University of Fashion Blog

Category "Fashion Business"

How Indie Brands are Revising & Revolutionizing Retail

- - Fashion Business

A busy street in NYC’s Soho neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)

2020 is here and there’s much to look forward to (and not just the election). Although our beloved Barney’s has shuttered its business and major chains such as The Gap and Victoria Secrets are closing stores across the U.S., and a stroll down Madison Ave., uncovers a retail graveyard of a few dozen empty store fronts, good  things are happening for NYC retail. For years now, we’ve been hearing that traditional retail is dead, but wait…hold the presses….indie brands are starting to open boutiques in Soho! Is this a sign that brick-and-mortar will survive after all? Is it that millennials prefer downtown over uptown for their retail experience?

While many digital native brands, such as Glossier, Warby Parker, and Bonobos, started online. Today, these brands are expanding and opening retail ‘concept’ shops for their clients. “According to real estate experts, digitally native brands are predicted to open 850 brick-and-mortar stores in the next 5 years, with New York being the most popular destination,” according to Tinuiti, a NYC-based marketing firm. Through research and marketing, Tinuiti stated that “most of the digital brands opening stores sell apparel, which makes sense; it’s a category where shoppers definitely benefit from interacting with the product in person. We’re sure to see plenty more storefronts from these ecommerce brands — apparel and other categories alike.”

The outside of Glossier’s store in New York. (Photo courtesy of Glossier)

Another trend that is sure to continue is the rise of omnichannel. Retailers need to offer a consistent buying experience across channels, both online and off. The lines between digital and physical shopping experiences are a blur. Retailers need to be agile and responsive to customer needs with branded touchpoints at all parts of the purchasing journey. According to Ray Hartjen, Marketing Director at RetailNext, “Consumers simply don’t think in terms of channels. This isn’t 1998. No one is sitting around and thinking, ‘Hey, I think I’ll do some online shopping.’ For many years and certainly in 2020, it’s all just ‘shopping.’ Shopping journeys now go through a variety of branded touchpoints, digital for sure, but physical touchpoints too, and they are nowhere near linear shopping journeys. Brands need to be nimble, agile and responsive to shopper needs, and they need to deliver seamless, friction-free paths for their shoppers to navigate.”

Through marketing research, Tinuiti states that retail is in fact in the midst of a Retail Renaissance. A recent study by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) showed that opening a physical store increases online traffic by 36% for established retailers and 45% for emerging brands. According to the marketing firm,” In-Store Purchase Funnel is about to be integrated seamlessly into Unified Commerce. The stores will become Experience Retail. In addition to Interactive Technologies such as Smart Fitting Rooms, watch for more in-store immersive innovations in 3D Printing, Eye-Tracking, and Augmented Reality.”

In today’s retail environment, direct-to-consumer brands are reinvigorating the retail scene in NYC. A growing number of e-commerce brands are opening storefronts to grow their businesses further. “Physical retail embodies a social and tangible experience that America’s Amazon-driven format of online retail has yet to duplicate,” Web Smith, the co-founder of Mizzen+Main, said. And so, “digital-first retailers are … investing in extending their direct-to-consumer relationships by owning permanent storefronts in worthwhile locations.” It’s a theme that’s expected to continue to ring out in retail this year. A study in 2018 by real estate research firm Green Street Advisors found so-called digitally native brands altogether have more than 600 stores blanketing the U.S., and counting.

Rents across NYC have also dramatically dropped and are nowhere near levels seen in the peak of 2014. Even Madison Avenue — known for its prestige and high end boutiques such as Chanel, Prada, and Celine— is not immune to the trend of falling rents.

According to CNBC, “in the second quarter of 2019, average asking rents across New York City declined an average of 4.5% from a year ago to $776 per square foot, according to an analysis by commercial real estate services firm CBRE. It marked the seventh consecutive quarter of declines. Rents along Upper Madison Avenue (57th to 77th Streets) in particular dropped 11.7% from a year ago to $1,042 per square foot.”
Thanks to the falling prices of rents and more flexible lease terms, its open the possibility for smaller brands to open shop. At some point, landlords had to budge. A lot of these new retailers weren’t going to pay sky high rents. “If someone was renegotiating a lease today, it’s a very different market than it was 10 or 15 years ago,” said Nicole LaRusso, director of research and analysis at CBRE.

After 2014, as rents started to fall and store closures picked up, “landlords didn’t want to hear it,” LaRusso said. “But most of that lesson has been learned now.” There’s much more negotiating being done today, she said. “I think we are getting to that equilibrium.”

Indie Brand Retail Invasion 
“Meatpacking today is what I would call New York’s ‘it’ neighborhood,” said Jared Epstein, developer at Aurora Capital Associates. Epstein worked on RH’s roughly $250 million deal for a 15-year lease in the area. An RH hotel is also set to open in the Meatpacking District next fall.

“New York has a certain resiliency that is proven time and time again,” Francis Greenburger, founder and CEO of real estate developer Time Equities. “I would never doubt New York resiliency.”

And as a resilient city, here are a few indie brands that have opened retail shops in NYC and across the United States.

Glossier NYC Boutique. (Photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Beauty brand Glossier is a direct-to-consumer label founded by Emily Weiss in 2014. In 2018, her small business surpassed $100 million in revenues. Weiss opened her flagship boutique in Soho, in November of 2018. The store is such a hit that you can find shoppers lining the sidewalk streets to get in, whether it’s to shop or pose in front of the companies signature millennial pink-covered walls. Glossier also has a store in Los Angeles and is experimenting with pop-up locations.

Rothy’s San Francisco store. (photo courtesy of Rothy’s)

Rothy’s, a woman’s shoe label, opened its first brick-and-mortar store in San Francisco in 2018. The label was launched in 2015 in San Francisco by Roth Martin and Stephen Hawthornthwaite, the direct-to-consumer brand created and sold shoes that ranged from ballet flats to loafers for women and kids that are made out of recycled plastic bottles. The brand decided to open its first store so customers can see the shoes in person and try them on before making a purchase. In 2018, Rothy’s gained a $35 million investment from Goldman Sachs and has raised over $42 million to date. Rothy’s booked a little more than $140 million in revenue for 2018.

The outside of Koio’s store in Venice, California. (Photo courtesy of Koio)

Koio, a high-end sneaker brand, was launched in 2014 by Chris Wichert and Johannes Quodt. In 2018, the brand has already raised $5.1 million and opened a handful of stores throughout the United States, including, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and are planning to open more in the near future. The brand creates sneakers for both men and women, but the men’s category outperforms women’s. Wichert and Quodt are already creating new silhouettes to keep up with the growing ‘designer’ sneaker category which has exploded in popularity.

Outdoor Voices Boston Store. (Photo courtesy of Outdoor Voices)

Outdoor Voices is a woman’s athleisure brand that was founded by Tyler Haney, the 31-year-old is also the CEO of the brand. Outdoor Voices was started in Austin in 2014 and has raised over 56.5 million to date. The brand has a number of stores throughout the United States, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Nashville, and Boston. Tyler told CNBC in 2017 that in the future she planned on opening at least 50 stores, one in every state. Giving investors a vote of confidence, Mickey Drexler, the former CEO of J.Crew and Gap, serves on its board. Haney said he’s played a key role in helping Outdoor Voices grow offline.

Ganni store in Soho. (Photo courtesy of Ganni)

Ganni, the Copenhagen-based brand, opened its first U.S. store in Soho this past October, followed by one in Los Angeles and Miami.”We always dreamt of opening stores in the U.S.,” explains founder Nicolaj Reffstrup. “We’ve been extremely fortunate to be stocked in some of the U.S.’s finest boutiques and retailers; seeing our U.S. audience connect with our Scandi 2.0 sense of style has been incredible and we’ve resonated well with the market. This next step of having our own physical stores means we can welcome our community into our universe and experience Ganni in real life. It just made sense. There’s been so much talk of the death of retail, but I don’t think retail is dead, it’s just entering a new phase. It’s about figuring out how you give your community a unique real-life experience, a high level of service, interesting interactions with real people and an easy, effortless shopping experience where your community feels welcome.”

