February 22, 2011

Cotton: The New Luxury?

photo via: Bizmology

We saw the warnings last year when many companies began to slowly raise the prices of their cotton-made products and overall use less cotton and more synthetic blends. The price of cotton rose almost 80% within last year, caused by the flooding in Pakistan, bad weather in China and India, and the initial low inventory due to a weak demand during the recession. 

But last Friday marked a record high of a 150% increase since beginning of 2010, with cotton prices at  $1.90 a pound. And reasonably, as many manufacturers switched to cheaper alternatives, prices of polyester and other synthetic fibers also increased.

Come July and August when the new fall 2011 collections hit the sales floors, it is guaranteed that we will see price increases all across the board, no matter the price point. How much of an increase, however, is yet to be determined. Retailers from all levels face the challenge of finding ways to keep their price points competitive, yet understandable to consumers. After the last several years with all down low recession prices, how customers will react to the increases after being so used to the bargain-friendly merchandise is what's on every retailer's mind.

photo via: Fashion United

Denim companies face the biggest obstacle as cotton is their primary raw material. Levi's announced plans to increase prices, while Mustang, a Germany-based supplier of denim-inspired lifestyle fashion, is actively working on a goal-oriented set of measures to manage the additional costs. Besides moderate price increases, the company plans to lay off about 16 of their approximately 600 employees worldwide, affecting mostly the staff working in overhead functions. With rising production prices, retailers must reconsider all facets of their business structure to stay afloat. Other apparel companies that plan to increase prices include V.F. Corporation, J.C. Penney, Nike, and Hanesbrands. 

photo via: Treehugger

However, as prices in traditional fabrics increase, there is an opportunity for new eco-friendly materials to find it's place. For example, H&M reported a 10% drop in profits as margins were hurt by rising input costs. However, the Stockholm-based company insists that it will not lift prices at the expense of market share. Earlier this month, H&M debuted a range of environmentally friendly fashion for spring, expected to hit stores April 14, 2011. Named "The Conscious Collection" for men, women, and children, the line is made from sustainable materials like organic linen, recycled polyester, and Tencel. No longer just about organic cotton, the line emphasizes the endless possibilities of fashionable items with smarter green materials. H&M expects to continue this line several times throughout the year. And let's not also forget their recent Waste Collection, the limited line made from left over fabrics from the production of H&M's designer collaboration with Lanvin. 

photo via: Ecouterre

Recycled materials and vintage clothing will naturally gain momentum as both require little to none materials cost. The American swimwear brand, Speedo, recently collaborated with student designers from the London College of Fashion, University College Falmouth, and the University of Huddersfield to rework their surplus of LZR Racer swimsuits. The Speedo LZR Racer was launched in 2008, but due to the 2009 ban preventing swimmers to compete in full-body swimsuits, the company was left with a substantial amount of dead stock. Collaborating with eager and creative students, the final result was a couture twist to the normal swimwear attire. Click here to watch the behind-the-scenes video of the student collaboration

Just a few days ago, J.Crew's little sister, Madewell also announced their collaboration with fashion blog Refinery29 and presented a curated selection of vintage goods through their "Very Vintage Boutique" on their online shop. With less than 30 pieces, the collection of one-offs is extremely exclusive, affordable, and fashionably on trend. Targeting the twenty-something fashionistas, purchasing vintage finds is made easier than ever.

photo via: Ecouterre

And for those into the military-inspired trend, Christopher Raeburn and Victorinox, the brand behind the Swiss Army Knife, debuted their Fall/Winter 2011 collection last Thursday on the first official day of New York Fashion Week. The eight-piece "Remade in Switzeland" capsule collection is designed solely from decommissioned military uniforms and parachute fabrics. Featuring unisex parkas, coats, hoodies, scarves, and caps sewn by local tailors, only 100 pieces per look were made. 

