June 27, 2013

Calendar of Events

We know we aren't the only ones that wake up in the morning and have no idea how to dress ourselves. So it's about time the industry is finally addressing this hot fashion conversation as some look to transition towards a seasonless calendar. Categorizing fashion into a Fall, Spring, Pre-Fall and Resort model is so passé, especially with seasons being less and less distinct between one another. With that said, the rules of fashion are drastically changing, if any even still exist. Things are not only being affected by changing weather patterns but our attitudes are shifting as we move away from the traditional and familiar.

We called it back in March 2012 and whether it be on the runway, in shop windows or your own personal wardrobes, we now have complete freedom to design and buy what we want, when we want. However, that doesn't necessarily make things easier and it's leading to controversy for the entire industry. What does this mean for the future of Fashion Week? And more importantly, as our shopping habits adjust to new demands based on necessity and desire versus routine, how will this affect the entire fashion cycle?

photo via Marie Claire

Fashion Week has been evolving for decades and for many, today's catwalk has become more about exposure and "giving a show" than selling the clothing actually being shown. Buyers, once seated front row, are being replaced by bloggers and socialites. Models are just as important as what they are wearing and backstage access via photo and video content is pretty much customary. Fashion shows are now broadcasted in real time and looks can be pre-ordered straight off the runway. It's all about going viral and giving customers what they want, at an instant.

However, the fashion is changing too as many designers begin to rename Resort and Spring to Spring 1 and Spring 2 and the same for Pre-Fall and Fall, being replaced with Fall 1 and Fall 2. Seasonal distinctions are getting less and less clear – just look at how florals and mini hemlines have transitioned into Fall/Winter and fur accents and layering have moved into Spring/Summer. With so much pressure on designers to bring newness to the table and keep consumers interested, brands are experimenting with everything in order to survive. This can only be credited to the rise of the internet, social media and fast fashion, causing everything to turnover at an uncontrollable rate. Not to mention, runway fashion is now available at both the high, low and mid-markets as well as across the globe to any type of culture and climate, practically all at once.

The only way to cater to this rise in globalization is to offer transitional pieces that can be layered and worn year round. Pre-collections are typically much more commercial than Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer and they have gained remarkably in popularity over the years as a growing demand for all types of fabrications becomes more and more essential. Some stores are even devoting as much as 70% of their budgets to these collections. The key here is to not designate a season to these collections but deem them new arrivals because who wants Resort in November and Pre-Fall in June anyways?

photo via colorfully

As competition gets fiercer and e-commerce sites continue to flood the market, consumers are having more of a difficult time making choices about what to buy and from where. Michael Kors said he would prefer to just announce with each new collection, "Look I made new clothes!" We have to admit whether it be hot, cold, sunny or snowing, we love new stuff. However, we do need things we can wear year round and in today's day and age, we need to be ready for anything. 

June 19, 2013

Interactive Play

Several weeks ago we attended a meetup group discussing how online media and digital technologies are changing the fashion industry and how consumers interact with brands. Here we met Jared Schiffman, the founder & CEO of Perch Interactive, a startup (and spinoff of the award winning firm, Potion) that is changing the way we interact with displays. From engaging customers through photos and video content, to getting them to actually touch, pick up and discover products, Perch Interactive is revolutionizing the way we use interactive technology by helping retailers better understand consumer behavior as well as the overall in-store experience. Luckily enough, we got to sit down with Jared, learn more about the inner workings of his company and pick his brain about where the future of retail stands.

MBF: Can you tell us in a couple of words how Perch Interactive works and a brief history of Perch?

Jared Schiffman: We officially founded last June so we’re about to celebrate our first birthday. What Perch focuses on is to create an interactive experience around this kind of masterful shopping experience. As interactive designers, we looked at retail and we saw that there’s this natural interaction, in other words, when people like something they tend to pick it up. It turns out, there’s quite some retail research that says if you touch something or pick it up in a store, you are automatically 60 to 70 percent more likely to buy it. If we can get people to pick up the product, at that moment when they’re holding the product, is the moment they are most receptive to any additional information. As compared to traditional digital, or any type of advertising usually presented, this media is specific to the product, telling you a story and is literally delivered the moment you already expressed interest in it. It is a way for retailers or brands to show how the product is used – you can show online reviews, you can show videos, etc. It is also good for shoppers as well by providing information that may otherwise not be available at the store level, such as user reviews which is pretty much only available online. And again it shows you how the product might fit into your life.