Self-Portrait Boutique. Courtesy of Flaunt Magazine

Self-Portrait is a contemporary label launched in 2013 by Han Chong. The London based label is known for its feminine dresses with a youthful twist. In August 2019, the label opened its first brick-and-mortar concept retail space in the U.S. in  Soho; but Self-Portrait is testing out the New York City store-front experience before fully committing, with the concept store set to close in June 2020. “This is a great opportunity to welcome anyone, not only to shop, but also to explore the Self-Portrait experience,” says Chong. “What I’ve seen happening is that stores are now becoming brand ambassadors both online and offline. We want to blend these experiences to create that connection with our clients. We’ve built this amazing community digitally with them since we started the brand and now we get to invite them into our home to get know us more intimately.”

Are you considering opening a pop-up or a retail shop for your brand? Share your thoughts!

The Future of Fashion: Power in Numbers

Year 2020 is upon us, and there’s no better time to take pause, reflect on the decade gone by and plot a bright new course forward.

In the past ten years, the fashion industry has seen some major shifts. In New York alone, the home of fashion week has bounced around from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center to the piers and beyond as designers have adjusted to a changing industry. Once extravagant runway shows have turned into presentations, private viewings for buyers in showrooms and studios, if not online iterations designed to showcase offerings. The power of social media and social media influencers have changed how designers market, brand and promote themselves. And the topics of sustainability, slow fashion and increased concern with how, where and by whom clothing is made have taken center stage.

Consumers have changed, too. In response to the fast and furious pace of social media, “I want it now!” mentality has driven designers to a see now, buy now cycle of production and selling in order to get their customers the clothes they want the day after they see them posted on Instagram. But consumers have also become more thoughtful with the fashion dollars they spend, taking into consideration the consequences of “fast fashion” on the environment and the humans behind the sewing machines making 9.99 trend-of-the-moment pieces.

All in all, the age old model of designing as an independent “head of house” designer, showing a collection, hoping buyers will bite, producing orders and delivering garments six months later to retailers has been turned upside down. Today designers are required to innovate, create, collaborate and develop a path in the fashion industry that will keep their design dreams alive.

The upside of this upheaval is that a bold new day in fashion is upon us—a future that is less about ego and more about educated decisions, less about opulence and more about open conversations about the real challenges our industry is facing. Running a profitable fashion business is a multifaceted operation, with more roles that need to be filled than any one human can possibly sustain.

In our opinion, the path forward will be paved with groups of designers and experts coming together for a common goal. Think of creative factories where there is no singular Marc Jacobs or Ralph Lauren, but instead a group of people, each with a particular talent, banding together as they work toward a common creative vision.

Consider for a moment the power of putting together a team of the following:

Sustainability Expert – Someone who can focus on making affordable and sustainable decisions in terms of materials and processes used. A sustainability expert may also focus on in house sustainable labor practices and options, think creating structure so that all involved enjoy a work/life balance and a healthy environment while at work.

Innovator – A designated innovator is one who can research new methods, ways of producing, materials, structures that support the efficacy of the the team’s common vision. An innovator is focused on the next step of the group’s progress.

Designer(s) – This individual or group of individuals set the aesthetic vision for the group. Imagine bringing together a team with specializations in womenswear, menswear, accessories, etc.

Pattern Maker(s) – Pattern maker(s) carry out the technical aspects of the groups vision, whether by traditional flat pattern or using 3D software, pattern makers create a library of patterns for the group.

Social Media Guru – Someone who thrives on the fast paced, changing world of social media and understands which channels appeal to the group’s customer as well as when and how frequently to release content plays a key role in any successful business today.

Influencer – An influencer who has a significant social media following and who aligns with the vision of the brand can truly alter the course of brand awareness and sales.

Brand Manager – Someone who acts as a liaison between photographers, a social media guru, designers, etc. and makes sure messaging is consistent. A brand manager may also seek out partnership opportunities that support the group.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive…there are models, photographers, and so on to consider. However, just imagine as an emerging designer, dedicating as much time to finding your tribe of like minded people with strengths different from yours as you do to learning how to draw a croquis.

Imagine pooling resources as you build a fashion business.

Imagine having emotional and professional support as you go through the typical ups and downs of any business venture.

And imagine not feeling the weight of an entire fashion brand on your shoulders as well as having a supportive team around you to celebrate the successes you will experience.

This notion of “better together” is already starting to take shape. In a recent WWD article, 7 New Designers to Watch for Spring 2020, you’ll notice only a couple of independent designers. The rest are brands made up of two, sometimes three designers under a common label.

The team at Colville Image: www.drapersonline.com

For example, in Milan, Colville is made up of Lucinda Chambers, Molly Molloy and Kristin Forss, three designers that met 15 years ago while working at Marni. Collectively, they share experience in styling, journalism (Chambers is the former British Vogue fashion director) as well as both menswear and womenswear. They speak to this idea of power in numbers when they say, “We are surrounded by amazing people who have become our mentors and influencers, friends, colleagues and each other. We involve friends to work and collaborate with us, we are building a Colville community, the collection isn’t just one voice and not even three but many, it’s an inspiring way to work.”

The team at Commission Image: @commissionnyc

In New York, Commission, a brand by designers Jin Kay, Dylan Cao and Huy Luong, is a great example of a tribe of designers with a common creative vision. All three designers are first-generation immigrants from Asia and inspired by their mothers’ style. They share an impressive collective resume of experience. Kay has designed for Gucci, Narciso Rodriguez and Prabal Gurung. Cao has taken turns at Alexander Wang, 3.1 Phillip Lim and R13, and Luong is a photographer with a background in visual communication design. Not only does this tribe of artists share an extensive list of strengths and a creative vision, they are also tied to a greater purpose of combatting the stereotypical and literal translation of “Asian” beauty and culture in the fashion industry.

It’s been a decade since I showed my graduate collection for the Academy of Art at NY Fashion Week (in Bryant Park!) and I never could have predicted how fashion would change. But now, ten years later, I am inspired by the thought of future designers banding together for the ride. Fashion is such a wonderful world of creativity, passion and excitement and it’s meant to be shared. In 2020, my wish for you is to honor and recognize your own strengths and seek out your tribe for the rest!

Are you inspired by other design teams? Please share below in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Posen Shutters His House As the UoF Opens Doors for Future Designers

Fashion times, they are a changin’.

In just the past few weeks alone, once fashion darling Zac Posen has closed his doors and the iconic retailer Barneys has closed its remaining doors, two more signs that fashion design and retail operations as we’ve known them for so many years are in fact yesterday’s news.

To Posen’s credit, he can claim the story many emerging designers have aspired to. With semesters spent at Parsons and Central Saint Martins, a long line of celebs who have worn his gowns on the red carpet and fame as an expert judge on Project Runway, some would claim that Posen’s run in the fashion world is the stuff an emerging designer’s dreams are made of. And truthfully, Posen lasted much longer in a crumbling model than most. He even starred in his own documentary, House of Z, detailing the behind the scenes successes and struggles over the years.

In 2008, when my fellow fashion school graduates and I landed in NYC after graduating from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, several of us were overcome with jealousy when one of us scored an internship with Zac Posen. It was a tough economic time in which fashion companies were laying off employees, and so many of us had given up on the thought of getting a “real job” in fashion and instead were fighting for unpaid internships with the hope that they would lead to paid positions.

