June 30, 2010

Burberry Goes Interactive

Though Burberry has been around for well over 150 years, "traditional" or "old-school" is far from what the brand reflects today. As one of the most forward-thinking fashion houses of our time, Christopher Bailey and the rest of the Burberry staff floors us once again with their latest interactive global advertising campaign, just released this week on their main homepage.

A genius combination of music, fashion, and technology, their latest campaign has an interactive feature allowing the viewer to have the power to control the ad and how they want to see it -- rotate, pause, enlarge, zoom, etc. By being in charge of the perspective, you can create your own Burberry ad as you like it -- make the models walk forward and backwards, turn it 180, or zoom into the the details of the clothes. It is completely new in its kind, an inspiration for what may now be the future of advertising. Bailey comments on his campaign stating, "Burberry was founded on innovation and outerwear and I want anyone who sees the campaign not just to see image, but to feel a part of what we have created; connecting people through technology, music, the collections, the attitude, and the emotion captured."

Hands down, Burberry is the leading innovator of the fashion industry when it comes to technology. Let's not forget about their highly successful interactive social networking site The Art of the Trench, which launched last November, inviting the global community to submit portraits of themselves wearing the Burberry coat. They were also the first to go 3D during last A/W 2010 London Fashion Week, streaming its catwalk show live across the globe. As Burberry is continually developing the creative potential of technology, we can be sure to expect that this latest advertisement is just the beginning of more innovative projects to follow. Examples like these prove that in times like today, the innovation and creativity of fashion houses lie far beyond what they present on the runway. Everything, from their social networks, advertisements, online presence, events, and retail stores, are essential factors to creating a unique and successful brand. 

June 23, 2010

You Are Your Own Designer

photo via: NY Times

In our earlier post, we discussed the recent trend of online shopping sites empowering online communities to take part in dictating trends and design picks. While the sites we previously mentioned discuss how designers first upload their collections and then the customers vote on their favorite, today we introduce you to Blank Label, a customization-focused concept brand that allows its customers to take part in the complete design process, from the initial stages of fabric and color to the final style, design detail, and fit. Fast, convenient, and affordable, Blank Label focuses on customized men's shirts with step-by-step online instructions, allowing customers from anywhere around the world to purchase a co-created product.

photo via: Blank Label

The success of Blank Label reflect the times of today where customers are not only more educated about fashion, but also want something more than just the traditional shopping experience of walking into a store and making a purchase from what is presented. The fact of the matter is, we live in a deeply customized-centered culture. Whether it is choosing our toppings at Pinkberry, placing a photo into our desktop background, or decorating our smart phones with skins and cell phone accessories, we like to have choices and feel unique. Do a Google search of "customized" anything -- customized stickers, wallpaper, towels, etc. -- you are sure to find a store that will do it for you. With globalization and technology, practically everything we purchase is made in mass quantities. Therefore, the ability to customize is, and will continue to be, essential. It offers a sense of ownership and a deeper personal relationship between the object and it's user, making the product distinctive from the rest.

photo via: Vans

And fashion is no exception. We are aware that Blank Label is not an entirely revolutionary concept; let's not forget that footwear brands like Vans, Nike, and Converse have all been offering customized shoes for some time now. But nonetheless, Blank Label's focus on tailored shirts is a simple yet brilliant concept that we are excited about. So instead of giving you our opinion, we take you straight to the source as we reached out to one of the founders, Danny Wong, for a quick interview to share with our readers.

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and the company. 
Blank Label is the brainchild of Fan Bi and Danny Wong, two young entrepreneurs looking to change the way men shop, starting with co-created dress shirts. Our other two founding partners are Zeeshan Muhammad and Alec Harrison. We have been around for about six months now, launched in November 2009. We value affordable luxury and the ability to design-your-own, or co-create your own, products, since standard styles and sizes do not work for everyone. Consumers should be able to get a product individually made for them, at a less-than-outrageous price. That's why our custom dress shirts start at $45. 

