5 Things You May Have Missed This Week

By Georgia Buchanan

1. Retailers' Rallying Cry To Recycle

H&M may be one of the key culprits in the fast fashion epidemic seen across the Western world, but in one of its latest celebrity-filled promo videos, the brand proclaims: “There are no rules in fashion but one: Recycle your clothes.” H&M is one of the most vocal retailers in the quest to turn old clothes new again, and with Nike, the Swedish brand is a global partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “whose mission is to drive a transition to a circular economy” (The Guardian), whereby goods are made into something new at the end of their lifetime, instead of being thrown away. Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of H&M, said: “We have to change how fashion is made. We have to go from a linear model to a circular model, and we have to do it at scale.”

Other established global brands working towards the cause are American Eagle, Levi-Strauss & Co, Nike, Patagonia and Zara; all of whom collect old garments in their stores to recycle. “Our ultimate goal is to harvest our raw materials from our consumers’ closets,” says Michael Kobori, VP of sustainability at Levi-Strauss. Meanwhile, newer startups on the rise are developing chemical processes to take cotton, polyester, or blended apparel and transform them into new fibres.

The quest for a circular economy is not an easy one, however. Despite efforts to collect old clothes by retailers and charities, the large majority of contributions will still end up in landfills. The US dispose of roughly 12.8 million tons of textiles annually; a figure that is going to take some serious time and effort to cut down. If retailers want to decrease their negative environmental impact, it is going to take some radical action.

Hannah Jones, Nike’s Chief Sustainability Officer, believes that if Nike is going to reach its goal of cutting its environmental footprint by half, whilst doubling its business, the company “will need to forget the linear and move to a circular model. Incrementalism and efficiency measures will not get us there.” Anna Gedda, H&M’s head of sustainability, says the company wants to “decouple growth from resource use, so that economic and social development can happen, but within planetary boundaries.”

However, this is not an easy task. Firstly, because very few consumers actually return their old clothes, despite discount incentives. And secondly, because there is such a long way to go. Some insiders say that “the hype about closing the loop in fashion is outpacing actual progress.” Not only that, but the difference between recycling and actually closing the loop is a big one. A closed loop or circular economy is “restorative and regenerative by design,” says the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “For the apparel industry, this means designing a system that will keep textile resources in use for a long as possible, and then recover the materials at the end of life to make new high-value products. No company today is doing this on a commercial scale, but several are trying” (The Guardian). Hopefully this means the beginning of the end of the throwaway clothing culture.

2. The Midyear Luxury Consignment Reports Are In

This article is from Glossy.

Midyear luxury resale reports from companies like The RealReal and ThredUp shine a bright light on the trends and challenges in retail. Chief among them are a focus on menswear and the revival of legacy brands previously on the decline.

“What we find is what’s happening in our business in the secondary market is a direct reflection of what’s happening in the primary market,” said Rati Levesque, chief merchant at The RealReal. The report found a rising interest in menswear consignment, which dovetails with the larger market.

Reports also show a resurgence of legacy brands like Chloé and Gucci, both of which recently experienced leadership changes and increased digital offerings that have bolstered sales.

In the menswear market, suit sales rose by 60 percent and men’s consignment has more than doubled, growing at a rate of 108 percent year over year, according to the The RealReal report. Levesque said one of the most surprising findings was that the men’s Birkin bag sold 100 percent of its inventory, demonstrating a mounting interest among men in consignment luxury apparel and bags.

“Men are becoming more engaged in consignment. They’re thinking more about what they’re purchasing and what has value in the secondary market,” she said.

This could be in part due to the lower stakes involved with investing in resale. As Jian Deleon, menswear editor at WGSN, told Glossy, “given the market, the general men’s consumer is not someone who take risks.”

According to ThredUp, the total resale market is poised to reach $25 billion at a total growth rate of 82 percent for online apparel resale by 2025. The company anticipates this is expected to outpace both e-commerce and retail in the next 10 years, and will be aided by the consolidation of the resale market from 14 major companies to six, in part due to changing sentiment toward resale.

“The secondhand industry is gaining incredible momentum,” Paula Sutter, former president of Diane Von Furstenberg and ThredUp board member wrote in the report. “With heightened interest from consumers, investors and retailers, online resale is becoming a way of life.”

Levesque said ongoing changes in creative leadership at major fashion houses often have a major impact in consumer sentiment in both the resale and wholesale marketplace. Since Phoebe Philo took control of Céline in 2008, The RealReal has seen a continued increase in Céline sales, which was traditionally “a hard brand to move.” Philo’s ascension included launching a series of iconic handbags that helped bring sales up to more than $500 million as of February. In the LVMH Group earnings report shared on July 2016, Céline and Kenzo are noted as brands that specifically demonstrated “strong growth” in the first half of 2016.

The company is now seeing similar trends with Gucci. Levesque said The RealReal was systematically lowering prices in response to lowered demand, until Alessandro Michele took the helm of the brand last year. Over the course of 2015, Gucci overtook Prada to be the fourth biggest seller, the report’s data shows. Prada is now at number six. This echoes Gucci’s overall growth, which earned a total of $1 billion in Q1 of 2016, up by 3.1 percent from Q1 2015.

