5 Things You May Have Missed This Week

By Georgia Buchanan

1. Post-Brexit Britain: The World’s Cheapest Luxury Market

With the value of the pound down about 10% against the euro in the wake of our vote to Leave the EU, Britain has now become the cheapest luxury goods market in the world; something for us to revel in, at least in the short term. “A weak British pound will boost travel to the UK, helping British luxury goods players like Burberry, Mulberry and Jimmy Choo,” reports Luca Solca, the head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas.

Luxury goods sold in Europe are already amongst the cheapest in the world, costing less than i the US and far less than in Asia. So with a weakened pound, Britain’s market has suddenly become the most preferable place to buy luxury goods in the world. Some predict an impending tourist spending boom in the UK as a result of not only the weakened pound, but also the recent terror attacks in France, which have significantly decreased foreign footfall to the normally very popular tourist destination.

Tourists tend to love a bargain, and even more so when the price-slashed product is from a far and distant land to give it that extra bit of ‘ooh la la’. So with the weakened pound creating a more pronounced pricing difference between us and the rest of the luxury goods markets (that leans in our favour), it is not surprising that our British luxury brands like Burberry, Mulberry and Jimmy Choo are being set up to expect a boost in sales. With a high store count across the country, including its largest flagships, Burberry “should experience a significant tailwind, especially as it reports its profits in pounds” (Business of Fashion).

However, whilst this may all sound like a surprisingly positive turn of events following our shock Leave vote, “smaller brands like Kering’s Stella McCartney and Prada’s Church’s, which also have a high exposure to the UK, are unlikely to see any material boost to the profits or their respective owners, who would be negatively impacted by currency exchange losses” (Business of Fashion). So not all good, but we must appreciate the pros whilst we can, and give Burberry it’s time to shine.

2. Instagram Stories: Marketers’ New Favourite

Big news this week. Instagram has completely ripped off Snapchat and started it’s own ‘Stories’ feature that allows you to upload real time photos and videos to your followers that delete themselves after 24 hours. So literally, exactly the same. All that Instagram Stories is missing is the beloved (dog) filter options.

Despite the copycat nature of the feature, however, brands seem to have already decided on it as the favourite over Snapchat. Reason being? Instagram is apparently more welcoming, and bigger. Nike jumped on the Insta Stories on the first day of its launch, and generated 800,000 views in 24 hours with its story. On Snapchat, Nike’s most viewed video got just 66,000 views, reports social media agency Laundry Service. Nick Sheingold, associate director of strategy, said “Instagram is really brand friendly, so that’s a huge opportunity. Those numbers are staggering.” Whilst Snapchat is extremely popular, and a vast amount of brands have been using its Story feature successfully to market to its large (mostly millennial) user base, the platform doesn’t embrace brands in the way that Instagram does, allowing for prolonged engagement and greater conversion rates, by making it easy to follow them and like their posts. Instagram makes searching easier, and it lets brands buy ads that have “follow” buttons in their posts.

“Instagram is a follower platform where Snapchat is more of a best friend platform,” said Dan Grossman, vice president of platform partnerships at VaynerMedia. “Snapchat hasn’t encouraged brands to build up huge followings.” The Story style is clearly one that brands are a fan of and that translates well to consumers, but the Snapchat app was perhaps not the best platform for this medium; not allowing the brands to get the full potential out of their stories. When integrated into Instagram, it suddenly becomes that much more connected.

A huge number of brands have already taken to Instagram to post stories this week, e.g. Mountain Dew, Coach “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”, and the Miami Dolphins, and it is likely this list will continue to grow at a rapid pace as promotion of the feature spreads. Sheingold said: “It’s just another way to communicate with fans on their terms. We know users love Snapchat, and since the Instagram experience is so similar it makes it a little easier for brands. They don’t have to develop a totally unique strategy.” One thing that Instagram does do differently to Snapchat, is allow you to restrict your video to certain users, which is a huge pro for alcohol brands, wanting to promote new drinks to 21s and overs.

