October 25, 2012

A Change of Pace

We are right in the middle of a pivoting moment of "change." Change, that whether we want to accept or not, is constantly challenging us to think smarter, faster, and in the now, because time is ticking. We need to understand that everything we are doing is affecting everything else...it's all connected in one way or another because that's just how things evolve. It's not always possible to see the finish line, but we have to push ourselves to keep running nonetheless.

So how do we keep up with this change? We embrace it. We have to. In every problem there is a solution, and many times in order to find that solution, you have to look at things from a different angle.
Last week, we talked about what we do here at MBF Trend Consulting...connect the dots. We explained how in today's world, one of our biggest challenges is constantly being able to think outside the box. Plainly put, as human beings, we are used to being in our comfort zones, it's just natural for us. However, in order to get anywhere and keep up in this fast-paced world, you have to shake things up every once in a while before the world does it for you! So as a follow up today, we'd like to point out some mind boggling, "out of the box" things that are happening right now.

photo via WWD

One industry that is consistently being shaken up is publishing. Despite efforts to re-design, edgy and innovative content, covers, and layouts, and even a staff of the best of the best industry experts, more and more magazines are disappearing into the online digital arena. The latest to do so is the iconic Newsweek, which will print it's last issue on December 31st of this year and from there on remain solely in digital form. However, as print media continues to shift to its online alternative, will it be able to attract enough paid subscribers? The same concern exists for Netflix as it is challenged by Amazon's streaming-movie service that offers unlimited movies for a few dollars less than Netflix's $8 monthly fee.

photo via NY Times

And as the old continues to be replaced by new, things need to get a move on and for the beauty industry that means mobile salons. We know we are re-iterating this all the time, but things move so fast, too fast and we know you are feeling it as well. Especially here in NYC, between work, play, family responsibilities, friends, and just everyday errands, it's hard to find time for personal grooming. Whether it be a 15-minute manicure from Manicube or a fresh blow-out from Prieto Select, convenience is the ultimate luxury and that's why beauty salons are coming to your office door (with a price of course).

video via TED

So maybe during this time of immense change, the key is to be more vulnerable, even in the workplace. Meet Brené Brown, a researcher storyteller, who has been studying vulnerability for the past 10 years and now speaks around the country at huge corporations discussing the importance of connecting and how shame, embarrassment, and fear prevent people from being creative and innovative. She explains how, "In your job you put your work out to the public. There is nothing more vulnerable than that." We firmly believe that in order to get anywhere in life and even begin to succeed, there is always a certain level of risk and failure involved in stepping outside of what's comfortable, but you just have to go for it. Time keeps on ticking and the world keeps on moving despite whether you put yourself out there or not. You are your own personal formula for change. So how are companies relating this to the way they do business?

photo via NY Times

In today's workplace, 9 to 5's have evolved into various freelance projects, going to the office everyday has transformed into working remotely from home, office buildings are evolving into business colonies, education is going teacherless, printing is 3D, and an entertainment factor is becoming more crucial to retail experiences everyday. Mercedes may even release a driverless car next year (or so rumor has it)! Not to mention, Boston Startup School (a start-up itself) trains students about the basic know-how to work in the tech start-up sector! Things are evolving and in order for businesses to keep up with this change, they have to put themselves out there and be fearless.

video via youtube

With that said, some are doing just that but in the world market by focusing on where they do business. HSBC has taken an ambitious global approach with its airport ads that continue to give insight into the future forces that will shape our world and commerce. Made in the U.S. products are selling in China and Chinese designers are actively looking to branch out internationally via online platforms like Bundshop, which features curated products designed in China. In addition, Starbucks is expanding into Mumbai this month and partnering with Tata Global Beverages to source local coffee beans.

photo via ft.com

So what's next? Well, for starters, how we learn and experiment is changing as we move forward towards figuring it all out. For many media and advertising companies specifically, they depend on future labs to predict innovations and experiment with working prototypes currently on the market. These spaces are designed with mock retail environments, "connected living rooms," and countless interactive components as great resources to brainstorm and explore new approaches. Meanwhile, in the textile industry, Cotton Inc. has launched its Cotton University, which is a free online resource for both students and professionals alike to educate and engage through a multimedia digital campus.

video via blog.shop.org

While having access to all this technology and data is fantastic as we move forward, maybe the best way to truly be one step ahead is to simply ask the future what it thinks. Either way, take a risk today, do something out of the ordinary and see what that brings. Maybe a change is just what you need. 

October 17, 2012

Back To The Future

We launched MBF Trend Consulting in 2001 with offices in Berlin, Germany, established ourselves in Europe, and took MBF to New York in 2005. Since we launched, the industry has experienced tremendous change.

Initially our business focused on providing trend direction – colors, silhouettes and fabrics. Incredible as it may seem, in those days the global markets were not that integrated or connected. Still, we always provided seasonal information from major fashion centers to include New York, Paris and Milano.

