July 26, 2011

Consumers Take the Lead

As technology has greatly increased the speed of information of new ideas and products, companies are always on the hunt of reinventing themselves in new and exciting ways in order to stay relevant to their audience. More and more, brands are adapting to the needs of their customers, and the power of the consumer has increased tremendously thanks to various social media outlets and the rising popularity of user review/recommendation sites. The latest branding and marketing strategies today are more aware of consumers' interests, and furthermore, new business ideas have emerged, solely based on responding to consumers' needs.

Today, we highlight several of the latest trends in branding and marketing across various industries. While each company may offer completely different ideas, all have provided a truly unorthodox approach to growing their business. So in no particular order, let's have a look!

video via: Nike +1 from Kunal Kshirsagar on Vimeo

1. Nike +1
Since technology and social media are two of the biggest influencers today, it is no wonder Nike's latest concept, Nike +1, is a perfect example of what people are looking for. Designed to motivate your run while also finding you a running partner, Nike +1 uses a Bluetooth chip in your shoe to alert other runners nearby. With an option of either "Push" or "Steady", the program pairs you up with either faster or similar speed runners. If there is a match, you are alerted and can invite the person to join you on your run. If accepted, you can also sync your playlists so you both listen to the same music. To encourage their customers, the Nike+ program also offers discounts on Nike products and free +1 playlists. For the most part, social media has largely been feasible only through the Internet. Nike +1, however, takes things to the next level where you can get fit outdoors while also meeting new people.

photo via: Ecouterre

2. Ethical sneaker label Jojo uses Carrier Pigeons
We are all aware how much environmental responsibility has been on every company's mind lately. While many have adopted to using eco-friendly materials or changed their production systems, Brussel-based ethical sneaker label Jojo showcases a very different, and utterly unique, response in their way of being eco-conscious. As a way of reducing their carbon foot print, Jojo introduces their latest mode of transportation: carrier pigeons.

Recognizing that pigeons are known to have excellent memory, the two founders Christoph Nagel and Matthieu Vaxelaire, worked with a pigeon fancier to train a selected group of pigeons to practice carrying the shoe boxes and memorizing customers' homes to make their special delivery. While this may not be the typical delivery system, without a doubt, the pigeons offer an unforgettable experience to the customer that make shoe shopping that much more exciting. Furthermore, each purchase helps plant trees or access to clean water through their partnership with non-profit organizations, Tree-Nation and The Water Project.

photo via: Opening Ceremony

3. Kenzo Appoints Humberto Leon and Carol Lim as Creative Directors
These days, one doesn't have to follow the traditional design route to become the next big designer. Effective July 2011, Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, founders of the fashion and retail concept Opening Ceremony, will be the Creative Directors of Paris-based brand Kenzo and debut their first collection this fall. While there have been many celebrity-come-designers, Leon and Lim are a pair that really know what the next generation is looking for. Having founded their retail shop in 2002, the two currently hold successful boutiques in New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo, as well as an e-commerce site. Always ready to embrace the new, they have been quick to adapt to the changing market and started fresh collaborative ideas way before many others with top brands including Rodarte, Maison Martin Margiela, and Chloe Sevigny. Knowing what customers want and aware of the best ways to communicate, Lim and Leon are strong candidates that may hold the secret to turning around and revitalizing this iconic brand.

photo via: NY Times

4. Opinion-based Customer Service
"Listen to your customers" is an old and true adage in the business world. However, how we listen has become entirely different. With the help of feedback-management companies like OpinionLab and Q.R. codes on product labels, companies have a whole new approach to hearing what their customers have to say. With the help of the Internet, companies are easily able to capture customer comments and digitally file them in order to be analyzed. With the ability to sort by types of complaints, customer name, or a period of time, small and large businesses alike are able to take the information, see their current problems, and identify the main issues that they need to work on at a fairly low price.

For example, Great Clips, a nationwide chain of hair salons, found that their number one reason of losing customers is due to the wait. Using the information collected from their customer responses, they introduced an online check-in option through their web site, allowing customers to check current wait times at nearby Great Clips outlets in order to find the fastest, and most convenient location. Lynn Milos, founder of Culinary Twist, also learned through her customer feedback, that most people were not familiar with some of the ingredients, such as  tamarind or dates. With this information, she decided to change how she described the flavor of the product so it was more easily understood to her customers.

video via: Quirky Manifesto from Quirky on Vimeo

5. Quirky.com
Self-described as a "social product development company," Quirky.com virtually allows anyone to propose a new product idea that can eventually be sold to the public. 23-year-old Ben Kaufman, the founder and brainchild of the site, recognized at an early age that anybody can come up with a great idea. Creator of Mophie, a popular brand of iPhone and iPod products, and Bevy, an iPod case that includes a keychain and bottle opener,  Kaufman learned the importance of collaboration and innovation, but envisioned a greater possibility through a technological platform.

