It’s been a transformative year for the fashion and beauty industries: Direct-to-consumer brands moved further into traditional-brand territory, streetwear and luxury became increasingly intertwined, and wellness’s impact on beauty became apparent industrywide. At the same time, widespread movements toward authenticity, transparency, sustainability and diversity took shape, forcing strategic updates across departments, at brands across the board.
In our second annual Glossy 50 list, rolling out all week, we’re honoring the industry insiders responsible for driving these important shifts. Below are the honorees representing Luxury Fashion’s Innovators.
Sandrine Deveaux started her new job at Farfetch with a simple brief from CEO José Neves and a directive to “figure the rest out.”
As the managing director of Farfetch’s Store of the Future platform, Deveaux said her role at the company has always been entrepreneurial. From Neves, her goal was to figure out how technology could be used to bring brand context into stores while improving the overall in-store experience, one that could not just survive but also flourish in a retail world increasingly dominated by digital. After joining in 2015, Deveaux spent the first year of her job observing, understanding, contemplating: What does technology in stores look like, and what should it look like? How come nothing — VR, digital mirrors, touchscreens — has cracked through the test-and-see phase and made an actual impact? Then came time to build a roadmap and a team. Deveaux now leads 70 people at Farfetch.
“Our roadmap always begins with the customers’ needs. What is the type of experience we want to have in luxury stores? We work hard to identify the problems brands need to solve to make customers happy,” said Deveaux. “Store of the Future is not screens everywhere. It’s about providing context around a consumer journey and creating a new real-life experience that’s made better with technology.”
Deveaux has been plotting what fashion’s digitally driven future will look like for the past 11 years, starting her career in luxury fashion at MatchesFashion, where she helped bring the luxury e-commerce business from $2 million to $35 million over three years as the site’s director of marketing and e-commerce. From there, she spent four years at Harvey Nichols, helping the luxury department store navigate the shift to online as the company’s multi-channel director.
“Sandrine [is] a technology product person with a deep knowledge of retail, the customer and the luxury landscape,” said Stephanie Phair, Farfetch’s chief strategy officer. “Those skills combined are rare, which is what has made Store of the Future as a proposition a valuable one to luxury brands needing a trusted partner to navigate through the change.”
At Farfetch, which is now a public company valued at $8 billion, Deveaux has reversed course: She’s tasked with figuring out the best way to infuse luxury stores with technology in a way that feels elegant and high-touch, not clunky. After debuting the Store of the Future platform in 2017, Farfetch purchased London’s Brown’s East retailer to serve as an in-house testing bed.
Next, her work will be put to the test at luxury’s highest peak. In August, the company announced its first external Store of the Future client: Chanel.
“There’s no not getting it right. You lose the customer if you don’t get it right,” said Deveaux. “There’s a real opportunity here to run stores differently — to make them more experiential, more emotional. These locations are now positioned to be the perfect complement to e-commerce’s utility. It’s just about getting it right.” — Hilary Milnes
Lindsey Goldberg and Jacqueline Holden — Theory’s director of sales and director of global merchandising, respectively — have spent the past year growing Theory 2.0, the internal initiative started in 2015 by CEO Andrew Rosen, meant to both give employees more opportunities and rejuvenate the company.
“The [Theory] 2.0 movement is about giving the rising talent in the company a voice and the opportunity to come up with different ways to drive business,” said Goldberg. “Their ideas reflect our generation, which is why 2.0 has taken on a new life within the company; the goal is that the ideas will become integrated into the business.”
One of four Theory 2.0 board leaders, Goldberg stepped up this year as a liaison to ensure collaboration is maintained between 2.0 members, despite being split into four project-based teams. It’s resulted in additional projects, like redoing a meeting space in Theory’s NYC headquarters to be more inspiring.
Among the first Theory 2.0 projects to come to fruition was a capsule collection, led by Holden, in July 2017: Every three months, a fresh collection — the result of contributions from eight Theory team members from different departments, including merchandising, design and e-commerce — rolls out exclusively to 20 of Theory’s 500 stores and on a Theory 2.0 microsite online. It marks one way the brand is increasing its focus on its direct-to-consumer business.
Around the same time, the company launched three more projects being backed by the initiative: Be Heard, an educational event series for women entrepreneurs; an in-house sustainability effort; and Theory for Good, a clothing recycling program where customers bring gently used clothing to Theory stores for donation.
Owned by Uniqlo parent company Fast Retailing, Theory does $800 million in annual sales. For financial 2018, profits for Fast Company’s global brands category, which includes Theory and J Brand, were up 49 percent.
Theory 2.0 has grown in the last 12 months, Holden said, due in large part to Rosen’s encouragement, providing the resources to see projects come life. She also credited the participants’ passion — each going beyond their day-to-day jobs to see their projects take off.
This year alone, the Be Heard project kicked off Career Day in July: The event, set to take place six times a year on the rooftop of the Theory HQ, features a fireside chat between two female entrepreneurs followed by workshops on their areas of expertise. Driven by the sustainability team, Theory’s basics and suiting categories were redesigned to be more sustainable, a recycling program kicked off at the Theory office, and the ball is rolling on further sustainability driven changes in production processes. Finally, an online version of Theory for Good, is set to kick off this year.