If we fast-forward to today – that is October of 2012 (haha)…We now filter and consolidate information from markets in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Latin America.

When and how did you decide to pursue a career in fashion, and more specifically, trend consulting? 

Manuela: I was always passionate about fashion. I studied fashion design at Parson’s. After graduating, I worked as designer – first as an assistant at a little shop in New York basically cutting fabrics. Then I moved to Madrid (Spain), where I had my own, very little, studio designing one-of-kind of pieces. That was a lot of fun and I met many of Spain’s – at that time – up-and-coming designers. A few years later I was back in the United States when I started working as a fashion stylist for photo shoots. The work took me around the world – Australia, South Africa, Europe, Latin America. The experience allowed me to see fashion from a different perspective and eventually led to coursework in textile and surface design – at F.I.T. After presenting a project I had worked on that focused on Masaai culture and beadwork, my professor suggested I consider trend and design consulting. And the rest as they say is history.

What kind of experience and preparation helped you most when founding the company? 

Manuela: My experiences both as a designer and a stylist have been key. In conjunction with the exposure I had to different environments – having to adapt quickly to local settings, working with people I had just met from all walks, working on fashion editorials, catalogues, advertising, record labels… All of this has been key to helping me develop an eye and a sensibility for currents that influence trends – to quickly grasp trends as they evolve, connect the dots and translate them to the apparel industry. Add this to an incredibly talented team we have here at MBF and I think this is the formula for success. It’s a collaborative process and a team effort.

What, exactly, does a trend consulting company do? 

Manuela: Our work entails a lot of different aspects- the objective is to connect the dots resulting in profitable collections/brands. Research is an on-going process – we filter information and data, analyse it and translate to our products and services to include – market strategies, trend forecasting, design consulting and sustainability consulting as well elements/components of social media. And then of course, we’re always looking for better ways of sharing information – not only with our clients, but with our colleagues, students and other industry professionals. With this thought in mind, in July we successfully launched the first mbfSALON™ at Kingpins NY. We have now traveled this to Philadelphia University and are now in discussions to take the Salon international.

For you, what part of this job is most satisfying? 

Manuela: What I really love about this job is that we are working in a very fast ever-changing environment. We have a very short turn around time from analysing our research to passing it on in the right format to our clients. Once that is done we move on. It never gets boring and it's pretty much instant gratification. We get to work on different projects all the time.

What part of this job is most challenging for you? 

Manuela: I think the most demanding part is continuously challenging ourselves to think outside the box and get out of our comfort zones. We have to determine where things are going and we have to revisit things from a different point of view in order to make the right assessment of where things are going and how trends will evolve.

On another note, where do you see the future of fashion going? 

Manuela: Technology and sustainability will continue to be major drivers for all industries including fashion. Being able to understand, analyse and repurpose data will be key. And the impact of digital media is growing exponentially. The question will be how will we correlate this vast amount of data being generated, review and turn it into something that contributes to our growth, to a better understanding of our customers, and their needs, ultimately resulting in a better product. Also, digital media will continue to impact how we approach the shopping experience. We will continue to see the growth of curated collections. Retail centers will become showrooms and shopping malls will be reinvented as they focus on the “complete” experience. And we have not even scratched the surface yet with advertising.

And there we are…Although this certainly won’t impact the future of fashion, most importantly for me, has been the continued support of our clients, professional colleagues, friends and family. And of course, my wonderful team at MBF. All of whom have played an important role in our presence here today. We look forward to continuing this wonderful journey, the places we will go and the experiences we will share.

October 11, 2012

It's "Good" to be "Honest"

Today we'd like to discuss two outstanding sustainable brands, one we've spoken about before, goodsociety and the second, Honest By Bruno Pieters S/S13 collection. We were lucky enough to catch up with Sarah Schulze of goodsociety and ask her some questions about the label!

photo via goodsociety

MBF Trend Consulting: Can you give us a little background on goodsociety and what your company stands for?

Sarah Schulze: Goodsociety is a fully sustainable and fully organic clothing company who cares about the world around us. For every pair of jeans purchased, goodsociety will give a quarter to someone in need. That’s 1⁄4 of our profits, not an actual quarter. Our collection is dedicated to selected humanitarian projects. Our vision is simple, we want to give people the ability to have an impact through the simple everyday decision what to wear. Our commitment to a clean earth is through a sustainable approach in creating the highest quality of denim available. Also we believe that clean jeans should come from less chemicals.

MBF: Can you explain your new campaign?