Through Quirky, anyone can submit an idea and receive feedback from their site's existing community. Each week, the one with the most votes is nominated to go into further development for actual production. Allowing the community to continue influencing the product idea, the site's users help refine the product until it is complete. After there is a certain number of pre-orders, Quirky is fully responsible in manufacturing and selling the product. Once the sale begins, each person who played a role in its development earns a percentage of the profit for his or her contribution. Only six months old, Quirky holds 13,000 active members, and already produced 30 products, ranging from gadgets, computer accessories, housewares, and toys.

July 19, 2011

Kavita Parmar and The IOU Project

photo via: IOU Project

One of the highlights at this Summer's Berlin Fashion Week was the pleasure of meeting Kavita Parmar, Creative Director and Co-founder of the IOU Project. We'd already heard about the IOU Project back in New York; so as you can imagine, we were more than thrilled at the opportunity of a one-on-one interview. What stood out is how passionate Kavita is about her work -- it was so inspiring that we wanted to share this with you! Interviewed by Manuela Fassbender, Creative Director and Founding Partner of MBF Trend Consulting, we share our special interview with Kavita Parmar and how she got started with IOU. Enjoy!

Manuela Fassbender: How and when did you start the IOU Project? What was your motivation?

Kavita Parmar: This Project grew out of my frustration as a designer with the current fashion system that I felt did not nurture "BIG Design" - not just making things pretty but truly designing the eco system around their production and make it sustainable, nor did it protect excellent craftsmanship or artisanship. It had turned into a race to make things faster and cheaper, not better. So about one and a half years ago we decided to do a small experiment in our flagship store in Madrid creating a collection which was made keeping in mind the needs of the artisans, myself, and at the same time creating a unique product that would give the client something really well crafted just for them.

photo (above): Kavita Parmar

Manuela Fassbender: What is your background and how did it lead you to this project?

Kavita Parmar: Like I mention above, I am a clothing designer and have two brands that I design and produce for the past 10 years, Raasta and Suzie Wong. Working on those collections through the traditional fashion cycle, I realized that it was a race to make things quicker with shorter shelf lives and hence, with bigger margins which was a frustrating exercise personally. I have worked extensively with artisans for both the Raasta and Suzie Wong collections and I had lived first hand the difficulties that artisans in Europe and India were facing trying to compete with cheaper mechanised production. Yes, we were making things cheaper but, we were also loosing age old techniques and making them without doubt of lesser quality. This experience and wanting to do something about it lead to the birth of the IOU Project.

Manuela Fassbender: What brought you to Berlin and to the Bread and Butter Show?

Kavita Parmar: We were invited by the organizers of Bread and Butter Berlin to put up a POP UP SHOP Experience here at the Tempelhof airport. They are very supportive of the new emerging ideas and loved the philosophy behind the project and have supported us whole heartedly.

Manuela Fassbender: Do you see a change in the consumer who is shopping with a more conscious approach? Who are your customers?

Kavita Parmar: You and I -- normal people from all walks of life. I definitely believe that there is a shift in the consumption pattern. We have become very aware of the scarcity of resources and the loss of authenticity due to mass production and consumption. The rise of vintage shopping is a clear example of this trend. People are looking to express themselves, their individuality, and their point of view on the world. Look at the number of new blogs created each day. The exciting part is that now we have the technology to be able to do that.

photo via: IOU Project

Manuela Fassbender: The IOU project has been referred to as a ‘movement’, with a business model that fosters true transparency and authenticity. Do you think other commercial companies will follow suit?

Kavita Parmar: I certainly hope so. We are a for profit organization and I like to think of us as a proof of concept. I believe we have all been doing our accounting wrong and it is time to clean up the books and take into account the real costs: loss of skills and job options, harm to the environment by consuming and producing without regard, lack of decent working conditions for many factory workers around the globe...I think these are big costs that we are ignoring and we cannot do so any more. If we were to really account for all this we would realize that what we think as cheap in fact comes at a very high cost.
Transparency is fundamental to put forth these ideas. We do believe that we need to know and be aware of how we affect other people and the environment by our actions and what we can do to make things better for us and others. We need to start taking personal responsibility.

Manuela Fassbender: Currently IOU is successful with women, men’s, and unisex apparel; will the initiative expand into other markets such as children’s wear, home goods, or accessories?