But even beyond socially and environmentally conscious made products, we are also seeing more and more affordable sustainable fabrics made available to the masses. The assumption that eco or socially friendly products is too expensive is losing it's validity as websites like Offset Warehouse and Source4Style allow anyone to order anywhere from a yard to an entire roll of ethical fabrics at a fair price. With more transparency and affordability of ethical fabrics, design students are becoming better educated with what is out there, while smaller designers are enabled to afford greener options. Furthermore, current and future brands will have more meaningful visions as sourcing becomes increasingly important in the retailer's identity. 

There is a drastic shift in the way the retail industry is running today. The roles have reversed and power has come to the hands of the producers. The financial crisis led many producers into bankruptcy, resulting in a smaller, more expensive production capacity. The resulting increase in sourcing costs affects all companies in the apparel industry in a way that has never been before. And while some businesses may react by increasing prices or reevaluating their costs, others will see this as a timely occasion to carefully consider alternative, more sustainable possibilities. 

February 16, 2011

The NY Fashion Week Scoop

It's that time of year again: New York Fashion Week! The fashion madness all officially began last Thursday; and since then, the city has been bustling with models, editors, buyers, and stylish fashionistas making their appearances from one show to the next. Today, we highlight several buzz-worthy NY Fashion Week news, keeping you up to speed with the latest designers to watch, shows to see, and collections to buy!

1. M. Patmos 
photo via: Style.com

It was an unfortunate event when knitwear duo Lutz & Patmos bid farewell last year. But after the break up, Marcia Patmos decided to fly solo and presented a small yet strong collection for this fall. The best in creating innovative knits in soft and cozy yarns, we are all glad to see Patmos back in the fashion scene!

2. Carven's Guillaume Henry

photo via: NY Times
Being one of the first collections to sell out at Barney's, Carven has made a comeback ever since Mr. Henry took it's reign. Although Guillaume Henry is not yet a household name, he is quietly climbing the ropes to being the next hottest designer. Keeping to Mme. Carven Mallet's youthful spirit, he continues her vision of creating beautiful, modern clothes without the ridiculously expensive price tag. Look out for his latest collection during Paris Fashion Week. You don't want to miss it.

photo via: Telegraph

3. The most creative and mind-blowing presentation yet goes to none other than the skiwear giant, Moncler Grenoble. As tourists and busy NY locals were making their way through the crowded Grand Central Station last Sunday, the Beaux Arts Grand Concourse suddenly transformed into the fashion hot spot as Moncler Grenoble gave a "Flash Mob" performance. With more than 200 dancers and singers, the group gave a superb stylish performance inspired by legendary dance-maestro Bob Fosse. Click here to watch the video!

video via: YouTube

4. Remember one of our earlier posts when we discussed the blurring lines of advertising, business, and media? Well, the line might as well no longer exist. As we continue to see a shift of little to none discrepancy between commerce and editorial, we take you to the next level as we announce Net-A-Porter's new video portal, Net-A-Porter TV. Using the Google TV platform, Net-A-Porter TV includes four different channels: Runway, Who's Who, Trends 101, and Flashbacks. What makes this even better is customers can shop as they browse, comment, and share the content. Products appear on screen and buying is naturally part of the whole experience. Barney's followed with a similar site, The Window, which launched earlier this week, featuring slideshows and videos of fashion designers and their latest product arrivals. 

photo via: Ecouterre

5. And let's not forget! Although NY Fashion Week ends this weekend, there is another New York runway show later in March that is a definite must see. Featuring fashion's top designers, Christie's A Bid to Save the Earth auction event, "Runway to Green" include special pieces from their fall 2011 collections, and proceeds will go toward environmental causes. A few of the participating designers and design houses include Gucci, Prada, Balenciaga, Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Stella McCartney, Rachel Roy, Marchesa, Jason Wu, and Alexander Wang. The event will also launch an exclusive sale on Net-a-Porter.com, months before the collection hits stores. A portion of the proceeds will benefit charities such as the Alliance for Climate Protection, the United Nations Environment Programme's Billion Tree Campaign, and the NRDC. Mark your calendars -- Runway to Green will take place March 29th! 

