5 Things You May Have Missed This Week

By Georgia Buchanan

1. Rebecca Minkoff x Jessica Alba: Helping Women Entrepreneurs to Get Funding

With the occurrence of International Women’s Day this week, I thought it only fitting to include a piece about powerful women in FashTech in this weeks digest. Cue Rebecca Minkoff, fash tech extraordinaire, speaking at the Inc. Women’s Summit.

Rebecca has always been a champion of technology and social media in the creation and progression of her fashion brand. When she was told at the beginning of her career by others in the industry not to ‘dirty herself’ by engaging directly with her consumers, she ignored them, because she knew it was going to be the most powerful and fruitful way for her to grow her brand. She describes how online forums were where she first started to build her customer database and that, to this day, they are still some of her most longstanding and loyal customers. She even uses Periscope to give her consumers an insight into her daily routines. Rebecca was the first designer on Snapchat, and has even filmed her shows using VR. She always puts the customer first when designing new products. And she wants to empower women in technology.

With this in mind, Rebecca spoke briefly of her work with Jessica Alba, founder of Honest, this year to help FINCA, a leading international Microfinance Institution offering financial services and products to small scale businesses that have been turned down by traditional banks, and thus empowering women worldwide. In March, Rebecca and Jessica travelled to Guatemala to meet some of these women (or clients), to hear their stories and to give them their loans. If you are interested to read more about Finca, click here: http://www.finca.org/

2. Bricks-and-Mortar vs. Online Shopping

Bricks-and-mortar shops are in somewhat of an identity crisis. With the ever-growing threat from online shopping, many stores are trying out new and original ways in which to capture their consumers’ attention and create greater footfall. The latest ideas to surface this week included Bloomingdale’s in-store scavenger hunt, and Bonobos’ showroom stores.

Bloomingdale’s, in the pursuit of a new market segment, have generated excitement this week with a new interactive shopping experience. Partnering with Museum Hack, the retail giant has created #BloomiesHack scavenger hunt shopping experiences at its flagship store on 59th Street in New York. The hunts will take place on four separate dates in March, with shoppers participating in teams of two to five people with the hopes of winning bonus points and prizes. The idea behind the campaign is to create an emotional bond with the consumer, leading to a positive lasting relationship; both with new and existing customers, and also to promote Bloomingdale’s as an experience, not just a shop. The use of the hashtag #BloomiesHack also encourages a younger millennial crowd to engage with the event, promoting it via social media channels.

Meanwhile, The Bonobos shop on lower Fifth Avenue is creating a buzz for a different reason, being the only shop on the avenue’s row of retailers that will have no stock to sell. Their shoppers can survey racks of clothes, try on garments and decide which items they want to purchase, like in any other store, BUT they cannot then buy those clothes to take home. In the same way as if you were shopping for large furniture, this idea separates the purchase of a product from its immediate distribution. It is only very recently that clothing retailers have started to tag on to this more unconventional way of selling.

If you’re thinking “this sounds crazy, why would a retailer want a showroom instead of a shop?”, well… firstly, it’s expensive to store and sell goods in the same place. A space has to be leased (very expensive in central locations) and staff costs increase due to extra hours needed for tasks such as unpacking deliveries overnight. Secondly, employees can spend more time re-stacking shelves than they do attending to customers, and thirdly, companies can never perfectly predict which items will sell and which will linger.

Bonobos is the most prominent example of an American online retailer that has showrooms available for shoppers to inspect the garments in real life before ordering online. And it may very well be an indicator of what is to come in the foreseeable future.

3. MatchesFashion x Altuzarra = Digital Trunk Show

E-commerce sites are extremely popular. We all know that. Shops are really having to work hard to up their game to compete with online retailers, as demonstrated in the piece above. But one thing you couldn’t get online until now? A trunk show experience, where you can preview a designer’s newest collection before ordering your selections.

UK-based luxury retailer and fashion fav Joseph Altuzarra have partnered up to release a capsule collection online later this Spring. Diana Pasgas, of fashionotes.com says “Nothing is cooler than seeing fashion adopt technology and make the most out of it”, and we couldn’t agree more. Tech is being implemented by the fashion world in such a diverse myriad of ways now; this is yet another step towards progressing the way in which the fashion industry functions.

Having sold out of its favourite garment, the shirtdress, in record time in Spring 2015, leaving Altuzarra with many distraught customers, this capsule collection, or ‘digital trunk show’, gives the retailer the brilliant opportunity to bring back its most popular recent piece, and reap the rewards.

The idea sounds like such a brilliantly simple one that it seems likely other retailers will catch on and follow suit until ‘digital trunk shows’ are just another industry norm brought to us by the ever-evolving collaboration between fashion and technology. And then someone will come up with the next idea, and so it goes on.

4. Menswear vs. Womenswear in the Social Media World

Do different rules apply for how to use social media in the worlds of menswear and womenswear? This is a topic that was raised this week with Stella McCartney’s announcement that she would be venturing into the world of men’s fashion.

We already know that, on the whole, retailers and designers now have to be social media savvy because today’s consumers (namely the millennials) want their fashion accessible, and these platforms have a way of bringing collections to the masses.

Men are “responsive to simple straight forward email communications, and the fashionista male consumer will venture in discovering what bloggers have to say about a brand and their recommendations”, says Rony Zeidan, founder of branding agency Ro New York. This is similar to women, but as a general rule the tone of voice for the two will need to vary. Certain brands, like Forever 21, are now creating separate social media outlets for their men’s collections, giving McCartney some serious competition in her foray over to the other sex. Barneys department store have worked out their branding to a T for their separate @barneysman Instagram account. “Launching a men’s line will require a completely separate social media outlet by keeping it tied into the existing channels catering for women to feed the audience into the men’s brand” Zeidan says. 

“Male consumers are significantly more brand orientated than women” says Jorge Martin, a project manager at Euromonitor International specialising in apparel. This is obviously a strong starting point for McCartney, given that she is a hugely well established name in the industry. However, the success of her upcoming menswear line will be hugely dependent on her social media strategy, and understanding the key differences in her target demographics in order to maximise engagement.

5. Obsessee: a Social Media-Only Content Brand

On the topic of social media and the huge role it plays in todays society, here we introduce Obsessee, Clique Media Group’s latest offering, and first social media-only content brand. A next generation title, or “content brand and community”, Obsessee will cover fashion, culture, music, beauty, food, shopping and relationships for a 14-22 year old demographic. But the USP? The content will be created and distributed exclusively on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr.

Using videos, photos, live Q&As, social takeovers, interviews and news, the new title will cater to the new generation of consumers, reaching them solely through the mediums that they rely on on a day to day basis. Katherine Power, co-founder and former Elle employee, describes how “So much of this discovery, relationship-building, creativity and story-sharing occurs on social media now, so it was only natural to make that the home for our content. Our target readers are already there; we are just making better content easier for them to discover. From a reader-acquisition standpoint, it is fitting. Think about how you show your friend something that catches your eye; you tag them in a post on social media”.

With Instagram and Snapchat virtually taking over the fashion world (Designer Snapchat Stories were all anyone was talking about this Fashion Month), it makes sense to go directly to where the readers are. But of course, in order to make any money, Obsessee will need to accumulate a decent amount of sponsored content and advertorials in order to see any income. This isn’t something they’re worried about though, with Power stating they will simply monetise the site by “playing into Gen Z’s habits of consuming media on these social platforms”. And if it is that simple, you can be sure that there will be many more “content brand and communities” popping up in the coming months.