they are very close by their target audience.” says Musgrave.
“A great shop is somewhere that draws you in with its shopfront or window display…or somewhere off the beaten track - making it a destination in itself. Somewhere you might not come across online…somewhere that encourages browsing, or even a bit of rummaging (so many stores are over-curated now, leading to same-y displays of merchandise, objects and plants - yawn!) Somewhere where you might get into an unexpected conversation.” says Courtney.
“I myself am looking to open a ‘multi-purpose atelier’ for my CollageLondon label that will also offer a repurposing clothing clinic and mini kiosk of ‘covetables’. Physical shopping has the potential to boom once we've seen the back of Covid as people will yearn that sense of discovery!” says Courtney.
“I suspect there will soon be a backlash against the environmental damage caused by thousands of vans driving around delivering e-commerce parcels. I wonder if anyone has yet measured the difference between, say, 100 people going to a John Lewis store and JL sending out 100 parcels to individual addresses.” says Musgrave.
“I like talking to experts in shops, either sharing knowledge if I know about the subject or learning something new and getting advice if I don’t. Long live shops.” says Musgrave.
This pandemic has ignited a passion for physical retail among young consumers. They were the most enthusiastic online shoppers, but now that’s older consumers as they are afraid to go out and have been introduced to the joys of e-commerce. Older consumers will stick with e-commerce now they’ve discovered it and youngsters will be desperate for human connection and experience. That is a good thing long term. It’s the experience of stores that people have that makes them special, and just seeing them as an expensive overhead misses that point completely. 
For the good retail stores remaining, it’s okay for us to say out loud, “We Heart Shops”.
 
Below - Office for National Statistics Graph showing percentage of total retail sales online

we heart shops campaign

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Published in Comment
Tuesday, 01 December 2020 16:30

ChicGeek Comment Lockdown Sizing

lockdown sizing in fragrance moschinoThere was a time when the sizing of perfume and fragrance couldn’t get any bigger. Brands and designers were piling into flacons of 200ml and upwards, trying to squeeze as much money as possible out of consumers for their hit ‘juices’. Two hundred millilitres is more conducive to the drinks cabinet than the bathroom.  Then came lockdowns.

Left - Brands such as Versace and Moschino are producing 'lockdown sizes' of 10ml fragrances for £20

A McKinsey report in May, 2020, said, with regards to the global beauty market, “2020 will be one of the worst years it has ever endured.” The report said consumer retail spending on beauty products was experiencing a sharp decline (up to 20%) as well, leading to an unprecedented projected $175 billion USD loss in revenue for the industry this year. 90% of women stated, in the report, they used little to no makeup while working from home.

It said, in May, “based on the scenarios most expected by global executives and current trends, we estimate global beauty-industry revenues could fall 20 to 30 percent in 2020. In the United States, if there is a COVID-19 recurrence later in the year, the decline could be as much as 35 percent.”

Unilever too has reported declining revenues in its personal care division. An update in April warned about shrinking personal care sales because more people working from home meant they were washing their hair less often, putting off shaving and even ditching deodorant. Four months on, in its Q3 report, it said personal care sales had continued to slump.

Graham Pitkethly, Unilever’s chief financial officer, said "fewer personal care occasions from going to work or socialising” impacted sales. Skincare declined high-single digit and deodorants declined low-single digit. Though there was a slowing of declines when we came out of lockdown during the summer.

The greedy fragrance industry has been built upon a biggest is best attitude when it comes to their products, and especially gifting, when, in fact, a little should go a long way. Brands have realised that demand has changed and are now launching smaller sizes in 10ml or 20ml editions. Moschino and Versace has 10ml options in many of their fragrances including ‘Toy Boy’, ’Dylan Blue’ and ‘Eros’ for £20. Eight & Bob has added a range with a 30ml (with optional artisan leather case), a size which isn’t often seen in bridge/niche brands. Much of this sizing was ironically called ‘Travel Size’ when, in fact, it’s the lack of travel and leaving the house which is creating the demand. Tocca has a ‘Travel Trio Set’ containing three 20ml bottles, while Goutal Paris is offering a ‘discovery set’ containing four classic 10ml fragrances from their range.

Sarah Binns, Head of Training at KGA, one of the UK & Ireland’s leading fragrance distributors, currently representing over 25 premium perfume brands, says, “Ironically I saw this ‘travel size’ trend start pre COVID-19 in response to the always on the go lifestyle and as a way to entice younger consumers into the category with a lower price point on luxury brands. Retailers had started requesting smaller sizes in fragrances to showcase in their pick ’n’ mix style locations near till points. It is interesting to see how this new size category has become so valuable in the current climate too.” she says.

