March 24, 2010

Nothing to Hide

One of the biggest trends of our times is transparency-- and we're not just talking about sheer tank tops or blouses here. What we are seeing is not limited to the runway fashions with trends that may not withstand more than a few months, but rather a cultural shift that is drastically changing the way we live, feel, and think as individuals and active members of society.

As we have many times discussed the rising popularity of social media networks and technological advancement of all industries, along with these is more openness and transparency. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have become so integrated with how we interact with others, both in our personal lives and business, that we are now accustomed to, and even expect, to have access to what everyone is up to and letting others know about us. As communication is becoming faster, wider, and easier, people seem to be less concerned about invasion of privacy, or at least there is now a whole new set of standards.

                              Cast of Kell on Earth via: Pop Tower

In turn, this mentality has affected every industry in the way companies market themselves and interact with their customers. The fashion industry has become more open with what goes "behind-the-scenes"
as fashion-related reality TV shows have increased in popularity with new shows coming up every year, like this year's newest hits Kell on Earth and Launch My Line. There is also more openness in the retail segment. Last year, the always forward Opening Ceremony created a blog, giving a behind-the-scenes knowledge of their staff, collections, and personal interests. And more recently, J. Crew began sharing a selection of clothing handpicked by their creative director, giving a more personal shopping experience to their clients, as well as interviews with their favorite muses, sharing who and what inspires them.

                                                via: J. Crew

In addition, there is also a growing number of websites designed exclusively to review a product or company. Trip Advisor, for example, is one of the most popular and trusted travel review sites today, boasting with over 30 million reviews on more than 490,000 hotels and attractions, with over 45 million monthly visitorsYelp, attracting 26 million monthly visitors with over 9 million local reviews, has also become the go-to site to review practically anything in any US city, whether it's which restaurant to dine at, which mall to shop, or which dentist to go to. But there are also more specific review sites like, dedicated to reviewing beauty products, or, focused solely on reviewing Sears products.

As we live in a globally connected society where communication is all about real time, the future of any industry is all about having real conversations with their customers and knowing how to best respond to it. Simply put, consumers are better educated, and they want to know more. As more information is available, people are more interested in the bigger picture of things as it is no longer just about the final product. A company's stance on health, social, ethical, and eco responsibility all have a say in the final purchase.

There are now many tools designed to help support this. Shopsavvy, an Android app, allows one to scan almost any barcode using the phone's camera, and it will then search over 20,000 online and local retailers to find the best price. Fatburgr, a website and iPhone application, allows one to search the nutritional facts of almost every fast-food restaurant. One of our favorites is the GoodGuide, a website and iPhone application providing information for the eco-conscious consumer, evaluating the life cycle of over 70,000 products. Project Label is another, creating "people-powered company nutrition labels", showing a company's social and environmental impact. Using the power of the web, the site allows consumers, businesses, and organizations to add, discuss, and vote on credible news, media, and research to help build these labels.

                                            via: Inhabitat

With websites and tools like these, it is only more beneficial for companies to be more transparent about their business practices and take more responsibility. As there is a growing number of websites such as these, there is very little room to hide and much less space for error.

And since we've mentioned Walmart in our previous post, we want to point out that last July, they announced plans to develop a sustainable product index, evaluating the sustainability of all their products. Beginning with a survey of its more than 100,000 suppliers, they plan to focus on four specific areas: energy and climate; material efficiency; natural resources, and; people and community. Walmart's president and CEO has a clear vision of the future, stating, "[Customers] want information about the entire life cycle of a product so they can feel good about buying it. They want to know that the materials in the product are safe, that it was made well and that it was produced in a responsible way. We do not see this as a trend that will fade. Higher customer expectations are a permanent part of the future."

We can't help but agree more. As transparency becomes more in demand, tools that help sustainable consumption is integral. And overall, it's becoming more difficult to separate technology with sustainability as the two are extremely interlinked. In order for brands and products to succeed today, overcoming scrutiny and withstanding a society that demands so much, companies must think more strategically; and that means being more engaged with their customers, being more honest, and ultimately being more responsible.

March 17, 2010

What's next for Runways?

Alexander Wang's FW '10 Collection streamed on a Times Square Billboard via: WWD

As mentioned several times already, technology is the driving force of our society. And along with technology is immediacy. It is apparent in the fashion industry as more runway shows this season were streamed live, allowing anyone from anywhere to join as if sitting front row. No longer does the rest of the world need to wait the next day to see the latest collections. Everything is available in real time.

As we live in a culture where everything is about technology and the now, the purpose and pertinence of fashion shows has been a hot topic. Although runway shows are available for viewing faster than ever, is it still relevant if the collections don't hit the sales floor until months later?
Neiman Marcus' Karen Katz and Ken Downing certainly disagree, stating, "it keeps the dream alive." Katz further comments, "it keeps the mystique of the great world of fashion, and that continues to be so important to the consumer, especially since we're in a time where there is so much reality TV and everyone knows everything about everything."

Although we do not see runway shows disappearing anytime soon, we do foreshadow a change in how runway shows manage its' presentation and accessibility. With the advancement of 3D technology and live streaming, runway shows have the potential to enhance and change the viewers' experience so that it is more modern and exciting. Although the use of social media and the Internet will continue to rise, such factors should not compete with the applicability and function of a runway show, but only enhance it. In the past, runway shows were largely viewed only by celebrities and fashion insiders. But as many designers are live streaming their shows, we can anticipate runway shows making a larger impact on a brand or designer as it can influence a much wider audience. For example, Alexander Wang's latest collection was not only streamed on Nick Knight's website SHOWstudio, but also projected onto a Times Square billboard. As New York is his brand's inspiration, Wang wanted to "bring [the show] to the people of New York and make it part of the landscape." Attracting a wide audience of tourists and people of all ages, Wang is one of the first to take fashion and technology to another level this past season.

