We caught up with skater Blondey McCoy in the final days of his debut exhibition Us and Chem, as he chatted with art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist about mental health, social media, and grannies mistaking you for another kid.
Skater and streetwear designer Blondey McCoy has just added another string to his already pretty stacked bow. With his debut exhibition Us and Chem, the multihyphenate swaps the grinding and designing for gallery walls. “This exhibition is the first artwork which was created without the prime intention of it being for the clothing.”
We caught up with him and Hans Ulrich Obrist — the artistic director at London’s Serpentine’s Gallery — as the pair talked mental health, social media, and the epiphanies sparked by the exhibition. It closes this Sunday 27 August, so get down there ASAP.
Blondey doesn’t care when your birthday is
“I just sacked [Facebook] off completely because it just kept on telling me when everyone’s birthday is, and I don’t care.”
He doesn’t just skate to skate
“There are certain skateboarders… which were just really creative and doing things outside of skating. And that’s as I say why I love it, more than I would love any other thing which would be considered a sport. Because there’s so much room to just do exactly what you want to do.”
Photography Wolfgang Tillmans
He really likes ordinary things
“I really like taking small objects and blowing them up massive. Everyday objects that you would look at twenty times a day but never really properly observe.”
His exhibition explores why we get out of bed in the morning
“I got on those, like antidepressants and mood stabilizers, which just turned into a total disaster for me, because I started really abusing them. Spending such a long time indoors with the curtains closed, not eating, not drinking, because I had quit them. I thought we need to incorporate the objects which I became more familiar with than I already was because they are in my bedroom, and have some element of domesticity in it. Because the whole ethos of the show is – is life worth getting out of bed – and what makes it worth getting out of bed.”
Photography Regina Lemaire-Costa
His recent sobriety inspired the show’s name, Us and Chem
“I’ve been sober for seven months now. And it changes the way you feel in yourself. And obviously that inspired the name of the show. ‘Us’, because it’s self reflective, and ‘Chem’, because the impetus of the show is about chemical imbalance.”
His grandma is great with the backhanded compliments; not so great with recognising her own grandson
“My grandma came to see the show… and she want ‘oh, you used to be so beautiful as a baby. What happened.’ I said — ‘it’s not me.'”
Photography Regina Lemaire-Costa
They almost filled a bathtub with prosecco. We are quite sad they didn’t.
“We were saying, do we just fill it with prosecco. But then we just thought someone’s gonna just come and pull the plug, or flood the show.”
He’s on first name basis with that very famous artist Damien (Hirst)
“Me and Damien met in Venice then met up here. He saw… Beautiful Chemical Imbalance and he just said it would look really good on a spin plate. He stands with a 15 foot wide canvas just spinning so fast and he just chucks house paint and pours acid at it and everything.”
Photography Regina Lemaire-Costa
He’s transforming a chemical imbalance into creativity
“People have a chemical balance or imbalance, and you either have to deal with that or tamper with it. If you can be that dedicated to something that’s detrimental to your health, who’s to say you can’t transfer that skill to something creative.”
Art = therapy
“I’ve had kids come and they leave messages and they tell me, ‘I was looking at your work and it really resonated with me and I feel the same way.’ For me to receive that feedback and have interaction with the people that are interacting themselves with the work, really cements my epiphany that art [has] never been more necessary to prove to people that they’re ok.”
Theolus Jackson slouched against the stanchion separating him from the entrance of Supreme, the streetwear emporium on Lafayette Street in SoHo. He had registered on the company’s website to pick up a ticket assuring him a spot near the head of a line that by 10 a.m. that day spooled around the corner toward Broadway.
Wearing loose trousers, a football jersey and earbuds, he bided his time. “Most of the time I have my music, so I’m not bothered,” Mr. Jackson said. “I come every week — I like the vibe — and I just chill.”
The ostensible draw for Mr. Jackson and his comrades on that balmy June morning, the so-called drop prompting a couple of hundred fashion die-hards to snap open their wallets, was a jacket ($298) and companion shirt ($158), stamped with the image of a Richard Prince-inspired cowpoke, which sold out within moments after 11, when Supreme opened its doors.
Did it matter? Not much. Though upmarket streetwear — hoodies, sneakers, skateboards, ball caps, sanitation-worker boiler suits — is the ostensible lure for these hunter-gatherers, the wares are just part of the draw.
“These kids don’t come to go into the store,” said Jeff Carvalho, the executive editor of Highsnobiety, a content-and-commerce website and magazine focused on high-end streetwear. “They want to be in the line.” Casting an appraising eye on the restive Thursday morning scene, he drove home the point.
“The line is the new community,” Mr. Carvalho said. “When 200 to 300 kids are lining up outside of a store, it’s because they want to be part of something.”
Mr. Carvalho and Jian DeLeon, Highsnobiety’s editorial director, make it their business to monitor the weekly drops at emporiums like Supreme, Nike Lab and Palace, the London-based skate-fashion store with a new outpost in New York.
On this day, they had offered themselves as field guides to what promised be a highly engaging hybrid of tribal rite and street theater, a latter-day alterative to the once-ubiquitous bands of adolescents raucously swarming malls.
“Come get your number — hurry before they pass you over,” a gangly guy in a tank top yelled to a companion. “You only have a certain amount of grace period.”
His shouts and those of companions volleying from one end of the street to the other pricked up the ears of hypervigilant store personnel ready to pounce on infractions.
Glancing at them furtively, one petitioner stammered: “I can’t talk to you. I’m going to get thrown off the line.”
But overbearing security and a building sense of pressure did not seem to ruffle the mood. For many of these strivers, the chance to swap insider intelligence and bask in camaraderie was, after all, the point.
“Those things make the kids more agreeable to doing something that on surface you think is a sort of absurd proposition,” said Noah Callahan-Bever, the editor of Complex, an online youth-culture magazine that has chronicled the evolution of the line phenomenon in a series of videos.
Absurd, for sure, when a “luxury” recliner can be reserved at the multiplex on an app like Fandango, and a puffer coat from Vetements summoned at a click at ssense.com, rendering the queue all but obsolete.
Yet the line persists, a global trend stretching these days from Tokyo to Tucson and Berlin to the Bronx. Its members, millennials and their younger Gen Z kin, share a mind-set, making common cause of a yen for authenticity. What’s more, they defy facile stereotyping.
“One time I saw a guy with a three-piece suit,” Mr. DeLeon said. “He was wearing immaculate Moscot tortoiseshell glasses. He told me, ‘I’m a lawyer meeting with a client, but I want first to get a sweatshirt here.’”
A mere half-dozen years ago, a shared lust for skateboard and locker-room gear sustained the community. “A limited-edition sneaker was so rare that when two people were wearing it, you knew something connected them — certain music, certain art, certain fashion,” said David Fischer, Highsnobiety’s Berlin-based chief executive. But time, as he noted, wrought changes.
Today, the queue is partly a resellers’ market: energetic young entrepreneurs snapping up wares in multiples, then flipping them at soaring markups on eBay or selling them for pocket change to finance their own buys. On this day, the spirit of commerce was lively on Lafayette Street, with vans lining the far side of the block, the trunks popped to display boxes and bags packed with limited-edition inventory from Nike, Supreme and other vendors — a lure for passers-by.
“Reselling, it’s an easy way to make money,” said a tank-top-garbed youth who goes by the street name Young Sin. “I do this every Thursday. You can’t get locked up for it.” Young Sin, Y S to his friends, planned to pick up a cap for himself and offer additional, marked-up items to all comers.
“I like Supreme,” he said, shrugging, “but they could be Old Navy as long as it helps pay my rent.”
For many others, though, the wait itself is sufficient reward. Some could have taken a page from Andy Warhol, who observed in his loosely structured 1975 memoir, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol,” that lining up for movie tickets offered distinct pleasures. “The possibility of never getting in is exciting,” Warhol mused. “But after that, waiting to get in is the most exciting.”
Traveling in packs has additional perks. “The death of the shopping center has created this void in kids’ lives,” Mr. Callahan-Bever said. “It’s being filled in part by this society of kids, some known to each other only from the internet, all of them into this niche product that acts as a social identifier. For them, standing in line for a T-shirt or baseball cap is a way of telling the world that you know about something that not everyone is hip to.”