Kavita Parmar: We already have a shoe line making its debut this month and of course we are working on more accessories and home goods for Thanksgiving.

photo via: IOU Project

Manuela Fassbender: How can consumers and advocates of the IOU Project stay engaged? Tell us more about your e-commerce initiatives and “virtual trunk shows”.

Kavita Parmar: We are very active in our relationships with our clients on line. We want engage in a real dialogue with them and have had a tremendous feedback from them in this short time that we have been live since mid May. In less than 2 months we have over 1 million citations on Google and over 260,000 blog posts mentioning the IOU Project. It is evident that we have touched a nerve.
Our clients are our brand ambassadors . We have gone a step further and created the Trunk Show Host platform on line to further engage and share with them. Anyone who is interested in the project can have their own unique Trunk show on our website with no monetary cost to them. All they need is a Facebook and a paypal account. They get to dig through our inventory virtually and select their very own IOU products. Since all IOU Pieces are unique, they have a completely unique Trunk Show which they can very easily share with their friends and followers on Facebook , Twitter, blogs or other social media. Any sale on these pieces generates a 20% revenue for them the first week, 15% the second week and 12.5% the third week. They can go back to the inventory and restock and exchange their selection at anytime. So they can make money by talking about and promoting what they believe in.

photo via: Facebook

Manuela Fassbender: What are your short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals? How do you see the project expanding and how do you want to grow? Have you considered collaborating with other companies, sponsors, and celebrities?

Kavita Parmar: We at present are working with 243 weavers out of the entire 20,000 weaving community so our short term/ immediate goal is to work with as many more as possible. In the mid term we feel that IOU is an experiment in creating what we call a "prosperity chain", that allows goods to be bought and sold in a way that benefits everyone involved and not just a few. We plan to grow the platform and invite other brands with similar values to increase the products we offer to our Trunk Show Hosts and in the long term hopefully, our online social platform, created for like minded people, will encourage a more sustainable form of commerce and develop symbiotic businesses.

Without doubt we believe we will be growing organically, we already have a lot of other brands with similar view approaching us to collaborate, varying from shoe companies, chocolate manufacturers, beauty products, magazines, and celebrities. This is very exciting as there are many various opportunities and people are willing to think out of the box to promote an idea that we all believe in.

Manuela Fassbender: What are some challenges the project faces and how do you plan to overcome them?

Kavita Parmar: We are definitely short staffed right now. The interest in the project has been amazing and we are all passionate about what we do and working long hours. We are already increasing our team and inviting new people on board, people who are as passionate as we are and are not afraid of following their hearts and making new rules.

If you are interested in learning more about Kavita Parmar and the IOU Project, please click here to visit their website. 

July 12, 2011

NYC Summer Dream

As the sun shines longer and the temperatures begin to rise, summer has officially begun here in NYC. And while some of us have already started working on our tans and planned out our summer vacations, it's definitely clear that the sunny days bring an apparent shift in mentality. Even by taking a look outside the streets and parks, there is a bustling crowd of people more engaged with one another and actively participating in life, rather than having passive experiences via technology or cocooning at home as in cooler months. As this is the time many of us take more time to spend with friends and family, whether we get Summer Fridays or take weekend trips, outdoor activities are favored during this time of year.

Today we highlight some of the summer festivities happening in our neighborhood, many especially designed for the summer season. From dining al fresco, flea markets, music festivals, to outdoor movie screenings, there is something for everyone here in NYC. Take a look and if we're missing out on something, please feel free to leave a suggestion. We'd love to hear from you!

photo via: The High Line

The High Line | The Lot
Section 2 of the High Line, between West 20th and West 30th Streets, finally opened earlier last month. Allowing an even longer, beautiful experience, the High Line is a great open space for picnicking, sunbathing, and people-watching. The Lot, a temporary public plaza below the High Line, also recently opened for the summer. Offering free events, family activities, an outdoor bar, food trucks and more, this area is always a perfect go-to spot to hang with friends or family. The Lot also offers a new outdoor 350-seat bar, called the Lot on Tap, operated by Colicchio & Sons, the chef Tom Colicchio's restaurant. Featuring a rotating roster of five or more local food trucks, and a taproom of domestic wines, sodas, and local beers, Lot on Tap is a great place to find sustainable, local, and fairly affordable food.

photo via: Open Air Cinema

Bryant Park
Summers at Bryant Park is a classic destination for many NY locals. With multiple activities going on throughout the day, there is always a mixed crowd of people of all ages. Some of our favorite events here are the outdoor films and live music. Whether it's a local jazz band, traditional Japanese folk dancers and musicians, or world renowned pianists, the raw talent is always a special treat. Or if you're more of a film buff, make sure to check out the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, featuring weekly film screenings at the park's lawn. Bring your blankets and a packed dinner and you're all set! The park also offers free tai chi and yoga classes as a perfect way to start your morning and get in shape. Click here to see what's happening this week!