SS: Our campaign shows a good society like a big family. We show that doing good is so easy, it’s a daily decision made in front of our closet. It is fun to be good and you don’t have to offer a sacrifice for it. We start with a relaxed family get-together in a warm, kind and joyful atmosphere. Later we fade into the lives of the family members to show the different characters of the good society. We want to appeal to a wide range of consumers. To the cool, the urban, the nature-loving, the conservative, the mature, the wild ones, everybody gets a role model.

photo via goodsociety

MBF: What is a typical day like for you?

SS: At the moment there are no typical days. One day is completely different to the next. Right now, I am at an agriturismo in the Abruzzi in Italy, after a long day in mills, factories and labs working on the collection F/W 2013/14. Last week we were shooting part two of our campaign. Right before that we were attending Richard Bransons & Carbon War Rooms "Creating Climate Wealth" summit. And I could go on and on and on. It's a very exciting and creative time, I love to be on the road, meeting people and get connected.

MBFHow did you transition from a mid-market designer to a sustainable designer and what inspired you to do so?

SS: After more than 12 years in the denim business I started thinking about production conditions for people and our environment. What was happening behind the scenes? I knew that denim is a very water- and chemical-intense business and I realized that globalization only works in one direction – toward producing companies. And they forget about the people and our environment. For me it was clear, that this cannot be the right way. We should take responsibility for the less fortunate ones. I wanted to give something back, be it clean drinking water or enough food or safe working conditions or a clean environment. So I started to look deep into sustainability and its possibilities for creating a real good denim line without having any losses of design, finesse and beauty.

photo via goodsociety

MBF: Where do you look for inspiration?

SS: Inspiration is everywhere. A large part of my inspiration is music, as I come from a family of musicians. Music turns into complete pictures or scenes, shapes and colors. The past decades of fashion and classic styles are just as inspiring as new materials or production procedures. Furthermore I am interested in human beings and being human, that's quite inspiring too.

MBFDo your clients actually ask if your collection is sustainable?

SS: About 50% of our clients are very interested and up to date when it comes to sustainability. Some focus only on the organic part of this topic and others are into the whole sustainability. The rest simply likes our fine denim for its well-fitted cuts, clean lines and utmost style. But all of them share the wish to do good and to be a part of helping others.

photo via goodsociety

MBFHow has the business evolved since we saw you a year ago at the Green showroom and where do you see the company headed in the future?

SS: When we first met at the Green showroom I was working with goodsociety as their European distributor, launching the brand. The brand has gotten some immediate attention with celebrities such as Ariane Sommer and Richard Branson, offering their endorsement of our brand. I had the possibility to get involved completely by buying goodsociety with my partner Dietrich Weigel. We have built an entire new production chain and switched from Asia to Italy. All manufacturing and refinement of our jeans is now 100 % made in Italy by our skilled Italian partners. We work together with long-established family businesses, dedicated to fabric, design, high quality and social responsibility. Now that our jeans are out in the market we focus on sales in Europe and the relaunch in the U.S.

MBFWhat kind of advice would you give someone looking to get into sustainable design?

SS: To create a successful product it is important that it can survive outside the green or eco corner. It has to convince people with its design, even people who are not interested in sustainability. Sustainability is a wide field. Use it in all its variety. Organic materials, recycling, high-tech procedures. Keep looking out for innovations.

video via Honest By

As we mentioned above, we'd also like to highlight Honest By Bruno Pieters Spring/Summer 2013 collection inspired by his travels to India and Japan. The collection combines the designers exquisite tailoring skills and clean lines with a plethora of bold color and print. Honest By, launched in January, is the first brand in the world to share the full cost breakdown of its products. The label is a public platform for designers and brands to exchange their design processes as well as research Honest By's resources concerning organic fabrics and suppliers. Not to mention, the brand is fully committed to being "honest" with its 100% transparency policy! Check out some of our favorites from the collection below!

photo via Honest By

photo via Honest By

photo via Honest By

photo via Honest By

photo via Honest By

October 4, 2012

MBF October Picks

Looking at all of today's uncertainties and changing economies, it is no surprise that companies around the world are frantic about where to take their businesses next. The roles between those formerly in power and those less predominant are reversing. Among them, the obvious economic growths in China and Brazil as well as strengthening markets in Mexico, Kazakhstan, Russia, Canada, and India. So what does the future of the global market look like? And who will be the prevailing players leading us there?

photo via NY Times

Despite China’s continued growth, the country is starting to see an overall decline in economic expansion. However their influences remain vast as many western companies continue to move into the powerhouse like Forever 21 in Shanghai and Gap Inc.'s outlet stores. Similar to Hermes pioneering efforts with its Shang Xia concept shops, Estée Lauder plans to introduce an entirely new brand targeted specifically towards its Asian customer base called Osiao. The new cosmetics line, which combines traditional Chinese ingredients with english labeling techniques and marketing, is researched locally in Shanghai and manufactured in Japan. The Asian market is one of Estée Lauder's fastest growing regions, so why not invest now? According to the CEO, Fabrizio Freda, “It will be a brand with a unique position, a brand that will give consumers a sense of being local, of being really dedicated to them."