Even then, I can remember the bright fashion stars I had in my eyes beginning to dim as I watched my talented classmate drape his heart out for Posen, often leaving our apartment at 6:30 am to make it to the studio by 7:00 am, not to return until well after 7:00 pm (and without pay). When one of my classmate’s creations ended up on Posen’s runway, we thought for sure, this would be his big break. But as was (and may still be) commonplace with companies headed by a singular famous face, my classmate’s “internship” was over once the season was over and Posen’s runway show was complete. Posen was on to the next group of eager “interns.” And my classmate? He was left with crippling student loans to pay and still, no job.

I share this story because it illuminates the reasons why we are finally seeing a real shift in the fashion industry. And why we’ve got to let go of what has been been considered success in the fashion industry in the past (fame, celebrity, elaborate shows season after season) and instead look toward a more sustainable future in fashion for emerging designers. Posen himself (guided by his mother) saw how unsustainable the fame-party-celebrity red carpet style of designing and running a business was back in 2010. Posen’s decision to branch out into collaborations and more affordable mass market options in order to keep the sought after design dream alive was detailed in WSJ. And yet even with this forethought, Posen’s high end business ultimately couldn’t survive.

Fast forward to today and even educators from top fashion schools (in fact, my former director, Simon Ungless at the Academy of Art in San Francisco), have started to question their own fashion programs, wondering if they are in fact preparing their students for what the fashion world holds. Ungless recently suggested that fashion schools are preparing students for an industry that doesn’t exist (read Ungless’ full interview here) and that if students aspire to celebrity as a fashion designer, they should “make a sex tape.”

Aside from the fact that today’s students in traditional fashion design programs are still striving for that final fashion show in hopes of being noticed by industry professionals (which ultimately may happen to a select handful of graduates), the college debt load students are accumulating is real. A single semester at Parsons, including tuition, books, room and board is approximately $60,000 and at FIT, around $45,000. Multiply that by the number of semesters it takes to graduate and we are talking upwards of $200,000 spent on an education that may or may not pay for itself.

And while we will never say “we told ya so,” the University of Fashion was conceived and developed years ago as a direct response to the issues we are seeing today, including:

• the prohibitive high cost of a traditional fashion education
• the lack of jobs/opportunity in the fashion industry to make a high-cost education pay off
• the changing skills/mindset needed to “make it” as a fashion designer in today’s fashion landscape

Maybe Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, et al. have a point—forego college and invest that money in your own start-up. Learn fashion design at UoF, get your technical skills and then use your money to launch and advertise your own brand. Imagine the possibilities when you let go of the idea that you must have a degree from Parsons, an internship with Marc Jacobs and celebrity status as a 20-something designer with a Hadid wearing your brand on Instagram.

There are so many ways for emerging designers to “make it” in the fashion industry of tomorrow, because the industry is yours to create. Instead of aiming for super stardom and spending a fortune on a traditional fashion education, get creative with different ways to break into the fashion industry. Use online resources to create a niche design item and learn how to market yourself via social media. Follow a path that feels authentic and genuine to you and think outside the box. We truly believe designers CAN make a living at what they love through research, social media savvy and creative thought. How about a new young designer pop-up store collective? Already paving a new path forward in the fashion industry? We want to know about it! Inspire others by sharing in the comments below.

SLOW FASHION & THE CONSCIOUS EDIT – 4 Basic Principles of Slow Fashion

“Slow fashion” is on everybody’s mind at the moment as consumers are becoming more and more aware of the environmental and social impact of their purchasing decisions.

If you are interested in diving a little deeper into this worldwide movement, read on for the four basic principles of slow fashion.

 

1. It is all about mindfulness.

The most crucial aspect of slow fashion is that a consumer works to become more conscious and mindful of what they are consuming. It doesn’t mean that you have to throw out all your old clothes and refill your closet to the brim with ethical brands. Instead, it means switching your mindset about clothing and thinking more deeply about the daily purchase decisions you do (or don’t) make.

When looking to embrace slow fashion, you want to start differentiating between need vs. want. Therefore, before you purchase anything new, have a look through your closet and identify any gaps. Then, you can create a wish list of items that can fill the holes in your wardrobe, as well as a couple of other pieces that’ll add a fresh injection to what you already have (like a pair of Balenciaga shoes).

By being more mindful with your shopping strategy, you will find that you are increasingly rewarded as you become more content with your closet.

 

2. Always opt for quality over quantity.

The second basic principle of slow fashion is to always opt for quality over quantity.

In other words, if you have $100 to spend on clothes this month, don’t buy ten items for $10; instead, buy one high-quality piece that you need (principle #1) for $100. While this may seem like a massive investment at first, what you are actually doing is choosing to appreciate the items that you bring into your life. The well-made item that you select is going to last you a lot longer (years!) than any item you find in a cheap fast-fashion store.

That being said, don’t assume that you are going to have to take out a second mortgage to buy a few quality pieces. Perhaps you can choose to add one or two pieces to your closet each season and slowly grow your collection of high-quality basics.

Generally, sustainable brands offer similar basics each season, so you can take your time when saving up. Additionally, you can also find quality items in vintage and secondhand shops. Keep your eyes peeled for reinforced seams, lining, extra fabric on a hem, and natural fibers  – these are all indicators of quality. Or, find something from Farfetch’s ‘The Conscious Edit’- their pre-owned section on their website. For example:

 

4. Support sustainable slow-fashion brands.

Last but not least, when you do decide to shop, you want to look at the offerings from sustainable slow-fashion brands. The brands that have adopted the “slow-fashion” mantra are conscious about the environment, their social responsibility, and the effect that their business and creations have on the planet. Farfetch offers ‘The Conscious Edit’ a series of designers who are dedicated to taking positive steps across three areas: environmental, social and animal welfare. ‘Positivity Conscious’ Reformation garments are made from eco-friendly materials with sustainability at the core of everything they make. Stella McCartney is known for her uncompromising stance on using cruelty-free, organic and recycled materials in her designs. In fact, her sneaker collaboration with Adidas boasts that more than half of their range of apparel and footwear is made with recycled materials.

By supporting sustainable slow-fashion brands, you are helping to reduce the negative repercussions of clothing and textiles on the environment. Also, you are ensuring that your hard-earned money is going to a company who, in turn, pays fair wages and provides better working conditions for the people who make your clothes.

What do you think about slow fashion? Is it something that you are looking to incorporate into your life?

Let us know your thoughts and any relevant experiences you have in the comments below!

All Hail the Queen of Raw

Nothing makes us happier at the University of Fashion than featuring power players who are making positive change in the fashion industry. And little did this designer realize I would have my design and production mind blown by the incredible woman you are about to meet.

Enter Stephanie Benedetto, self-proclaimed Queen of Raw.

This former corporate attorney on Wall Street and descendent of an Austrian immigrant turned Lower East Side master furrier is realizing her mission of turning pollution into profit. And maybe more importantly, she’s contributing to a world in which her son can grow up and thrive by breathing in clean air, enjoying access to clean water and wearing non-toxic clothing.

Benedetto suggests turning our traditional design process on its head in an effort to make design sustainable by powering design with dead stock fabrics.

Benedetto explains: Pen to paper or stylus to screen, designing a garment can be one of the most special and intimate experiences an artist can have. It’s no mystery why designers want to start their process with this creative expression. But it’s taking its toll on our world. Where is the business or environmental sense in designing a garment with a fabric in mind without having secured the specific material, figuring out the quantity available, knowing where it’s located, and the ethics in its production? The funnel is broken. Starting with design leaves the rest of the battle uphill.

Have you ever had one of those designer a-ha moments, where everything you’ve been taught somehow goes out the window, and suddenly you see your craft in a new light? Keep reading…

The Queen of Raw continues: The back and forth of swatching and communicating shipping, confirming color, managing orders, the possibility of the material becoming unavailable in the midst of communication – it happens all too often. What if (just trust me for two seconds), what if we started with a material? What if there was a way to see that something was already manufactured and ready to go?”