“I think a lot of brands had started to develop these sizes pre lockdown for other reasons, but they have really come into their own with the current situation. Brands are aware that consumers are nervous to spend on something they can’t try first so this is a great solution.” says Binns.

The McKinsey report said, in most major beauty-industry markets, in-store shopping accounted for up to 85 percent of beauty-product purchases prior to the COVID-19 crisis, with some variation by subcategory. Even online-savvy American millennials and Gen Zers (those born between 1980 and 1996) made close to 60% of their purchases in stores. With the closure of premium beauty-product outlets because of COVID-19, approximately 30 percent of the beauty-industry market was shut down. Some of these stores will never open again, and new openings will likely be delayed for at least a year.

lockdown sizing in fragrance goutal paris

Suzy Nightingale, Senior Writer at The Perfume Society says, “We’re definitely seeing more fragrances offered in smaller ‘try me’ sizes, and although beauty products have been used less in lockdown; we’ve actually seen a huge rise in sales of our discovery boxes and brand sets, which offer sample vials, miniature bottles and travel sizes to try at home. Classic scents have even made a comeback as people reach for a familiar fragrances as a comfort blanket, reminding them of happier times.” she says.

Right - Goutal Paris 4 x 10ml fragrance sizes exclusively available at John Lewis: www.johnlewis.com - £68

“I think there’s been a desperate longing for ‘newness’, and we’ve also had fragrance lovers tell us they don’t want to associate this year with a single scent.” says Nightingale. “Simultaneously, many fragrance houses suddenly realised that, if people can’t get to shops or, when they do, tester bottles aren’t readily available anymore. This fast-tracked something we’ve all been asking for anyway: smaller size bottles we can try before we buy, or use to explore a diversity of scents or fragrance notes out of our usual comfort zones. 

“I definitely see this trend continuing - online previously had the hurdle of being a difficult place to buy your first full-size bottle of perfume if you’d not smelled it already. Nowadays, people want greater choice and the chance to flirt with lots of fragrances. Sometimes more IS more, but it doesn’t always mean a bigger bottle…” she says.

While the term ‘lockdown sizing’ won’t be used by the brands, it’s an interesting twist on the entry ‘travel size’ offer. These prices are keener and entice people to buy before they try. This is the beauty industry's version of a micro-bag; an entry level product aimed at younger and less affluent consumers. 

“Smaller sizes bring accessibility, the signature scent is becoming a thing of the past and it is much easier to build a large fragrance collection with these entry price options. In an environment when you often can’t test the product before you purchase, it’s a smaller risk to invest in a mini size first.” says Binns.

“I think this trend will continue within the COVID-19 environment as a way to experience new products before making a larger investment in the full size. Once we are able to travel again I’m sure that they will become even more popular for their portability.” she says.

How many people are wearing fragrance at home, or, at least, in the quantity they used to without social engagements and interaction with other people or work colleagues? The cheaper prices are also a factor in their popularity. When fully branded and looking as good as the full size bottles, rather than a simple tester, these items look much more desirable.

“Consumer confidence is low and this always has an effect on spending within beauty. People are reaching for products that make them feel good as oppose to looking or smelling good for other’s benefit. Fragrance sales were hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic but we have seen a steady increase as people rediscover the joy of treating themselves or showing love to others with a gift that encourages wellbeing” says Binns.

Sales in smaller sizes are better than no sales at all for the beauty industry, and the margins will be higher. The fragrance industry will hope these smaller lockdown sizes will encourage and continue the habit of individuals wearing fragrance even if we continue to be on our own.

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Published in Comment
Wednesday, 25 November 2020 19:24

ChicGeek Comment The Economy Of Bad Styling

the importance of fashion stylists celine

If a picture paints a thousand words, what does a stylist do? In fashion, they are the story tellers. Stylists, those individuals who decide what and how to dress models and celebrities for many brands’ campaigns and visual assets, have long been taken for granted. Much like photographers and digital cameras, in recent years, their magic of making something look more expensive or chicer than it is has been overlooked and labelled as simply ‘dressing’.

Left - Hedi's idea of cool or just plain bad? Celine

Paula O’Connor, ex Fashion Editor and Consultant, says, “A stylist's job is to tell a story with clothes, to put them into a narrative. This could be for glossy pages of editorial/ magazines or film, or simply co-ordinating everyday outfits to suit someone's lifestyle, whilst understanding perfectly how to translate current trends in fashion into outfits to suit that person’s needs and their lifestyle whilst maximising their image and confidence.”