photo via Financial Times

As China slows down, Mexico is experiencing a manufacturing revolution in everything from cars to appliances to computers. Not only does Mexico partake in free trade agreements with over 44 countries, but through NAFTA, is binded to the U.S. and Canada. For the U.S., "Made In Mexico" is an opportunity to shorten supply times by cutting costs and delivery times, especially as Mexican labor becomes more skilled. According to HSBC, a decade ago, Mexican wages were 391 percent higher than that of China. However, with China's rising labor costs, Mexico's labor is only 29% more and that is expected to decrease over the next five years, with predictions that China will be much more expensive by that time.

photo via WWD

For most of us, all eyes have been on Brazil lately as brands like Coach, Kate Spade, Tiffany's, Sephora, and Prada's new store openings in Sao Paulo (and expansion planned elsewhere if not already in the works) as well as its two fashion weeks, it's pretty clear Brazil is on it's way to establishing itself as a major fashion market. Not only will Brazilians drive growth in the luxury market, but with major increases in its middle class, there will be much more of a demand for fashionable and better quality international mid-market brands. Right now the middle class represents more than 50% of its 200 million citizens, with 50% of Brazilians aged under 30. The presence of these consumers on the web is on the rise too. Using such sites as Elike, which combines a shopping platform with Facebook, a new movement in social shopping is hitting the marketplace to lead Brazilian retail into the future. Despite the government bureaucracy and inconsistent taxation policies creating major issues for foreign brands, these companies will just have to think outside the box in order to successfully capitalize on the Brazilian market.

It seems Kazakhstan is also attracting the fashion minded with a plethora of new store openings as well, from luxury brands like Louis Vuitton to mid-market retailers like Children's Place and Steve Madden. The most recent newcomer, Saks Fifth Avenue has opened up shop in Almaty. Some are even putting Kazakhstan's market up there with the likes of China and Brazil. To put this in perspective for you, in this oil rich country, only a mere 5% of the luxury market is driven by tourists. Kazakhstan citizens have money and they want access to recognizable names featured in magazines. These consumers are fashionable, trendy, and want to show this off as visibly as possible.

photo via Fashion Magazine

Looking to neighboring Russia, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week is nearing at the end of the month and European based Wood Wood, just opened up shop in Moscow. Russian style icons are nothing but new to the fashion scene with names like Natalie Vodianova, Miroslava Duma, and Ulyana Sergeenko gracing fashion magazines and streetwear blogs all over the web. While Russia has been lagging behind in the online e-commerce world, mainly due to a recognizable liking to see and feel goods as well as postal discrepancies, online retail seems to be picking up speed. According to Adrein Henni, co-founder of East-West Digital News, Russia's online retail market is "one of the fastest-growing but the least know and understood on the planet."

photo via Financial Times

There has also been a recent influx of Canadian retailers hitting the U.S. like Aritzia and Joe Fresh while simultaneously American brands have been moving into the northern frontier. Both Nordstrom and Target look to open stores in Canada, which has already been penetrated by J.Crew, Tory Burch, and Ann Taylor. While for the longest time the Canadian market has been weak, it has finally gained some edge with a stronger currency, more stable economy, and better real estate opportunities.

photo via Financial Times

As far as fashion goes, India has made major strides with its first Fashion Fund to promote and support upcoming designers, with six finalists in the running. The award was launched in May by Vogue and the Fashion Design Council of India and is an extension of U.S. Vogue's Fashion Fund idea that originally began in 2003. Looking at such designers as Manish Arora, Naeem Khan, and the infamous Prabal Gurung, India is making it's own name for itself among fashion culture. According to Gurug himself, "The world is more open to the idea of business from Asia, China and India these days. There is an acceptance of different ideas; a growing market and need for design." And now, with India's newly opened economic policy, we will definitely see more foreign brands moving in.

The world is evolving fast – faster than ever with the majority of it out of our control. Currencies are fluctuating, irregular weather patterns surprise us, and companies' infrastructures are continuously hiring, laying off, and developing new ways of doing business. As the U.S. and Europe experience economic obstacles, China slows down, Brazil's middle class quickly develops, and as a result, new countries are on the economic upswing, we will continually see a shift in different markets and more brands looking to a global presence. What we once thought of as the world's leading nations may one day no longer hold true, as we are seeing today. New economies will gain momentum and these nations will lead the global world forward. With all these changes, the individual countries will only further have to rely on innovative concepts, remain open minded to both domestic and new international opportunities, as well learn to collaborate together in both business and economics.

photo via Yahoo! Travel

Now that we've discussed today's leading markets bringing us forward into the future, we'd like to leave you with a list of the world's happiest countries! Enjoy!
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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.