2. How did you get the idea of starting a customized shirt business?

Fan and I loved the idea of custom clothing, and we wanted to put a real neat spin on it. We originally ran Blank Label as a custom tailor shop selling suits and dress shirts, which would be made-to-measure, but the business had some issues of its own. We decided to scrap that business and build something we thought was sexier. Something that would be far more appealing than something your local tailor would offer. We chose the co-created dress shirt because you could really customize every aspect of the dress shirt and still look casual and not over-the-top. I suppose it was also a great test product too, and we were right because we've been doing co-created dress shirts ever since we launched.

3. Who is your customer? How international are your clients?
Our customer is the new-age male who is slightly metrosexual, cares about his style, appreciates a good fit, hates buying off the rack since most other guys can buy the same shirts, and is a middle to middle-upper class male. Most of our customers are US local, but our other big markets are the UK, Spain and Australia.

4. You are based in Boston, but the shirts are made in Shanghai. How did you determine which factory to work with and how do you regulate the quality & production of your factory?

We are currently in Shanghai for the summer, but when we first set up production, we visited a decent amount of tailors and production facilities and found one we had great synergy with. We have someone who is paid for Quality Assurance, so we are confident our product is quality while still being affordable.

5. Do you have any plans to expand Blank Label and offer customization for other types garments? Womenswear?
We have thought about doing women's custom dress shirts, but we don't because we aren't ready to expand, plus we are only four guys who don't know enough about women's fashion other than what looks good and what doesn't on a woman. Other thoughts have been going back to doing suits, maybe trousers, jackets, boxers, etc. 

6. What has been the most challenging part of running Blank Label?

The most challenging thing has been building demand for co-created product. Most consumers are happy with product and industries the way they are now, but we are looking to influence consumers to be more co-creation conscious to have more men actively searching for co-created dress shirts, which mean more business for us, and more supporters of co-creation, which is just good overall because we are looking to change the world so in a few years, anyone can get a whole custom outfit they co-created without paying a premium price, even if Blank Label didn't co-create it. 

7. As technology is advancing, how do you see the fashion retail industry changing over the next several years?

The Fashion retail industry might start using more advanced tech like augmented reality, hologramming, or just better designer applications where consumers can easily design product without ever using a needle or thread. 

8. Where is your fabric from?

Our fabric is sourced here in mills in China. 

9. What is your view on the rise of eco-friendly fashion?

Eco-friendly fashion is definitely a valuable market. Consumers want to reduce their carbon footprint and if they can get a nice product and know they are helping the environment, they are happy. 

10. Do you offer eco-friendly options? Is Blank Label eco and/or socially conscious? And if so, how?

While we do not have eco-friendly fabrics, we operate as a eco-friendly business because we are not wasteful like most retail stores since we only produce product when consumers demand it. Normal retail stores try predicting demand and there's an inefficiency there because they might underproduce which just makes for a lot of 'wanting' customers or they might overproduce which leads to waste when they can't sell off product, especially with high-end fashion which would prefer to burn clothes rather than discount them to sell all inventory or give them away to charity since they do not want to devalue their brand. 

11. For anyone else interested in a start up company, what are some of the lessons you have learned and can share from your own experience?

Some lessons we've learned are that you have to be prepared for scary surprises, and good surprises as well because sometimes good things can turn bad, really quickly. Understand that crazy things happen, and be very flexible with your business too. Being customer-driven is also very important because you live and die by your customers so taking their advice to heart is incredibly important and using their suggestions to improve your business is a valuable way of leveraging user feedback.

June 16, 2010

June MBF Favorite Picks

The 2010 FIFA World Cup has gotten us interested into all things international. So for the month of June, we take you around the globe to pick what's latest in fashion, art, and culture. Let's go!

via: Youtube
Interview Magazine launches on the iPad. Using photography and text to work seamlessly with audio and video interviews, this is a revolutionary concept for the magazine industry.

photo via: Steidl
"Russian Connection is Karl Lagerfeld's exploration of all things Russian. The book presents photos by Lagerfeld centred around Paris-Moscou, his 2008/9 Metiers d'Arts collection for Chanel, showcasing the fastidious workmanship of the Parisian ateliers that provide couture houses with decorative specialities such as artificial flowers, embroidery, feathers, costume jewelry, shoes and millinery." (More info here.)

photo via: ISSI
ISSI is an art-eco-fashion company which collaborates with award-winning artists to produce chic accessories from waste, with a percentage of profits going back to charity. The collaborations explore the possibilities of new materials, innovating in both design and manufacturing. (More info here.)

