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When it comes to global luxury groups, it can be hard to see past the endless sparring between the industry’s biggest players, KERING and LVMH. But with the burst of digital making its presence felt from East to West, the current marketplace is more open than you might think. Today, a number of newer groups are vying for attention – and, with some big acquisitions and unique strategy under their belts, 2015 could be the year you hear less from KERING and LVMH and more from some of the following names.

First Heritage Brands Limited Paris

Headed up by Jean-Marc Loubier, First Heritage Brands is the investment arm of the Fung group which oversees shoemaker Robert Clergerie and luxury leather brand Delvaux. The aim, for the Hong Kong based Fung Group, was to invest in established European luxury houses in need of a boost – and, in tandem, to develop their international potential back home in China. First Heritage was behind the recently relaunched Sonia Rykiel, with its new artistic director and fresh look.

Cheil Industries Fashion Division Seoul

Seoul-based Cheil Industries might have a domestic focus, but that’s no reason to underestimate this leading investor. At the helm is Lee Seo-Hyun, the daughter of Samsung’s chairman and powerful, Parsons school-educated businesswoman in her own right. South Korean brands to watch under the Cheil umbrella include Juun J, Beanpole and 8 Seconds, while the recently acquired Italian crocodile handbag house Colombo Via Della Spiga demonstrates the group’s international ambitions.

Labelux

Famous for its portfolio of iconic British luxury brands, Labelux was integrated into the JAB Holding Company in July 2014. Originally founded in 2007, the progressive group boasts well-known lifestyle brands rooted in leather goods and accessories – think Jimmy Choo, Bally, Belstaff and Zagliani.

Come May, Labelux Group Multichannel Director Harriet Williams and Bally’s Global eCommerce Director, Kirsty Garrish will be speaking at our London Summit about omnichannel strategy – to find out how seamlessly blur digital and retail, catch their talk on the 20th.

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Do you shop at Zalando? The retailer sells branded shoes and clothing to 15 European countries, and is the continent’s largest online fashion retailer. After a well-documented struggle last year, the online powerhouse is back on top: just last month, it reported its first full-year profit, leading to a sale of 17.9 million shares that are now trading 13 percent higher than their listing price. The share sale will increase liquidity in the stock, and boost chances for the Berlin-based retailer to join Germany’s MDAX index. But what’s next for Amazon Fashion’s European cousin?

It might be hard to believe now that Zalando sells 1500 brands to more than 13.5 million customers, but it was born as a start-up selling flip-flops. As the company grew bigger, comparisons have been consistently made with Asos. However, While both are Europe-based and sell other brands, the similarities probably end there – Zalando’s done everything bigger, including having twice as many customers, nearly twice as many brands and nearly three times as many products. But is bigger always necessarily better?

Zalando went public in October 2014 last year, joining other fashion retailers in making the move to the stock exchange in recent times (see: Boohoo, and soon, after merging with Yoox, Net-a-Porter). So what is it about Zalando that means it has come to turn a profit? