In May, we launched Glossy to chronicle the modernization of the fashion and luxury industries as the result of technology. With so much change happening, it was an exciting time to be entering the space — and it has since kept us on our toes. Throughout the year, we have had the opportunity to work with a number of industry insiders who have been ready and willing to share their expert predictions and strong opinions with us on everything from see-now-buy-now to chatbots. These are their most memorable proclamations to date.
Fashion brands are saddled with “layers of bullshit.”
In May, during the second-ever Glossy Podcast, Trey Laird, the creative director and founder of Laird + Partners and former head of brand at Donna Karan, said brands are falling behind in social and digital due to their entrenched bureaucratic structures and “fear-based decision making.” On the other hand, he praised the Tom Ford brand for the fact that one man — Tom Ford — makes every decision: “You don’t have to go through layers of bullshit, and it’s not a committee,” he said.
The customer isn’t always right.
It is a popular belief that the move to see-now-by-now is the result of consumer demand: When a customer sees something — whether in social media or the fashion press — they want to be able to buy it immediately. However, on the Glossy Podcast in October, Vanessa Friedman — The New York Times’ fashion director and chief fashion critic — argued that if brands listen to their customers too much, they lose a sense of authority and their ability to lead. “Just because in one moment a consumer says something, I don’t think it’s necessarily the right reason to change an entire business model,” she said. “If you listen too much to what people want, you can’t lead them, and that’s what you should be doing as a company.”
“Fashion is in a midlife crisis.”
On the same note, Aliza Licht — evp of brand marketing and communications at Alice + Olivia and former @DKNYPRGirl — warned brands against changing their production cycles just because it’s the trend: “Ultimately, fashion is in a midlife crisis. This is going to be the time when brands have to stick with their DNA and their purpose, and stay strong with that message,” she said, adding that waiting for a collection increases desirability and the luxury factor. “The whole ‘me too,’ jumping on the bandwagon, is how brands are diluted.”
Fast fashion can’t be sustainable.
On the Glossy Podcast in August, Kathleen Wright — the founder of Piece & Co., which connects global artisans with brands — discussed the fact that, as sustainability in fashion is becoming more popular, brands are increasingly making positive changes in their supply chains. However, she called out fast fashion brands, including H&M and Zara, for their well-documented damaging footprints. She said that, though many have made efforts to become more sustainable, there is really only one way: “Wouldn’t it be a dream if they stood up and said, ‘We are going to do one less delivery this year. We’re putting too many clothes out there, and we’re going to take a profit cut?’” she said.
Instagram is just “curated BS.”
When Glossy spoke with John Jay, head of global creative at Uniqlo parent company Fast Retailing, in July, all talk turned to the importance of the customer: “You have to look at the customer,” he said, regarding how to best pinpoint trends in the fashion space. “Everything else is just an interesting trick.” He described the industry as being in a state of chaos and said that, as a result, people are looking to technology as a solution instead of a means to an end: Brands are using Instagram, which he called “curated bullshit,” to inform product development, rather than looking to the views of their customers.
Fashion doesn’t understand brands.
In May, at Decoded Fashion’s London summit, Sir John Hegarty — founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), a creative agency based in the U.K. — declared that a number of fashion industry insiders “wouldn’t understand an idea if it smacked the in the face.”
“The fashion industry is being driven by people who don’t understand brands,” he said, backing it up with claims that many brands haven’t figured out what they believe, the philosophy behind what they do and how to project what they stand for. “Brands are collections of ideas and thoughts that create a difference, and how you create that difference in a market when you both have to be the same but also stand out, is the great conundrum.”
Innovative marketing tools are just PR.
In October, following Tommy Hilfiger’s launch of a Facebook Messenger–based chatbot and subsequent failure to remark on its conversion success, we called attention to fashion marketing’s lack of understanding data. In addition to chatbots, their use of virtual reality, augmented reality, magic mirrors and iMessage apps typically serves as PR fodder rather than purchase-driving marketing tools. The reason? Retailers don’t know what to do with the customer data that lands in their lap after such activations.
“Things like VR tend to not be an integrated part of overall marketing,” said Jason Goldberg, svp of commerce and content practice at the agency Razorfish. “Brands should be asking who put on the headset? Were they existing or new customers? How do you buy something you see in the experience? But it’s still a novelty effect. They chase the most buzz-worthy thing as opposed to the highest value thing.”
Luxury designers “don’t know how to modernize.”
In September, as part of our Confessions series — in which we grant anonymity in exchange for honesty — an employee on the design side of an American luxury fashion house shared the frustrations of working for a brand that isn’t modernizing. She described the brand’s “warped interpretation of modern, young, hip clothes” and too-strict adherence to one aesthetic and a handful of fabrics. “Our design process isn’t exciting: We recreate designs off of photos and samples, which results in a whole lot of non-interesting stuff that’s already out there in the marketplace,” she said. “Today in fashion, the street is the inspiration — we should be looking to the street to design. We don’t know how to modernize properly.”
Classic training is not needed to become a successful designer.
Plenty of fashion purists, including CFDA CEO Steven Kolb, have said that too many people think they can become designers despite not being classically trained. Shira Sue Carmi, founder of Launch Collective, a management firm that has launched the businesses for designers including Tanya Taylor, disagrees: That matters even less now, she said during a Glossy Podcast in August. “The importance is now on creating a differentiated product. If you have an idea, others can help you design it,” she said. “But if you’re not able to actually reach your consumer and speak to them, it doesn’t matter how much training you have as a designer or how many years you worked at Ralph Lauren.”
Amazon could become the next big luxury fashion retailer.
Despite the fact that French conglomerate LVMH vowed to never work with Amazon, the e-commerce platform still hopes to become a leading luxury fashion retailer — and some industry insiders believe that’s enough. “When Amazon digs in and commits, it’s a threat,” Keith Anderson, vp of strategy and insights at e-commerce analytics company Profitero, told Glossy. “What they already have in place is the underlying logistics and supply chain, they have the traffic — but they don’t have the branding and the mindshare with the luxury shopper. If they’re committed, though, they’ll get there. It’s inevitable.”