Professed connoisseurs, plenty of these queuers like the kick of the chase. “You can’t find this stuff at Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s,” said a 40-something, suede-clad man at Supreme, too press-shy to provide his name. “I like the exclusiveness of people always seeing me and saying, ‘Wow.’ It’s kind of like being a movie star.”
As David Andrews noted playfully in his 2015 pop culture rumination, “Why Does the Other Line Always Move Faster?”: “I can attest to the sense of togetherness that sometimes develops with the strangers around you in line.”
“We become a little band of survivors, with a grim gallows humor to match,” Mr. Andrews wrote. “We’re all in this together.”
Will Gamble, a student at the University of Exeter, is a regular at Supreme’s weekly drops in London. “The line,” he said, “is quite a sociable thing. I’ve made friends purely from going to Supreme every week and seeing what’s going on.”
Shared interests with his queuing companions vary from gallery hopping to sports to music. “We’re big fans of Radiohead, and we like a bit of art,” said Mr. Gamble, the preening owner of a “pill shirt,” a Supreme item influenced by a signature artwork by Damien Hirst.
“I meet up with one of my friends,” he said. “We wait, we take photos — it’s almost the whole day.”
What, after all, is the point of the wait if you can’t share? As Mr. Fischer, at 38 an old hand in this unlikely ritual, views it, “Standing in line and finally getting the product, that’s only one exciting part of the cycle.”
The peak experience: going social with your trophy.
“Once you have it,” he said, “you get to snap it a couple of times on Instagram.”
It was a Chanel Haute Couture collection that was as finely engineered by Karl Lagerfeld and the skilled petites mains of the house’s legendary workrooms as the giant model of the Eiffel Tower that rose above the sand-and-gravel runway into a dry ice–misted sky in the highest reaches of the dome of the Grand Palais.
“I’m feeling very out of it,” confided a jet-lagged Katy Perry. “I wasn’t sure if they’d chopped down the Eiffel Tower for Karl!”
The city of Paris may not have gone that far, but after the show, the audience remained seated as Anne Hidalgo, the city’s dynamic mayor, did the next best thing and presented Karl with its highest honor, the Médaille Grand Vermeil de la Ville.
“To say that I was impressed is too weak a word,” said Hidalgo in her stirring presentation. “Your imagination is boundless, and your ability to transport us into a different universe. You are a universal person,” she added, “but you are also someone who makes Paris more beautiful and more creative. You are a Parisian.”
“I am a foreigner,” said Karl, pointedly, “and strangers see things through different eyes, with a detachment. Vive la France!” he added, “and above all, Vive Paris!”
Thom Browne’s golden baby shoes sit center stage, encased in a glass vitrine. Each model will stare at the shoes as they walk past, Browne says. “It’s an homage to their childhood,” he explains. “They are really reminiscing on when they were in childhood — before deciding to go one way or the other.” The gold-plated flat men’s shoes and the heeled brogues are similarly encased, like art objects.
Vogue Editors React to Paris’s Spring 2018 Menswear Shows
Four down, one to go, with Independence Day in between—New York’s menswear shows get underway on July 10. With the Paris shows still fresh in their minds, Vogue’s reviewers Sarah Mower, Luke Leitch, Amy Verner, and Nick Remsen discussed their highlights via email. Read on for their Paris takeaways.
Sarah Mower To get to the and from the Paris menswear shows, I drove to and from over the Westway in London, close by the appalling sight of the charnel house where more than 79 people died in the Grenfell Tower fire. The week before, on the way to catch a plane to Florence to see the Pitti Uomo shows, it was still burning: a violent funnel of white smoke, which we now know contained lethal hydrogen cyanide from cheaply procured cladding, spiraling hundreds of feet into the air. It feels impossible to push this fact into the background of consciousness, just as it’s not possible to be unaware of the present danger of terrorism, and the rising death toll of fellow citizens throughout Britain, France, Germany, and the Middle East.
What the hell has that to do with men’s fashion shows? The reaction of creative people cannot be unconnected to the times—and fashion, which moves faster and more visibly than art, movies, or theater, is the quickest response medium of all. On one level, it was all right there, the second I arrived: the celebration of the ordinary, the tender, and the human in Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga dads and kids’ walk in the woods. It was more complicated than that—there was an unnerving look about some of the childless men—but some of the clothes, commonplace hangovers from the ’80s and ’90s, were about as non-fashion as high fashion can be. Nevertheless, Gvasalia said, not disingenuously, that he saw hope in the children and their potential to think big about the future, as one of his slogans read.
It won’t have the slightest effect on the price of things, but this round of collections was really not a showcase for the power of old elites. Rick Owens literally elevated his proud alternative tribe of freaks to a grandstand walkway in the air above the Palais de Tokyo: a vast piece of theater that sent emotional chills even in the melting heat. His elegant tailoring had formality and presence, but the suited man from Owens’s civilization could not be further from a banker, hedge funder, or corporate titan.
Owens has a messianic ability to message hope in humanity in the midst of the apocalypse. That is exactly the kind of leadership young people are looking for now. While we were in Paris, the British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, took to the main stage at Glastonbury, his every phrase about social equality cheered to the skies. In France, Emmanuel Macron, the unheard-of outsider turned 39-year-old president just swept the ancien régime of the old left and right. Neither was ever taken seriously on the way up by what Corbyn called, jeeringly, “the commentariat.”
I was constantly into news feeds while I was away, anxious to know what was happening on the ground in London in the midst of the chaotic absence of government assistance for the Grenfell homeless and bereaved. One thing has struck me powerfully: Out of this tragedy, ordinary people, young and old, are being seen, heard, and respected in a way I have never before witnessed in mainstream media. Even during the recent election campaign, young and working-class people were never asked what they thought. Big surprise: They voted and knocked back Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s government from a majority to a minority.
Now, fashion is suddenly listening to a new generation, right enough. After the surprise emergence of the international teenage boy club fixated on buying Gosha Rubchinskiy, Vetements, and Supreme, the big houses are visibly waving to them in the hopes they’ll come up with items the kids will stage a run on. Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton already did it by collaborating with Supreme last season. Triggering them with logo fonts and trainers is one line: Both Pierpaolo Piccioli at Valentino and Kris Van Assche at Dior took that tack. Others too numerous to mention seem to believe that teens will be dying to pose in tiny tailored gym shorts next summer. Of course, anything can happen these days, but it looked more like a case of middle-aged fantasy projection to me. It’s athletic heroes who dictate the length boys will wear their shorts, not fashion designers.
It was Rei Kawakubo who went with the realistic short—the wild and baggy basketball shape in which her bunch of teens had a great night out loping around her disco floor. Her pitch to the mood of kids was perfect: glitter escapism against the gloom. Fashion does a valid public service that way when things are down.
But what about the realistic, normal man? My favorite sightings were the men of all ages, builds, and races, who wore durable blue-collar workwear elevated as eternal classics by Junya Watanabe. They were the kind of clothes that give fashion a good name: non-disposable, non-trendy, built for purpose. Otherwise, what I remember most coming out of this “everyman” set of collections is the Hawaiian shirt and the chino. It’s the uniform every dad lighting up a barbecue at the weekend this summer will relate to. In our times of trouble, it’s the super-ordinary, safe domestic life of a dependable man that has become the fashion fantasy. Over to you, Luke. How did it look through your eyes?
Luke Leitch Hi, Sarah. Well, I’m still here in Paris, lingering to finish up a Resort appointment or two, so the bubble that is being at the shows hasn’t quite yet burst for me. Staying within that bubble, one thing I think that ran through them was tension between fit and discomfiture:Are masculine clothes a tool for reinforcing masculinity or reassessing it?Could they even be a catalyst for breaking it down and building it up anew and improved? That kind of depended on which designers you paid attention to, but the most interesting collections were about clothes that prompted men to untether their assumptions about their place in the world.
Chief among these was Rick Owens, who took menswear back to its rudest, most basic state before building up an alternative paradigm of tailoring—these were suits for Yeats’s rough beasts, not so-called masters of the universe.Similarly, sort of, Thom Browne cast convention adrift by questioning the way we allow clothes to shore up gender roles. He imagined a world in which one’s gender does not dictate the colors and the clothing you wear from birth, dressing his models in heels and skirts and dresses. This was not just a theoretical exercise—all of it will go on sale—and it was fascinating to observe.