Hans Christian Barth is professionally based out of both Munich and Berlin where he is actively engaged in blurring the lines between still and moving photography. (More info here.) 

photo via: Nowness
Jens Linder, a notable Swedish chef and food writer for the country's leading newspaper Dagen Nyheter, releases his latest cookbook, Made in Sweden. The chapters are arranged by province, highlighting each region's outstanding offerings. More info here.

photo via: Industrie
Industrie Magazine is the first and only media title dedicated to presenting an independent, in-depth look at the fashion industry, going behind the scenes to chronicle the personalities, stories and defining moments in the world of fashion. (More info here.)

photo via: Paperself
"Inspired by the art of Chinese paper-cutting, Eyelashes blend an element of traditional culture with contemporary design. Intricately cut and delicately pretty, Eyelashes are available in three styles, each infused with symbolic meaning rooted in Chinese culture. Unique and expressive, Eyelashes come in two sizes: accentuate the corners of your eyes with the smaller lashes for a subtle daytime look, or make a statement with the full lashes for a special occasion." (More info here.)

photo via: Carolyn Roumeguere
Carolyn Roumeguere is a jewelry designer, passionate about beads and adornment. Growing up with the Maasai in Kenya, she is inspired from tribal people around the world. A percentage of her income is donated to causes who help provide education, healthcare and freedom through choice. (Click here for more info.)

photo via: uslu airlines

Berlin-based luxury cosmetic brand, USLU Airlines, creates a new nail polish as a political statement: "ONE World - ONE Love - ONE Money" (Buy it here.)

via: ABC News
Kevin Costner is the hero of the month as he spent weeks calling attention to a high-tech oil cleanup device his company Ocean Therapy Solutions spent years developing. BP has already tested the technology and is excited by the results, having already placed a significant order of 32 of their machines. The OTS machines are designed to separate spilled oil from water and, according to Costner, could be instrumental in cleaning up the massive oil slick expanding in the Gulf. (Read more here.)

June 11, 2010

Reporting live from South Africa today...

For those of you celebrating today's kick-off of the FIFA World Cup 2010 -- check this out: www.usluairlines.com/2010/bet-on-the-best -- not only is it fun, but you can "put your money where your mouth is"...

June 9, 2010

In a Democratic Fashion...

Suzy Menkes, Head Fashion Editor of the International Herald Tribune, said it best: "The world changed when fashion instead of being a monologue, became a conversation." Whether we like it or not, the explosion of blogs and social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace has changed the fashion industry forever. As everything is accessible right in front of one's own personal computer screen, anyone around the world has access to what is happening in fashion, and everyone gets a say.

Just less than ten years ago, the ins and outs of fashion was dictated solely by industry professionals made up of a handful of magazine editors, stylists, and buyers. However, the times of today has shifted the reigns of power from a few fashion elitists to a wider, younger, Internet savvy audience.

Because blogs are less about dictating and rather more about sharing and encouraging people to voice their opinion, people have become much more used to this outspoken culture, albeit online. Unlike traditional fashion magazines, the unique option of the comment section of blogs creates dialogue between readers and the writer, and are as much part of a blog post than the actual post itself.

We have mentioned before about the new role of bloggers and the whole deal about bloggers versus editors in our earlier post, but we now see that this online community is also slowly changing the attitude of today's customer and thus affecting the role of designers as well.

Makers of Threadless Featured in Inc. via: Think Faest!

With the popularity of blogs and recent rise of online shopping, new types of Internet shopping have emerged in response. Although Threadless.com has been around for over ten years, there are many new similar sites gaining much attention. For those who are unfamiliar with Threadless, it is a site where artists and designers are encouraged to submit their artwork for silkscreened t-shirts and hoodies. The online community votes on their favorite and the winning designs are produced in limited quantities and sold in their online shop. In return, the artist or designer is awarded with a monetary prize of $2,500.

snapshot of one of the current products via: UsTrendy

In a world where everything is a bit more participatory and a free-for-all, websites like UsTrendy.com, Infectious.com, and FashionStake.com are making it easier for designers to get their foot in the door, giving them an online platform to promote and sell work. UsTrendy allows designers to upload their portfolio, gain feedback, and a chance to win money towards production, exposure to fashion week and retailers, and free viral brand marketing. At the same time, fashion enthusiasts are encouraged to vote on their favorite designs and the top choices are developed for production and online sale. Infectious is a similar concept, focusing more on artists to design electronic skins, art prints, t-shirts, and decals.