Once again, a-ah. I’ve faced this production quandary and it wasn’t pretty. On the flip side of things, as an emerging designer with only small orders to fill, I found myself wanting to use fabrics that I could only get by meeting the manufacturer’s minimums. This unfortunate situation left me with all kinds of extra fabric for some garments in my collection and running out of the right fabric (as Benedetto describes above) for others. Had I of started my design process with specific, available fabrics in mind, oh my, how things would have turned out differently.

As if reading my mind, Benedetto continues: You have all the information on where it’s [fabric] coming from, how much is available, how it was made, and it’s cheaper at the same quality you’re used to because it’s “dead stock.” What if designers began with what’s available instead of creating all the problems (for themselves) that slow production down by using/creating new? 

Benedetto will tell you exactly how a fledgling (or seasoned) designer’s business could benefit from this fabric-first design model, and this designer will concur.

Bottom lines would improve.

Price points on finished goods could be more accessible with production costs severely lowered.

Billions of gallons of water would be saved in using already existing excess (700 gallons per yard repurposed).

And fashion could move to the forefront of the sustainable mission instead of being the second biggest contributor to climate change.

Take in those last few words…fashion is the second biggest contributor to climate change. As responsible designers and global citizens, it’s important for all of us to consider all the design and production resources (and options) we have at our fingertips, thanks to thought leaders like Benedetto. If sourcing existing fabric options first makes sense to you, waste no time visiting Queen of Raw. As a bonus benefit, Queen of Raw will calculate the environmental impact of your order free of charge and you can pass the good news (and the savings) on to your customers.

Finally, we couldn’t write a post on responsible design and sustainable uses of fabric without giving a shout out to our friends at FabScrap. This incredible resource transports unused fabric from designers’ factories and warehouses to its sorting location. Then FabScrap either recycles scraps or prepares them for sale at a lower cost for designers and crafters. FabScrap even offers fabric sorting volunteer opportunities where you can earn fabric in trade. If you are in NYC, take advantage of one of two FabScrap locations!

If you have sustainable resources of your own to add, please don’t hesitate to comment and share what you know with our community below!

To sell or to rent? A sustainable business model for independent designers?

Via Bag, Borrow or Steal Instagram Account @bagborroworsteal

The buzz phrase “ethical fashion” has been tossed around for some time evoking concerns regarding fair labor practices and wages, processes that take the preservation of our environment and animals into consideration and supply chain transparency.

Often ethical fashion is confused with sustainable fashion, and yet there is no doubt the two are interrelated. Ethical practices lead to more sustainable processes which in turn mean healthier workers, an environment that can support generations of fashionistas to come and of course, clothing consumers can feel good about wearing.

But what if emerging and independent designers could take all that we’ve learned about both ethical (and sustainable) fashion and roll it into a business model that is growing in popularity and in my humble opinion, might be a way for young fashion businesses to stay afloat?

Hear me out…

The other night I was at a dinner party where several of the guests were talking about how much they loved their clothing subscription/rental services. The conversation went like this:

“I love your skirt.”

“Thanks! It’s from Le Tote.”

“Le Tote? I’ve never heard of that store. Where is it?”

“Oh, no! It’s not a store, it’s a subscription service, you know, like Rent the Runway. If I stay on top of wearing items they send and sending them back, I can get up to 4 new pieces a week. And if I really like something, I can keep it, pay for it and it’s mine. Otherwise, I wear it once or twice and send it back for the next person to try!”

Via Le Tote’s Instagram Account @letote

As the two talked, I started thinking of all of the sustainable advantages of renting a wardrobe. On behalf of the consumer, subscription services mean fewer unworn clothes packing closets and eventually ending up in landfills. And by giving clothes a “test run” and only keeping those items that the consumer is partial to (or as one guest mentioned, “get a lot of compliments from others”), more thoughtful purchasing choices can be made. Then, of course, there is the option to rent special occasion garments you may only need to wear once…

As a subscription service retailer, there are fewer risks of unsold inventory (and therefore waste in terms of dollars and garments), not to mention real time data revealing what consumers want which can guide future purchasing, order by order. Like the consumer, the retailer enjoys a more thoughtful way of approaching buying and selling in the fashion industry.

When it comes to ethical standards, it is still up to both rental services as well as the consumer to find out how the clothes they rent out (or in) are produced. After my subscription service curiosities were peaked, I did a bit of research only to find companies that curate plus sizes (Gwynnie Bee), bags (Bag, Borrow or Steal), just about any fashion item your fashion-loving heart desires from a wide variety of designers.

Via Gwynnie Bee’s Instagram Account @gwynniebee

But what I did not find is an independent designer who follows this model.

What if (on a smaller scale) independent designers could create a scenario where they could design and produce adhering to their own ethical standards and then rent their pieces in a way that is not only environmentally sustainable, but spares their business from the pitfalls that often cause independent designers to close their doors?

Feeling like I had to be missing something, I tried to create a real life scenario using the wide variety of samples I’ve created and are now tucked neatly away in my storage unit. I could photograph them, write product descriptions and create a website, but instead of selling these samples, I could rent them, earning income, while I designed additional styles. True, I would have to figure out shipping and how to protect myself against damaged garments. I’m sure I might get some pushback for not having a full size range in most styles, but wouldn’t it be amazing for these styles that I still love to see some light of day?

I wouldn’t have to worry about retailers placing an order for my most current (hypothetical) collection and subsequent production, and with the power of a social media following, I could advertise availability of garment rental to those who I already know are fans of my work.

I’m a firm believer that good design is timeless. Just the other day, I was admiring how Thom Browne posts pieces from collections past periodically on Instagram and I can rarely decipher which suit is from 2014 and which suit is from his most recent collection. Does this make me a bad fashionista? Probably. But I believe that we as a culture are trending away from the incredible amount of stress put on designers to produce season after season. Instead, wouldn’t it be incredible to generate revenue, which for a new designer could mean designing and producing the next collection, from styles past that we still love through a rental option?

Emerging designers, I’d really love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Are there additional benefits of this model you can think of? Perhaps pitfalls that I haven’t considered? I’d love to know…

GOING GREEN, HOW DENIM LABELS ARE EMBRACING SUSTAINABILITY

M.i.h. Jeans practices denim sustainability. (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

Climate change, global warming, plastic in our oceans, these are all real threats that have not just Millennials and Generation Zers worried, but should be a concern for people of all ages. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” is receiving plenty of publicity, we as a design community must realize that we are among the top polluters of our planet, actually, according to Ethical Unicorn, we rank #5. Not a number that we should be proud. So, what can we do as an industry to lower our ranking? Who are the brands who are leading the way?

Well, while there are literally thousands of fashion brands and companies around the world, there are not as many as there should be in our industry moving towards sustainability and who are consciously making an effort to reduce waste and pollution that our industry causes.

We’d like to give a shout-out to two ‘green’ advocates, Stella McCartney and Christopher Raeburn. These designers were among the ten fashion companies that have recently received the inaugural CO10 Leadership Award, an award that recognizes companies that have set down a pathway towards sustainability.

Christopher Raeburn fitting a model in one of his looks. (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

The award is presented by Common Objective, a network that connects more than 10,000 professionals in the fashion, retail and textile industries that share knowledge and best sustainability practices. Other companies that were honored were, Osklen, Bottletop, Indigenous, Outland Denim, Mayamiko, Sonica Sarna Design, Ethical Apparel Africa and The Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills.

“The industry has seen an incredible amount of traction over the past year, from increased consumer demand and government engagement, to the abundance of new entrants that focus on sustainability,” said Harold Tillman, former chairman of the British Fashion Council. The overall CO Leadership Awards are given to fashion brands that champion innovation in sustainability.

On December 10, 2018, Stella McCartney launched a program during the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland, which addressed various issues in the fashion industry, such as pollution, deforestation, low carbon production methods, and toxicity in products. Another goal for McCartney is to create awareness among students and designers that there are more environmentally-friendly ways to create collections. Today, more than ever, customers are aware and looking to purchase from brands that are focused on sustainability.

Stella McCartney at the Katowicw Climate Change Conference in Poland (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

Denim Sustainability News

While the majority of the population would love to purchase clothing that is environmentally-friendly, let’s face it, many cannot afford Stella McCartney’s hefty price point. But environmentalists will be happy to hear that everyone’s favorite closet staple, denim, is helping to lead the way towards sustainability.

Denim is one of the most popular fashion items around the world, but the mass production of this wardrobe staple has turned into an environmental nightmare. Remember the footage from China when a river turned blue from a nearby denim factory? Clearly denim dyes and water consumption are both harmful to the environment. However, today, the industry is searching for ways to help clean up the process and build a more sustainable supply chain. The denim industry is slowly joining together to create an ecosystem focused on sustainability practices.

Denim dyes damage the environment (Photo Courtesy of Forbes)

This past February at the Première Vision Textile Trade Show in Paris, a group of experts from the denim world gathered together for a panel hosted by Isko, a leading Turkish denim mill. The topic… the “Unlimited Possibilities of Responsible Denim.” Panelists included: Ebru Ozkucuk Guler (CSR executive at Isko), Miles Johnson (designer at Stan Ray denim and and previously at Patagonia and Levi Strauss & Co.), Rachel Pearce (director of denim consultancy firm Denimhand) and François Girbaud (owner Marithé + François Girbaud).

Isko’s sustainable denim panel Première Vision Textile Trade Showin Paris. (Courtesy Photo WWD)

Consumers today are intelligent. They want more transparency about the clothing and products they are purchasing. According to Miles Johnson, “it is high time, with all the confusion over certification, for governments to start implementing standards.”

The panel was in agreement that the idea of phasing out cotton was not realistic, but embracing new approaches to the cotton supply chain and implementing dye and waste management practices are vital for the industry’s survival.

Here’s what the panelists said: 

“We’re not going to stop doing cotton jeans, so let’s just do it better. But you have to have a big idea for 25 years down the road that everyone signs up for, and then we can all start trekking toward the same spot. Unfortunately we’re not there yet, and it’s all still a bit scattered,” Johnson said. Adding that “Cotton now has a bad name, like plastic. If people hear plastic now they go, ‘Ooh, bad.’ It’s not bad, the world just isn’t set up so that we can handle recycling, because we haven’t invested in waste disposal, so we’re not catching plastic at the end and turning it back into fiber.”

Pearce added, “We can grow cotton better, we can be more responsible with cotton, but our biggest enemy is the amount that’s going to landfill, to waste. But the cotton that’s going to landfill, it’s going to biodegrade; it’s the polyester we should be worried about, it currently stays in our environment for up to 120 years before breaking down.”

“We are in an incredibly wasteful industry, [but] I do commend everyone in the denim industry because at least we’re a step ahead of the sportswear industry,” concluded Johnson. “People are having these conversations a lot more in denim than they are in anything else.”

Blue + Denim practices denim sustainability. (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

 

Here are some possible solutions: 

Case in point, this past October in Amsterdam at the Kingpins Fair Trade Show, sustainability in denim was a key issue being tackled by experts. Posters detailing water-saving processes, potassium permanganate-free finishes and recycled fabrics were in front of most stands, and they were easy to spot from afar thanks to their symbolic green and blue hues.

M&J Group, a Bangladesh-based manufacturer, added green tags to each garment, that labeled the level of water, gas or chemicals used for the conception of each denim piece. Meanwhile, at Global Denim, the manufacturer promoted EcoloJean technology. Their posters illustrated a regular pair of jeans next to a pile of water bottles, explaining that it takes 20 liters of water to dye a single pair of jeans. The EcoloJean technology, said the poster, boasts zero water discharging.

Another big initiative in going green is fabric made from recycled plastic bottles.  “We’ve just sourced a fabric called Repreve, made from recycled plastic bottles,” said Tara Jessop, who was attending with Rebekah Hough, a fellow designer at Fundamental, a British denim manufacturer that counts the Arcadia group among its clients. “We’ve just sourced a fabric called Repreve, made from recycled plastic bottles,” said Tara Jessop, who was attending with Rebekah Hough, a fellow designer at Fundamental, a British denim manufacturer that counts the Arcadia group among its clients. “We keep seeing the green plastic bottle tags on every stand. They are an amazing marketing tool; they help the customer understand the process,” she added.

(Photo courtesy Reprove.com)

(Photo courtesy Reprove.com)

Thankfully, more affordable denim mills are now taking steps towards sustainability.  “We’ve been going round to each stand to ask them what they’ve been doing from a sustainable angle,” said Lee women’s designer Natasha Goforth, who added that the brand was looking to make its carryover fabrics more sustainable. “But we’re looking at every single element: fabrics, trims, finishes. It’s not just about the sustainability of the fabric itself, but rather how we can bring in more elements of sustainability to our brand,” she added.

DL 1961 Denim practices sustainability when producing denim. (Courtesy Photo)

Australian’s Outland Denim is facing challenges managing sudden rapid growth due to the brands ethical focus, The brands founder James Bartle stated “Integrity is everything to us as a business. The goal is to be a big part of changing the fashion industry for good. Our strategy is to be product-focused, to not be a charity and to create a genuinely sustainable business model that changes people’s lives and the environment at the same time.”

Outland Denim (Commercial Photography Cambodia)

ABLE Denim has adapted to sustainability practices. (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

TO ALL OF OUR UOF DESIGNERS AND MANUFACTURERS – HOW ARE YOU MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO BECOME MORE SUSTAINABLE? WE’D LOVE TO FEATURE YOU IN OUR BLOG. LET US KNOW

 

INDIA: AN EMERGING PLAYER IN GLOBAL FASHION

Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Nick Jonas in Sabyasachi at their Mumbai reception

Priyanka Chopra Jonas in a dress designed by Indian fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherji   (Courtesy: Vogue.com)

Well, 2018 went out with a bang. A number of celebrities tied the knot at the end of the year, but the biggest celebrity wedding of all, according to Us Weekly, was that of Nick Jonas (former Jonas Brother) and Indian actress Priyanka Chopra (former Miss World 2000). Events leading up to the wedding were absolute spectacles and their colorful wedding photos were shared all over social media. The pair said their “I do’s” at the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, and the events literally sparked a new interest in Indian culture and fashion.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Sabyasachi and kalire by Mrinalini Chandra for the wedding (Photo courtesy of Vogue.com)

Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Sabyasachi and kalire by Mrinalini Chandra for the wedding (Courtesy of Vogue.com)

Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’s combo Western/traditional Punjabi wedding was complete with a chooda and kalire ceremony. Held one after the other on the morning of the wedding day at the bride’s place, beautiful red and white chooda (bangles) and the beautiful golden accessories that hang on them, famously known as kalire, were custom-made by Mrinalini Chandra. For the Christian wedding, Chopra wore a white modest gown created by Ralph Lauren—not a common choice for an Indian bride, but the gown had plenty of exquisite details. According to RL Mag, Ralph Lauren’s official internal publication, “At Priyanka’s request, eight special words and phrases were incorporated into the embroidery pattern of the coat: “Hope” and “Compassion,” a Hindu mantra “Om Namaha Shivay,” and “December 1, 2018,” the date of the ceremony. The placement of the groom’s full name, Nicholas Jerry Jonas, on the front of the coat, was mirrored on the back with the names of her parents. (A piece of lace from Nick’s mother’s own wedding dress was sewn into the pattern) and the word “Family” scrolled down the right sleeve, where Priyanka has a wrist tattoo reading “Daddy’s Lil Girl…” And finally, just over her heart, the word “Love” was stitched in ivory thread.”

Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas in Ralph Lauren on their wedding day in India (Photo Courtesy of Vogue.com)

Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas at their traditional White Wedding ceremony- dress by Ralph Lauren (Courtesy: Vogue.com)

Priyanka Chopra, Nick Jonas and their guests wore plenty of traditional looks created by Indian designers – placing the spotlight on Indian fashion around the world.

Models in Monisha Jaising at Lakme Absolute Grand Finale courtesy of WWD

Models in Monisha Jaising at Lakme Absolute Grand Finale (Courtesy: WWD)

 THE INDIAN FASHION INDUSTRY

The Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), a not-for-profit organization, is the apex body of fashion design in India. It is represented by over 400 members and was created to promote, nurture and represent the most incredible talents in the country. Its prime objective is to propagate the business of fashion in India in the form of coveted fashion weeks. As part of its initiatives, the FDCI’s calendar of events include the annual prêt week for women and menswear for Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer, the India Fashion Week and the yearly luxurious offering, the India Couture Week. India Fashion Week is a bi-annual fashion week organized and promoted by the Fashion Design Council of India. It was sponsored by Wills Lifestyle from 2006-2014 before Amazon became and continues to be its sponsor.

Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) has earned renown as one of India’s most prestigious fashion shows, which takes place twice a year, with the Summer/Resort show in the early months of the year, and the Winter/Festive show in August. Run through a collaborative effort between cosmetic brand Lakmé and IMG Reliance Ltd, which has made a name for itself in fashion, and entertainment marketing and management, the fashion show was conceived to allow Indian fashion to gain a foothold in the global fashion industry.

Over the past few years, the fashion scene in India has finally been receiving global recognition. According to an article in WWD, published on Sept. 3, 2018, India’s Lakmé Fashion Week has been rapidly growing with sponsorship up 40 percent, according to Jaspreet Chandok, vice president and head of fashion at IMG Reliance. “This season is going to be the highest amount of sponsorship the LFW has had, having grown consistently for the last four seasons.” While individual designers are finding sponsors, “the sponsors that are coming directly through fashion week, because of the large platform where multiple conversations can happen,” Chandok observed.

INDIAN DESIGNERS: CLASSICS WITH A TWIST

 Here are a few of the best looks from India’s Lakmé Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2018: 

 THE DENIM SARI 

Diksha Khanna's runway show

Diksha Khanna’s runway show (Courtesy: Sagar Ahuji)

East meets West as the sari enters the 21st century.  This edgy, distressed denim sari was created by Diksha Khanna, an alumni of National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Delhi and University of Leeds, UK. Diksha has worked internationally with several design houses before shifting her base to India. She is known for fine needlepoint embroideries on handloom linens, rugged, hand-distressed scrap denim pieces and languid drapes in combination with structured tailoring.

 THE DHOTI SARI

Shivan Narresh's runway show

Shivan & Narresh’s runway show (Courtesy:  Sagar Ahuji)

The traditional dhoti gets a sultry sari makeover by Shivan & Narresh, advocates of the high-flying, party-hopping lifestyle. Shivan Bhatia and Narresh Kukreja were known as the first, and so far the only, beachwear designers in India, when they introduced their innovative Bikini Sarees. Their signature Bikini Sarees are in vogue these days and many actresses like Kareena Kapoor, Maliaka Arora Khan and Bipasha Basu have been seen dazzling in them on the red carpet. Their global clientele includes Nicki Minaj, Dita Von Tesse, Fergie, Padma Lakshmi and Selita Banks. Both designers are alumni of National Institute of Fashion Technology, where they met and combined their creativity to form an invincible team for the designing competitions. Their efforts earned them a scholarship in 2006 after winning Mittelmoda International Beachwear Award in Bali. The Shivan and Narresh 2014 summer collection featured cut out sleek gowns and bold knee length dresses, which were later adorned by actress Lisa Haydon and Priyanka Chopra, making their dresses a cool alternative to conventional cocktail dresses.

NEHRU SLEEVELESS VEST

Akaaro By Gaurav Jai Gupta's runway show

Gaurav Jai Gupta’s runway show for Akaaro (Courtesy: Sagar Ahhuji)

Sustainable fashion designer Gaurav Jai Gupta for Akaaro (meaning the alphabet ‘A’ in sanskrit), reinvents the classic Nehru vest by oversizing and elongating it. He updates the look by substituting a dress over slim pants instead of the traditional Indian kurta over churidar pants. Trained as a fashion and textile designer from Chelsea College of Art and Design London and National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) New Delhi, Gaurav started his company in 2010 and became the first Indian designer to be commissioned by The Woolmark Company to launch the 2014 Cool Wool Menswear collection for Raymonds in India.

 INDIAN EMBROIDERY REIMAGINED

PÉRO's runway show

Aneeth Arora for Péro (Courtesy: Sagar Ahuja)

Aneeth Arora holds a diploma in paper technology and started out making paper clothing. Her company Péro (means ‘to wear’ in Marwari) launched in 2009. She has since won numerous awards, such as the Marie Claire for Eco Fashion in 2010, Young Creative Fashion Entrepreneur in 2011, and Vogue India’s first-ever Fashion Fund Award, which inevitably turned her into quite a hot seller in the Indian fashion industry.

 THE CHINTZ TRENCH

Abraham Thakore's runway show

Abraham & Thakore’s runway show (Courtesy: Sagar Ahuja)

Known as the ‘quiet revolutionaries of Indian fashion,’ David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore (graduates of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad) along with Kevin Nigli, launched their label, Abraham & Thakore (A&T), in 1992. Their collections cater to the working urban Indian woman who prefers fashion that draws on tradition.

 THE SHIMMERY PANTSUIT  – INDIAN STYLE

Namrata Joshipura's runway show

Namrata Joshipura’s runway show (Courtesy: Sagar Ahuja)

In an era of female empowerment, it’s no surprise that the pantsuit continues its reign. Here Namrata Joshipura’s millennial pink version is the perfect antidote to the LBD (slang for little black dress). Joshipura, a NIFT graduate, started her company in 1996. She fuses contemporary silhouettes with modern interpretations of artisanal embellishments. Internationally her clothes are sold at Bon Marche (Paris), Sauce (Dubai), American Rag (Los Angeles) and Beams (Japan), and she spends her time between New York and New Delhi.

 THE VELVET PUFFER 

Siddartha Tytler's runway show

Siddartha Tytler’s runway show (Courtesy: Sagar Ahija)

Delhi-based Siddartha Tytler graduated from St. Columba’s in 1997 and spent a year at the National Institute of Fashion Technology before moving on to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). In 2002, after his return to India, he had his first show at the Hyatt Regency in New Delhi. Luscious velvet is a winter favorite. Here the traditionally regal fabric gets a youthful transformation in Siddartha Tytler’s crimson velvet puffer jacket.

 COLOR-BLOCKING

Kanika Goyal's runway show

Kanika Goyal’s runway show (Courtesy: Sagar Ahuja)

Kanika Goyal has a knack for creating abstract print dresses in clashing hues. Born in Chandigarh, Kanika graduated from the National Institute of Technology and continued her studies at Parsons. She showcased her ground-breaking “Bio:Sonic” collection in 2015 at Lakmé Fashion Week and continues to refine modern Indian fashion on the global stage.

MAKE A STATEMENT

Nitin Bal Chauhan's runway show

Nitin Bal Chauhan’s runway show (Courtesy: Sagar Ahuja)

Nitin Bal Chauhan, known for his label Bhootsavar, aims to bring out the dark side of human nature. As an artist he studies society closely and finds a way to deliver a message through his work. His last runway collection conveyed a strong political message on behalf of the displaced refugees all around the world.