At McQueen, Sarah Burton sent her initially buttoned-up, martially inclined man upriver to a Scott of the Antarctic confrontation with paganism, pattern, and the tree of life. Particularly atmospheric, at least to this former newspaperman, was a Dries Van Noten show set in the sold-off office of the French paper Libération. They’d clearly left the offices in a hurry: There were still old PCs and desks and clocks and a picture library and manila files full of information carefully collated by long-gone specialists in an age when certain jobs gave you certainty. This, I confess more than the clothes, made me reflect that the traits most needed for working life today are flexibility, adaptability, and multiplicity.To be willing to do lots of things rather than assume you will spend your life doing one thing. Lucas Ossendrijver touched on this in a Lanvin collection that spliced and grafted many different forms of male uniforms together to create an attractive kind of camouflage for now: clothes that send out so many signals that it’s impossible to categorize the wearer.
Other collections seemed to be about escaping it all. At Louis Vuitton’s Archipelago collection and Acne Studios’s Swedish summer house collection, both Kim Jones and Jonny Johansson seemed to be pining to get away—not so far away that they lose their bearings only to discover new ones, as at Owens, Browne, and McQueen—but just to somewhere chilled and loose and beautiful. To me, that sounds just the ticket—so I’ll punch mine for another season and hand it over to you, Amy. Hey, it was good to finally bump in to you at Y-3 yesterday: Did you learn anything new about men at Paris menswear this season?
Amy Verner Luke, you’ve segued perfectly because I learned that Yohji Yamamoto takes hour-long walks with his Akita dog, Rin! Don’t we also want to know master designers are just like us? But he actually did say something after his show that put so much into perspective: “Men need a shirt, jacket, and pants, but there are many things to do. We need to put air between the fabric and the body—how big or how tight, how long or short.” From these elemental considerations comes fashion, and the fact that so many labels took an anti-fashion stance this season intrigued me. The irony, of course, is that each time I hear a designer say they “just want to make clothes,” especially when they’re speaking French, they’re saying they just want to make vêtements (lowercase), which even though they’re not referring to Vetements (uppercase), is kind of how we landed here to begin with.
But then, when Pierre Mahéo wrote in his preshow letter to guests, “Officine Générale promises total devotion to the clothes and their quality,” I absolutely believe him. In the photos, you see the direct appeal of his approach, if not all the fine details. For the time being, what he does remains as relevant and as values-driven as anything out there. I also remain impressed by Luke Meier at OAMC, who continues to embed his collections with codes—these ones happened to come from Ginsburg—in way that never feels arbitrary. As in, he seems hyper-aware of the challenges that come with using clothes to both stand for something and to stand apart from everything else. I suspect all of this is starting to sound similar to my thoughts from last season, which leads me to Études, which I was glad to finally discover—not just because I always hear people praising the collective, but because I sensed their passion for Paris at a time when the city exists in a sensitive space between vulnerable and re-energized. The public transport system’s color scheme has never looked as good!
Lastly, when I asked Jean Touitou in what way his low-key presentation featuring low-key clothes were a reactive statement against fashion itself, he replied, “I’m totally reacting to the fact that there is too much fashion victimism [sic] in men’s fashion. To me, fashion victimism is as bad as testosterone, so I’m trying in the menswear to incorporate femininity; I just want something a little delicate in the guys.” I suppose this could relate back to Sarah’s point about dads at the barbecue—how much are guys trying to measure up to expectations of fashion today, no longer just expectations of masculinity. Nick, you took in an insane number of shows. Where do you stand?
Nick Remsen I loved Paris. And I loved it not necessarily because of the hard product—the clothes, and there were lots of good clothes—but because it finally felt like fashion overall was transportive again.
Fashion shows have not of late held the gravitational pull that they once did. I don’t think this is because of any waning personal interest in the subject matter—I still want to go to the shows, and if I can’t make them, I click through Vogue’s slideshows as I did with Style.com’s slideshows back in my freshman year of college, now over 10 years ago. I do think, rather, that it’s because the separation between the catwalk and the crowd has narrowed to the point that the specialness of witnessing fashion has eroded (blame social media, blame see-now-buy-now, blame a lack of innovation by the designers and their producers, blame “influencers”—I’m not the only one who thinks the game has become too familiar). But where once the dream was to step into luxury, it’s now about experience, and the experience doesn’t need to be luxurious at all. There needs to be some space—a distance, really—that stirs in the watcher a want to traverse it. The runway should represent a getaway. And Paris was a composite paradise.
Rick Owens’s show, as you’ve read in the paragraphs above, was straight-up fucking excellent. His rogue-tailored sylphs spun downward into the Palais de Tokyo’s courtyard, their big pants and their bony chests blurring in the heat wave against the polished chrome scaffold. I have Luke to thank for reminding me that this show was happening—I’d otherwise have stayed writing in the lobby of the Prince de Galles up the street. I’m happy I ran: It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen—and it didn’t take a far-flung destination or even something all that elaborate to make it so. This was Owens putting his ever-creative muscle to work, turning something intrinsically fundamental, really, into something utterly fabulous. It made me want to step back, swim back, soar back into the freakiness of his singular world.
The same goes for a number of others—and it extends to presentations, where, despite the physical closeness of the audience to the garments, there can still be wanderlust apparent. This was true at Heron Preston, who was inspired by the chintz-drab decor of model homes—it made me want to explore cookie-cutter suburbia. Louis Vuitton, a show, spurred thoughts of jetting west to Hawaii, like, right now, so that I might post up at the Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki, headphones in, listening to Drake, drinking a mai tai (or four). Kim Jones’s Spring was more appealing than the hype (and, in my opinion, flame out) of last season’s Supreme drop—the Louis Vuitton–text printed Hawaiian shirts induced more of a euphoric, giddy reaction. In a much more ridiculous vein, newcomer SSS World Corp. also made me think of Hawaii, with its aloha-apocalypse theme, and in a more serious channel, Balenciaga did, too, with Demna Gvasalia’s anti-fashion, more-normal-than-normcore island shirts. That Balenciaga’s show was held in a park, mimicking day-to-day life, only compounded the wish—it put paradise within reach, stripping the rarefied and stepping up the real. Now, everyone get out of here and go hit the beach.
It’s interesting to contemplate what a fashion reveal is in these accelerating days of social media. Kim Jones teased his new collection on the company Instagram @louisvuitton and on his own @mrkimjones account for days before his show along with, among other previews of the shoes and bags, a note thanking Drake, aka @champagnepapi, for his collaboration. The message was overlaid on a red Hawaiian print. When the audience arrived at the show in the Palais Royal this afternoon, the same prints were being sported all over the crowd, prominently worn by Naomi Campbell and others. So, no, it wasn’t a total and utter surprise to see that the collection had those self-same Hawaiian shirts in it, some veiled in organza, as Naomi was demonstrating in the front row. Nor was it a surprise to learn that the soundtrack was a song inspired by the collection that Drake had written. It had been pre-shared.
Vuitton is having its cake and eating it with its menswear these days. After the global blanket coverage of its collaboration with Supreme last season, there is one company narrative that says “super-fast” engagement with youth, while the other one—the oft-told story of its heirloom quality products—says “slow-slow” and “you must wait to have it.”
The company is lucky to have a designer in Kim Jones, who is able to move Vuitton forward at both of these speeds. In a preview, he talked about the halo success of the last show, but put the Supreme effect down to “the 10 percent.” Though not authorized to specify precisely how company sales figures have been stimulated, he talked about the direct conversations that have been sparked between himself and the new generation of teenagers who are fanatical about fashion in every detail. “I’ve found a lot of kids—16- to 18-year-olds—are researching what I did when I had my own label,” he said. That was quite a while ago, in London, in the early aughts, before fashion reporting documented everything via the Internet. But with their computer skills, these kids can harvest things that even their originators didn’t realize exist.
So Jones—even without a massive celebrity-designer image—is watched and revered as a cult figure. Inside fashion circles, he’s also rated for the deft way he can nail a broad-strokes idea that most men will get—the Hawaiian shirt is okay again, guys!—while also having a super-sophisticated hand with fluid tailoring, convincing proportions, and advanced fabric techniques. In this collection, for instance, there is paper-fine leather made to look like plastic, leather bonded onto neoprene, and rubberized tape used to seal surfer appeal into the many bags, micro to major, that were on accelerating show.
According to Prada Men’s Wear Spring Summer 2018; the lonely, hollow ring accompanying the virtual noises ceaselessly sent into the ether, sounds without echoes: These were some of the unlikely themes linking a bunch of disparate designers here over the past week.