“Having that visibility and mentorship to upper management is a really big part of Theory 2.0’s success,” Goldberg said, noting that recent graduates looking to join the Theory team regularly mention wanting to be a part of it. “It’s helping us all grow into better leaders.” — Jill Manoff
Mara Hoffman is never not moving. After relaunching her namesake designer brand in 2015 to turn her production and manufacturing process into a sustainable business, she’s kept iterating on what it means to be a responsible fashion designer today.
In the past year, she’s introduced new sustainable fabrics — Tencel, Refibra and hemp — all of which have a lower environmental impact. At the same time, she extended her size range, first introducing five styles in sizes 14 to 20, before expanding the range to 40 styles.
How often are you thinking about progress, change and evolution when it comes to navigating your design business?
All of the time. I am not comfortable being stagnant. Each new season presents itself to me as a challenge to do better and evolve the business in conscious, creative ways relating to all aspects of the brand, from the nitty gritty to the manufacturing to the design.
Is evolution even more important today than in the past?
Fashion is one of those industries that is built on change and often acts as an indicator of cultural shifts. We are at a crucial point in the fashion industry today. Our methods need to be revolutionized to help repair years of damage that’s been done, and to pave new roads and ways of thinking for the next generation of designers and manufacturers.
Where do you think fashion needs to see the most progress and change?
I would like to see a broader change in manufacturing processes and a more inclusive industry. We need to slow down our timelines in order to create a different relationship to consumerism — one that is built on care instead of continuous, quick consumption. There’s a need for kinder, more conscious production on both an environmental and a humanitarian level. We need to consistently work to challenge our ideas about the fashion industry and about our ideal consumer, always striving to include and spotlight more women in the work we’re doing. — Hilary Milnes
In the social media age, careless practices can break a brand — so it makes sense that more fashion companies are seeking out Suzanne Lee’s services. Lee is currently the designer and chief creative officer of Modern Meadow, a 7-year-old New Jersey–based startup that grows leather in a lab, completely eliminating animals from the equation. A longtime proponent of biotechnology in textiles, she’s had a busy year prepping the company’s concepts for debuts on the largest stages to date — first, a pop-up in New York’s SoHo neighborhood and, days later, the Museum of Modern Art’s “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” exhibit, featuring a custom Modern Meadow biofabricated leather piece. Both were timed with the launch of Zoa, the company’s consumer-facing materials brand — but Lee said the company is seeing more interest from fellow brands, looking to collaborate. “It’s becoming really competitive among fashion brands. They’re all seeking out tech companies, looking to become more sustainable than the next,” she said. “We’re in a good place.” — Jill Manoff
Jessica Liu traveled an unlikely path, getting her start in the world of publishing before working her way to e-commerce, and eventually becoming president of fashion and luxury at Alibaba’s consumer platform Tmall. As China has increasingly become one of the largest and most important fashion markets in the world, Liu has spent the last ten years acting as the go-between for non-Chinese brands and Chinese consumers, and vice versa. “The most difficult problem facing foreign brands targeting Chinese consumers is brand awareness and logistics,” she said. The country’s size and reliance on e-commerce can be daunting for brands unfamiliar with the contours of the Chinese market, but Tmall has helped countless brands, from Victoria’s Secret to Hugo Boss, build up an audience strong enough to support the creation of brick-and-mortar stores in China’s metropolitan hubs. Next on Liu’s list of priorities? Helping Chinese fashion brands gain the same foothold outside the country as non-Chinese brands have within it. — Danny Parisi
When creative director Matthew Mazzucca started at Barneys seven years ago, he likened working among the retailer’s storied window installations at night to being in a museum.
“It’s like the Natural History Museum; it’s magical,” he said. “[Window displays] were early examples of interactive, photographable, engaging spaces. It’s something for the public rather than just for the fashion community.”
Still, over time, experiential retail has moved out from behind the glass.
“Window installations are great, but there’s a separation there, literally and figuratively. They are a big part of the DNA of Barneys, but for me, I wanted to take that experience and remove the barrier between the people and the installation.”
This focus on experiences that customers can touch and feel was one of the primary motivating factors behind two recent events Barneys has put on, one in New York and one in Los Angeles, called The Drop. In partnership with Highsnobiety, Barneys debuted capsule collections from brand partners, hosted talks from fashion luminaries, and rounded the whole thing out with in-store designs and experiences developed by Mazzucca and his team.
“The first one we did had a very uniform design,” Mazzucca said. “That was a great experience for us, but aesthetically, it was monolithic. For Beverly Hills, it was an opportunity to create those huge installations in a more varied way. Prada did a collection with anime themes, and I always wanted to do something similar to a Japanese pachinko arcade. That’s the philosophy. Certain brands, we look at their DNA and try to align our designs to their identities.”
