January 25, 2011

The Genesis of the "Edvitorial"

Beginning early of last year, many fashion brands and retailers began to seriously reconsider the potential of online sales and digital media. Though many at first were pessimistic about it's capabilities, 2010 birthed a wide range of fresh, innovative ideas, as mentioned in our earlier posts: technologically-advanced fitting rooms, iPad apps, blogzines, and unconventional curated online-shops, just to name a few. So, naturally, this year is sure to bring about more ingenious discoveries and experiences, as last year was a time of just simply scratching the surface. Today, we focus in on the emerging trend of brand content, a combination of content, commerce, and fashion, as we see it as the number one fashion marketing trend to watch for in 2011.

photo via: Net-a-Porter

To start, Net-a-Porter, the widely successful online luxury boutique, recently introduced a "magazine" section to their site. With weekly issues, their digital magazine has everything a traditional paper copy would have: articles featuring new designers, reviews of the latest films, inspiration shots behind their photo shoots, and trend reviews of what's in for next season. But what's even better is that the content is directly connected to their online shop. It's true that it's not the same experience as physically holding a fresh glossy magazine in your hands to browse at your perusal, but clicking through a highly funded, well-executed online zine and then having the ability to immediately buy what you see is pretty neat, (and maybe even better). Their men's department, MrPorter.com, is also moving into a similar direction as they recently hired Jeremy Langmead, former editor of British Esquire, as it's new editor in chief.

photo via: WWD

Designer and commercial brands alike have also followed suit with similar ideas to engage their guests: Donna Karan shares her "journal", Tory Burch offers her city guides, Anthropology has The Anthropologist, Alice+Olivia shares their 4 AM Finds, and Club Monaco has it's own Culture Club. Even Best Buy, the mega electronic store, recently saw in-store sales shrink under pressure from the Web and in response, launched On, a digital mag-a-log with editorial content and advertisement from other brands. Catered to electronic enthusiasts, they offer everything from gift ideas, product reviews, "Geek Squad" tips, and tons of how-to's for your new toys and gadgets. Realizing that there are more people online, many brands are realizing the importance of generating conversation with their customers and keeping them interested through this new platform.

photo via: eBay

Earlier this month, eBay hired Andrea Linett, former creative director of Lucky magazine, and appointed her as their new creative director of eBay Fashion. Attempting to enliven the experience of online shopping to a more digital flea market, they are working on adding more upscale imagery to recreate the same feel of a glossy magazine. With an edition of flash sales and exclusive collections with designers like Derek Lam, eBay is on it's way in establishing it's presence in the online fashion and apparel industry.

Since bloggers have really pioneered the way for the marriage of fashion and social media, it only makes sense that Tumblr, the image-heavy platform, hired Rich Tong, the founder of the user generated street style site Weardrobe.com, and appointed him as the newly created role of fashion director. One of their first events include sending 20 of their bloggers to the upcoming New York Fashion Week and hosting a real-time feed of their content at Tumblr.com/nyfw. Participating Tumblrs include What I WorePeace, Love, Chanel; and SaraZucker.com. All bloggers will receive complimentary flights, accommodations, dates with brands and designers, and access to several shows. They will also be attending the Independent Fashion Bloggers' conference and the Bloglovin awards. 

Although Tumblr did not begin as a fashion-focused blog site, it has become a host to thousands of fashion bloggers, largely inspiration-based blogs, posting product shots, runway images, and editorials. They are valuable to brands as their sites are like free advertisement, reaching young fashionistas all across the world in a powerfully influential way through peer recommendations and conversation. Making fashion more transparent, bloggers have become an invaluable asset to many brands today.

H&M has taken blogger collaborations to the next level and launched a limited collection with the Scandinavian personal-style blogger Elin Kling as the guest designer. With a list of past collaborators including renowned design houses like Lanvin, Stella McCartney, and Karl Lagerfeld, H&M's decision to collaborate with a blogger who only launched her site in 2007 reflects a huge shift in who the customers are looking up to for style inspiration.

14-year-old blogger Tavi Gevinson also found blogging as a stepping stone to achieve greater opportunities, appearing in articles for US Harper's Bazaar, Teen Vogue, and holds future plans to launch a new magazine with Jane Pratt, founder of the now defunct Jane magazine.

We no longer live in the times where publishing, media, and retail businesses act as separate entities. The future calls for a more integrated way of doing business; the lines have blurred and multi-tasking is essential to every fashion professional's resume.