We end this post with some of our favorite (and most creative) fashion show invitations!

Rachel Antonoff

Jen Kao

Michael Kors

all photos via: Refinery29

February 9, 2011

Two is Better Than One

We are all familiar with the proverb, "Two is better than one." And in the retail industry, this saying goes a long way. In a world of today where new ideas come and go on a daily basis, creating a product that rises above and beyond all the others, and lasts, is not an easy task. 

Which is why Bob McDonald, chief executive of the world's largest consumer goods company, Procter & Gamble, states that "the road to more innovation should increasingly embrace other people's good ideas." McDonald was not the first to come up with this tactic for it's company, as it is something P&G have been aiming for over the last decade.

photo via: Financial Times

In 2001, P&G launched its Connect & Develop Programme as a more purposeful way to work with outside partners in pursuit of "open innovation." A.G. Lafley, its then chief executive, wanted at least 50 percent of its new products to involve an outside partner. P&G was able to fulfill Lafley's request within four years, and with successful results. According to IRI, the market research firm, P&G produced five of the top 10 non-food product launches in 2009. Products include Tide Total Care and Procter & Gamble Always Infinity feminine care brand. Tide Total Care was developed with external research from Sweden's University of Lund and from two small chemical companies. Always Infinity used a patented absorbent foam material from a manufacturing process developed with an external partner. It is no doubt that P&G's success is largely in part of their choice to work outside of their abilities and partner up with other innovative brands. (source: FT)

photo via: Ecouterre

In the fashion and apparel industry, the rules aren't any different. Woolrich, an outdoor clothing company, recently partnered with Agion, a leader in odor-fighting solutions, to produce a line of outerwear that eliminates odor without having the need to launder. Using silver ions, Agion's technology removes odor-causing bacteria from getting into the fabric and promises that the garment will be able to perform, even after repeated wash and wear. This is a genius idea since we all know how things can get after a long day of hard work and exercise! Although these two companies are completely different in terms of what they do, they found a need for each other and were able to create a product that never existed before. (source: Ecouterre)

photo via: Nine West

Just a few days ago, Nine West also announced their launch of "Shoelaborations," a creative platform that "seeks talented individuals doing original work in their unique artistic areas and allows them the opportunity to collaborate on a rotating basis with Nine West." Through the international acclaim of the company, Nine West promises to bring the visions of these designers to a worldwide audience. The first collection will be in partnership with CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner Sophie Theallet. British designer Giles Deacon is next in line for Fall 2011.

photo via: NY Mag

Although it is nothing new for designers to collaborate with commercial brands, the continuity of this trend shows that such collaborations are here to stay. Designers working for commercial brands is becoming a more common theme. For example, even haute couture designer Christian Lacroix, recently announced it's collaboration with Spanish label Desigual for the Fall 2011 collection. Today, collaborations can happen anywhere and with anyone.

Therefore, the idea of collaboration could be something to seriously reconsider and expand upon.
As collaboration becomes an essential factor in developing unique or special products, one must ask themselves how we can further the idea of  "collaboration" in our own product and idea developments.
Would businesses be reorganizing their internal structures? Perhaps. Would jobs require multi-skilled backgrounds? Most likely. Even in one of our last articles in regards to the birth of the edvitorial, the overall conclusion is the same. We are moving toward more and more of an integrated society, work place, and culture. How are we going to adapt?

February 2, 2011

February MBF Picks Special Edition: Berlin Fashion Week Round Up

Berlin's Fashion Week was just a few weeks ago and we at MBF Trend Consulting, took a break from NYC and flew to Germany to catch in on all the action. As always, the 5 day venture felt too short as each day was packed with a never-ending to-do list. From attending various trade shows, handpicking new and innovative designers, visiting new concept shops, and trying out the latest restaurants, this was definitely a fun and inspirational trip.

For this month's MBF Picks, we share with you some of our favorites, highlighting what we think were the most interesting places, people, and events. So without further delay, here is our favorite picks!

1. Events
To mingle and catch up with friends, we checked out the Wood Wood shop in Mitte. Pointer, the London based footwear brand, recently collaborated with the popular Danish brand Wood Wood for their spring 2011 and developed new, exciting color ways for their classic "Cargo" shoe. The collection is exclusively presented by the Front Line Shop. Check it out!

2. Shops
Torstrasse is the most talked about street right now in Mitte, Berlin's coolest neighborhood. Here, you can find the best selection of chic galleries, shops, and restaurants. And might we add, a perfect place for style watching!

Each month, Dudes Factory invites different artists to collaborate and create collections for their shop. The designs from these collections are the raw materials for the lab, their online software for customers to remix and individualize dude products. Find out more here.

Happy Shop carries a mix of both emerging and established designers from all over the world. Presenting an adventurous collection, sourced everywhere from South American markets to Parisian luxury designer showrooms, this shop offers a truly unique experience!

Best of Germany  offers a selection of traditional German pieces and special editions like books, toys, cuckoo clocks, glass, cards, German beers and much more. Check out their latest selection here.

Inspired by glamorous movie icons of the 40s and 50s, Lena Hoschek's designs combine nostalgic patterns and high-end tailoring. A lover of punk music, bad guys, and fast cars, Hoschek's collection is always sensual and fierce. Click here to view her most recent collection. 

3. Restaurants

Pret A Diner is a trend-setting culinary experience for a private circle. It's so secretive we needed a special log-in to even get into the website! In a very Berlin tradition, the entrance to the restaurant is led by a candle light maze in an underground hallway. Once you find the door, there is a beautiful bar and another separate entrance to the restaurant. Brought together by an international team of young chefs, the food was fresh, seasonal, and regional. It was a great night with wonderful food and fabulous friends! 

4. Designers

Ann-Kathrin Carstensen and Nuria Ana Schmidt, designers behind the label Rita in Palma, work in collaboration with Turkish women in Berlin to create the most beautiful accessories using traditional crochet techniques. Focusing on the idea of a cultural exchange, the label is recognized for it's fine craftsmanship, avant-garde designs, and high-quality construction.   

The latest eco-friendly fashion designer hails from Delhi, India. Ela by Joyjit is a perfect balance of eco-friendly and edgy style. Using a wide range of textures and hand woven embroidery details, Joyjit explores the multi-faceted nature of sustainable fashion in his most recent collection. Using un-dyed organic fabrics, there is a natural quality in his effortlessly chic outfits. 

YOJ's philosophy is based on the responsibility that man must have toward his fellow men and the Earth. Respecting nature and mankind, YOJ only uses biological fibers and colors extracted from nature. Each item is completely handmade, from the initial drawings to the final tailoring details. Their latest collaboration is with artist Franco Gervasio as he interprets seven dresses for S/S 2010 and A/W 2010-11. Each piece will come in a limited edition of 20 originals. Click here for more information.

Launched in 2008, Gluejeans was announced Holland's best fashion product and rewarded the Dutch Design Award. Gluejeans are not stitched, but visibly glued at the seams. They also recently introduced the revolutionary Genecor PRIMAGREEN enzyme finish, exemplifying it's innovative and sustainable tradition. Click here to find out more.

To wrap up Fashion Week, we joined Jan and his amazing group of friends to a fabulous dinner at Bar Tausend for his newest product launch. The gift polish of the night was gifted from the first appearance of Uslu Airlines. With no airport, name, price, or place to buy, other than from the PIC (Pilot in Command, among non avaiators aka 'Captain') himself, it was a real treat! Watch out for future Uslu Airline events to get yours!

All right, that's all we have for today. We hope you enjoyed this post. If you live or plan to visit Berlin in the near future, we'd love to hear from you! 

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