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“In today’s turbulent retail landscape, it’s more common to hear about established brands scaling back rather than expanding. Just as many large-scale labels like Joe Fresh and Donna Karan are hitting the pause button on global growth, certain trademarks — like Kate Spade & Co. — are surging ahead.”

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Decoded Fashion - Fashion Tech Daily - Kate Spade
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“After running a 60 percent off sale on all remaining goods, Kate Spade Saturday’s e-commerce site, Saturday.com, shut down for good on Thursday.”

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Decoded Fashion - Fashion Tech Daily -  Kate Spade Saturday
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“After just two years on the market, Kate Spade Saturday — Kate Spade’s lower-priced, more casual offshoot — is closing all 19 of its stores. Jack Spade, Kate Spade & Company’s 22-year-old menswear brand, is also shuttering all 12 of its stores. Stores will close gradually over the first half of 2015, and Kate Spade Saturday’s e-commerce site will remain active during that time.”

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Kate Spade, like so many classic all-American accessories brands that hung off womens’ arms in the 90s, went through a somewhat sleepy transitional period in the latter part of the noughties. Unlike some of those other brands, however, the Kate Spade story is far from over – from 2008 to 2013 it reported an increase from $126 million to $750 million in net sales, and currently enjoys a beloved position in shopping streets in every time zone and every continent. So what exactly is Kate Spade doing so right?

Somebody who probably has all the answers to that is one of our speakers at the Decoded Fashion New York summit: Mary Beech, the Chief Marketing Officer of Kate Spade, has just been confirmed to appear at Metropolitan West. But here’s what we do know: Kate Spade has one of the best brand storytelling strategies in the business. Working their magic in-store and online, the label is going from strength to strength.

A little history: Kate Spade, a former accessories editor at Mademoiselle, set out to design the perfect handbag in 1993. Debuting her namesake collection with just six silhouettes, her colourful palettes were ultra-fresh in a landscape of pared-back minimalism. Fast forward to 2014 and the label has embraced all-new ways to stand out from the crowd – and not all of them involve the handbags themselves.

The past year has seen Kate Spade embrace in-store technologies designed to boost sales. It launched interactive displays across ten of its stores in the early part of the year, with tables encouraging shoppers to pick up physical products from their carefully merchandised surfaces – the screens subsequently display storytelling content such as campaign videos and Instagram images. The startup behind the technology is the NY-based Perch Interactive. In stores, the technology might be suspended from the ceilings above a merchandising table, or alternatively on the wall, in order to project animated images onto the surface below. More recently, the brand even employed in-store technology before a store had actually opened to the public: in New Jersey, a mid-construction façade for a new store was infused with touch screens and an interactive personality quiz to catch the eyes of passers-by. This latest move was yet more proof – as if we needed it – that Kate Spade knows the fashionable tech retail game inside-out.

Reported by Claire Healy

Decoded Fashion New York will take place on November 18-19, 2014 at Metropolitan West. The full agenda can be found here.

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“Kate Spade is set to open a new boutique in the Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey on October 24, and as with nearly all construction projects, the facade that covers the work-in-progress boutique is normally not that memorable. Kate Spade took that barricade and infused it with technology to make it memorable.”

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“In an effort to make its stores more interactive, Kate Spade has launched Perch technology in its stores. Perch, an interactive display system, seamlessly integrates rich media content into the in-store shopping experience.”

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“The lab, a collaboration between the Partnership Fund for New York City, Springboard Enterprises, and major fashion retailers, is accepting applications through tomorrow from fashion tech startups.”

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Decoded Fashion SXSW

Every year Austin opens it’s city to over 30,000 visitors for the notorious SXSW festival and last week we joined the lineup with our first event! With over 500 attendees crossing the threshold to take in three hours of panels, talks and face-to-face meetings at the Mentorship Hub. Here are the best bits from the conversations that took place.

First up, ” Onboarding Tech” with Amy Walker, Director of Online Marketing at Neiman Marcus, Jen Rubio, Global Director of Innovation at AllSaints and Will Young, Director of Zappos Labs at Zappos.com

All speakers emphasised their preference for finding new tech companies through networking and receiving recommendations from venture capital firms over receiving cold calls and emails.

Brands don’t want to be subjected to hard sales pitches that make unrealistic promises, but would rather engage in a conversation with a startup that has done extensive background research about the brand, has contacted the relevant department to pitch, and already has an idea about what the challenges may be and how they could be tackled. And naturally, if the technology is easier to onboard, then brands will implement it much faster. Young drives home this point “If you set the expectations we are doing something really interesting, that you might be interested in and we would love to learn what your challenges are […]’ it’s much more of a conversation than guns blazing sales pitching. And then I leave that meeting feeling like I wanna continue that conversation.”

And what technologies are brands looking for? Brands want to increase their conversion rates and their ROI in an engaging and sustainable manner, rather than invest in a fad that attracts media attention. What tools can help them seamlessly merge their content and their commerce? What can help them build an online community by telling their brand story?

Our second panel focused on content curation, featuring Rachel Tipograph, Director of Global Digital and Social Media at GAP, Kristina Di Matteo, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Kate Spade and Katalina Sharkey de Solis, Director of Digital at Chanel.

Tipograph cited simplicity as key, it’s at the core of GAP’s brand and that filters into all of their processes, whether it’s creating content, or onboarding a new start-up. This also rings true for the Kate Spade brand, who have a tiny team creating all this fantastic content, but if it’s too complicated to onboard it just doesn’t work.

With luxury, Sharkey de Solis pointed out that social media channels engage aspirational and potential luxury consumers much more than they do existing consumers. The challenge for them  is finding a way in which to excite current consumers, which means, “We’re really looking for experiential technologies because with this very high-end consumer, they’re not necessarily wanting to engage with the brands on [social media] channels” – Sharkey de Solis

And, though traditional long-term branding campaigns may not be devised with specific measurement matrices in mind and may be ideally measured qualitatively, Di Matteo emphasised how difficult it is for brands to quantitatively measure the success of more fast-moving online campaigns. “If it were up to me, I would create the coolest reporting tool that would allow for me to understand everything that’s happening and have it really succinctly tie up into my [ecommerce] data because, at the end of the day, our goal is to generate sales, but also be able to tell a great story.” Anyone got an idea for this?

Last week’s event was a milestone for Decoded Fashion, and you can be sure to find us at next year’s SXSW.

For all the photos from the event you can check them out here, and for further SXSW fashion coverage take a peek at the FT’s feature and Stylus’s report.

Reported by Anna Abrell 

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