“Now you see everything Gucci,” she said. “Older, newer, it’s all moving very quickly at a higher average selling point.”

Brands like Chloé, which is in the midst of a major digital transformation with its first foray into e-commerce, also performed well. The report showed that sales of the Chloé Drew handbag increased by 18 percent and the Chloé Marcie bag by 15 percent, and the online store will only enhance the resale market, Levesque predicted.

3. Indie Fast Fashion: A Force To Be Reckoned With

Fast fashion has taken the Western world by storm in the form of retail giants like Zara and H&M, but recently, a new wave of retailers are coming up the ranks. Indie, low-priced, trend-driven fashion start ups armed with e-commerce skills are carving out a niche in the market.

Brands like Finery London, W Concept and Style Mafia, have honed their e-commerce and branding to perfection, appealing to niche demographic groups, in particular catering to the rise of trend-hungry Millennial consumers. Finery’s founder, Nickyl Raithatha, came up with the idea to build a “premium high street” brand online after watching the rise of similar companies in the US. “That approach wasn’t really being done in Europe. I felt that there was about to be a whole new generation of brands that would be built online, and would offer the consumer a new experience and a new retail channel,” he said. “What we saw since the financial crisis is that a lot of product on the high street became deflationary, and prices were always coming down. As a result, the product was becoming slightly more risk-averse, more homogenous and less brave and exciting.” Therefore, he sought to create garments with edgy, trend-driven elements at a price point slightly above the high street standard. They also operate more like a designer brand by currently releasing just six collections a year, but are able to adjust their merchandising strategy quickly to address consumers’ immediate needs, giving them an edge over traditional retailers in the UK. “Because we’re direct-to-consumer on our website, we have that flexibility to push product that’s more relevant to the consumer, says Raithatha. “We might drop a new collection on the site but not highlight it. For instance, if we drop a summer pack and it’s raining and could out, we probably won’t push it to our customers.”

“Fast fashion has yet to be an online phenomenon,” says John Thorbeck, chairman of analytics firm Chainge Capital LLC. “Zara and other big names were relatively late to online. So it’s really been a store-driven experience and the online existed to drive traffic to stores. It’s a wonderful opportunity for a young brand.”

Style Mafia, another Indie startup making a name for itself, is keeping its prices low and its retail strategy nimble. “We’re not Zara, or this huge multi-million dollar retailer, so we don’t make crazy amounts of one style, says founder Simonett Pereira. “We make a lot of different styles, but not a lot of each.” This allows her to keep inventory low and move quickly with the current trends. She monitors what’s hot on social media, jots out a design based on her findings and sends it to her manufacturer in China where it can be made in just 15 days. “The time frame being so immediate allows us to respond to what the customer wants right now, right away,” says sales manager, Sarah Humphries. “It’s instant gratification.” Or fast fashion nailed to a T.

“I really think we’re moving toward seasonless merchandising that brings freshness and newness almost on a weekly basis versus focussing on the big seasonal trend,” says Thorbeck. “The advantage for these startups is they’re starting with this new culture, and don’t have to go through the agonising change that older retailers will have to do to address it.” For now, though, these start ups are a long way from threatening the established fast fashion giants. “We haven’t seen anything explode on the level that they could even be competing with Zara or H&M,” says Euromonitor’s Kissane. “If there’s potential for that to happen, they’ll have to offer something more than just clothes at a low price. It can’t just be another fast fashion brand.”

4. Are Fashion Designers Undermining Their Own Products By Supporting Apple?

This article is from The Washington Post.

In the ongoing legal wranglings between tech giants Apple and Samsung, a group of fashion industry luminaries recently weighed in on behalf of Apple. They include designers Calvin Klein, Lanvin’s former creative director Alber Elbaz, Alexander Wang, Louis Vuitton’s Nicolas Ghesquière and Sacai’s Chitose Abe. They’ve all taken Apple’s side in a lawsuit that dates back to 2012 in which the creator of the iPhone accused Samsung of copying some of the smartphone’s technical features as well as its design. Fashion folks might know very little about software and coding, but they understand the importance of aesthetics. And so in a friend-of-the-court brief, they extol the power and importance of design. As attorney Mark Davies, the brief’s counsel of record, noted in an interview: “It’s the design that sells the product.”

Four years ago, a jury awarded Apple just over $1 billion in damages after finding that Samsung infringed on, among other things, the iPhone’s design patents — namely those protecting the phone’s rounded-off rectangular shape, its screen and its grid display. Essentially, the jury found that the average observer could be misled into purchasing one of Samsung’s phones believing it to be an iPhone. As a matter of law, the offender has to turn over the profits made from selling the copy.