The majority of people don’t recognise good styling, but they certainly notice bad, and it feels like there’s a lot of it around at the moment.

And, that’s the crux of it, a stylist’s main job is to make, professionally, things or people not look bad. With many brands making cuts or struggling to produce content in lockdowns with less travel, then bad styling is becoming much more noticeable. While some brands may go deliberately for the slightly more ‘edgier’ or grungier look, even Balenciaga has a slickness in its ugliness, there’s a difference between this and simply bad. It’s the fashion equivalent of a hipster venue asking you to drink out of jam jars. It’s a cost saving spun as being cool.

Lockdown has really brought to light the importance of good styling and therefore a good stylist. Marketeers listen up. We became so blasé about perfect images, that, I think, we took them for granted pre-COVID, but it’s only, now, we can really see the difference and it’s coming from even the biggest of brands.

the importance of fashion stylists paul smith

“Stylists are definitely taken for granted and they do not get enough respect for the skills they have”, says Jessica Punter, Freelance Stylist with almost 20 years’ experience, associate lecturer and Ex GQ Style and Grooming Editor.

“Stylists usually have an eagle eye over the whole fashion industry and draw on influences from a wealth of other areas such as art, music and pop culture. They can help steer or hone a collection and create fresh appeal. They can bring a lot to the table creatively, if given the chance.” she says.

Good styling has many contributing factors; concept, art direction, casting (model choice), location, props, looks (outfit choice), lighting, and, finally, how it’s all put together. It takes a refined eye and that’s worth paying a professional for. Many brands look like they’re doing it all DIY and it does nothing for their products.

Like anything visual, what is good and bad is subjective, but there’s a level. It also changes according in local markets and who they are targeting. It’s knowing which images to use when and where. While Europeans may scoff, the images could appeal to Asia or America.

Right & Below - Paul Smith AW20 looking like a hot mess?

“First, international brands cater to different markets. What appeals to one territory might not appeal to the next.” says Punter. “I often think of how different Nike US is to Nike EU. I know which I prefer, but it's all about knowing your market.  Second, in the pandemic era we are seeing skeletal crews and brands needing to improve 'efficiencies'. During the first lock down I heard models were dressing themselves with samples sent to the photographer. I also heard celebrities were wearing outfits they had worn before for public appearances, rather than relying on a stylist to bring fresh looks. Third, there's a lot of dross product around. If a collection is really weak it can't necessarily be saved by styling.” she says. 

the importance of fashion stylists paul smith

Even the biggest brands have trimmed their expenditure. Do you think brand’s making cutbacks can be seen in their visuals? 

“Yes, I am sure it is deemed necessary to make cuts, to use in-house staff and to limit outsourcing, but these short term savings inevitably have a negative impact on overall quality.” says Punter.

“There is definitely a noticeable difference in shoots that reflects that cutbacks. E-comm is increasingly shot flat instead of on a model, and there is a simpler approach to selling.” says O’Connor.

Can we put this down to lockdown issues of lack of expensive locations or doing things from home etc.?

“Certainly the impact can't be ignored. At the same time there have been lots of amazing distanced shoots. Self-styled Robert Pattinson for GQ US was a highlight for me. However, the clothes he wore were still selected in advance by a stylist, and no doubt heavily mood boarded and pre-styled into looks, which he may well have adapted. But the overall lesson is really that nothing can replicate a strong creative crew working closely, physically together.” Punter says.

“I think, previously, stylists researched and referenced a lot more.. films, art, photography catwalks .. but now everything is so fast and immediate, so there is a lot of imagery that is 'thin' in content.  Also social media has boosted consumerism.” O'Connor says.

There is no formula for good styling. You need talented people, but it’s also an instinct, especially in something as unpredictable as fashion. A good stylist will be able to make the best of what they have, even if the budgets are tight.

“No one realises how much hard work goes into styling, It depends on the client, but there is never enough budget for what they want, so stylists sometimes have to work miracles!” says O’Connor. 

the importance of fashion stylists superdryThere too isn’t a formula for bad styling, but get a few of those contributing factors - listed above - wrong and the chances are the pictures won’t be very good. It’s a false economy for brands and marketing departments to make cuts in this area, especially if they’re trying to peddle ‘luxury’. They are devaluing the product and the brand.

Left - AW20 Superdry styling looking far from contemporary

A great stylist is “someone who creates trends rather than follows them and has an innate understanding of what makes a great image.” says Punter, and this is something not worth skimping on.

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