WWD names this new marketing tactic as "edvertorial", advertising meets editorial, birthed from social media and the convergence of entertainment and marketing. Tom Jarrold, chief marketing officer at A|X Exchange states, "The effect on the consumer is a more rich experience. It's a message that can be a part of and interact with instead of it being broadcast at them." If done correctly, advertising is less in-your-face and more subtly integrated to the modern shopping experience. Instead of feeling hassled and bombarded by retailers, customers are more excited to shop as companies have learned to ingeniously incorporated marketing skills through a combination of social media and capabilities of the digital platform.

As the online world offers an infinite amount of space and a world-wide audience, companies have more flexibility and creative capabilities to drive their businesses. However, creating content that people will pay attention to while being careful of presenting the right personality to the brand is key. With this new trend, not only will we be seeing innovative brand strategies, but also a shift in job roles and skill sets. What we are seeing now is just a glimpse of what we mentioned earlier in our video last year. It's exciting to see and we are definitely keeping our eyes open to share with you with what will happen next.

January 17, 2011

The Green in Fashion...

"Sustainable," "organic," and "eco-friendly" are terms that are still relatively new trends in the fashion industry. It may seem like we've been hearing these words forever, but it really wasn't until early last year when major retailers and designers began to heavily market eco-conscious goods. 2009 was the starting year for many companies to seriously think about going green as many eventually began offering eco-friendly versions of their key products such as H&M's Garden Collection and American Apparel's Sustainable Edition.  However, were such beginning initiatives the first and last?

photo via: NY Times

 As sustainable development was on the rise, eco-friendly jeans was naturally one of the biggest denim trends of 2009. Brands all across the board, including Levi's, Banana Republic, 7 For All Mankind, and J Brand all offered at least one pair made with some amount of organic cotton. However, the NY Times pointed out earlier this month, that now, about a year later, none of these eco-friendly versions exist.

One has to wonder why and what does this mean for the future of eco-friendly fashion? One's immediate reaction is probably some level of disappointment. However, do not be quick to judge. Although these eco-friendly versions may no longer exist, it does not necessarily imply that environmental responsibility is just a momentary fad of the past.

In actuality, many of these denim brands have realized being eco-conscious is not just about using organic products. As we've discussed many times in our earlier entries, there are dozens of other factors to consider: water use, dye impact, soil health, labor issues, fair trade, etc. Yes, Levi's no longer has their eco-friendly line, but instead, it has joined the nonprofit organization, Better Cotton Initiative. Focused on creating a greater impact, they are working with farms in India and Pakistan that focus on sustainable-agriculture techniques, water use and economic and labor issues. The Better Cotton Initiative produces cotton that uses one third less of the normal amount of chemicals and water regular cotton uses. Although Levi's will first blend this cotton with conventional cotton, the goal is to eventually use it in every one of their styles.

Levi's Matchstick Slasher Jeans from the WaterLevi's)

Considering all aspects of sustainability, last week, Levi's also launched a new line of denim called "the Water." As water conservancy is a huge concern in the global community, the new collection reduces water consumption by an average of 28% and up to 96% for some new products in the line. By simply reducing or eliminating water in their dyeing and washing process, Levi's realizes that being eco-friendly and fashion forward is not only easy, but also economically smart and morally right.

As 2009 and 2010 were the starting years for many to take a dip in the green pool, there is a slow but growing shift in the retail industry to integrate sustainable practices as a more cohesive effort. As major brands like Levi's develop their sustainability practices in a holistic approach, the retail industry has definitely matured in their methods of going green.

So before we wrap up this post, we wanted to share a few new interesting examples that caught our attention:

photo via: Reet Aus

Only using production leftovers and discarded garments, Estonian fashion designer Reet Aus truly works by the motto, "one man's trash is another man's treasure." Click here to see her latest collection!

photo via: Reco Jeans 

Perfectly mastering fashion-forward and sustainable innovation, Reco Jeans is the first and only green label certified recycled denim product. 

photo via: Ecouterre
Better known for it's 2-year wait listed Birkins, Hermes, is taking a stab at sustainability with their new limited edition  "Petit h" collection. A series of "unidentified poetic objects" crafted from defective inventory and leftover merchandise, the design team transforms scraps and defects into beautiful house adornments and fashion accessories. Leave it to Hermes to define "recycled luxury"!

