February 27, 2013

Time To Reform

With two stores in New York, one in LA and a growing online presence, the environmentally sustainable brand, The Reformation is taking "a new approach to fashion." Recently, we spoke with Creative Director Yael Aflalo about what this unique concept is really all about and what the future holds for the label.

photo via The Reformation

MBF: Please tell us a bit about your background. How did the store concept come about? What are the thoughts behind it?

Yael Aflalo: I’ve worked in the fashion industry for almost 15 years. I started my first clothing line, Ya-Ya when I was 19 and after ten years of running the company, I became disillusioned with the waste created by fashion brands, which included my own. This pushed me to launch a more environmentally responsible way of creating fashion, which began with a small Reformation store on 3rd Street in Los Angeles.

Reformation is a new approach to fashion. We believe that design, value and sustainability can coexist. We want to provide our customers with styles that generate a fraction of the environmental impact created by most fashion brands without sacrificing any element of design and providing these at accessible price points.

Our styles are limited-edition and we manufacture all of these at our downtown Los Angeles factory. This allows us to release designs that reflect the latest fashion trends. By cutting out the middleman and selling through our own boutiques and online store, we are able to control costs and pass these savings to our customers. We also source vintage garments and sustainable fabrics and incorporate green practices throughout our supply chain.

photo via The Reformation

MBF: Tell us more about your in-store products…how and where are they manufactured? What about the vintage pieces? Where do you source them?

YA: In our stores, we carry two lines of clothing. One is our Collection, which includes pieces that are all designed by me and our head designer. These are manufactured in our factory in Los Angeles. We collect design inspiration and use it as a basis to create the clothing that we all love to wear. We repurpose vintage garments, which we source from rag houses, to make a subset of our Collection. For the remainder, we use deadstock and surplus fabrics, which are sourced from fabric houses across the country. We are in the process of introducing sustainable fabrics to make our designs and we are excited about the first order we just placed!

Our second line, Vintage, includes vintage pieces that are sourced from various buyers across the country. They scour flea markets, vintage shows and secret places they won’t tell us about!

MBF: We hear you have a newly created wholesale division, who are some of your clients?

YA: We currently have a wholesale business with Urban Outfitters, and are working on a few collaborations that will be rolled out over the next few months. Stay tuned!

photo via The Reformation

MBF: Can you tell us about your customer? Do they come in specifically asking about the sustainable aspect of your store concept? Are people familiar with that particular concept?

YA: Our customer appreciates bold, provocative design, but also loves her basic closet pieces. She is looking for unique pieces that aren’t mass-produced. Our customers range in age from 18 to 45 – we have a lot of moms and their daughters shopping together! The Reformation consumer is not willing to compromise looking good for doing good, so our strong designs are a critical complement to our green process. In general, our customers aren’t necessarily buying our products because of the green aspect of our brand, however, more and more girls are reaching out and telling us how much our mission resonates with them! We believe as we continue to demonstrate that green fashion can be both beautifully designed and accessible, our consumer following will only increase.

MBF: What are the most important channels for marketing your shop concept?

YA: I think digital channels are the most important and where our message has been communicated best. Given the cult following of our brand, the frequent engagement through social media is important to our customers. We also launch new products constantly, and digital channels are a great way to share these releases.

photo via The Reformation

MBF: How do you keep up with design inspirations?

YA: I think the important thing is to always be open and aware of everything. Looking at people on the street, paying attention to the clothes in movies, going into stores and seeing what other people are doing. If you keep your eyes open to your surroundings there is always inspiration around.

MBF: You presently have three stores, what are your future expansion plans?

YA: We are focused on building our online business and I believe it’s such a powerful channel to communicate our brand message worldwide. We are open to expanding our physical store presence down the line, but right now we really want to make our website an amazing experience for our customers!

February 22, 2013

Go Global or GO HOME!

