June 23, 2011

Vacation Hiatus

We're taking a break!
But don't worry, we'll be back with a great list of July MBF Favorite Picks, including exciting designer collaborations that you don't want to miss! Please check back soon. Happy summer!

June 22, 2011

What Are the High/Low End Companies Doing?

More and more, we are seeing companies, from high to low-end, re-aligning their business strategies in efforts to be more socially and environmentally conscious. Whether their intentions are altruistic or simply a greenwashing marketing strategy, companies of all industries are recognizing that we are shifting toward a culture that places a greater emphasis on social and environmental change. And in a world where information is easily and instantaneously accessible, it is imperative for companies to remain honest and transparent as customers are quick to either support or criticize your brand.

Today, we examine several of the latest endeavors catching our attention. All of the efforts described below have been chosen for it's emphasis on collaboration, commitment, and innovation.

photo via: Adidas Group

1. Adidas Group

The Adidas Group represents several of the leading sportswear labels including Adidas, Reebok, TaylorMade, and Rockport. So as a company with such a large background, any effort made by the group creates a large impact. As one of the founding members of the Better Cotton Initiative (others include Ikea, H&M, Marks and Spencers, and Levis), the Adidas Group is proactively working toward sourcing 100% of sustainable "Better Cotton" by 2018. "Better Cotton" is cotton grown to social and environmental standards set by the multi-stakeholder Better Cotton Initiative. 

Setting annual incremental targets for the quantity of "Better Cotton," they are approaching their goal realistically and practically. As one of the founding members of Better Cotton Initiative, the company is also financially supporting farmer education, which is integral to increasing the supply and maintaining longevity of "Better Cotton." Working collaboratively and going straight to the source, the Adidas Group is allowing a clear cooperation with their suppliers and therefore, gaining a better understanding of how to move forward. 

Through their Strategy 2015 program, Adidas Group also aims to reduce their environmental footprint 15% by 2015. Ultimately calling to become a zero-emissions company, by 2015, the group plans to cut relative energy usage by 20 percent, cut carbon emissions by 30 percent, and reduce paper usage by 50 percent per employee.  Looking at everything, from production, sourcing, manufacturing, to store and sales operations, the company is taking an ambitious, holistic approach to revamping their environmental initiatives.

photo via: The Coveted

2. Prada: Made In
Mario Prada, Miuccia Prada's grandfather, was a lover of world travels. Always in search for precious materials and expert artisans, the first Prada products were made by artisans all over the world using materials such as rare ivory, tortoiseshell, ebony, and precious stones and leathers. Prada's "Made In" collections recaptures the heart of Mario Prada through the current visions of granddaughter, Miuccia Prada.
photo via: Luxist

The current collections are focused on the craftsmanship of Scotland, India, Japan, and Peru. "Prada Made in Scotland" displays traditional tartan wool kilts; "Prada Made in India" features handmade garments using the Chikan technique, an ancient form of Indian embroidery. "Prada Made in Japan" works in collaboration with Dova, the world's most sophisticated denim manufacturer. And "Prada Made in Peru" offers a collection of alpaca wool knitwear using artisanal techniques from traditional Peruvian "campesinos." Although the project was discussed last year, it is only this year that the collections begin to hit stores.

photo via: Ecouterre

3. Parsons School of Design Collaborates with Airdye
Knowing that Parsons is always seeking to be the educational leader in incorporating sustainable design practices into their curriculum, we were thrilled to hear their latest project with AirDye, a technology managing the application of color to textiles without the use of water. As the sustainable alternative to traditional dyeing and printing processes, AirDye technology creates new design capabilities while reducing cost.

photo via: YouTube

Last fall, Parsons worked in collaboration with AirDye, allowing a selected group of students to incorprate the AirDye technology first hand. Three talented designers were selected to integrate custom AirDye fabrics into their thesis projects, resulting in truly unique looks, perfectly exemplifying the future of sustainable fashion. Each designer carried a completely different aesthetic, displaying the versatility of the technology, yet all using 90 percent less water and 85 percent less energy than conventional dyeing methods.