That's it for today, but don't forget! MBF will cover the up-and-coming trade shows in Berlin, including the sustainable trade shows, so stay tuned and we will keep you updated with what else we come to discover!

January 12, 2011

East Meets West, "A Focus on China" (Part 2)

*This article is a continuation of a 2 part series. To read Part 1, please click here.

photo via: China Daily 

With better wages and the convenience of being able to live together with their families, (something the working class of the Western world never really had to think about), China is heading toward a rise of a populous middle class and a hungry appetite for consumer spending. For example, Zara and H&M, two of the world's largest fast fashion retailers, have seen a huge success this year. H&M is ending this year with a total of 13 new stores, leading to a total of 27, while Zara opened 33 new stores, leading to a total of 60. As the country is becoming more fashion-conscious, these fast fashion retailers are thriving.

 In contrast, there is also a new consumer base of young, creative individuals who are looking rather inward to find designs that reflect China's culture and artistry. Young, 20s-30s year olds in China are now looking toward homegrown fashion that reflect a distinctive modern perspective: one that melds Western fashion sense with Chinese culture. We end this 2-part series highlighting a few of their rising stars:

One up and coming designer in Shanghai's burgeoning fashion scene is Jenny Ji, who has taken the East-meets-West concept and created a modern Chinese lifestyle brand with her ready-to-wear line "La Vie" as well as a wedding line, aptly called, "The Wedding." 29-year old Jenny Ji started her line La Vie eight years ago after studying fashion abroad in Milan and assisting a Japanese designer in Hong Kong. With stores on Tai Kang Lu in Shanghai's French concession and the Bund as well as an international presence in Paris and Stockholm, La Vie has created a buzz domestically and internationally. Asked about her sources of inspiration, she explained, "Every time we recreate our design concepts, our inspiration comes from a piece of Chinese culture. [Our] winter fashion collection [for 2010] was based on peacock feather, which are used in many Shanghai homes for decoration."

photo via: La Vie

In addition to utilizing a distinctively Chinese perspective to her designs, Ji is also known as an ethical fashion designer, using eco-friendly fabrics for her lines. "I insisted on eco-friendly materials...It's very comfortable and you can feel the difference," Ji explains, "We want La Vie to be an environmentally friendly brand, but from the business side, we also think this is the future." In La Vie's Fall/Winter 2011 collection titled "Calender Girl," Ji utilized common colors used by the Chinese: Black, Red and White and elements of the traditional "Cheongsam" in modern, Western silhouettes, melding East and West.

While the idea of sustainability is still trying to catch on in China, one store in Shanghai that has taken sustainability to the next level is Nest on Tai Kang Lu in the French Concession district in Shanghai. Dedicated to offering a range of eco-friendly products for the individual and home, Nest comprises of Chinese as well as foreign designs, aimed at supporting "the work of skilled artisans of China and in Asia." Begun by Trine Targett, a Danish native, who sought to contemporize the crafts of traditional Chinese artisans, Nest has become a design incubator and showcase for Chinese-made sustainable design, through its "Design Talk Evenings." The manifesto of Nest is that "the sum is greater than its parts." While sustainability still has a long way to go in China, the fact that there is a store for the purpose of selling exclusively sustainable products is significant, signaling a customer base in Shanghai that is interested in eco-friendly products.

Photo Via: Judy Hua

photo via: Art Zine China

Another designer that caters to an East-meet-West perspective is Judy Hua. The designer Hua Juan uses elements of Chinese art, while maintaining a modern, funky edge. She is especially known for her wedding dresses, wedding accoutrements, and custom ready-to-wear. For her Spring/Summer 2010 collection, Hua Juan was inspired by Chinese contemporary artist Zhou Chunya's Peach Blossom paintings, which depict peach blossoms and red-shaped men embracing pink-colored women. Evidence of this could be seen in the color combinations, accessories and makeup on the runway. The color combinations were distinct: white cocktail dresses with magenta shoulder pieces, magenta dresses with black blazers as well as colorful floral print dresses. Each model was outfitted with a magenta headband and had heavy, magenta eyeshadow streaked across their eyes. Instead of looking abroad for inspiration, Judy Hua looked at Chinese contemporary art, offering a unique aesthetic to the fashion community.