MBF: Technology is in the process of making the shopping experience very personal. Can multiple people use the technology simultaneously, and can everyone interact with the products?

JS: Yes, absolutely! In fact we intentionally designed it so that multiple people can use it at the same time. For as many products as there are on the table, that is as many people that can be interacting with them. If there are five shoes, five people can be doing different things with them separately.

MBF: Are you planning on connecting social media to the interactive experience?

JS: Yeah we already have actually. We have done some projects that involve Twitter feeds where the tweets are actually brought on to the display. There’s a hashtag next to each product, or a hashtag for the whole display, so when you tweet you can see that tweet on the table until new tweets replace it. We can basically connect to any online service, whether it is your website or anything that supplies media. Facebook as well, even though it gets a little complex because you have to be logged in through someone’s account. In general, we are certainly exploring bringing live media into the store.

MBF: Can you tell us what retailers and brands you are working with?

JS: We’ve done quite a bit of work with Cole Haan. We worked with Kiehl’s several months ago. We’ve done a lot of work with Story, which is a great boutique/store on the Westside near the highline. They change their whole storefront every month so we generally create a new purchase layout for them with each passing month. We are talking to a lot of retailers and brands — I just can’t say which ones yet...

MBF: What was your experience when you first introduced Perch to potential clients? And what are the stumbling blocks?

JS: The responses mostly have been very positive! For the most part when people see Perch, especially in person, they are excited by it. It’s really easy to then instantly think how they can use it in-house with all the media they already have. With any client work there’s always a lot of going back and forth in terms of what the intentions are for the designers verses what the clients want, you always have to find a happy medium between the two. We had some stumbling blocks early on just in terms of getting our technology together, but at this point everything is good to go.

MBF:  How do you market your product? And how do you reach out to get new clients on board?

JS: We’ve been really fortunate for getting some really good press out there. We also have a lot of people come who have seen us on the web and decided to visit. The fact that we are in New York really helps us also to reach a variety of stores. There hasn’t been a whole lot of direct sales yet, it has been just you know, people come in and we do whatever we can to support them.

MBF: Is there anybody out there that has similar technology or you would consider as your competitor? If yes, how do you differentiate yourself from them?

JS: I think there are a lot of things out there that are in some ways similar to what we’re doing. Certainly there are digital signs out here, there are ipads in stores, and there are sensors tracking where people are moving in and out of the store, but liability there is quite high. As far as I know I think we’re the only ones who are looking at media directly around products and manipulations directed at the products. We also provide some tracking ability in that way. We are one of the only companies that can sense the interaction with the product itself. With Perch, you pick up the product and interact with it, there’s no way you can ignore what’s right in front of you.

MBF: Okay, this led me to the next question: you've mentioned your collecting analytics, what kind of data are you collecting as part of the interaction and how is this data used?

JS: Essentially what we’re responding to in an interactive perspective is tracking analytics. Every time you touch the product, pick the product up or even touch the table at all, we can track that data. It is reported on a daily basis, which tends to be how retailers like to see things—per product, per day. At the end of the day if there’s five products on the table you can see exactly how many times each was touched or picked up. The information is really useful for Perch itself, it shows how many people are using Perch and give us a clear sense of what it is like on a daily basis. In the long run I think what we will see is Perch being used in a training system. Retailers may develop some media and use Perch to see how people react to it. For the first time in stores, you can have two sets of identical products and the only difference is the slight change in media, so you can have celebrity A and celebrity B and see which one is more effective at encouraging people to touch or pick up the product.

MBF: What about the privacy of the data? The customers don’t really know that this data has been tracked?