photo via: WWD

4. Gucci
Although these new shades won't hit stores until the fall, we are already in love with these super chic and eco-friendly frames. The luxury brand collaborated with eyewear manufacturer Safilo to design eyewear using a special type of acetate that contains a higher percentage of natural materials, aiming to reduce the use of petroleum-derived plastic. It will also present mask-shape sunglasses made in a natural material made from castor-oil seeds. Not forgetting about packaging, the company will also introduce a more eco-friendly eyewear case. Presented in classic green and red shades, this collection promises to be a signature look for their future.

photo via: PSFK

5. Pantene 
As the world's biggest hair care brand, Pantene's latest decision to source mainly from sugarcane for their new packaging may lead to huge strides in protecting the environment. Although the new packaging is barely noticeable to customers, the switch is expected to cut the brand's fossil-fuel consumption by 70 percent and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 170 percent.

While it is a costlier process, the switch will not impact the customers as a representative states, "It is an investment to be at the forefront and as the technology becomes more mainstream [costs will decrease]." This transition will take place in a 18 month period, affecting 180 countries where it's sold.

And although this is only a small modification, each small step leads to a big difference. We hope, and strongly believe, that this will be just the first of many changes to come.

photo via: YouTube

6. PPR
Recognizing sustainability as the new leverage for staying above it's competitors, PPR group announced the launch of a new group "PPR HOME" in efforts to set new, higher standards of sustainable practices in the luxury, sport and lifestyle, and retail sectors. Quoting Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of PPR, "My deep conviction that sustainability creates value is part of my strategic vision for PPR...PPR HOME will provide us with novel, more sustainable approaches to contribute to a better world for the long run."

With an annual €10 million budget, PPR HOME will provide expertise, support, and creativity to all of it's PPR brands. In case you are unfamiliar with PPR, PPR represents a wide range of fashion brands including Puma, Redcats, Bottega Veneta, YSL, Alexander McQueen, and Stella McCartney, just to name a few In partnership with Cradle-to-Cradle®, they are working together to integrate and apply environmental and social concerns to their products and services. Focusing on internal initiatives, non-profit initiatives, and for-profit investments, PPR HOME seeks to drive forward sustainability with creativity and innovation, and vice versa. Through Wildlife Works, the brand has already began work in Kenya, helping local communities and their efforts to conserve biodiversity.

photo via: Ecouterre

7. Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry
Aiming to become a 100% sustainable company, Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry has introduced a bridal collection that is entirely made of sustainable diamonds and recycled platinum or gold. Working in partnership with Waldman Diamond Company, all diamonds are supplied from Diavik and Ekati mines in Canada and are conflict free and in compliance with the Kimberly Process. As already a founding partner of the United Nations Foundation's Girl Up campaign, Trump began actively researching sustainable diamonds last year before finalizing the partnership with Waldman Diamond Company.

June 14, 2011

Influencers of Our Time

Designers and artists have always been recognized as the cultural shakers of society. Whether it is through a song, a garment, or a photograph, creative talents all over the world have made lasting impressions, providing a memorabilia of the past, or igniting change for a better future.

Today, we highlight several visionaries whom we believe are history makers of our generation. Although their skills, passions, and backgrounds may vary, each individual featured below have all worked extremely hard, fully committed to their beliefs. Whether you love them or hate them, it's more than likely that you know their name. And while we can think of a dozen more to highlight, this is just a small handful of people currently in the spotlight. So in no particular order, here is what made the list.

photo via: Yahoo.com

1. Steve Jobs
Apple Inc CEO, Steve Jobs plays a big role in revolutionizing the digital future of which we already live in today. And just when you think that Apple has done enough, they do it again. At this year's annual Worldwide Developer's Conference, Jobs unveiled the Apple's iCloud and an updated version of the Mac OS X Lion. Changing the way we experience the Internet, the iCloud is a unique tool that not only stores data, but also offers a music service, and syncs information from one source to the next. The Mac OS X Lion also has 250 new features, with innovative multi-touch gestures using powerful hardware.

photo via: NY Times

2. Lady Gaga
"Pop singer" is too small of a description to describe Miss Stefani Germanotta, better known as Lady Gaga. More than just a world-wide music sensation, Lady Gaga is one of the leading cultural icons of today. With her multimillion-selling albums, 10 million twitter fans, innumerable accounts of front page fashion choices, and dozens of side projects, Lady Gaga is far from the type of woman who disappears into the crowd.