The FashionStake website is still currently under construction, but their blog describes their site as a "crowdfunding platform for fashion designers." After one logs in to their site, he or she buys a "FashionStake" of $50 toward their favorite designer and in return get free clothes and cash when their designer sells their collection on the site. Their "fan-funded" approach turns customers into supporters, eliminating the need for buyers and retailers.

Sites like these are appealing to both fashion enthusiasts and aspiring fashion designers. From the perspective of a designer, it is a chance for them to showcase their work in a global marketplace without the hefty financial burden. Showing their work on a site supported by fans, they also receive direct criticism and product review, helping them to see what does and doesn't sell. In return, customers feel a sense of power as they help decide what designs are produced. They also have the option to purchase unique items that are not replicated by the masses.

We see a new era in which there is a role reversal of customers directing the next trends instead of the designers. Although we are supportive of these new ideas of shopping, at the same time, we do have a few precautions. Living in a society like today where online tools make it easy for companies and designers to engage with their customers, we believe it is absolutely necessary for customers to have some power in their shopping choices. However, there needs to be a manageable balance between the customer and designer where the power is not too weighed down upon by either side. If customers have too much say, the designers are not being true to their creativity and inspirations, but rather just meeting the demands of their customers. Furthermore, although these sites argue that there is no need for fashion industry experts because the customers choose what they want, we firmly believe that the creativity and innovative ideas of fashion experts cannot be replaced by anonymous individuals. While it is true that today's customers are much more educated than before, it is still a long way ahead till the fashion industry experts are recognized as obsolete.

It is also interesting to note that all of these new online shopping sites are geared toward the younger generation in their teens to late twenties. Because this generation grew up with the Internet at a young age, they are comfortable with it and have learned to excel in it far beyond their parents' generation. Unlike before where trends start from the high end market and trickle down, today's time reveal that it is now this young, Internet savvy generation being the real influencers of technology and innovation. Perhaps Proctor & Gamble should take a hint and look to this younger group for advice concerning their recent uproar in regards to one of their latest baby products caused by unmonitored social networking.

We live in an exciting time where we can nostalgically look back to the times before the Internet while also looking forward to the future as technology continues to drive our culture. More and more, the Internet is creating a shift in lifestyles and changing our industries. What we have highlighted in our blog today is only a small glimpse of where fashion is heading, as the years ahead will surely bring about more new ways of how the industry will move and develop.

June 3, 2010

Three Days in Hong Kong


Hong Kong is an island well-known for it's high rise buildings, humidity, and the endless number of places to shop and eat. With over 7 million people living in Hong Kong, it ranks as one of the most densely populated areas in the world. But although it may be small in scale, one should not be fooled as there are a vast number of things Hong Kong has to offer.

Last week, one of our staff members here at MBF took a short three day trip to Hong Kong and we want to share with you her adventures. Though the trip was brief, there were a number of things we thought that were worth sharing. We warn you that this post is a bit longer than most and photo heavy, so be prepared!

Day 1:

The first thing I noticed upon my arrival was the number of shopping malls -- you can find one connected to nearly every subway station! The International Financial Center Mall (IFC) is one of the better known malls, carrying a wide-range of designers and brands, from international fashion houses like Chanel, Lanvin, and Tom Ford, to more underground Asian designers like Ascot Chang and Atsuro Tayama. Lane Crawford is the boutique of choice for the style conscious men and women as it presents a number of coveted designers around the world. The stores are similar to those seen in the states as it carries many well-recognized Western brands such as Club Monaco, Zara, and Anne Klein. 