With double the number of users, Instagram now poses a substantial threat to Snapchat and its longevity. The Snapchat users are suitably obsessed with the platform, however, and its ad suite and products are still the best creatively in the industry, so it’s by no means over and out. I personally am not sure how I feel about yet another variation of a virtually identical social media feature that takes us more into the virtual worlds of ourselves and the distant celebrities and brands we so avidly follow… But unfortunately, as a sufferer of FOMO, I feel the wait until my first Instagram Story is going to be a short one. Then it’s just the question of whether I delete my Snapchat, or end up posting the same story twice across two different platforms and thus decreasing my time in the real world even more. I’m hoping I’ll be strong enough to make it the former.

3. Snapchat Develops “Snappable Ads” Feature

Snapchat isn’t bowing out any time soon, though, with a new feature of the app apparently currently in development…

Do you ever see an ad for something that takes your interest so you take a photo to remind yourself about it at a later date? I actually do, so Snapchat’s new “snappable ad” feature sounds pretty interesting to me. It will apparently allow Snapchatters to use the app’s camera to scan an image or barcode on a poster or website to receive a special deal on a product.

In July, Snapchat published a patent application that shows how users can scan Snapcodes, its custom QR code system, in the real world to unveil exclusive content within the app. This, plus the app’s introduction of an API and better analytics, demonstrate a increased focus from the company on its advertising strategy. The new QR code system could be the best development by the app so far, as having a user take an action like scanning a QR code would make an ad more valuable by increasing engagement.

The codes, which can be scanned with mobile phones, have been around for a while, but have been particularly popular. That is until Snapchat has started to see surprising success with the format. “In 2014, it acquired Scan.Me, a QR code company, for $50 million, and used its tech to release Snapcodes in January 2015. Each user has a unique Snapcode, and users can scan those codes to quickly add each other on the app. The feature has been so popular that messaging apps like Facebook Messenger have copied it” (quartz.com). This development could pay off greatly for Snapchat in the form of this “shoppable ad” feature, which is due to roll out in Autumn, allowing users easy access to exclusive content and freebies from companies working alongside the app.

4. Technology in Rio: Creating Super Olympians

This article is from FashNerd.

With the Rio Olympics looming, big brands like Nike, Adidas, Under Armour to name a few, are not being shy about putting their best tech foot forward. They are scaling technology to deliver greater performance and innovation. Recently, Nike hit the headlines with their Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit track spike that they had designed and created for sprinter Allyson Felix using rapid 3D prototyping. We love that they did not stop there, they also came up with a cooling hood prototype for decathlete Ashton Eaton and a Nike football Rebento duffle bag that was made with a 3D-printed base.

Then there is Adidas. They are all about using the latest technology advancements in body scanners to create custom form fitted suits that would help athletes be the best they can be. On this, director of future at Adidas, Deborah Yeomans admitted that besides their contribution to this year’s Olympic’s in Rio, their engineers are already at work on designs that will be available 10 years from now.

We also have to mention Swiss cycling specialist Assos. As the official supplier for the US cycling team, ASSOS clothing has been predicted to most likely give athletes a powerful advantage whilst competing in Rio. Such a perk does bring to mind the question of whether such tech advanced clothing could be the apparel equivalent of doping. Well, Adam Clement, senior creative director for team sports at Under Armour explained, “We make sure we stay inside those rules, but we will get to the very edge of them if we can. Our goal is to innovate in a way that ultimately makes the Olympic rules change. We’ll adjust, but we’ll feel proud of that accomplishment.”

When it comes to innovation’s role in sports, one needs to first realize that technology is not the fairy godmother of athletes waving its innovative magic wand and turning them into ‘the Avengers’. A great example is Under Armour’s high-tech suit for speed skating. There was a lot of high hope for what their design could do for the US team, but following their poor performance, some of the blame was laid at the feet of Under Armour, but the thing is technology is a work in progress and is anything but perfect. Instead, it gives brands like Under Armour the opportunity to learn from what went wrong and create an even stronger product. Now this year, Under Armour has designed uniforms for the Canadian rugby and the Swiss and Dutch beach volleyball teams. Using NASA spacesuit technology, their smart sports clothing will reduce body temperature with the help of crystal-pattern sheets that will absorb heat from the athlete’s body.