JS: Sure, sure. All that we are tracking are just interactions with the product, we are not tracking identity, gender, or age—anything that can identify a person. From a privacy perspective, it's really not that different from the sales data that stores already have; if you buy a shoe, the store knows you bought that shoe. In actuality, the store probably has more information on you at that point—they have your credit card. But for Perch it is just looking at the product, there’s no personal information whatsoever.

video via Perch Interactive

MBF: Last but not least, where do you think the future of retail is going? How is it evolving from the beginning?

JS: Our specific goal is to begin to address the totality of the retail environment, so right now we’re dealing with horizontal surfaces such as a table of a certain size, and we’re working on a number of different factors to be able to address all kinds of different products. There is a natural form factor that exists within retail which is kind of the first step, beyond that I think what you’re going to see is…you talked about omni-channeling before and there’s a lot of talk about stores being the media space. Maybe right now if you are selling a certain shoe or fragrance it’s all about what goes well with that, maybe in the future, media will shift and it will be more about the story. Who doesn’t like a good story? You go to the store, understand the store and the products and make yourself feel better; make the company feel better about themselves. The narrative nature is explicit in shopping anyways: why do you shop in the first place? Why are you buying this accessory? There’s always a story there. It’s up to the brand to make one that relates to you and that takes a certain understanding to their customers. 

June 11, 2013

Fast Forward

Fast forward to 2020. The office is practically extinct as worker mobility and cloud computing have become key factors pushing businesses to go completely virtual. Women have gained significant ground over men in the job market with increased promotions, a rise in wages, and entrepreneurship opportunities accessible. Meanwhile, men have moved into "pink collared" jobs, as healthcare and social assistance sectors surge due to the aging Baby Boomer Generation. As globalization and technology continue to shape the way we live, a new cluster of jobs have emerged to lead us further towards a "knowledge economy."

For starters, the explosion of technology is creating countless new positions for mathematic and science geniuses that you wouldn't even believe. From realistically destroying fake buildings to geometric sculptors to mathemagicians, more and more jobs are being adapted from the natural world and brought into the digital space.

photo via Clothes On Film

The field of costume design is even transforming as the focus shifts to animated characters rather than real life actors and actresses. According to Simulation Supervisor, Claudia Chung, from the movie Brave, the garments from the film were modeled in 3D, digitally sewn together and virtually tried on by the characters, similar to how it would actually be done in the real world. They even go as far as making sure the garments hang properly and the grain of the fabrics is going in the right direction. Just as in costume design, it's all about the fine details and these specialists do everything to make it look as realistic as possible. For jobs similar to this, backgrounds in both fashion and technology may eventually be critical.

video via YouTube

Everyone's fallen victim to cyber hacking one way or another. Luckily enough, we now have "ethical hackers" also know as the white-hat hacker. These experts specialize in protecting an organization's networking infrastructure and website. While these moral professionals invade a network much like a hacker would, they use this information to find and fix security vulnerabilities rather than causing them. Overall, whether government or privately owned, security is a major issue so it's no surprise the demand for these specialists exists.

photo via Mashable

We talk about the overload of information all the time and now data scientists will be available to finally make sense of it all by translating data and creating viable predictions from it. Not to mention, as technology continues to accelerate faster than the workforce, 63% of data scientists foresee the profession being severely undermanned over the next 5 years.

video via Clear PR

So as we rewind back to 2013, many of these jobs are already here and others are just beginning, as people start to get qualified and educated in these new roles. Just look at how the careers of storytellers, social media managers, and trend forecasters have evolved from the beginning of the Millennium when they were basically nonexistent. Today, both storytelling and social media are crucial while many predict that trend forecasters will be essential in educating the industry on sustainability.

video via smartplanet.com

The way we do things is changing, plain and simple. What we once thought of as a productive environment, the office, research shows is actually more of a distraction. People want the freedom to work anywhere, at anytime and may work as many as 8-10 different jobs in a lifetime. We are no longer binded to traditional approaches to business and want different things from the companies we work for. Our entire lives, both social and professional, are moving from an offline world to an online one. As a result, all of these things are stimulating a new job market that may eventually lead to future career paths in anything one can imagine. From body part making to space pilots to virtual lawyers, professional sleepers, and virtual clutter organizers, maybe it's time for a career change.