photo via: Chinese Coat

photo via: Eblis Hungi

In contrast, clothing brand Eblis Hungi, located on Changle Road in Shanghai's French Concession district, infuses Western men's street wear with a slight Asian sensibility, rather than the more typical East-meets-West perspective. For example, the prints used on Eblis Hungi's hoodies are patterned and sequenced similarly to traditional Chinese prints, while using a cheetah print and their logo: a mummified bean-shape. In addition, the graphics on their t-shirts show a mummified character wearing traditional Chinese garb. Overall, the color used in their graphics and clothing as well as the color combinations definitely allude to a colorful and ornate Chinese aesthetic. For example, the color combinations on their graphic tees are similar to the color combinations used in traditional Chinese buildings such as those in the Forbidden City. In contrast to La Vie and Judy Hua, Eblis Hungi reflects a translating of Western-style for the young, Chinese consumer, rather than a mixing of East and West.

As China is becoming increasingly more important in the fashion community, we can already see a number of young, creative designers who are eager to test the waters and make their mark both locally and globally. While there are many Western brands venturing into the Eastern world, there are just as many Chinese-born designers who are excited to have their designs recognized and worn by their community. Who knows, maybe some day, these designers will have their goods stocked and sold here in the States!

January 4, 2011

Remembering 2010 and Looking Forward to 2011...

Happy New Years! We can't believe it's already 2011- it feels like 2010 just flew right past us! (I guess it feels that way every year, doesn't it?) Before we kick off the year with the top five fashion/retail news to look forward to in 2011, we take a walk down memory lane and bring you the Top 5 Best and Tragic Fashion/Retail Industry Moments of 2010.

Whether it made you laugh, cry, or downright angry, we're sure that everything on this list was definitely something memorable. As we reflect on the memories of 2010, we are reminded of all of the accomplishments and milestones that were only just a year ago.

So without further delay...

Starting with the Best of 2010:

photo via: NOWNESS.com
1. Fashion's Digital Revolution
2010 was the year of digital fashion. This year brought in some of the best fashion filmsnew online social media platforms, and truly innovative online shopping experiences. We highlighted many of them this past year, and are excited to see what the following year holds. This is really just the beginning!

photo via: Warby Parker
2. Fashionably Socially-Responsible
"Buy one, give one" was a common motto for 2010. Many companies have adopted the well-received philosophy of TOMS, and began their own business ventures, selling everything from ties to eyeglasses, donating one of their products to charity for each one purchased. This was definitely one of our favorite trends of the year.

photo via: Fashionista (source: Harpers Bazaar UK)
3. Tom Ford Returns
2010's greatest designer comeback was Tom Ford. Known for sweeping off everyone's feet when he reinvented big-name labels like Gucci and YSL, Tom Ford made an even more grand and glamourous return with his own-label collection earlier last year. With a closed-doors show with a stellar cast including Beyonce, Daphne Guinness, Chanel Iman, and Julianne Moore, his debut was the most anticipated show of the season. And to make things even better, Carine Roitfeld, the former editor-in-chief of French Vogue and Tom Ford's muse and stylist since the early 90's, is rumored to once again collaborate with the designer. Welcome back Mr. Ford!

photo via: Youtube
4. Burberry
2010 was absolutely the year for Burberry. Starting off the year with their specially staged 3D runway show event live in New York, Paris, Dubai, Tokyo, and Los Angeles, the brand made a dramatic global comeback. As the first to create a truly global fashion show, Burberry was a pioneer in developing the marriage of fashion and technology. To follow up, they also launched the first ever groundbreaking 3D online advertisement, paving the way for the fashion industry in developing remarkably innovative ad campaigns. Their achievements, of course, went above and beyond their technological developments as we can't stop obsessing over all of the shearling jackets and military coats inspired from their last fall collection. Excellent work Christopher Bailey!

photo via: Fashionista
5. Editorials
For most in the magazine industry, 2010 was a tough year as many faced financial bankruptcy and an end to their paper goods while the digital world gained much momentum. However, a few managed to rise above and beyond and create some of the best, most extraordinary work we have ever seen. A perfect example of how pressure can often lead to greatness, take a look at Fashionista's pick of the best magazine editorials of 2010!