Well, it's that time of the year again...fashion week and this season it's all about online! We are moving (quicker than we realize) towards a global lifestyle and regardless of where we are sitting from around the world, we can still stay informed. Here at MBF, we are officially moving up to the cloud so we can work anywhere, at anytime.

From catwalk to computer screen, a global audience of consumers now has front row access right there with fashion's finest as we shift towards a completely virtual fashion experience. Just think about the growing number of fashion bloggers in attendance and how they have become just as important as any buyer, editor or socialite. The two fashion worlds, online and offline, are blending in full force.

photo via Mashable

Do designers finally have fashion and technology working in their favor? Live-streaming has pretty much become the status quo as we begin to forget what it actually feels like to physically be at a live show. If you remember back in the 1950's it was forbidden to even sketch the looks let alone photograph them and today, we have instant viewing while the show is still in progress like on style.com. Topshop and Google team up to take it one step further with "The Future of the Fashion Show" which allows viewers to see the show from all different points of view whether on the runway, backstage or front row. WWD has even partnered with Paper by FiftyThree to compile live-sketches from select shows at NYFW including the likes of Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, DVF, Oscar de la Renta, J. Crew, Calvin Klein and Alexander Wang. It's all about finding new ways to enhance the online experience.

photo via NY Times

Through this instant technology, designers and brands are cutting out the middleman and going straight to consumers via online platforms and social media like Twitter. Now companies like Belstaff, can use data analytics to predict what items will hit stores based on their web viewers favorite looks. They now have the ability to tap into what consumers are watching, from where, which devices and for how long as well as which looks consumers pause for. This information is also revolutionizing brands' e-commerce platforms which can now be fine tuned depending on each country's clicks and viewing preferences.

photo via Elle UK

Not to mention, through sites like Moda Operandi and Lyst, which pre-sell runway clothes as the shows are live streaming, brands have move available insight into what will sell in the future and what pieces to produce more of. Burberry recently launched a new "Made to Order" initiative which gives their global consumers the opportunity to purchase and personalize outerwear and handbags as they are shown on the catwalk. Forget buyers, agents and consulting agencies, consumers have the power to decide what's in store now!

photo via Elle

Just look at how consumer buying habits are affecting all our industries. Magazines like Elle now offer free iPad apps when you subscribe. Best Buy and Barnes & Noble are severely hurting since we don't buy tangible media anymore; we download and stream everything. Television is being replaced with online TV and web series like "House of Cards." And do land lines still exist? Barely. The computer is even disappearing as smartphones just get smarter.

photo via WWD

So what does this mean for the fashion industry? Well first of all, this access to the latest trends fuels both the fast fashion and knockoff industries even more than before. Not to mention, with growing direct-to-consumer business, will we even need sales agents or showrooms anymore? This could possibly be foreshadowing the eventual extinction of apparel trade shows or at least major updating to adjust to the fast changing industry. And now with the middleman gone, will these brands pass on this margin to their customers? As our retail business models evolve, the entire way we position our price structures is going to have to change too. While some retailers continue to focus primarily on their brick and mortar expansion, they better take another look at their strength in the online community because this is the future of fashion. We are living in it right now and there's nowhere to go but global.

What are your favorite looks from fashion week thus far? Make sure to check out some of our personal highlights from the runway on our Pinterest page and "like" us on Facebook to stay "in the know" with all the latest happenings in the industry!

February 12, 2013

The Fast & The Furious

We’ve attended some events over the past few weeks regarding fast fashion and incorporating sustainable business practices into a fast fashion retail model. We are at the point where fashion has just gotten too fast. What you see on the runway, is available right off the catwalk and just weeks later you can spot knock-off versions in fast fashion shop windows. At the fabric trade shows, suppliers will be showing S/S 2014 and buyers will be purchasing these collections for S/S 2013. When is enough enough? Where is the breaking point? Our conclusion, we are going to have to cease making things so quickly and for so cheap.

photo via WWD

What are we doing speeding everything up – with new deliveries every two weeks? The people producing these goods are working under inhumane conditions which as of late, has become critically publicized by the media. Look at the recent factory fires in Bangladesh where 7 were killed and nearly 15 injured, all for the sake of what? A $29.99 dress? In response, companies are reacting with politically correct public statements revealing their changing practices in fear of suffering major monetary backlashes. A new sense of awareness is finally being raised as consumers buying these inexpensive garments are beginning to be more conscious about what it means to shop at such low price points.