And — surprise! — philosophy and politics are of concern even to those who favor sling-back sneakers and satin for day.
Consider the case of Miuccia Prada, a designer whose sometimes banal efforts come dressed in big ideas. For her show on Sunday, she and her collaborators at Rem Koolhaas’s research and design studio, OMA, restructured and decorated the exhibition space at her headquarters with Ollie Schrauwen and James Jean’s large-scale illustration — rushing locomotives, giant ants from a ’50s horror movie, an ape beaming cosmic rays — inspired by graphic novels.
The stated theme was the urgency of narrative in the virtual age. “If storytelling is the root of all communication,” as the show notes said, “the manner in which we choose to tell them — abstract or complex or simple or direct — is significant.”
Ms. Prada’s métier dictates that hers is an image language. This is a challenge, since, in the stories she tells, translation is often required. There is a limit, of course, to how much one can read into a topcoat. That there were a number of these in herringbone, camel, bird’s eye tweed, in a show of summer men’s wear, was a tale all its own.
Perplexing in other ways were the trousers with high gathered paper-bag waists, vaguely emasculating short shorts, creepy Cliff Huxtable cardigans tucked into waistbands, fanny packs worn at the small of the back, shirts with popped collars reminiscent of Ming the Merciless. Blanche McCrary Boyd, a gifted novelist pal sometimes obliged, like most writers, to take on the occasional well-paying bit of journalism, used to joke of those pieces that they were “not for the collected works.”
You might say the same of Prada’s show on Sunday, were it not for the shirts and assorted garments ornamented with panels repeating the irresistible graphics drawn on the walls. Those were the collectibles, the surefire Prada moneymakers. In a certain sense, that’s all the story you need.
It is an image burnished by one of the biggest advertising budgets in the world. The Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) luxury group spent $4.4bn (£3.45bn) last year on marketing its portfolio of top labels, which range from Moet & Chandon champagne to Givenchy, TAG Heuer and Louis Vuitton shoes, adorned with the LV logo that is a global badge of wealth.
This is, however, far from the full picture. Many of the shoes and boots it sells for between £500 and £1,800 a pair and stamped as “made in Italy” are mostly made in Transylvania, a region better known for vampires than any tradition of luxury craftsmanship.
The factories are a well-kept secret, their identity closely guarded. The management says it has taken pains to ensure they do not turn up in a Google search. On the outside there is no mention of the brand – just a shadow of the Louis Vuitton checkerboard print, painted in grey on the factory walls. The name on the gate is Somarest, a little-known LVMH subsidiary.
A French TV documentary team was turned back at these gates in 2014. Anonymous workers said entire shoes were made in Romania before being sent to Italy, where the soles were added. Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chief executive and France’s richest man, rejected the claim.
Now the Guardian can report from inside the factory for the first time, and can confirm that thousands of Louis Vuitton shoes leave their doors every week, complete in most details apart from the soles.
When first contacting Somarest, the factory’s communications officer hung up at the mention of Louis Vuitton and did not respond to any further attempt to contact her. Emails were forwarded to the head office in Paris. “We don’t open the doors of our workshops due to internal policy,” the company said.
But Louis Vuitton has not been able to prevent clues about its Romanian operation from leaking on to the internet. A painstaking search through Romanian websites, including staff selfies on Facebook, eventually led to the factory door.
At the centre of the room is a trunk, a piece of the brand’s history. Louis Vuitton made a name for himself creating these trunks for aristocrats in the 1850s. Today they are made to custom order on the outskirts of Paris, and cost upwards of $30,000.
Exclusivity did not, however, make Louis Vuitton the 20th most valuable brand in the world. In the 1980s the company expanded to cater to a growing middle class, and now the brand makes most of its revenue from selling large amounts of product to the middle market.
As a business model, mass-produced luxury has made Louis Vuitton so successful that it has now acquired 70 luxury houses.Just a few weeks ago it took control of Christian Dior.
To keep profits high, the company had to lower production costs. This is what led it to Cisnadie, a pastel-hued town where EU flags fly from the lampposts along the main street. At one end is the kind of fortified church for which Transylvania is famed. At the other end is the Somarest factory.
LVMH established its first plant here in 2002 to make the most of Romania’s low-wage labour. By 2004, it was producing 1,500 pairs of shoe uppers a week, according to the online CV of the company’s director at the time.
Somarest was not willing to discuss how many shoes it currently produces, but the online CV of its operations manager claims production has increased 70% since 2007, which suggests annual output of well over 100,000 pairs. A second factory was built in nearby Avrig in 2009, also to make components for handbags and suitcases.
A spokeswoman for the factory finally agreed to meet to discuss details of its production. Senior managers, she said, are French and the materials used are likewise imported from France. After assembly, she explained, the factory exports the goods to France and Italy, where they are “finished” so that they qualify for a “made in France” or “made in Italy” label in accordance with EU law.
The European parliament voted for compulsory “made in” labels in 2014 to untangle the knotted thread of globalised production. For goods produced in more than one country, the country of origin is the one where the items underwent “the last, substantial, economically justified processing”. Accordingly, the soles of the shoes are always added after they are exported.
The Romanian factory affords visitors both a real and metaphorical window onto the production process, as a glass wall opens up the offices to the factory floor.
Beyond the window, the work environment is clean and bright and the staff work sitting down. “Here in Romania, these are things that the workers appreciate,” the LV spokeswoman said, referring to the poor working conditions elsewhere in the country that have led campaigners to describe Romania’s substantial garment sector as “Europe’s cheap sweatshop”.
“In Europe’s low-wage countries, workers rights and human rights at work are publicly a taboo and not protected at all,” said Bettina Musiolek of the Clean Clothes Campaign, which works to improve conditions in the industry.
Louis Vuitton’s factories give workers weekends off, pay for overtime and use non-toxic chemicals, the spokeswoman said, facts confirmed by the Inspectoratul Teritorial de Munca, the labour inspectorate in nearby Sibiu. Somarest is a point of pride in this community, the inspectorate made clear. “There have been no complaints, ” said Enciu Dumitru.
The factories employ 734 local people who, according to the spokeswoman, are paid average Romanian garment worker wages. According to Clean Clothes Campaign, that is about €133 (£116) a month. At that rate it would take a worker nearly six months to earn enough to buy a single pair of mid-priced Louis Vuitton leather court shoes.
At such wage rates, garment production in Romania is cheaper than elsewhere in the EU, but lower prices do not mean lower quality, according to Ioana Ciolacu, a leading Romanian fashion designer. “Nor should it be mistaken for child labour, sweatshops and all those horror stories we hear now and then happening in let’s say China or Bangladesh,” she said.
The products at Somarest are moulded and stitched by hand, just as they are in Louis Vuitton’s advertisements, but the craft is not handed down through generations. Most of the workers are trained on site.
Ten years ago the brand opened a store in Bucharest . Shoes produced in Romania can therefore be soled and labeled in France or Italy and then sent back to the Romanian capital to be sold as goods made elsewhere.
The start of this process can be seen through the big glass window that overlooks the Somarest factory floor and the hundreds of workers inside.Visitors are closely watched, however, and it was a matter of just a few moments before a senior manager appeared to usher the Guardian away from the glass – and to direct the spokeswoman into an office for a conversation that appeared terse and stern. The factory visit then came to an abrupt end.
Keith Richards’ former partner of 12 years, Anita Pallenberg, died at the age of 73 on Tuesday evening, reports The Mirror. The pair was together for more than a decade, from 1967 to 1979, and had three children together. In Richards’ autobiography, Life, he writes of Pallenberg, “I like a high-spirited woman. And with Anita, you knew you were taking on a Valkyrie—she who decides who dies in battle.”
Pallenberg was an actress, model, and designer in her lifetime, not to mention a muse to the Rolling Stones. Perhaps her most memorable on-screen role was in Performance, staring alongside Mick Jagger.