GDP Growth Projection for Asia,  2018 (Source World Bank, 2017)

GDP Growth Projection for Asia, 2018 (Source World Bank, 2017)

As India’s economy continues to grow, the country is becoming a key player in the fashion world. According to BOF: State of Fashion 2019  – an overall benchmark of the industry comprised from data gathered by McKinsey Global Fashion Index (MGFI) – “India is increasingly a focal point for the fashion industry, reflecting a rapidly growing middle-class and increasingly powerful manufacturing sector. These, together with strong economic fundamentals and growing tech-savvy, make India too important for international brands to ignore.”

According to the study, “economic expansion is happening across Asia, but we expect that 2019 will be the year in which India will take center stage. The country is being propelled by strong macroeconomic tailwinds and is predicted to grow 8 percent a year between 2018 and 2022. The Indian middle-class is forecast to expand at 19.4 percent a year over the same period, outpacing China, Mexico and Brazil. As a result, India is set to move from being an increasingly important sourcing hub to being one of the most attractive consumer markets outside the Western world. India’s apparel market will be worth $59.3 billion in 2022, making it the sixth-largest in the world, and comparable to the UK ($65 billion) and Germany ($63.1 billion), according to data from McKinsey’s FashionScope. The aggregate income of the addressable population (individuals with over $9,500 in annual income) is expected to triple between now and 2025. According to Sanjay Kapoor, founder of Genesis Luxury, an Indian luxury retail conglomerate, higher incomes are likely to create a whole new class of consumer: “We are moving on towards the ‘gold collar’ worker. It’s a term that defines the well paid, highly paid professionals, who are happy to look good, happy to feel good and are expanding the consumption of today.” Given these dynamics, it is little surprise that more than 300 international fashion brands are expected to open stores in India in the next two years. “

The Indian market offers great promise. Do you think it will overtake the U.S. and China as the next big global fashion opportunity?

TIS THE SEASON: THE MAGIC OF HOLIDAY WINDOWS

 Louis Vuitton NYC Window display (Courtesy Photo)

Louis Vuitton NYC Window display (Courtesy Photo)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..the holiday season is a magical time when joyful cheer is celebrated and generosity for others is spread throughout the world. No matter what your religious beliefs, there is no denying that this season is filled with hope for a better tomorrow.  The holidays are also an opportunity for retailers and brands to end the year with high profit margins, as consumers shop for the perfect gifts family and friends.

The holiday season seems to be getting earlier and earlier. This year many retailers even officially kicked off the season by staying open on Thanksgiving! “Black Friday,” which is a public holiday in more than 20 states, presumably got it’s name from one of two theories: that the wheels of vehicles in heavy shopping traffic on the day after Thanksgiving Day left many black markings on the road surface. The other theory is that the term Black Friday comes from an old way of recording business accounts. Losses were recorded in red ink and profits in black ink. Many businesses, particularly small businesses, started making profits before Christmas especially on the Friday after Thanksgiving. “Cyber Monday” on the other hand, was first used in 2005 by the National Retail Federation (NRF), which needed a name for the flurry of online sales the Monday after Thanksgiving, since online merchants wanted the money that  brick-and-mortar stores were making on Black Friday.

But with today’s retail market being so saturated, and online shopping being so competitive, how do traditional brick-and-mortar retailers compete? The answer is simple, major department stores and retailers around the world lure customers in with their brilliant, spare-no-expense race for an exuberant gasp… holiday display windows, that have become a destination tourist attraction and in many cases a family tradition around the world!

Each store has their own unique style when it comes to their holiday windows. Macy’s and Lord & Taylor are known for their classic displays that delight Christmas shoppers and their children. Barneys New York is known for innovative and provocative displays, while Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue are known for over-the top glitz. No matter what, these windows attract costumers, something that an eCommerce site can’t do.

The tradition of holiday window displays dates back to the Industrial Revolution, when in the late 1800s plate glass became readily available and allowed shop owners to build large, full length storefront windows to display merchandise. This was the birth of window shopping as we know it today.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but one of the first major holiday window displays was created by the Macy’s New York store in 1874, featuring a collection of porcelain dolls and scenes from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Children at the Macy’s toy window, ca. 1910 via The Library of Congress

Children at the Macy’s toy window, ca. 1910 via The Library of Congress

In the early 1900s major retailers across the U.S. began competing with each other. Store owners and managers used window displays to lure window shoppers into their stores, and holiday displays became more colorful and creative. By 1937, department store owner, specifically Lord & Taylor, decorated their windows with gilded bells that swung in sync with the sounds of recorded bells. This was a  turning point for retailers, as each began to transition their holiday windows into magical fantasy experiences, as opposed to just showcasing merchandise.

“Bell Windows” at Lord & Taylor, 1937 via MCNY

“Bell Windows” at Lord & Taylor, 1937 via MCNY

From that point on, year after year, competition among major brick-and-mortar retailers intensifies, as online shopping increases. But it’s this magical time of year that consumers are lured into stores to view these masterful works of art.  The grander and more innovative the display, the more attention it receives and let’s face it…the more likes on social media is always a good thing!

Here is a fantastical journey of holiday window displays from across the globe. Each retailer had a clear and strategic message to attract their customers.
Printemps Windows 2018 in Paris (Courtesy Photo)

Printemps Windows 2018 in Paris (Courtesy Photo)

At Printemps, in Paris,  Jules and Violette, the retailer’s recurring holiday mascots, are sent on a hunt for Santa Claus visiting the desert, Antarctica, the bottom of the sea, and mushroom-and flower-covered terrain with flapping butterflies.

Macy's Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

Macy’s Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

At Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, a tale of friendship, family, adventure and teamwork unfolds as Sunny the Snowpal works to save Christmas, befriending a fox along the way.

Bloomingdale's Holiday Windows 2018 in New York (Coutesy Photo)

Bloomingdale’s Holiday Windows 2018 in New York (Coutesy Photo)

Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship store in New York City was inspired by “The Grinch.”

Bergdorf Goodman's Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

Bergdorf Goodman’s Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

Bergdorf Goodman’s windows in NYC are a sugar-filled delight with everything from a gingerbread cuckoo clock, whose timekeeper is prone to wander from her enormous chalet, to a peppermint-hued dream featuring a candy cane wizard.

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (Courtesy Photo)

Saks Fifth Avenue’s NYC window portrays a fashionable shopper’s visit to the theater, where instead of watching the show, she dreams of the retailer in a whimsical fantasy.

Barneys Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (courtesy Photo)

Barneys Holiday Windows 2018 in NYC (courtesy Photo)

Barneys New York takes the penny to greater heights with its Making Change theme, presented by the Barneys New York Foundation. The campaign, in partnership with Save the Children, invites guests to create some currency during the holidays, including using the hashtag #centiments, which results in a $5 donation by the foundation to Save the Children for every post. Now that’s spreading holiday cheer!

Galeries Lafayette Windows 2018 in Paris (Courtesy Photo)

Galeries Lafayette Windows 2018 in Paris (Courtesy Photo)

Galeries Lafayette in Paris envisions a “reverie with La fabrique des Rêves,” or manufacturer of dreams, featuring delightful characters imagined by children: furry dinosaurs and silly monsters in a playful and whimsical window is packed with toys and presents, plus seasonal pieces from the shop’s shoe and clothing collection.

Harvey Nichols in London Holiday Window (Courtesy Photo)

Harvey Nichols in London Holiday Window (Courtesy Photo)

Harvey Nichols, London is celebrating the new Disney film Mary Poppins Returns by showcasing four costumes worn by the cast. In reference to the iconic character’s favorite mode of transport, gold and silver umbrellas also decorate the windows.

Harrods in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Harrods in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Harrods in London serves up sweet treats in a festive celebration with oversized, mouthwatering  desserts.

Liberty in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Liberty in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Liberty London’s animal etchings on pillars and panels are a well-known part of the decor. The creatures appear in windows as two-dimensional black-and-white cutouts.