As Olivier Zahm of Purple Magazine states, "The fashion show is a really important moment. It's a ceremony, and it's also still five to ten minutes of pure fashion, free from everything, free from commerce. I mean, we have to preserve this little moment, this psychological concept of potlatch, where you spend money for just feux d'artifice, fireworks. We celebrate, and we only celebrate and we spend the money away because we celebrate our love for fashion."

Because we live in such a technologically advanced society, people are always in anticipation of what's next. New products and experiences are released in the market faster than ever, and our culture is much more eager to adapt and change. So yes, fashion shows are here to stay; it is an integral and exciting component of our industry. But as long as technology is advancing, it's platform will certainly evolve as it continues to be explored through various mediums. As Nick Knight, fashion photographer and Director of SHOWstudio, states, "I see the future of fashion weeks around the world as not only a physical schedule of shows, but also as a digital calendar of fashion experiences online, which bridge the industry and consumer experience." So although Fall 2010 Fashion Week has just come to a wrap, stay tuned as we are already on the lookout for what the next season has in store. 

March 10, 2010

"It's Getting Harder and Harder to Hate Walmart."

                                                  via: EDF

On Thursday February 25, the $405-billion a year retailer Walmart held a live broadcast, moderated by TreeHugger, announcing a major step toward its sustainability mission. Though they have made previous efforts to be more sustainable, this was their first commitment to specifically reduce greenhouse gases, promising to eliminate 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from their global supply chain by the end of 2015. This action is a result of five years of collaboration with EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) and others. (The webcast of the announcement can be viewed here.)

In order to make this goal a reality, Walmart plans to ask their estimated 100,000 companies that supply it to cut the amount of carbon they emit when they produce, package, and ship their products. This is an incredibly hefty demand, affecting every step of the manufacturing process from raw materials to recycling.

Though Walmart's goal is commendable, their method of achieving it will be adding an extreme amount of pressure more on their suppliers, rather than on themselves. Their reason for this approach is explained in their press release, stating "the footprint of Walmart's global supply chain is many times larger than its operational footprint and represents a more impactful opportunity to reduce emissions." Because this is such a new concept with large areas of uncharted territory, the details of how Walmart will manage this and support their suppliers with these adjustments is yet to be described.

It is understandable that the most efficient way to reduce greenhouse gases is through their global supply chain. However, as Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the New Rules Project, argues, "Walmart continues to deflect attention from the enormous greenhouse gas implications of its own business model." Walmart's Responsibility Report shows that their carbon emissions have only grown within the last five years as they resisted pressures to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions. It is a bit ironic that they are asking their suppliers to cut down, when they are doing more harm now than they were three or five years ago.


However, one cannot be quick too judge and disregard this recent announcement. Although we do not support many of Walmart's social and business policies, we can still appreciate the direction it is moving toward. Some critics may argue that Walmart is only making these changes as a business advantage and their sustainability approach is a mere marketing strategy. However, regardless of their motives, this is still a move that is beneficial for our planet. Even if Walmart's main concern is for financial gain, this step benefits the earth, protects our environment, and preserves our natural resources.

In addition, because of Walmart's scale, any relatively small change leads to big reductions. For example, several years ago, Walmart asked 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment to make their plastic packaging lighter. They agreed, and eventually, the new lighter packaging was used for software and games. And this was applied not solely for Walmart, but for every other supplier as well. As Walmart works with many of the world's biggest companies, they have an incredible amount of influence in other business practices. Furthermore, as more than a third of all Americans shop at Walmart every week, they influence a large group of consumers' attitudes and habits in the home. The scale of Walmart is enormous; it employs 2 million employees worldwide, has 8,100 stores internationally, and is supplied by 30,000 factories in China. Despite the negative connotations of a mass retail chain store, one cannot ignore the weight of influence it can have on the world.

                                                 via: Flickr

As Michelle Harvey of EDF states, "it's getting harder and harder to hate Walmart." The steps Walmart is taking encourages us that sustainability is moving forward, as long as it remains affordable and profitable. As a corporation as large as this, it is guaranteed that there will be a positive rippling effect. 

March 3, 2010

H&M Launches Organic Skincare Line

via: Stylist

Several weeks ago, we blogged about H&M's upcoming eco-friendly line The Garden Collection. But shortly after, their move toward sustainable practices backfired when news spread that they were using 30% genetically modified cotton. Since then, we've been keeping an eye on them to see where the company was going in terms of their efforts to go green. We were a bit skeptical if their green efforts were genuine, or just a publicity act.

So this month, H&M announced their interest of the skincare world with the launch of their first organic skincare collection. All items priced under $8, they offer shower gels, body lotions, scrubs, and lip balms certified by Ecocert, Europe's leading organization for the certification of natural and organic cosmetics. They also offer makeup and toiletry bags made of organic cotton, and all products are packaged in recyclable packaging. Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M's head of design, states it was a natural step for H&M, and includes, "There's also a strong demand from our customers for organics, and I hope they will be as excited as I am about the new products."

As a fast fashion retailer, we are glad to hear H&M's continued efforts to be more eco-conscious and the support they have been receiving from their customers. Although we have been critical of their efforts, we applaud them for continuing to bring more eco-conscious products to the mass market. As sustainability is still a relatively new concept in the fashion and beauty industry, H&M's small steps are commendable, especially since most of their competitors do not offer similar eco-friendly alternatives. H&M promises that sustainability will only grow to be of more importance in their work, committing to increase the use of organic cotton by 50% each year until 2013.

And on a side note, their UK-based competitor, Topshop, also plans to launch their first beauty line, not organic, this coming May.

Creative Commons License
MBF Trend Talk by MBF Trend Consulting is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at