Richards wasn’t the only member of the Rolling Stones that Pallenberg took an interest in at one point or another. The Mirror also notes that she dated the band’s former guitarist, Brian Jones, and was rumored to have had a short relationship with Mick Jagger—though that remains unconfirmed by either party. Richards mentioned the latter affair in his autobiography.
i-D’s playful take on pronunciation teaches you how to speak your international fashion alphabet, from Azzedine Alaïa (AH’ZE’DEEN AH’LAI’AH) in Paris to Zegna (ZEN’YA) in Milan. I am missing Louis Vuitton especially for my friends in the Far East. But you can always say: “el veeh”
Virgil Abloh Gives a Tour of His New Hong Kong Store
OFF-WHITE has just opened its fourth location in mainland China and its second store in Hong Kong. The Milan-based label has enjoyed quite the rise since its launch in 2013, and you can take an exclusive look inside the brand’s latest store above. Like every other OFF-WHITE store, it’s designed by Virgil himself and it’s the first store to focus solely on OFF-WHITE’s womenswear offerings too.
The creatures of the art and fashion worlds have been crossbreeding for so long now, it’s hard to tell them apart. But this year’s Frieze New York Art Fair underlined some differences in the presentation style of the two species. Fashion creatures always carefully peacock to appeal to the parasitic clickers that flutter around them.
For decades, at least since her Paris debut in 1981, Ms. Kawakubo has forged her own path, a durable antagonist of established norms and received wisdoms. Her line Commes des Garcons has gone into and out of favor over the years, but she has been at the forefront of important developments in fashion all along. She arrived early to ideas still potent and percolating within the fashion ecosystem: androgyny, artificiality, the pop-up shop, the luxury group (she has encouraged several former assistants, most notably Junya Watanabe, in the creation of their own separate lines under the aegis of Comme des Garçons).
“Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past forty years,” said the Costume Institute’s curator in charge, Andrew Bolton. “By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time.”
The show will open May 4th at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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The New Museum hosted its 40th annual spring gala last week at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. The event honored artist Chris Ofili and had a “Tux ‘n’ Trainers” theme, requiring guests to pair their formal attire with sneakers. SURFACE showed up to ask noteworthy attendees how they chose their footwear.
Oh, I don’t know! I wear these a lot. They’re Comme des Garçons—they go with everything!
Well, these are homemade. I spray painted them.
Marilyn Minter, Bill Miller, and Cindy Sherman
These are the ones I wear every day!
I can never ever wear them out.
I’m not wearing trainers because I didn’t think it went with what I was wearing!
Marcus and Cherie Weldon
I grew up in the U.K., and Adidas were our favorite sneakers because of soccer. I’ve always liked Adidas shoes, and we found his and hers matching.
I just wanted to be comfortable.
Michael Stipe and Thomas Dozol
I think trainers are stupid, so I wore boots … like a lumberjack.
I was thinking ‘Happy Birthday’ because I got them as a birthday gift. My wife picked them out, so I was thinking ‘Thank you,’ I guess.
Bill Powers and Cynthia Rowley
They were the least beat-up sneakers I had in my closet, and they were a father’s day gift, so they say ‘Best Dad’ in there.
Karen Wong and Chris Ofili
(Chris had no comment)
I was looking for sneakers that were futuristic. Future forward.
Racquel Chevremont and Mickalene Thomas
(Yes, that’s New Museum’s own Paul Jackson photobombing in the background)
I was thinking of height when I put on these shoes. I wanted to be tall and towering and Amazon-like.
I chose them because they’re so comfortable. I walk miles and miles because I’m obsessed with this app that counts your steps everyday.
Julian Schnabel and a friend
These are really light.
You know, I like these sneakers. They have a blue, kind of patent leather quality to them and black canvas. I just enjoy them.
Jeff Koons has teamed up with Louis Vuitton on a 51-piece series of leather goods, handbags, and accessories that reinterpret some of the world’s most famous artworks. the ‘masters’ collection is drawn from Koons’ 2015 ‘gazing ball’ series — where replicas of works by Titian, El Greco, and Manet (among others) were interrupted by a blue glass ball attached to the front of the painting. For this collaboration with the french fashion house, Koons builds on the theme by emblazoning works by da vinci, rubens, and van gogh on signature vuitton pieces.
What cars are to the residents of Los Angeles, tote bags are to New Yorkers: a seemingly bottomless reservoir in which to store all the stuff you might (but probably won’t) need while away from home. Some totes are like shooting stars, passing by you once and then never again, while others are more ubiquitous. Here are seven types of totes you’ll probably spot on your commute home.
You’ve nailed the “disheveled in an attractive way” look. Your interests include large dogs, recommending podcasts, wearing glasses, and donating to public-radio pledge drives. You still have either a Bernie or a Hillary poster hanging in your window.
If someone peeked inside this tote bag, they’d find anywhere between one and four Moleskine notebooks. You bought this tote when you were new to New York — maybe as a college student — and were amazed at the sheer number of books the store carries. Now you order everything off Amazon Prime, but still feel guilty about it. It’s just so easy!
Not only do you laugh aloud at New Yorker cartoons, you clip them out and hang them on your fridge.
This bag was purchased while waiting in line at Whole Foods, when you realized that you could save ten cents on your $75 of produce if you bought a reusable bag.
You grew up on the East Coast and were maybe in a sorority. You’re immune to New York cynicism and get unironically excited about Pumpkin Spice Latte season every single year.
The tiny red Lululemon tote is inevitably filled with a lunch that was meal-prepped, perfectly portioned out, and possibly Instagrammed during the previous Sunday afternoon. Look, you just genuinely love exercise, okay?
The Online Fashion Retail Industry, particularly at the luxury end, seems to be doing well. Over the past few years, lot of money has been invested into fashion retail businesses like Moda Operandi ($46 million), Nasty Gal ($49 million), ShoeDazzle($66 million), BeachMint ($75 million) and Gilt Group (whopping $236 million). Valuations of these companies might seem inflated, but these companies are growing fast with the help of clear revenue stream and a value proposition that’s beyond price advantage. But while some companies in Fashion technology are successfully raising more money and growing, there is another segment that’s struggling to survive. These businesses are stalling because of their inability to adapt to the shift in the media consumption behavior of the consumer.
Content is the new social currency
Today, we’re spending big chunk of our lives staring at our computer and mobile screens, soaking more information than probably our brain can process. The impact of this changing pattern in content discovery and consumption is big, especially in the fashion industry. Today, we’re what we share and this is what’s building identities of individuals and brands. If you can be the source of new fashion ideas and inspiration, you can be the fashion; people will follow you and buy from you. This article is for you, if you’re a Fashion start-up aiming to exploit the curated fashion opportunity. You will learn how to be unique and selective to draw people away from biggies like eBay & Amazon, but broad enough to scale and yet offer a luxury buying experience.
We will take a look at companies such as NastyGal, digital-driven fashion brands, selling clothing directly to the consumer at high gross margins, without fixed retail costs and above all – low customer acquisition cost because of Social Media. These companies are targeting the new age Internet generation while taking a dramatically different approach. They have re-defined fashion retail by mastering what runs the internet – ‘the content’. They sell more than just clothes, they sell online fashion experience. With the power of curated content, these companies have become a stamp of approval for their customers for fashion discovery. These new wave fashion retail companies share a common trait; they are tech savvy and understand how to leverage the ‘new’ internet and especially social media as a marketing & distribution channel.
But first, let’s talk about the fundamental difference between the business of selling fashion and clothing. The business of selling clothes runs on the equation of need or demand; demand for ‘nice’ & ‘affordable’ clothes which can be bought conveniently from the comfort of home using the internet. On the other hand, the business of fashion runs on the ‘desire to be in vogue’. Both these businesses have different audiences and require different styles of marketing. Perceived value is essentially two of the major differentiating factors between both.
The key to building successful e-commerce businesses lies in creating a life time customer value so that customers not only come back for more but also share their experience with their friends and family on Social Media. In Fashion retail industry, brands set the foundation to build lifetime customer value on the things such as:
Personalized Shopping Experience
Honest, Openness & Realness
Fashion Supply Management
Involving their customers – Crowd-sourcing
Perceived value is what a customer believes merchandise to be worth, when he or she agrees to pay (or not to pay) for ownership of the product. Compared to the real value of the product, perceived value is more difficult to measure directly; yet it has a greater impact on its value to the customer. Having said that, perceived value of products offered by a brand is also measured by the brand loyalty, awareness and positive associations which the brand has engendered in its target market.