Although most of Hong Kong is compact and condensed, the mall feels luxuriously spacious. And with several restaurants, cafes, and even an outdoor roof park, there are enough stores and dining places to spend your whole afternoon. And because it connects to the subway station, there is always traffic as people are constantly entering and exiting the train. However, because IFC, like most other malls, is recognized for up-scale brands, shopping malls like this is mostly reserved for mainland Chinese tourists and the Hong Kong elite. 

According to my local Hong Kong friend Samantha, the Island Beverly Mall in Causeway Bay is the place to go. Island Beverly is a multi-level shopping mall flooded with tiny boutique shops carrying inexpensive yet stylish clothing. As it was the first place I went to on my first day in Hong Kong, I must admit it was a little overwhelming. Each store is more or less the size of a walk-in closet, fully stocked with shoes, clothes, handbags, and accessories. It takes a little time to dig and search, but if you have the time and energy, you are sure to find some steals.

 As Hong Kong fashion is largely influenced by trends from Japan and Korea, one will find many affordable, non-branded clothing and accessories imported from multiple countries across Asia. What I found particularly unique about this place are the boutique shops where all the goods are all placed in small boxes. Each box is a "booth" represented by an individual seller. It is only at a store like this where you will see colored contact lenses, handmade jewelry, mini robots and quirky room decorations all in the same space. As anyone is allowed to sell whatever they wish, each boutique creates a truly unique shopping experience.

After two hours I was exhausted and hungry, yet satisfied as I exited the mall carrying a draped white asymmetrical dress perfect for the summer weather. Although there were a few other pieces I considered purchasing, I refrained as I knew this was just the beginning of my Hong Kong shopping experience.

I ended the night with dinner at a Shanghainese restaurant (which was inside of another mall) near Island Beverly. I asked my local friend Samantha to order some of the traditional dishes of Shanghainese cuisine: soup dumplings, hot and sour noodles, Chinese broccoli, and pigeon. (Yes, pigeon!) Coming from New York, pigeon is definitely not something I associate with food. Although considered a nuisance in NYC, I found that pigeon is a delicacy in Hong Kong. Personally, I am not the biggest fan. However, I encourage anyone visiting to take a bite. (At least you could say you tried!)

Day 2:

Many people new to Hong Kong like to visit the Soho neighborhood as it is less congested and culturally diverse. As this area is more westernized in comparison to the rest of the city, unless one is a shop or restaurant owner, most of the people here are tourists or expats. We came here the next day for an afternoon brunch at Peak Cafe as it is one of the few places in Hong Kong offering traditional American breakfasts, like egg benedict or strawberry pancakes. My friend Samantha has been living in Hong Kong for almost a year, and this was her first time eating an American brunch. According to her, it did not compare to any of the restaurants she has eaten in New York City, but we both thought it was not too bad. The best part about this restaurant is the colonial decor and outdoor patio that is remniscent of Hong Kong's past, making it a charming place to eat and people watch.

 The Central-Mid-Levels Elevator, the longest outdoor elevator in the world, is also found here. It was quite amazing to be at the top and be able to see so far down. The only downside is that it only goes up! But I found that the walk down rather goes by quickly as there are many side shops and cafes to accompany the way. Overall, Soho is a quiet alternative to the main streets, where you can casually visit boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, bars, and restaurants without the massive crowds. We strolled around and found an authentic Mexican coffee shop to have traditional Mexican desserts and drinks. 

With our caffeine boost, we then ventured to Fa Yuen Street in Mong Kok. Known for being ultra-trendy, the crowd here is a bit younger in comparison to other shopping centers. This one long street is filled with trendy apparel and shoe stores on both sides, and the middle road has dozens of carts carrying knock-off bags, jewelry, clothing, and fashion accessories. Although the store layouts are overstuffed with merchandise, I found some great pieces at an extremely low price. Trousers, oversized cardigans, and draped t-shirts were all under ten US dollars! Most stores are cash only and all purchases are nonrefundable, so I recommend bringing a friend to accompany you to help determine what is or isn't worth the purchase. On the whole, I found that the quality was decent and the price was incomparable to any sale found in the states. 