Selfridges in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Selfridges in London Holiday Window Display (Courtesy Photo)

Selfridges’ “Santa on Tour” in London has St. Nick hitting the road and rocking designer created looks.

Mitsukoshi Holiday Windows 2018 in Tokyo (Courtesy Photo)

Mitsukoshi Holiday Windows 2018 in Tokyo (Courtesy Photo)

Mitsukoshi, located in Tokyo, mark the last Christmas of Japan’s Heisei period; the current emperor plans to abdicate in April, which will mark the beginning of a new period. Isetan creates a retro vision of the future featuring a rocking horse and snow globes cavorting with reindeer aided in flight by jet packs and Santa in a motorized sleigh.

Takashimaya Holiday Windows 2018 in Tokyo (Courtesy Photo)

Takashimaya Holiday Windows 2018 in Tokyo (Courtesy Photo)

Takashimaya’s in Japan’s Nihonbashi district store appeals to kids with mini carousels, model train and Ferris Wheel surrounded by plush animals.

Harbour City Holiday Windows 2018 in Hong Kong (Courtesy Photo)

Harbour City Holiday Windows 2018 in Hong Kong (Courtesy Photo)

At Harbour City, Hong Kong, shoppers who donate to the Hong Kong Blood Cancer Foundation can take a selfie with a giant video kaleidoscope where LED screen walls are filled with snowflakes, stars and rainbows.

Joyce Holiday Windows 2018 in Hong Kong (Courtesy Photo)

Joyce Holiday Windows 2018 in Hong Kong (Courtesy Photo)

Joyce’s dramatic holiday décor in Asia is a cross between, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Stranger Things.” The outcome is an upside-down Emerald City topped by a right-side-up Indiana cabin. The cutting edge retailer also has a 50 foot Christmas tree suspended from its ceiling.

So tell us, which is your favorite Holiday window display?

 

For those of you still on the hunt for the perfect gift for that fav fashionista:

.Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry (Courtesy Photo)

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry (Courtesy Photo)

https://www.amazon.com/Historical-Dictionary-Dictionaries-Professions-Industries/dp/1442239085/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543860001&sr=1-1&keywords=historical+dictionary+of+the+fashion+industry

You can also pre-order our various technique books to perfect your skills:

To pre-order the Sewing: Techniques for Beginners – https://www.amazon.com/Sewing-Techniques-Beginners-University-Fashion/dp/1786271982/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543860128&sr=1-7&keywords=Sewing+Techniques+for+Beginners

Sewing (Courtesy Photo)

Sewing (Courtesy Photo)

To pre-order the Draping: Techniques for Beginners – https://www.amazon.com/Draping-Techniques-Beginners-University-Fashion/dp/1786271761/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1543860392&sr=8-1&keywords=Draping%3A+Techniques+for+Beginners

Draping (Courtesy Photo)

Draping (Courtesy Photo)

To pre-order the Pattern Making: Techniques for Beginners – https://www.amazon.com/Pattern-Making-Techniques-Beginners-University/dp/1786271966/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1543860796&sr=8-3&keywords=Pattern+Making%3A+Beginner+Techniques

Pattern Making (Courtesy Photo)

Pattern Making (Courtesy Photo)

 

 

And how about a gift certificate to the UoF?

cde7bd42-9d47-4ca6-991a-980317ec58dd

b8758834-1e59-4e71-9e3b-d0817b8d9b4c
Two Holiday Subscription Deals
  • Get $60 off a new Yearly subscription here!
  • That’s more than 30% off our usual $189 yearly rate!
  • Offer Only available for new Yearly subscribers. Current Monthly subscribers or Free Members, see below.

  • Get $5 off your first month of a new Monthly subscription here!
  • That’s more than 25% off our usual $19.95 monthly rate!
  • Offer only available for new Monthly subscribers. Current Free Members, see below.

  • Current Free Members and Monthly subscribers: Log in as usual, then look to the left and click “Upgrade to Monthly [or Yearly] Subscription (Special holiday rate)”.


  • All subscriptions give you unlimited access to every lesson on our entire website!

DROP Everything and Read This

From a death drop…

To a mic drop…

To dropping it like it’s hot…

Retailers and designers alike are taking advantage of the hype that surrounds the newest, hottest drop – or a limited edition release of a product for a short run of time. Most often, one-off drops take place in brick and mortar locations and attract droves of brand fans and devotees.

And in a time when “on the ground” retailers are struggling to stay alive due to online competition, finding creative ways to bring shoppers in is critical.

Last September, Barneys put a drop event to the test when the retailer invited more than 80 brands to release limited-edition goods that could only be found at Barneys. But Barneys didn’t just stop at offering limited edition products by brands with impressive social media followings. The social media savvy retailer also tapped additional influencers—think well-known tattoo artists and DJs—to sweeten the draw for the audience Barneys was trying to attract into its doors.

Add a branded café and a t-shirt bar, and BAM! Drop history was made.

According to WWD, of the 12,000 people that showed up to The Drop @Barneys on Madison Avenue in NYC, half were current customers and the other half brand new customers. The event was held over one weekend and sales increased 35% from the previous year on Saturday and 9% on Sunday. Most importantly, 40% of attendees returned at a later date to make a purchase at Barneys.

The Drop @ Barneys was so successful, a second drop is planned for June 2 and 3 at the Beverly Hills store on the West Coast.

But what can emerging designers pick up from what more established designers are dropping?

Several ideas:

1. Use what you know to give the people what they want.

If you’re lacking Barney’s vast resources and connections, not to worry. You can take a lesson from Barneys “mega drop,” and use your knowledge of your own brand and product success to create a “mini drop.” Take a hard look at your best sellers or perhaps your garments/accessories/items that get the most attention on social media.

In other words, many designers recreated their biggest sellers for The Drop @ Barneys, and the crowd flocked to the event. No need to make more work for yourself or reinvent an already popular wheel.

Reincarnate your best seller with a slight twist or alteration in a limited edition run. Set up shop at a local market, arrange for a pop up event at a local boutique or permits permitting, sell on a corner in a shopping area that caters to your audience. Blast your social media following a special date/time and look forward to existing fans of your brand bringing their friends for a peek at your drop!

2. Get creative—think of the long game.

This tip takes a shift in thinking. When your resources are limited, it can be hard to think about putting your time and energy into a “hype” event that may not garner too many sales. However, if you are in it for the long haul as a designer and business person, giving some focus to “getting your name out there” can pay off down the road.

Barneys didn’t just focus on garment sales during their first drop event, they thought beyond sales to provide an environment that would appeal to the demographic they hope to turn into buying customers in the future.

As an emerging designer, consider organizing a panel about fashion, design or owning your own business and invite your local community. Try offering to style customers at a local boutique for one afternoon a week. Seek out networking events in your area—offer to speak, help organize or provide a branded item for attendees’ swag bags.

3. Form like-minded partnerships.

Just like Barneys researched DJs, tattoo artists and other influencers that their desired audience might want to take selfies with, so can you.

Who do you follow and admire on Instagram? How might you partner with them, eventually turning their fans on to your brand? Can you swap a post for a post and somehow bring your like-minded followers together?

Think about your customer’s day, week, month and year. Sure, they might wake up and put on one of your accessories, but considering their 24/7 can give you great insight into who your beneficial partners might be. If your customer spends her weekends at the club, you might consider hosting a party in exchange for a pop up shop during the club’s off hours.

If you design golf shirts, networking with county clubs and offering a unique “meet the designer” buying experience for members during busy brunch times might be an option.

If sustainability is part of your design philosophy, try partnering with a recycling facility or donation organization, giving your customers (and new customers who will be appreciative of your efforts) a literal Drop Off the Old, Shop the New opportunity.

What are other ways you have attracted new customers?

We’d love to hear—and so would our students and followers. Maybe we can get creative and form a like-minded partnership? Drop your comments below.