“eBay taught me a lot about perceived value, and how to make things look their best, because that’s really the difference between literally putting a plus-size ladies anorak on a hanger and taking a picture of it, and putting it on a cool girl and making it look like something beyond your wildest dreams that you can snag for way less than Comme Des Garçons.”– SOPHIA AMORUSO – Founder, Nasty Gal
Most fashion retailers who’re successful online are the ones who have kept content as the focal point of their business. Their content is created by a production team (mostly in-house) in the form of stories, product descriptions, fashion shoots, style guides etc. In case of bootstrapped Fashion businesses like NastyGal.com and Pinupgirlclothing.com, this role is played by the company owners. However, as the company gets bigger, there is a whole team of creative professionals; working together to ensure the entire content production process runs seamlessly. In larger online fashion retail companies like Gilt & ASOS, the production team is built up of several departments ranging from:
It’s what this production team produces that gets liked on Instagram, Facebook, Tweeted on twitter and pinned on Pinterest.
1) Be good at communicating visually with your customers
Talking about physical fashion stores, product display is a critical component of a customer’s showroom experience. Brand owners invest heavily on displays to make the product look larger than life. On the other hand, with emergence of social commerce when information sharing is becoming more and more visual, you can’t go too far if you don’t have a streamlined process for content production. With product photos, imagine as if your customers are looking at your product from your eyes. Let your photos communicate as much visual information that your customers need to be convinced about the product value. Here are some of the angles to be covered when you present your product as picture to your customers:
Fasteners (close-up shot of any buttons, hooks or laces in the cloth)
Material of the fabric (extreme close-up shot to capture fabric details, you might need a macro lens)
Feel of the fabric (nicely lit environment can take care of this)
Stitch, Seam & Lining (one close-up picture that captures both)
Emblems (zoomed & cropped shot of any emblem that shows how the emblem attached to the cloth)
Brand Tag (it can be captured in any of the above shot)
Using of videos as medium of visual communication in Fashion Retail
Videosare an excellent medium of getting your brand into the brains of your customers. In other words, it helps you secure mind share of your customers, which is more important than market share.
Freepeople hired ‘TheMill’ & ‘SwellNY’ to create this video presenting their Boho & Indie clothing in form of a short film.
2) Pay attention to the product’s packaging
Some online fashion retailers show attractive product packaging to visitors to increase perceived value of their products. Their effort here is to compensate for the experience lag as compared to if they were in a physical showroom. Showing product packaging gives customer glimpse into product’s delivery experience before they place an order. MrPorter ensures that the packaging delivers everything which customers can expect from a high fashion store. From the embossed pattern on the paper, to the crisp foiled logo and high quality boards and papers, to the hand finishing and fabric accessory ranges. They show their packaging on their website.
However, it’s extremely important for a fashion brand that when a customer opens delivery box, the fashion item and packaging should look at least 10 times better than what it looked on computer or mobile phone screen when ordered it was ordered. This requires not only setting high standards for the product that you’re selling but also high standards of product packaging.
3) Use product descriptions to give a character to your product
With increasing maturity of Social Media as a marketing channel, new age fashion retailers no longer have to write spammy meta tags and product descriptions to please Google. You can now focus on writing crisp meta tags and product descriptions to communicate the product’s value to the customer and story behind it. Tell a story with every product they sell and so much more life to their products.
4) Beware of Inflating Perceived Value
While you or your production team works on increasing the perceived value of your products, don’t cross the line by inflating perceived value so much that it no longer matches the experience of the customer when she opens up the box. Online Fashion Retail businesses thrive on repeat orders, more average order value and lifetime customer value. But if you inflate the perceived value, the repeat orders and average order value will remain low and logistics too will remain complex as there will be lots of customer complaints and returns.
5) Avoid selling on your homepage
Fashion retailers use home page to engage with the visitors / customers, by communicating the message of the business and build relationship & trust. Leading Online Fashion Retailers don’t show product pricing on their homepage. Instead, they encourage them to experience their store from their home page before going into product pricing.
6) Tell a story with your ‘about’ page
People who’re selling behind the scene need to be excited and this excitement and passion for the business must show on the website. Customers want to know with whom they are dealing with and they appreciate transparency. Show them the people behind the brand who are running the show.
About page of WarbyParker.com shows their ability of storytelling and thus reinforcing their success on social media.
7) Always be new
While working with many e-commerce businesses, we have experienced how unorganized many retailers are about uploading/adding new products to their store. But first, why does it even matter? It matters because if you’re adding new products and they are going unnoticed by your returning visitors, they might feel they’re shopping from dead stock. There is a psychological difference between ‘uploading’ new products and launching them as new fashion collection.
FreePeople.com ‘Work it girl’ banner in which they give an opportunity to their customers to know FP Girls as they pose in their new collection. In Online Fashion Retail, it’s crucial that your store looks new to your customers when they visit. To look new, you need loads of content and of course new products.
Saturday highlights their new arrivals prominently with a yellow bar saying – ‘new this week’. Modcloth launches around 10 to 15 items every day to keep their store fresh for their returning visitors.
Personalized Shopping Experience
8) Know your customers If you’re serious about creating a lifetime customer value, you have to know your customers closely. Online Fashion Retailers are innovating new ways to collect customer information and use it to provide a personalized shopping experience.
Shoedazzle collects customer’s shopping preference in the form of Quiz before giving them personalized shopping experience and product recommendations. A Fashion Retailer must try to collect as much information as possible from customers whenever they have the opportunity, without overwhelming them.
9) Sell a Look
Adding related products section (for example – ‘you might also be interested in’) to the product page is a popular way for e-commerce retailers to encourage users to buy more products, related to what they originally came to buy. When you see these recommendations, you might wonder – ok, I might be interested in buying ‘this’ with ‘this’ but will they go well together? It’s like saying that you can buy this tie with this shirt but how will this tie look with the shirt – go figure out yourself. Until you don’t have enough customer data and an efficient algorithm to show intelligent related product suggestions, instead of showing related un-matched products, it’s better to show a complete look like how ASOS has done.
ASOS putting the pieces together by displaying a complete look in their ‘complete the look’ section on the product page. When a user is looking at one product they’re shown the complete set in the up-sell section. It has everything, from Strappy Sandals, Tee and even the Nail Paint to complete the look in the product picture.
10) Make it easy for them to buy right fitting & size
While e-commerce itself is maturing day by day, customers still take it with grain of salt. There are aspects of it that can’t be changed due to its sheer nature. While customers have the opportunity to buy clothes from the convenience of home but there is no way for them to be 100% sure that what they are ordering will fit them. Fitting remains among the prime concerns of the customers when they shop online. And when not handled well, it’s a source of additional cost for retailers as the orders with incorrect sizes from customers translate into support, and return requests.
ModCloth shows this video to make it easy for their customers by by correct size.
Cookies (AKA browser cookie) is a text string that is stored in a web browser. It’s data sent by a web server to a browser and then sent back unchanged by the browser every time it accesses the server. Prime objective of cookies is to enrich the browsing experience of user by personalizing it according to user’s behavior. For example, it enables user to save username and password into the browser so that he/she doesn’t have to remember it. In e-commerce, following four are the most commonly used cookies:
Website functionality cookies: These type of cookies enable a visitor to use features like shopping cart and wish lists.
Website analytics cookies: Online retailer use these cookies to measure and analyse how customers use the website. This allows retailers to improve their shopping experience.
Customer preference cookies: When browsing or shopping online, these cookies enable website to remember preferences of the customer (for example user name, language or location). This makes browsing experience of the user simpler, easier and more personal.
Targeting cookies: These cookies are used to deliver targeted content. These cookies also limit the number of times customer see something on the website (some advertisement or any other content).
Examples of usage of Cookies: Gilt remembers gender of a user and redirects him/her to the specific category each time he or she opens gilt.com.
12) Invite customers to be part of a community
When talking to many online retailers, we have noticed that word ‘membership’ in Internet retail is losing its meaning. When a user is invited to register on a store, the benefit that’s projected to a user on the registration page are mostly usability related, for example:
Save credit card details for faster shopping
Manage order history
Gain access to your Wish List
Track your orders easily etc
It’s not that the above benefits are not important but these benefits cannot build communities. A customer won’t come back to a store just because he/she won’t have to enter his credit card or billing information again. Of course, this helps in retaining customers but it may not be as helpful in building a long-term relationship with them. The projected benefit of registration by an Online retailer should go beyond usability and give user an opportunity to be part of the business. Your real job starts after they have registered, see how you want to engage with them.