Over time, the award has been reduced to $548 million. But Samsung believes that it should be reduced even further, saying the company shouldn’t have to turn over all the profits, just a certain portion of them. Samsung says a cellphone is made up of discrete elements that comprise both form and function, each of which is dutifully considered by a consumer. Design is just part of what sells the product. Apple says design is wholly and inexorably linked to function. The debate is headed to the Supreme Court this fall in search of a resolution.

A host of companies such as Google, Facebook and eBay have lined up in support of Samsung. They argue that in the case of a product as complicated as a cellphone, Samsung shouldn’t have to relinquish all its profits because of an overlap of a few design elements. Aesthetics matter, but not that much.

The counter-argument, which the fashion community has embraced, is that design is everything. And it should be aggressively protected.

The fashion industry has grappled mightily with the problems of knockoffs and outright counterfeiting. Although the law recognises some unique and iconic designs, the Council of Fashion Designers of America has tried unsuccessfully to lobby Capitol Hill for legislation that would extend greater copyright protections to clothing designs. Critics believe extending copyright laws could hurt competition and stifle commerce by making it more challenging for mass merchants to create cheaper iterations of designer looks. This trickle-down process has helped democratise fashion and fuels no small number of Instagram feeds. Meanwhile, designers have recounted how distinctive handbags, for instance, have been reproduced lickety-split at bargain basement prices, cutting into their profits and, possibly, diluting the prestige of their brand. The travails have Seventh Avenue testing a see-now, buy-now schedule that would have original products available for purchase before the copies can arrive in stores.

Over the years, in an attempt to protect their work, fashion folks have essentially been arguing aesthetics: That dress looks like my dress. The Apple brief goes further.

It argues that “Appearance becomes identified with the underlying functional features and with a particular level of product quality … ”

It’s a line of thinking that raises an uncomfortable question: Does a consumer presume that a $200 copy of a dress is the same quality as the $2,000 original? If so, one could say that while fashion may win the battle on copying, it most certainly will have lost something far more valuable, which is the integrity of its wares. Designers, after all, have always noted that part of the high cost of their work is due to the luxurious hand of the fabric, the clarity and stability of the colors, the skill of artisans whose knowledge has been passed down through generations and the magical voodoo in the fit. It might be enraging to have a fast fashion merchant whip up a look-a-like copy of a runway garment, but at least the runway version could be proudly billed as offering more than just a bedazzled bodice. The friend-of-the-court brief casts a shadow of doubt over that assertion.

Charles Mauro, founder of Mauro New Media, which helps companies make their technology both user-friendly and useful, rallied Apple’s champions. But many of them already had relationships with the Silicon Valley behemoth. In the past few years, Apple has been strengthening its bonds with the fashion industry by inviting designers to collaborate on assorted projects. Abe created wristbands for the Apple Watch and Wang edited personal playlists for Apple music. Apple has also been drawing top executives from the fashion world. In 2013, Paul Deneve, the president of Saint Laurent, and before that Lanvin, was hired as a vice president at Apple. In 2014, Angela Arendts left her post as CEO of Burberry to head up Apple retail. And this spring, Apple sponsored the fashion industry’s biggest celebration of design, the Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This year’s exhibition is Manus x Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology.

Fashion has begun to express its love for technology — beyond simply using high-performance fabrics. At Ralph Lauren, for instance, the company has embedded an athletic shirt with biometric sensors that can give an athlete real-time updates on his workout and make suggestions on how to work harder or smarter.

But fashion is not technology. In tech, elegant design may imply a certain level of function and quality. But in fashion, aesthetics tell consumers almost nothing about function and only hint at quality. Beautiful shoes do not have to be comfortable in order to sell. Consumers have purchased dresses that can be neither washed nor dry-cleaned or that weren’t made for sitting. They buy pencil skirts that are hobbling, sheared fur coats that don’t keep them very warm and mohair sweaters that make them itch. They buy for beauty. They buy for function. And every now and then, the gods smile and a gorgeous product is astonishingly practical.

Apple believes it has blended form, function and quality in a single elegant device. It sees design as essential to its identity as its proprietary algorithms. Fashion has signed onto this notion of the unbreakable relationship between form and function. But it’s still struggling to turn that philosophy into practice.

5. FashTech Winter Summit Announcement!

We are delighted to announce that tickets for our Winter Summit are now ON SALE!

After the brilliant success of our inaugural April Summit, we are very excited to be hosting our second London event, on Friday 11th November, at The Yard in Shoreditch.

Following a similar structure to our first, this Summit will look a little something like this…

- 40 speakers challenging the norm
- 300 industry leaders in fashion, retail, beauty and technology
- Dynamic Agenda authentic to fashion
- Thought provoking discussion over the course of one killer agenda in East London.
- Extensive Networking over beautiful breakfast and delicious organic lunch with drinks reception at the end of the day.

However, being held on a Friday this time, we feel compelled to extend our event hours and invite our attendees to join us for an evening of entertainment (music, networking, drinks and nibbles) to kick off the weekend.

Don’t miss out on this brilliant one-off day of fashion tech insight and extravaganza. Buy your tickets HERE.