But what is most respectable about her is that she is defiantly self-driven with a killer work ethic. Unlike many other singers today, Lady Gaga is known for never lip-syncing, and always 100 percent in charge of everything that she does, whether it's writing songs, choosing outfits, or directing performances. At age 25, Lady Gaga seems to show an extremely unordinary sense of self confidence, achieving far beyond what many have only dreamed of.

photo via: Dazed Digital

3. Kwok Mang-ho
A performance artist based out of Hong Kong, Kwok Mang-ho is often named the most eccentric and unconvential of his country. In his 30 year career, he has produced a wide number of performances, sculptures, paintings and installations. Pioneering the experimental art movement, he was the only one of his kind creating new forms of self-expression in the '70s and '80s, while the rest of Asia was more focused on realist traditions. Through his work, which he calls "Frogtopia," he hopes to create a cross-cultural bridge to join the East and the West. 

The Hong Kong Pavillion at the Venice Biennale celebrates his work, featuring his high-density living environments made out of unconventional objects, reflecting the contradictions and consumer society of Hong Kong. 

photo via: NY Mag

4. Carine Roitfeld
One of the most powerful figures in the fashion industry, Carine Roitfeld is widely acknowledged as the definition of cool. A former stylist and late editor-in-chief of French Vogue, Ms. Roitfeld holds a "cult status as the queen of the 'French Vogue look.'" Unlike most editors, Roitfeld is more interested in art than business, known for racy, sometimes controversial campaigns, completely opposite of what commercial money-making glossies are looking for.

In a recent lunch interview with Financial Times, Roitfeld comments how fashion shows today are less fun than how it was 10 years ago. With so much money involved, she notes, "...the designer has to produce a great show that will sell clothes but also keep the name of the brand high to sell the perfumes. Sometimes you can really feel the business behind the fashion show." Although Roitfeld left her position at Vogue awhile ago, she is busy collaborating with Barneys on its autumn campaign, including its catalogue and window displays. As Barneys New York Creative Director Dennis Freedman quotes, "Carine is a one of a kind talent. She is both a muse and an inspiration. She has extraordinary individual style and infectious passion."

photo via: Telegraph

5. Kanye West

Love him or hate him, Kanye West is always making headlines. And while we aren't always proud of some of his choices, such as his remarks at the MTV Video Music Awards, we have to give him credit for never giving up. A self-proclaimed fashion enthusiast, besides music, Kanye West's other love lies in fashion. "King of the front row," Kanye West has been spotted in some of the most renowned Parisian design houses, possibly gathering inspiration for his upcoming men and women high-end collection.

With a studio already set in Paris, West is currently at work in revisiting his career in making clothes. In 2009, he took on an internship at Fendi, and designed a range of trainers for Louis Vuitton. And although his "Pastelle" fashion line in 2009 was announced but never released, Kanye West is taking a stab in fashion one more time, and hopefully it's something worth noticing.

photo via: Met Museum

6. Alexander McQueen

In his nineteen year career, Alexander McQueen dedicated every minute to his collections. A master of conceptualizing culture, politics, and identity through clothing, McQueen will forever be remembered as a fashion genius. A close friend of fashion icon Daphne Guiness, McQueen attracted more muses than any other designer. Perfecting the balance of beauty, life, and death, his clothing is often regarded as a work of art. An expert craftsman, artist, and a true master mind, McQueen has left a legacy that could never be replaced. Entitled "Savage Beauty," an extensive collection of his work is currently on display at the MET.

photo via: NY Times

7. Guy Laliberté
Co-founder and owner of Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberté is one of the most powerful and influential men in the entertainment industry. With humble beginnings as an accordian-playing street performer, today Laliberté currently manages 22 productions all over the globe, reaching all continents except Antarctica, with revenues expected to reach over $1 billion by next year.

And although his career is inspiring, Laliberté is also the founder One Drop, a foundation dedicated to raising awareness on water-related issues. With a mission to provide safe drinking water all around the world, the foundation organizes projects in dozens of countries in partnership with Cirque du Soleil. Laliberté is also one of the very few lucky people who was able to travel around the world, and his photographs from space will be displayed and sold to raise money for his foundation.