However, there is hope as countries like China have made astounding leaps of growth with a push for improved worker's rights, wage increases and the emergence of unions. Due to this, many companies have shifted their production to other countries like that of Bangladesh, which will hopefully follow in China's footsteps towards better working conditions over the next few years. Which country will companies manufacture in then?

photo via RFID Journal

Through the help of technology alone, the entire manufacturing process is experiencing revolutionary changes. Affirm Heart Far East is a Chinese apparel manufacturer who manages their fast fashion production by using a RFID-based Apparel Management Expert (RAME) solution to track products from concept to finished product! This system indicates how long the production process takes per item, potential threats of delay as well as which workstations operate most efficiently.

photo via WSJ

In the name of fast fashion, even something as crucial to the entire apparel making process as the industrial sewing machine is finally getting an update. Sunstar Machinery Co., a factory based in Seoul and the largest manufacturer of these machines has been producing both sewing and embroidery machines with built in computers and displays. Theses machines not only track garments as they are being made and offer real time feedback, but also help improve efficiency by controlling the stitch, needle pressure and speed.

While changes at the production level are the most detrimental and involve the most pressure due to the contribution of people actually behind the making of, this desire for "fastness" is hitting everything from the runway to retail. KCD recently announced that their Digital Fashion Shows, which was once solely an industry exclusive platform, has gone public. This unrestricted digital front row access represents the future of the catwalk and offers a more affordable and viral alternative as many designers veer to hold their collection debuts in showrooms or at fashion parties to save money.

video via Rebecca Minoff

The explosion of social media pretty much goes hand in hand with the success of fast fashion. Over the past few years, Instagram has become a major driver for brand awareness just as Facebook has for boosting sales. Therefore sites like Fashion GPS, Olapic and Fohr Card have emerged to help brands track this data and eventually understand how to convert social media and website traffic into actual sales. Brands like Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Coach, Burberry and Sephora are all experimenting with how to take this scientific data and translate it into visible revenue. Rebecca Minkoff not only has a presence on both platforms, Instagram and Facebook, but also participates in Facebook advertising and recently launched a youtube video with Leandra Medine of the Man Repeller which reached more than 129,000 views since launching on January 9th. As the industry shifts to more digital solutions, more brands will begin to understand the importance of investing in their online presence to understand consumer insight.

photo via Hukkster

Despite the changing marketing strategies of retailers, consumers may still be one step ahead, at least when it comes to getting a good deal. Cutting-edge tools like one from Citibank's Citi Card, are beginning to emerge to help shoppers monitor sales and price drops as soon as they change. Hukkster, is one of the best examples of this as shoppers can now "hukk it" and they will be alerted when the price changes on any specific item, at any given time.

What it comes down to is, fashion is fast but the news is faster. With that said, it's great to be on it trend-wise, but you have to do it right because you can't get away with it anymore. The problem lies in the fact that we are a society driven by consumerism. We live to buy "stuff." Typically, fast fashion is bought by teenagers and for them, it's all about looking cool and trendy versus being politically correct. Not to mention, as you know, the internet and social media makes everything available in a matter of seconds, whether it be news related or the latest "it" product. However, things are evolving and for the better as we continue to experiment and learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately just like the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire, sometimes it takes a tragedy for us to actually wake up and change. Hopefully, moving forward as a whole, we will make more conscious decisions from concept to consumer throughout the supply chain and gradually slow our speed down. 

February 8, 2013

Auspicious year of the Snake!

To all of our friends and colleagues in Asia, wishing you an auspicious year of the Snake! And a joyous celebration with friends, family and colleagues.

Your MBF Team!