June 6, 2013

Who's Got Talent?

With the 2013 CFDA Awards taking place last Monday, we thought it'd be the perfect time to post about some of our favorite designers. From those who have consistently reinvented themselves, to up and coming talent, these are the taste and trend makers ruling the runway.

photo via Dazed Digital

The two and a half year old Chicago label, Creatures Of The Wind, have been on everyone's radar the past few seasons. With a prior CFDA nomination and a J.Crew collaboration under their belt, duo Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters are making a name for themselves while still remaining modest to their brand. From shipping to stitching, the designers have expanded their business and manufacturing practices, but continue to do a lot on their own with a DIY approach. They are known for their indie design aesthetic, unique sensibility and Rodarte-esq use of mixed media fabrications. Not to mention, the pair works with three factories based here in New York, produce in Japan, and have even started to make knitwear connections in Hong Kong.

video via YSL

Despite a name change and a super controversial collection, Heidi Slimane is grabbing people's attention and bringing in the money in the process. The former sexy and sophisticated YSL line has now transformed into the modern, grungy Saint Laurent that's flying off store shelves. He's even got the face of model of the moment, Cara Delevingne at the forefront of his Fall 2013 campaign. What's next for the brand as it continues to evolve from its house roots? Well, Slimane has also launched a photographic series called the Saint Laurent Music Project, which is dedicated to portraying rock legends who have been dressed by YSL from its earlier days until now. So far the brand has worked with the likes of Marilyn Manson, Courtney Love, Bowie, Jagger and most recently, Daft Punk, among many others.

photo via Orta Anadolu

Pronounced "Them," THVM Atelier stands for This Here Very Moment. The premium denim label is based in a century old LA factory, home to a collective array of artists, each working side by side on various disciplines. Recently they partnered with William Lemon III to debut a collection of brightly colored avant-garde prints on their tops and jeans which is available at the LA shop Weltenbuerger. For Fall/Winter 2014, they will be collaborating with the Turkish mill, Orta, to produce three stories: Old Loom inspired by the history of workwear, Winter Blues focusing on indigo color blocking, and FitsWell which uses performance stretch to highlight flexibility and high recovery. The progressive denim label even has a magazine, THVM Rag, highlighting the creative process that reflects the inspirations and methodologies of each seasonal collection.

photo via Surface To Air

Surface to Air, where retail gets creative, literally. The name combines both a clothing line based online as well as with four shops located in New York, Paris and São Paulo, with a Studio for cool projects and films. The company also serves as an ad agency with clients that include Lanvin's Avant Garde scent, Uniqlo, Louis Vuitton Haute Joaillerie and Dom Perignon. For this French luxe brand, an average day can include everything and anything from designing their collections to shooting a music video. However, when it comes to the fashion, we love the effortlessly cool wearability of their streetwear looks. They have even collaborated with Alison Mosshart, the frontwoman of The Kills and The Dead Weather to produce the ultimate leather jacket which is available now.

photo via Ann Sofie Madsen

With an impressive background that includes training at John Galliano for Dior as well as positions at both Peclers and Alexander McQueen, Ann Sofie Madsen first launched her couture-inspired collection in London in 2010. Since then, she has expanded her resume to include work as an illustrator for graphic novels and youth books, with 8 published since 2011. Her fascination with contrasts, like primitive versus civilized, has led her to commonly reveal "the well-known through the unknown" in many of her abstract designs. She constantly experiments with materials and incorporates traditional handcrafted techniques with cutting-edge ones. While her Denmark roots may not be reflective in much of her work, she has still be deemed, "one of Denmark's biggest design talents."

What makes this fresh group of creatives stand out is their eagerness to experiment and challenge fashion's norms. They make their presence known because in today's industry it's about more than just great design. Without a point of view and the ability to take risks, a designer's talent is only as good as it looks. 
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.