June 8, 2011

On the Production End...

As the global economy faces a number of changes, from environmental disasters to social outbreaks, the future of production relies on smart, rapid adjustments in order to adapt. Whether that involves relocation, textile/material modifications, or design adjustments, companies all over the world are feeling the impact and doing whatever it takes to maintain quality while minimizing financial loss.

photo via: Red Luxury

While for decades China was seen as the world's production center, as their economy continues to rise, the nation has shifted toward becoming the next biggest consumer market. Designer brands such as Fendi, Burberry, Prada, just to name a few, have all implemented plans to increase brand presence across China. In order to solidify long term commitment to brand ownership in Asia, Kate Spade recently announced a joint venture in Mainland China with the E.Land group and reacquired its existing Kate Spade New York business in Mainland China from Globalluxe Ltd. this year. Many companies, from designer level to mid-price have all either opened more stores, staged runway shows and special events, or developed new offices. This shift of seeing China as potential consumers rather than a source of production is seen all across the board.

Due to higher wages and increased land costs, many brands have been forced to move their production to developing countries to gain higher profit margins. This is a drastic change for many, as most retailers have heavily relied on China for so long. For example, American luxury lifestyle brand Coach Inc. recently made plans to shift nearly half of its manufacturing out of China due to increased labor costs. While Coach increases sales in China, it plans to cut production in China to 40-50% from 85% at present. Instead, the company will begin further developments in countries with lower wages such as Vietnam, Philippines, and India.

While there are many others like Coach, resolving the issue by looking for a "new China" or "China alternative," these moves are unsustainable and will not work as long term solutions. In times where wise decision making is crucial, we suggest rethinking sourcing strategies that will not only increase profit, but also offer a plan that can truly last.

photo via: NY Times

Instead of looking to developing countries, one solution is staying close to home. Expressing their commitments to the North American market, German car manufacturing company Volkswagen, recently designed a new version of their midsize sedan, the Passat, specifically for America and is building them in its own new $1 billion plant in Tennessee. By manufacturing in the states and buying 85% of the parts from nearby suppliers, the company is able to significantly cut down its costs. There are reduced shipping and labor costs, and currency exchange rates are not an issue.

Furthermore, a recent study shows that 65% of wealthy American consumers prefer to buy American-made products whenever possible.  In a recent survey of more than 1,300 wealthy shoppers, U.S. ranked highest on an index measuring the quality of its luxury goods manufacturing, beating European countries like Italy and France.

photo via: Brooks Brothers

In retail, brands of all segments are reconsidering the "Made-in-America" label. The front page of menswear designer, Joseph Abboud's website proudly notes "Made in USA" and includes a video of the importance of American-made goods and shares background information of their production in Massachusetts. The Brooks Brothers' website also has a "Made in America" link, with factories from New York to North Carolina. Luxury jewelry company Tiffany & Co. has also expanded its manufacturing base to Lexington, Kentucky, and makes 60% of its jewelry itself.

photo via: PopSugar.com

Furthermore, New York-based label, The Row, continues to gain momentum as it was recently awarded for a new talent award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Using factories in New York and Los Angeles, T-shirts retail for $250 and short dresses for $2,350. While the prices may be higher, the brand has accumulated a cult-like following, winning favor from even our First Lady Michelle Obama.

Quoting Brooks Brothers chief executive Claudio Del Vecchio, "There is a customer that appreciates that the product is made in the United States and is willing to pay for the difference." Ten years ago, Brooks Brothers made few goods in the US, while today, most of their goods are American-made. As the American economy is still facing pressing issues of unemployment, if they can afford it, consumers are willing to pay the higher price to show their patriotic support. Furthermore, as people are more interested in brand transparency, wanting to know where and how their products were made, locally-sourced and manufactured goods are slowly becoming the overall preference.

photo via: Ecouterre

As raw materials such as cotton prices continue to rise, cost cutting is also a new skill many brands are learning to develop. Working with "deconstruction" experts like Peter Brown, companies are seeking to make small, minor adjustments that when added up, save a significant amount. The goal is to not cheapen the product, but to see if there is any part of the production process that is unnecessary and eliminate whatever possible to keep costs low. This is similar to the zero-waste concept, more commonly known in eco-friendly fashion practices, but is also becoming a rising trend as reducing waste continues to be an important factor. Earlier this year, New York Parsons School of Design began teaching their students how to produce zero-waste fashion, in collaboration with Loomstate. And Hannah Learner, a student at Parsons, produced the first zero-waste thesis collection, mentored by Study NY's Tara St. James and the assistant professor.

Overall, we believe that eco-friendly practices will naturally find its' way into the future of production. Not only is it the responsible thing to do, but when done right, companies will see that it is actually profitable. The above is just a small glimpse of some examples, and we strongly believe that in time, there will be an even greater synergy between the two.

June 1, 2011

June MBF Favorite Picks

The weather here in NYC is finally starting to look more like what it's supposed to be -- spring! With the rainy days hopefully behind us (fingers crossed), we dish out our spring/summer must-have pieces for this month's MBF Favorite Picks. Carefully hand selected, each pick below is equally chic and eco-conscious. So if you haven't done so already, get ready to store away your winter wardrobe and make room for the sunny days!

photo via: Madewell

Wanderlust Angkor Friendship Bracelets
Taking us back to the days of summer camp, these one-of-a-kind friendship bracelets make the perfect compliment to any outfit. Buy several and layer up different color combinations, or pick one as a pop color to brighten up your look. A perfect gift for your best friend (and one for yourself), these bracelets are hand made by artisans in Cambodia using plastic from recycled bottles.

photo via: Fleabags

Fleabags Salt Bag: Aquarium
The core concept of NYC-based label, Fleabags, is based on the goal of creating a bag that was as green as possible while maintaining high quality and covetable design. Thus, much research was put into the types of canvas, leather and parts available in the United States that would fit their eco-friendly standards. Fleabags are wholly sourced in the US and made in New York of organic and vintage materials, and vegetable-tanned, American and Italian leathers.

photo via: Liebling

Liebling's Naomi Sandal
Liebling is a unique brand of handmade ladies shoes launched in Tel Aviv, Israel in 2009. With an emphasis on comfort, functionality and uniqueness, each shoe is produced in limited editions. Check out their latest collection here.

photo via: Hound
Hound Meridian Dress
With color blocking as one of this summer's biggest trends, Chicago-based brand, Hound, offers a wide range of fun and flirty dresses, tops, and bottoms in their latest collection.

photo via: Poketo

Poketo Upcycled Leather Passport Case
Poketo's upcycled leather passport case is the perfect companion to your summer travels. Handmade from 100% vintage leather sofas, no two of these cases are ever the same in color and texture. Choose your favorite color combination and Poketo will send you one that matches as closely as possible.

photo via: Wolfum

Wolfum Home Products
Wolfum's beautifully printed coasters and napkins add just the right amount of pop to your summer barbecues and dinner parties. All of Wolfum's products are handmade in Los Angeles using recycled poly and organic cotton manufactured in the US. Wood products are comprised of fairly harvested Latvian Baltic birch and US based FSC certified walnut.

photo via: Kaight
Bodkin Twister Swimsuit
Flattering almost any body shape, Bodkin's Twister Swimsuit is the most fabulous one-piece we've seen yet. Made in NYC from salvaged lycra and nylon, this is going to be a staple for the beach bumming days.

photo via: Ecouterre

We haven't forgotten about you, gentlemen! Riz Boardshorts make the perfect uniform to hot summer days. Using 100% recycled and recyclable sueded polyester, each old pair can be sent back and recycled in their "Rizcycle" process, reducing harmful waste and conserving natural resources.

photo via: AHAlife

Elvis & Kresse Fire Hose Accessories
Let's not forget, Father's Day is June 19. Show a little love and appreciation with Elvis & Kresse's reclaimed fire hose wash bag, the ultimate accessory for weekend travels, albeit a business trip or a relaxing vacation. The extremely durable and cool pouch is made from fire hoses collected in the U.K. Each bag has lettering and numbers to indicate the origin of the firehouse it was made from. 50% of profits are also donated to the Fire Fighters Charity.

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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.