University of Fashion Blog

Posts Tagged: "social media"

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

ARE INFLUENCERS REALLY INFLUENCING SALES?

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Millennials have become the generation of social media. Life doesn’t happen unless it’s on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and the many other digital platforms embraced by today’s society. So naturally, fashion and beauty brands have been shelling out big bucks to engage influencers with the expectation that their followers buy the products that they’re peddling.

Bots have become one of the Internet’s most wanted

Bots have become one of the Internet’s ‘Most Wanted’ (Courtesy of WWD.Com)

But now, in an era that created  ‘Fake News’, the fashion and beauty world have come to a realization….that many of these so called influencers are not influencers at all, that is, they have ‘fake followers.’

Ryan Babenzien of Gates (Courtesy of WWD.Com)

Ryan Babenzien of Greats (Courtesy of WWD.Com)

Greats, the premiere sneaker brand, was about to pay an Influencer marketing agency with 10.5 million followers a mid, six-figure sum for a long-term partnership. The influencer, who Gates declined to name, was set to design a capsule collection of woman’s footwear, but the deal never went through. According to a WWD article published on Feb. 13, 2018, Ryan Babenzien, founder and chief executive officer of Greats, discovered that the majority of the influencer’s followers were fake. “In doing due diligence, to get a better understanding of this person’s metrics — largely to make sure her followers aligned with the brand’s target audience — Babenzien was supplied with screenshots containing details about her Facebook and Instagram followings. When we mapped that over the world, we found that it was mathematically impossible for her to be as popular as she was and not have any of the 10 major cities in the 10 major countries be in her top 10 follower cities. It was impossible, Babenzien said. I don’t know if they paid for followers or if they are bots, but there wasn’t the alignment she had in followers from the cities that she was allegedly popular in.”

Fashion, beauty and retail brands around the globe have been allotting sizeable portions of their advertising budgets to influencers to create content for them. But as the industry studies influencers and their followers, they are beginning to understand that many of these numbers are fake. In many cases, inflated follower counts that result in campaigns that generate little return on investment.

According to a WWD article published on Feb. 13, 1018, “The fashion and beauty industries — as well marketing firms, public relations agencies and influencers who have come by their followings honestly — are up in arms about the matter, which they claim is tantamount to stealing from the brands paying them based on false information. Unfortunately, many firms discover this too late and only after shelling out tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Or even worse, many are worried that dishonest content creators and bloggers will ruin it for the rest of the group by giving influencer marketing a bad rap. This means that brands, disappointed when campaigns underperform because influencers fail to generate the traction that someone with a following of their size is expected to, will begin to tighten their belts.”

Chiara Ferragni of The Blond Salad is the face of Pantene, she is a true influencer who has created her own fashion label.

Chiara Ferragni of The Blond Salad is the face of Pantene, she is a true influencer who has also created her own fashion label.

Brands must be savvy and investigate the influencers they chose to work with. For example, there may be some people who are really good at creating brand awareness, and maybe they have a ton of followers, but the exchange isn’t high, but then there may be smaller influencers who are able to push a lot of sales. So, it is important for brands to know who they are collaborating with and who their followers are.  For example, Benefit Cosmetics has made some of the most significant investments in influencers across the entire beauty industry — including spending a reported $10 million on influencer initiatives to support its BadGal Bang Volumizing Mascara launch this month, according to a WWD article published on Feb. 13, 1018. “If Benefit gets credible info on an influencer with a lot of fake followers, we simply stop working with them, Toto Haba, senior vice president global digital at Benefit, told WWD.”

Benefit took 32 influencers to Utah’s luxe resort Amangiri for a three night, all-things-Benefit getaway to launch Badgal Bang! Volumizing Mascara (courtesy of WWD.Com)

Benefit took 32 influencers to Utah’s luxe resort Amangiri for a three night, all-things-Benefit getaway to launch Badgal Bang! Volumizing Mascara (courtesy of WWD.Com)

So, how can a fashion, beauty or retail brand identify fake followers? Well there are a few paid tools that can estimate the percentage of fake followers on an account, including InfluencerDB, SocialBakers, Social Audit Pro and SocialBlade. Therefore, before you shell out a vast amount of your advertising budget on an influencer, don’t forget to do your homework and work with these tools to help identify fake followers.

Amidst the recent Facebook scandal, where millions of people’s identity and privacy were compromised and used to turn several global political elections, and with talk now of government regulation, how long will it take for more transparency on social media when it comes to fake influencers?  We are truly living in the 21st century’s version of the Wild West. Bring on the sheriff and the  cavalry!  A powerful influencer is Man Repeller's Leandra Medine (photo courtesy of Buro 24/7)

A powerful influencer is Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine (photo courtesy of Buro 24/7)

So tell us, who is your favorite influencer? Do you think that social media should be regulated?