In-store brand activations are extremely buzzy in fashion retail right now. Seemingly everywhere you go, the word “experiential” is enough to make any retailer salivate at the thought of the millennials that will be drawn in by an exceptionally Instagram-worthy activation. But for Mazzucca, his work at Barneys is less about following any specific trends and more about achieving a simple goal.
“’Experiential’ is the ultimate buzzword right now,” he said. “But ultimately, I just wanted to answer the question, ‘How do we as a brand drive customers to the store and give them an exciting experience when they come in?’” — Danny Parisi
When Rati Sahi Levesque joined The RealReal with founder Julie Wainwright, the fashion resale market was in its infancy. Now it’s a behemoth.
The total fashion resale market is expected to grow to $33 billion in 2021 from $18 billion in 2016, according to a study by Coresight Research, making it one of the fastest growing sectors in retail globally. Riding that wave is the The RealReal, the company that has swiftly become one of the premier platforms for customers looking to buy and sell used luxury clothing.
Earlier this year, Levesque led the brand into its first major expansion into brick-and-mortar with a 12,000-square-foot space in Melrose, California and another in New York City. Brick-and-mortar is the next big area of focus for Levesque as she seeks to bring The RealReal’s resale expertise into the physical retail space.
“Brick-and-mortar is something we are focused on this year and next year,” Levesque said. “I know omnichannel is a buzzword, but the omni-experience really is powerful. We want to continue to be innovative, and our stores have become innovation hubs. On a smaller scale, we can launch new initiatives and unique programs, like a new watch buy-back program we are testing. That kind of stuff is really interesting to us.”
Resale has been driven by the desire for customers to get some of their initial investment into clothing back once they are finished with it. To that end, The RealReal launched RealBook earlier this year, an app that helps customers determine the resale value of their clothing, even before they purchase it. Under Levesque’s guidance, the brand is significantly expanding the ways in which customers can engage with luxury resale.
“The big thing for me is that now people are starting to buy in the prime market while thinking about the resale value,” Levesque said. “That’s huge. People call us regularly, and we educate our clients on what has resale value. They ask us what is a smarter purchase before they buy this handbag or that handbag. It’s our job to give them the right answer and empower them to make the right decision.” — Danny Parisi
Behind every great designer is a smart, strategic merchandiser.
Jacopo Venturini serves as that second-hand to Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s star creative director, as Gucci’s evp of merchandising and global markets. It’s Venturini’s job to take Michele’s now well-known aesthetic and translate it for the right retailers and audiences, positioning the brand to not just set the bar for the heights of modern luxury, but also to sell.
And it has sold. Gucci has become the cash cow at luxury conglomerate Kering, achieving a stunning persistent revenue growth rate of between 30 and 45 percent since early 2017. In the first half of 2018, Gucci pulled down $4.5 billion in revenue, a 34 percent increase over the year before.
Gucci’s success, of course, can be attributed to Michele’s vision. But it’s a hand-in-hand process for the creative department and the merchandising department to hit continuous home runs. The brand needs someone who can translate the creative to the commercial without sacrificing any of the magic along the way.
“I think the first and most important mission of merchandising is to enhance the creative vision,” said Venturini. “This is done through a product offer that delivers creativity in store while matching functionality, and market needs to build a solid business. The key enabler is a trustful relationship between the creative and merchandising offices. In fact, there is a sort of natural ‘osmosis’ through which creative products become commercial, and vice versa.”
For Gucci, this relationship has to perform on the global scale. In a restructuring shakeup put in place earlier this year, Gucci reorganized its business around five key components: indirect channels, outlet and travel retail, brand and customer engagement, digital business and innovation, and merchandising and global markets, led by Venturini.
The goal, Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri explained at the time of the restructuring, was to make sure all company departments were customer-facing, with the brand’s creative vision at the center of a bespoke ecosystem. Merchandising is a closely held offshoot, so it’s important that Venturini is able to do his job.
“I believe that the base of everything is the shared vision of Marco Bizzarri and Alessandro Michele to place creativity at the center of every decision, to build a culture of respect and trust by empowering people, and to foster an agile decision-making organization,” he said. — Hilary Milnes
Few stylists have become the household name Karla Welch has. The powerhouse stylist’s innate gift for matching bold looks to bold personalities has made her one of the most-talked-about stylists in fashion today. In October, she was awarded InStyle’s Voice of Style Award for using her platform to promote a message that goes beyond fashion — earlier that month, she dressed host Tracee Ellis Ross exclusively in looks by black designers for the American Music Awards. And in May, she crossed over into design, debuting a collaboration with Levi’s. After moving to California from her native Canada, Welch worked her way from her first gig as a stylist for early-2000s band Lifehouse to dressing some of the most powerful women in show business, as well as Justin Bieber. Despite being deeply tuned in to the fashion zeitgeist, Welch does not think much about trends when styling a client. “It’s all individual,” she said. “I’m not thinking about shock value or any sort of attention-grabbing thing. I always push the envelope, but I would never do something just for the sake of doing it.” — Danny Parisi