The Shop Brooklyn
Taking pride as NYC's only licensed bar in a motorcycle shop, The Shop Brooklyn, offers a truly a one-of-a-kind Williamsburg experience. As a multi-faceted space, The Shop is an espresso cafe by day and a bar by night. In addition, they offer a barbecue menu and host special musical and film performances. If you are looking for a cool, unique atmosphere at a low budget, this is the place for you.

Hester Street Fair
Located in the heart of the Lower East Side, the Hester Street Fair is a carefully curated flea market offering specialty foods, hand-made goods, and vintage/local clothing and accessories. Opened every Saturday from 10am-6pm, the outdoor market features new vendors each week from all over the city. Suchin Pak, a veteran media personality and television host, is one of the partners behind this street fair. Considered one of the most recognizable faces in the environmental media spaces, one can surely see her fingerprints in the way this fair is neatly organized. One of our favorites is the Schier Shoes, offering vegetable dyed leather desert boots crafted in Namibia. Check out their website to see who will be in this week!

photo via: Flickr

Good Morning America Summer Concert 2011
It's not an everyday opportunity to see stars like Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Mary J. Blige make a live performance at little to no cost. However, with Good Morning America's 2011 Summer Concert Series, anyone can see over a dozen of special live performances by a number of world-famous artists at the Rumsey Playfield in Central Park. As all shows are from 7-9am Friday morning, we recommend you get there early to catch a seat as space is limited!

photo via: NY Times

The Rockaways
If you prefer bungalow barbecues and piña coladas over Champagne galas and polo games, the Rockaways is your type of beach. Favored by the young, artsy crowd generally from Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan, this Queens beach is slowly rising in popularity, reminding some of what Venice Beach in Los Angeles used to be 25 years ago.  Against all things bourgeois, the Rockaways has more of a gritty, run down feel that turns away families and the elderly, leaving it vacant for the creative young types. With a strong presence of a surf and skateboard culture, this beach's boardwalk is now the new Bedford Avenue (at least for the summer that is).

Gansevoort Park Roof Top
Unless your apartment has a pool, any New York City native knows how rare of an opportunity it is to go swimming in the city. Luckily, the Gansevoort hotel offers exclusive weekly pool parties taking place every Sunday at their rooftop from 3pm to 9pm. With world renowned DJs spinning live music, this is one of the hottest places to spend your Sunday evenings. Click here for more!

photo via: Meetup.com

Etsy Labs
We have all heard the saying, "No one is ever too old to learn." And with Etsy Labs, we can guarantee that anyone can learn something new while also having fun and meeting great people. Offering classes in sewing, jewelry making, book binding, embroidery, and crochet, Etsy Labs hosts a free weekly crafts night at their Brooklyn studio. Bring a friend or come alone to hone your skills. Who knows, maybe you will be inspired and start setting up your own Etsy shop in the future!

July 5, 2011

July MBF Favorite Picks

We all know by now that traditional ways of doing things no longer works in times like today. In order to develop innovative products and exciting, new services and experiences, brands must think outside the box to stay on top of their game. And to do so, collaboration plays a crucial role. This month, we highlight some of our favorite and latest collaborations in the fashion industry. Bringing two, sometimes completely unrelated companies together, brands have joined forces in interesting ways to revamp their normal look. In no particular order, here is what made the list:

photo via: NY Mag
1. H&M and Versace
Fast fashion giant H&M introduces it's next designer collaboration with none other than Versace. In partnership with Donatella Versace, this collection is expected to be their most glamorous and flamboyant designer collaboration yet. Inspired by the vibrant heritage of the brand, the limited edition styles will include leather, print, color, and exclusive materials at the affordable H&M price. Hitting stores late November, the line will include a range of styles for women, men, and special pieces for the home. Furthermore, a pre-spring collection is expected to follow later in January.

photo via: NY Times

2. Banana Republic and Mad Men
Although Mad Men's fifth season has been pushed back to air later next year, their collaboration with Banana Republic resumes on time. Expected to be one of their biggest marketing promotions yet, a 65 item capsule collection will hit stores this August as the centerpiece of the brand's collection. Designed in collaboration with Mad Men's costume designer, Janie Bryant, all pieces are created based on the look of the Mad Men characters. Even better, Bryant also notes that many of the pieces she brought to Banana for the line came directly from the show, both new and vintage. Priced the same as the regular items sold in the Banana Republic brand but in styles influenced by the 60's trend, the collection will allow Mad Men fans to feel even closer to their favorite show. And as the fifth season is expected to begin a few months after the launch, the collection brings a greater anticipation. Click here to get a sneak peak on the collection!