Then there is the running shoe. A collaboration between running specialist Brooks and Linden gave birth to Hyperion shoes. The light road-running shoes were engineered for maximum efficiency. Believing that they are light years ahead of the competition, Linden shared that when it comes to their products, “There’s no wasted energy. It’s going right back into you. It feels fast.” With their Hyperion shoes already available for consumers to purchase, there has been some added value given to the Olympian pairs. They brag extra laser perforations that will assist with ventilation during Rio’s heat.

Accelerating towards the future, fashion tech designers like Pauline van Dongen, who recently worked with Skyn, are taking on the challenge to study the behavior of materials, so they can push and manipulate the boundaries. The collaboration between Pauline van Dongen and Skyn gave life to the long jump suit. Designed with the objective to show expressive motion during the jump, they integrated a geometric structure in the polyisoprene and created an upward lift that would help the athlete to stay in the air a little longer. By combining functionality and performance, the concept brags the ability to be worn like a second skin. Still considered an experimental and speculative project, the concept piece will not be developed into a marketable viable product, as of yet.

5. Sustainable Fashion: The New Cotton Alternative

As we know, the fashion industry in its current state is a threat to our planet. It is the second-most-polluting industry in the world, just after oil, and one of the main culprits of this pollution is cotton. Whilst it may be a wardrobe staple, regarded as the most breathable and natural fabric, it actually takes acres of land to grow and significant inputs of water, thus draining our planet of two of its key energy sources. But recently the fashion world has been waking up to the dangers of the fashion’s carbon footprint, and has begun to make changes, discovering and developing “a whole new set of fabrics that go beyond the polyesters and synthetics of previous generations to find solutions that are both eco-friendly and fashion-forward” (vogue.com).

Amongst these sustainable fabrics, is a new alternative to cotton that is, believe it or not, made of wood. More specifically, eucalyptus trees. Tencel is a wood-based fibre which is being used by celebrity-favoured labels like DSTLD to create tight hip-hugging skinny jeans. The pulp from the sustainably harvested eucalyptus trees is converted to produce cellulose, which is then processed, and the result is a fibre that breathes more than cotton, is softer than cotton, and that wrinkles less than cotton. Tick, tick, tick. Lenzing, an Austrian supplier of environmentally conscious brands, uses a “closed loop” production cycle that is nontoxic and runs on renewable energy more than half the time. “Add to this that Tencel, which Lenzing refers to as a “botanic fiber,” is completely biodegradable, and you have something close to a completely green fashion product” (vogue.com). And yet the quality is still completely luxurious.

There are cons to this super fabric, however, as it is not as widely available as cotton, nor as cheap. Hopefully this won’t deter the masses though, as a slightly increased price tag is a small price to pay for the longevity of our planet. Brands such as Reformation are champions of the “Beyoncé of fabrics”, with founder and CEO, Yael Aflalo explaining: “Tencel has pretty much all the same characteristics of cotton, so it’s a very easy alternative to knit fabric. It’s pretty much a ‘no trade-off’ fabric for us.”

Aside from Tencel, other eco-friendly and fashion-forward fabrics are being brought to the forefront of fashion brands’ minds, such as moisture-wicking MicroModal, being used for men’s and women’s underwear. Another discovery has been bamboo towels, which is breathable and offers durability, and even has antibacterial properties, making it “the opposition of disposable fashion”, says London-based designer Alice Asquith, who discovered the fabric in 2007. Asquith’s lounge pants, tanks and tees are made with 95% bamboo fabric and 5% elastic, and she has recently developed a blend of bamboo and organic cotton for her leggings which she calls “Bambor” (60% bamboo, 30% cotton).

Hopefully these new alternatives to standard fabrics will start to spread to the mass markets, and education of what synthetics and cotton are doing to our planet will also spread. With enough development and understanding, sustainable fashion can become the future.