And now for the tragedies...

photo via: NY Times
1. Alexander McQueen's Last Farewell
On February 11, 2010, the world mourned the sudden and tragic loss of fashion's modern-day genius, Alexander McQueen. Based in Britain, but influential all over the world, McQueen left a permanent mark in the fashion community, and will always be remembered.

photo via: GreenPacks
2. H&M and Walmart's Big Mistake
Although they are heavily marketing their new sustainable practices and collections, H&M and Walmart began the year with a huge mistake, where news was revealed that the two chain stores dumped dozens of garbage bags filled with unneeded merchandise. Preventing anyone from keeping them, the clothes were destroyed with holes and sliced pieces.

3. Abercrombie & Fitch Opens in Japan
In December 2009, American casual luxury brand, Abercrombie & Fitch, better known for it's topless male employees and heavily perfumed retail stores, opened their first flagship store in Tokyo. However, instead of trying to relate to the Japanese audience, A&F pursued an intensely American retail and marketing strategy, clashing with the Japanese culture in every possible way. Everything about the store was completely rejected by the country, making this case the perfect example of what not to do when expanding oversees.

photo via: Styleite
4. Manhattan's Bedbug Problem
What do Macy's, Abercrombie, Hollister, Bloomingdales, Nike, and Victoria's Secret all have in common? Well, this past year, Manhattan had a bit of a bed bug problem, and it affected all six of these retail companies. Disappointing their would-be eager shoppers and making all of Manhattan a little bit itchy about stepping in, this was not one of the greatest memories here in NYC.

photo via: Huffington Post
5. Lady Gaga's Meat Dress
Yes, yes, we know Lady Gaga is known to wear super outlandish outfits that never make sense, but the dress she wore at the last MTV Video Music Awards quite literally made us speechless. Covered head-to-toe in raw meat, this fleshy number is clearly an outfit to remember (and not in a good way)!

That's it for our top ten best and worst moments of 2010, but we can't wait all of the exciting things to look forward to this coming year. To conclude this post, we summarize a short list of some of the most promising in the fashion/retail industry:

photo via: NY Times

1. Yves Saint Laurent: New Vintage III
Stefano Pilati of YSL and Julie Gilhart, former fashion director of Barneys New York, new initiative "New Vintage" is revealed this year in limited, numbered editions. Made from recycled fabric and existing patterns, the collection is meant to start a dialogue with the market using known codes and a common language that are reassuring and familiar, states Pilati. Educating the public about acting consciously toward its environment while wearing one of YSL's most designs is absolutely fabulous.

photo via: NY Times

2. New Fashion Line Accompanying Car on Comeback Road 
2011's must-have fashion accessory is not a purse or pair of shades, but a car. The iconic Lotus Esprit makes a comeback, and it's here in full-force with an all-out luxury brand, which includes three separate men's and women's clothing lines, a style magazine, and a concept store in London. The Esprit is scheduled to return to showrooms in 2013, and is remembered for it's appearance in classic films like "The Spy Who Loved Me," "For Your Eyes Only," "Pretty Women," and "Basic Instinct."

3. Moda Operandi
We said fashion was barely touching the surfaces of digital technology and the Internet, so we're excited to announce the next big thing for E-fashion: Moda Operandi. This exclusive site promises it's hand-selected group of customers the ability to order directly from designers each season, within 48 hours of the runway show. Members will order with a 50% deposit, and the designs are expected to be delivered to your door in roughly four months. With the option to return clothes that don't fit or otherwise unsatisfactory, Moda Operandi is the latest attempt to end the six-month lag fashion designers typically face before their runway looks arrive in mainstream stores. Already, the site claims to collaborate with about 50 designers and will start offering four women's collections a year: spring, resort, fall, and pre-fall. This brings a whole new meaning to "fast fashion."

photo via: NY Times
4. Diane Von Furstenberg Goes to China
A globe-trotting fashion mogul, it only makes sense that Diane Von Furstenberg's New Year's resolution  is to get known in China. And to start, she is preparing for a coming retrospective in Beijing, "Journey of a Dress." Featuring some of her sketches, designs, and trademark prints, as well as original portraits created by her celebrity friends like Andy Warhol, Frencesco Clemente, and Francesco Scavullo, this art show is expected to be one of the most lavish events she will be hosting out in the far East.

photo via: Ecouterre

5. Eco-Fashion Predictions for 2011
Ecouterre asked 27 eco-fashion movers and shakers to offer their forecasts for the year ahead. Discover what these amazing people are doing and see what they have to say for the future of fashion!

And lastly, don't forget to make your New Year's Resolutions -- it's never too late! Fashion designers have their list of to-do's too! Click here and get inspired! Happy 2011!
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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.