The most obvious trends here were deconstructed knitwear, harem pants, oversized tops and cardigans, and floral rompers. Many of the stores were influenced by Japanese aesthetics with either asymmetrical drapery or over-the-top cute Harajuku styled embellishments. I found that although there were multiple stores throughout the street, many of them carried similar styles. And as this area is constantly filled with customers, new products are displayed on a daily basis. 

There are also food carts and bubble tea shops dispersed throughout the area where you can take a break in between your shopping experience. Although I did not try any of the street food, I found myself drinking bubble tea at least once a day as it is extremely refreshing amidst the hot, humid weather. There is always a line of young people at any of the bubble tea cafes as there is a wide selection off drinks, conveniently made in minutes and under two US dollars. The end of Fa Yuen street is a discrete two-floor shopping mall similar to Causeway Bay. Although most of the stores are similar to any other found in the other shopping districts, I found a few local Hong Kong designer shops as well as boutiques carrying designs from local fashion students. 

Shopping in Hong Kong is a one-of-a-kind experience. Because Hong Kong is such a small island, the shops are all jam-packed with merchandise and customers. I realized that living in the states most of my life, I have taken for granted the spacious multi-level retail stores, fitting rooms, and having overall space in general. 

For dinner, we ate at a Cantonese restaurant recommended by a friend. For under $30 US dollars, we ate crispy chicken, prawns with broccoli, and tofu with pork. The servings are generous as it was more than enough food for the three of us. We had our meal with traditional milk tea and sugar, though many eating around us chose to drink the local Chinese beer, Tsing Tao. 

Day 3: 

If you ask anyone from Hong Kong what you need to do when visiting the island, all of them will tell you that you must try dim sum. I met up with a friend who grew up in Hong Kong and she took me to a dim sum spot that her aunt and uncle go to every week. I found that many of the locals here eat dim sum at least once a week, usually for Sunday brunch with relatives. It seemed to me like the Hong Kong version of an American family's weekend breakfast. The one we went to was located inside of a mall, and the banquet dining hall was decorated with all things red, including red velvet curtains and red wall ornaments, as it is a Chinese symbol of luck and fortune. I thought that it was a little strange to eat on the third floor of a shopping mall, but it seems to be a very common thing in Hong Kong and a reminder of just how small this island really is.

The food again was amazing and incomparable to any dim sum meal in New York City. You can taste the quality and the distinct flavor of each dish. Although I can't remember many of the names as all were written in Chinese, I could honestly say there was not a single dish that I did not like. 

And while Chinese food in the states is known to be greasy and unhealthy, I was surprised to find that the overall the food here is not always fried or smothered in oil, allowing one to really taste the ingredients. The wide number of delicacies and dishes influenced from multiple cuisines across China make any meal here a real treat. 

The weather today was unusually clear and breezy; so afterwards, we decided to take advantage and go to the beach. Hong Kong can be an overwhelming place for those who prefer a quiet scenery over a bustling, crowded city. And after two days of Hong Kong style shopping, I really needed a break. So for those who need some R&R, Lamma Island is a convenient get-away destination, only a thirty-minute boat ride away from the city. For less than $2 US dollars, you can take a ferry that drops you off to the Lamma Island pier. Along the shore, one will find dozens of fresh seafood restaurants, cafes, and markets carrying fresh produce.

Walk further into the island and there you will be surrounded by lush green forests. What's great about this island is that cars are not allowed, so the sound of nature is all you will hear. On the other side of the island is a small beach where many locals visit on the weekend to take a break from the busy city.

As we waited for our ride back into the city, we caught the sunset in the distance. And as the night came upon us, the ride back allowed us to see the breathtaking view of the Hong Kong skyline. With a flight back to the states the next morning, all I could say at the end of my trip was three days is not enough. There was still many more restaurants to try, places to shop, and things to see. I found that although Hong Kong was small in size, it had all that it needed. It has the busy city streets, outdoor markets, luxury shopping, and island hopping all a subway station, ferry ride, or taxi ride away. Hong Kong may be overlooked by its neighboring major cities in Asia like Seoul, Tokyo, or  Shanghai, but from my trip, I found that it is truly a place unlike any other and one I would like to travel back to any day.
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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 mbf-trendtalk.blogspot.com.