This is how ModCloth invites its users to ‘join’ the ‘community’ instead of just saying ‘register’. Please note that when customers registers on your store, he/she consents to the collection of their personal information. It’s then up to you how you use the information wisely to enrich customer’s experience. So when a user registers to your store, he must actually be treated as a member and not just a user.
13) Personalized Email Marketing
Fashion retail stores are using emails not only as a marketing channel but also an instrument to build relationship with their customers. They create intelligent email marketing campaigns to give personalized shopping experience to their customers. They collect email addresses and other customer information when they subscribe and combine it with their purchasing behavior. This enables them to send the most targeted content, product recommendations and deals via email.
14) Use Pop-up sign-up form
Pop-up sign-up form is one common feature used by all the leading fashion stores. If you enable a popup sign-up form on your store and a new visitors opens your website, a sign-up form emerges and greys out the site in the background to show only a popup signup form. This is a great way to increase the number of newsletter subscribers or registered users of your store.
While there are many bad ways of setting this evil pop-up, there are also many ways of doing it right. Pop-up Newsletter sign-up form when you open DKNY.
The Hook: Fashion retailers like KarmaLook use a hook such as discounts and style books to entice a visitor into becoming member of the store.
15) Keep the ideal frequency of your emails proportional to your ability to deliver value with each email
Those of you who’re wary about the frequency of your newsletters to your subscribers, you might be pleasantly surprised to see how many fashion retailers are pushing the limits by bombing their subscribers with tons of high quality fashion content every day. But, why they’re able to get away with such high email frequency (while you may not) is because of their ability to offer value to their subscribers consistently in all their emails.
Honesty, Realness and Openness
We’re living in an era when brands have to be completely transparent and honest. Companies today no longer have the same information benefit over the customers which they used to have earlier when there was no Internet as they could run business in isolation with the customer.
An unpleased customer today can cause more damage to a brand with the help of social media than any time in the history.
16) Be honest with product reviews
If you’re in retail, you probably know the importance of showing product reviews. Reviews can greatly influence a buyer’s buying decision. Thus many retailers moderate reviews so that only positive ones are allowed to display on the product page irrespective of whether or not the product is right for the customer. Better are the reviews, more the product will sell.
Unfortunately, you can’t go too far with this kind of opaque approach as you will fail to build trust for your brand. Brands today have to be completely honest with their customers. The objective of showing reviews shouldn’t be to sell a product but to help customer make a wise buying decision, even if it means allowing negative reviews about the product that you’re selling. More because, returns & refunds are expensive. If you allow your customers to know both positives and negatives about the product before purchasing, you will be able to save money from return orders and refunds.
This is why, GAP generously shows moderately negative reviews of their products.
The objective should be to foster a relationship of trust with the customer. ASOS also offers this great feature in which shows summary of all the product reviews as below.
It goes without saying that this will require you be more diligent and intelligent with reviews moderation. While you become more generous, don’t allow reviews with profanity or the ones that link to your competitors.
17) Stay Real
Social Media is democratizing luxury and fashion. Luxury brands can no longer be dictator of fashion and tell someone “You’re not pretty enough to carry our products!” Since customers are empowered with social media, if fashion brands give such dictator impression today, customers will say – “Alright, go to hell!”.
A community is built on real life pictures which are not always perfect. Any product picture that’s taken by your customer from her iPhone is as important to your business as the one taken by your production team.
The picture that’s shared by your customer on your website or social media may not be as good as the ones you might take in your studio, but it will have a much more positive impact on your sales because the former is more authentic.
18) Be Open with your customers
If you screw-up, don’t censor. It’s OK to mess-up. Be open about it. If a particular vendor is consistently getting negative reviews from customers due to quality or misfits, instead of blocking the reviews, block the vendor. Take it as an opportunity to engage with the customers who placed the order. Write a blog post about it, explaining what went wrong. Your customers will appreciate it and be more loyal to your brand.
Vendor rating: Discontinue with the vendor who is consistently getting negative feedback from customers. Retailers such as ModCloth rate their vendors as per customer reviews and feedback. That they can get rid of negative reviews from the source.
19) Send out a clear message
In Online Fashion retail, what differentiates one store to the other is the way they tell their story. For example, when you go to Everlane.com, first thing you see is this message, with which they try to position their brands in the mind of the visitors / customers.
The biggest benefit of showing this message is that it forces you to have a clear business model and stick to it too; because it’s seen by everyone – you, your employees, investors and customers.
20) Put your own brand first
What do you put first – your house brand or other brand you sell? Depending on your business model, you may either sell fashion products as a house brand or sell other brands or both. It’s common to see retailers selling brands other than their house brand, showing their brand logo identity prominently on the website as ‘featured brands’ or designers. Although, it does makes it easy for visitors to find their favorite brands quickly and the retailer gets passive trust benefit from the featured brand for their own retail brand; but it also gives customer a sense of what the store owner puts first – their own brand or the brand they sell. The new age content driven fashion stores show others’ brand names or logos on their homepage. For them, their own brand is bigger than the brands they sell.
21) Incentivize customers in the form of referral programs
Apart from affiliate marketing, online fashion retailers use incentivization as tool to fuel their brand’s word of mouth. For example, Gilt runs a $25 referral program to reward their customers to encourage them to share Gilt experience with their friends. Such programs can help you increase the reach of your brand from your own customer base.
However, don’t base the word of mouth of your fashion brand entirely on a referral or reward program. If your products, content and entire business model aren’t compelling, referral program won’t do any good to your brand. You will only end-up wasting time and money in implementation of a reward program which will never work because the product and brand aren’t worth sharing yet.
Fashion Supply Management
There are various ways how retailers source unique fashion items to sell on their online fashion store(s). For example: trade shows, Fashion Designers, Import etc.
Trade Shows: If you’re not a fashion designer, you can go to fashion tradeshows and checkout the ready-made collection of designers. If you like a designer, you might have to go through multiple rounds of negotiation with vendors (for price, minimum order, ship-date, exclusivity, etc.) before you come to a mutual agreement.
Working with Fashion Designers: Working with fashion designers gives you better control on the placement of fashion brand using the kind of fashion you want to promote. A designer takes your requirements and submits sketches of the designs. Once you give them your approval on the design along with a purchase order, they buy bulk material and hand it over to a manufacturer who then manufactures the order on a mass scale as per the order size.
Importing Fashion clothing: Other than this, lot of retailers import their products and sell them at good margins. As profitable it may sound, it has its own challenges as you little control over logistics, quality and exclusivity of the product. NastyGal sources a big fraction of its clothing from outside the US.
22) Explore ETSY for vendors and design inspirations
You can find small to medium size vendors for your store at Etsy who not only match with your brand image but can offer you great deal in terms of price and delivery
A Beautiful dress by Zhu Linhui from China, who sells some amazing fashion clothing on her ETSY shop. You can contact such extremely talented designers at ETSY and source unique fashion products for your own store.
Having said that, not all of sellers on ETSY have the capacity to handle higher volume orders. You should be ready to help them in finding manufacturers from your own network so that they can scale-up quickly to fulfill your order on time.
23) Avoid Selling non-exclusive products as far as possible
It can damage your brand if what you’re selling is also available on other websites or a local mall of your customers. The products you’re selling need to be unique to your store or else you have to be ready to take-on the price war with your competitors. And it’s a lose-lose battle, if you’re in fashion retail. Comparison shopping engines have made it easier for customers to compare prices; you might want to stay away from this never-ending battle as far as possible.
If you’re trying to create a brand, make sure you have a clause of exclusivity with your vendors so that what’ you’re selling is exclusive to your store.
24) Keep the first buy small
If you find a good vendor who is offering you great designs, quality & price, don’t place a big order without getting the opinion of your customers. First place a small order and put them on your website to see how quickly they get sold out. Make an effort to collect data from your customers about their experience using the product:
Direct feedback: Enable mini survey tools like Qualaroo on the product page and ask question from visitors about the product’s perceived value.
Product Reviews: Reach out the customers and ask them to come back and leave reviews about their purchase. Design your message in a way that customers give you data about the product’s size, fitting, feel, value for money etc.
If a product is a hit, you can contact your vendor to know if they have enough material to handle a bigger re-order and ask vendor to deliver before the product goes out of stock. This can help you keep check of dead stock as you know that it WILL sell for sure.