photo via: WWD

3. Steven Tyler and MESH
At age 65, retirement is a long shot for Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. As one of the latest American Idol judges and author of his recent New York Times Best Seller memoir “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?”, the singer is keeping busy with various exciting ventures. And to make an addition to the list, Tyler has recently partnered with Music Entertainment Sports Holdings (MESH), a division of LF USA, to launch a new rock 'n' roll menswear line with designer Tommy Hilfiger. The collection will be sold exclusively to Macy's this coming fall. Not afraid to juggle two things at once, Steven Tyler is also reported to be back in the studios recording a new album with Joe Perry and rest of Aerosmith.

photo via: Refinery29

4. Uniqlo Collaborations
Uniqlo may be known for their basics and minimal Japanese aesthetics, but their collaborations have always kept their clothes and brand image a little more interesting. Although their line with Jil Sander has come to a close, Uniqlo has quickly moved on in their latest designer collaboration with three of New York's up and coming designers: Vena Cava, Charlotte Ronson, and Costello Tagliapietra. Costello Tagliapietra's collection hit stores late April, while Vena Cava and Charlotte Ronson's pieces debuted in May. With a $29.99 price tag, the custom pieces are a bargain and a staple to beat this coming summer's heat in fashion.
And as a Japanese-based brand, Uniqlo was one of the first brands to show their support after the disastrous earthquake which hit only few months ago. The "SAVE JAPAN!" project is a collaborative effort with Condé Nast Group and the publisher of VOGUE JAPAN and GQ JAPAN. Selling a limited edition collection of t-shirts designed by 10 world famous celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Nicole Kidman, Victoria Beckham, and Blake Lively, a personal message is written across the shirt as a sign of hope and encouragement. Although it may seem that the earthquake has been put in the past, these shirts are a reminder that there is still much work needed to be done.

 photo via: NYMag

5. Cole Haan and Les Toiles du Soleil
If you're looking to add some color to your summer wardrobe, Cole Haan's new limited-edition collection may just be the answer to your prayers. An assortment of ballet flats, boat shoes, chukkas, totes, and wallets, each piece is crafted using the 150-year-old French fabric brand Les Toiles du Soleil. The collection is exclusively available at Cole Haan Soho and online.

6. Gap and Diane von Furstenberg
Although the collection won't hit stores till next March, we can't wait to see Gap's capsule collection for GapKids and babyGap designed by NY designer, Diane von Furstenberg. Expected to be sold in almost 30 countries as well as online in 75 countries, the collaboration will display von Furstenberg's "signature approach to print, optimistic color and femininity, mixed with [Gap's] expertise in great quality premium children's clothing at accessible prices." This will be the third collaboration for GapKids and babyGap as their last two designer collaborations were with Stella McCartney.

video via: YouTube
7. PhotoEspana and Loewe
This year, Europe's largest photo festival, PhotoEspana, teams up with fashion brand Loewe to present a vast exihibition of celebrity photographer Ron Galella. Famed for his iconic paparazzi photography, Galella has shared raw, personal moments of celebrities such as Jackie Kennedy, Andy Warhol, and Mick Jagger. Bringing together a mix of his work dated back to the 1960s to present, the retrospective is now on view. Loewe has also made documentary celebrating Galella's career.

photo via: FootLuxe.com
8. Target and Missoni
Expected to be their biggest designer collaboration to date, Target's joint venture with Missoni is one that we are all dying to see. Coming this fall, from September 13 to October 22, Target will debut a 400-plus collection of men's, women's, kid's, and home furnishings all designed by the house of Missoni. Filled with colorful swirls, zigzags, and florals, each piece will be in a true Missoni signature print.

photo via: Telegraph
9. Whistles and Ciel
If you still haven't found your perfect eco-friendly beachwear for the summer, check out Whistle's (one of Kate Middleton's favorite shops) exclusive collaboration with Ciel, an ethical lingerie label from Brighton. An eight-peice collection of camisoles, dresses, and undies printed in 70's inspired Liberty of London prints using organic silks, the collaboration is right on this season's trend. Whistles and Ciel also plan to work together again on a capsule collection of knits for later this fall, hand-knitted in Peruvian alpaca by small communities of workers in Lima.
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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.