February 5, 2013

Fashion's Superpowers

The retail arena is shifting so much from one day to the next that it's hard to keep up! Sights that were once solely on Europe and the U.S. have now shifted to include Asia and South America, as new emerging markets dominate the scene. The world's super powers are changing so who should you keep an eye out for now?

photo via zimbio

Despite the European crisis, Germany continues to stand strong with more than three quarters of consumers feeling optimistic about what's to come in 2013. International retailers seem to be feeling the same as their rapid expansion into Germany is nowhere near slowing down. Shops are popping up all over the country from Berlin to Frankfurt to Hamburg and Munich as brands like Primark, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister, Barbour, Club Monaco, Belstaff and Moncler, among many many more, push growth. Meanwhile, U.K. based retailers like Debenham's and Topman recently launched online stores in the country.

photo via WWD

We began to see a fashion presence from India all over the Spring 2013 runway, which is just one of many signs reflecting India's growing strength as a market. With the launch of the first Indian Apparel trade show here in NY and an increasing number of India-based NGO's in effect like Project Renaissance, Indian textile exports are about to see a major global boom. Over the past few months, major retailers have moved into the world's second most populated country like Superdry in Mumbai and Roberto Cavalli launching in New Delhi. Not to mention, Loreal plans to heavily focus on the Indian market as they invest over $200 million in manufacturing, distribution and research and development. Keep an eye out for this one!

photo via NY Times

Africa is another source of major design inspiration exhibited not only on the runway from the past few seasons but heavily at this season's fabric trade shows as well. This promising market, which is developing similarly to that of China and most recently Brazil, definitely has a lot of potential, but it just isn't quite there yet. While the money seems to be there, the wealthy invest it elsewhere in Europe or New York, rather than back into their native land. Despite, retail and tourism are developing and the population has the ability to remain plugged into the latest trends via the internet. We recommend you get your fill with a pair of vintage-looking "Made in Africa" Sawa sneakers sold at J.Crew now!

photo via WWD

Latin America is also on the watch list as Sephora, who just opened their 6th store in Mexico City in November, looks to add at least 50 new stores to the region by 2016. The major makeup specialty chain which has been expanding in Brazil as well, plans to launch three more stores in Sao Paulo over the next few months. For a beauty obsessed culture like that of Latin America, it is no surprise that Sephora has set their sights here and eventually looks to scout out other countries to possibly include Argentina, Colombia and Chile.

photo via British UK

Last November we attended a panel discussion at FIT discussing the growing influences of Swedish fashion in the global community. From the successes of IKEA, H&M and Acne, contemporary Scandinavian design is more established than ever. And now, a new exhibit, Fashion Scandinavia: Contemporary Cool is launching at the Somerset House on the first day of London Fashion Week displaying 56 up and coming Scandinavian designers.

photo via NY Times

We discussed the changing conditions in China's factories a few weeks ago and despite things looking up for employees, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find people to fill these full-time factory positions. The problem resides in the growing number of recent college grads who are holding out for work in offices rather than pursuing well paid factory jobs. This new status factor is leading to major unemployment for those of the educated and a growing desperation by factories to find skilled labor to fill up payroll. While the growth of education is only creating a larger gap in China's employment, maybe the beginning of labour unions will help draw back workers as manufacturers that contract companies like that of Apple begin to exercise representation.

The world is more globally connected than ever before and with that, influences can come from anywhere. One thing is for sure, fashion is directly linked to these growing markets and is an excellent indicator of where we should shift our focus with everywhere from China, Japan, India and Africa influencing the runway. However, on the production side, as future generations in China become more educated and lose their desire to work in factories, manufacturing jobs will continue to shift elsewhere to other developing economies, like India and Southeast Asia. Not to mention, there will definitely be more of a presence from Brazil and the rest of Latin America taking a stance here in the U.S. throughout the next year or so. Eventually, the time will come for the likes of India, Africa and Russia as well so stay tuned...
Creative Commons License
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.