25) The products you sell, should all seem to belong to the same family
In Online fashion retail, it’s important that the product selection is in-sync with brand’s own aesthetics, theme & values. Bigger fashion retailers usually have style director who oversee and edit the upload of new products (in case of start-ups, this role is played by the company owner). They ensure that the selected products are not only sophisticated, high-end, creative and editorial but the products are also in-sync with the brand itself. Not only all the new products belong to same family but also the product presentation (which at times includes the type of models who pose wearing it). For example, if you look at the product pictures at Modcloth, they all are shot and edited to achieve consistent colors & lighting environment.
26) Keep check on products going out of stock
If the product’s sales curve is picking up and it looks like it’s going to sell-out soon, the purchase team places a re-order on time so that the product doesn’t goes out of stock. The product remains live if the vendor (seller/designer) is able to deliver the re-order before the product goes out of stock; but if it’s late, retailers set it as ‘notify me’. But if you decide to turn the page OFF, don’t forget to place a 301 redirect to the category pages so that it doesn’t negatively impacts the experience of crawlers and users on your website.
27) Never let the inventory size exceed your ability to present it on your store
If the number of products on your store are so many that you’re unable to write quality product descriptions & meta tags, your store is either overloaded with stock or it’s time to hire more people in your production team. In other words, an Online fashion store should have only so many products on the website that the retailer is able to write quality product descriptions, meta tags and click professional pictures with the available resources at your disposal.
28) Use discounts strategically
Using discounts to get rid of dead-stock is a no-brainier. Use of strategic discounts helps in keeping the collection moving; which means that at times stock rotation is more important than profit in the business of fashion. You can offer strategic discounts to get rid of dead-stock and introduce new collection to keep the stock fresh for the customers. Organize clearance sale every month (offering discounts from 10 to 25%) to keep the stock rotation going and heavier discount (in the range of 40 to 75% on return bases) twice every year to clear the remaining dead stock and keep your brand as new as possible.
29) Be selective with what you want to sell
When e-commerce businesses grow in sales, they often run into the dilemma of scaling inventory to match increase in sales. The biggest challenge in scaling-up the operations is to match the demand in a way that customer and brand doesn’t suffers during the transition. Some fashion retailers are too reactive to customer demand for adding new category of products. Be thoughtful when you’re adding new categories – see if the new product category in sync with the core of your brand. For example, if you’re predominantly selling vintage fashion clothing on your store, it may not be such a good business decision to add new ‘organic’ category to your online store just because you have some customers demanding for it or you have found a vendor who is offering you great organic clothing at good margins and you ‘think’ your customers would love. With such an approach, you might end-up diluting your brand by trying to sell everything.
Crowdsourcing & Fashion Retail
In the traditional Fashion industry, what’s sold in the market comes from the taste-makers sitting at the top, telling the world what to wear. However, a big shift has started to happen as modern Fashion Retail companies have broken and changed the flow of fashion upside down with the help of crowd-sourcing. They have given customers a voice and enabled them to tell the brand what they want.
30) Give opportunities to your customers to be part of your business
With ‘Be a Buyer’ program, ModCloth enables its customers to either vote a product into the inventory or skip it.
They simply post a product from places like ETSY on their blog and let their customers comment vote in its favour or against it. If it gets thumbs-up from the community, they go ahead and actually get it made. Similarly, with programs such as ‘make the cut contests’, the message Modcloth gives with their ‘Make the Cut Contests’ is ‘You came. You sketched. We produced’. They give a theme to their community and ask them to submit sketches of creative, wearable styles that fit the theme. The rewards they offer is engaging too – $500 per winning sketch and the product is named after the winning customer who designed it.
Olapic is a great tool to show user generated photos on your store. With this tool, you can collect, curate and display high quality photos of your product that your customers are already posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more. It’s used by the likes of Nastygal to allow their customers to click their own pictures wearing the dress they just bought. It’s a great way to engage with your existing and potential customers.
31) Expand the role your customer-care team
The role of customer care is changing dramatically in the fashion retail industry. Their scope of work has gone beyond just handing product’s availability, order and delivery related troubleshooting to give style related advice to the customers.
These interactions with customers are going more personalized in nature as they are seen by retailers as opportunities to build stronger relationships with the customers. These conversations also leave retailers with a goldmine worth of customer information which can be used for better brand positioning.
32) Hire people from your customer demographic & psychographic
It may not apply to other industries but in Fashion retail, it can play a big role in the company’s growth if it hires people from its target customer segment. The characteristics of employees of a fashion brand should match the characteristics of its customers. For example, if you’re selling to women, aged between 20 to 35 years, who love vintage fashion, try to hire from the same segment. In such case, a 28-year-old female photographer who loves vintage clothing, will give you a better delivery than a 45 year old male who likes Indie clothing. So as far as possible, hire people from your target demographic & psychographic.
33) Be the style maker with fashion blogging
There are many retailers out there who have little idea when it comes to using blog to drive exposure for their business. They’re stuck in the mindset of only writing to sell whereas fashion blogging has evolved so much today that Fashion bloggers are being invited in the fashion shows and sitting in the front row. You need to evolve beyond typical content creation mindset, for example:
Show behind the scenes in your blog
Tell them what issues you face as a retailer, ask for help from customers
Share interesting interaction between your employees and customers as stories
Reach out to other bloggers. Go an extra-mile – Name an item after blogger and award them with a gift.
Run contests for bloggers.
Drive traffic from news trends on celebrity dressing
Make sure you post what’s valuable to your demographics & psychographic even if that doesn’t relates to what you’re trying to sell.
Bloggers like Manrepeller have used Fashion blogging to build a wide audience for their brand and generate revenue using advertisement and social e-commerce.
We hope you learned something new from this article and that you use it as a resource as you start or continue your journey as a Fashion Retailer. Don’t forget to give a shout out on Twitter @ilovefashionret (using the hashtag #ilovefashionretail) and share this resource with your friends and colleagues.
On March 22, PLEASE DO NOT ENTER’s “Boutique Ephémère” infuses a downtown Los Angeles twist to the West Hollywood landscape, through a bold graphic, musical and architectural installation by French LA-based artist Sébastien Léon, bringing a new sense of place to the iconic Melrose Avenue building, through graphics, sound, and light.
Léon’s intervention starts with the wrapping of both the entire facade and the two adjacent billboards, with his signature line art in bright pink. One of the billboards features the provocative statement, “Hey B*tch I’m From Downtown”, as an affirmation about the blossoming renaissance of the Downtown art and fashion scene, and the geographic origin of Please Do Not Enter. The installation continues with a multichannel sound installation which the artist composed in collaboration with sound designer Machine Head. The duo transforms the wood ceiling of the boutique into a soundboard, playing a cinematic soundscape inhabited by squeaking planks and flamenco steps. Léon adds a final touch by bathing the whole interior of the boutique with bright pink LED lighting, offering a vivid impression to both visitors and passersby.
8382 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90069 (West Hollywood)
The store will be open from Monday to Sunday (11am-6pm) till May 31, 2017.
Rag & Bone’s chief executive and designer Marcus Wainwright has all-but-declared the fashion show dead. This season, instead of trotting out his latest men’s and women’s collections onto a runway, he asked 70 friends of the brand to pose in Rag & Bone for a series of Polaroids and portraits shot by collaborators Glen Luchford and Frank Lebon.
Nearly all of those subjects showed up in their looks for a party on Thursday night at a space right around the corner from the brand’s meatpacking district headquarters. The 15th anniversary exhibition, which also features blow ups of campaigns and visual projects from over the years, will be open to the public for a couple of days. But tonight, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke was DJing in his black suit, Mikhail Baryshnikov was sidling up to the bar, and “The Americans” star Matthew Rhys was dutifully posing next to his portrait.
“I don’t really see it as a collection,” Wainwright said, one of his three children standing by, wearing a checked coat with its red-velvet collar turned up, as well-wishers streamed in. “For some reason, in my head, the idea of a fashion show collection isn’t really relevant to me.”
Instead, the lineup underscored Wainwright’s commitment, more pronounced over the past few seasons, to simply deliver things that are good-looking and unfussy, like a real-camel wool Chesterfield-style coat (worn by CFDA chief executive Steven Kolb and inspired by Wainwright’s grandfather), a Linton tweed jacket (spotted on Rhys’ partner and costar Keri Russell) and an exaggerated crosshatch-weave skirt suit (modelled by the artist Tali Lennox). Back at the showroom, other bits — indigo-dyed corduroys for men, a jersey-sleeve hooded stadium coat for women — also made good on his promise.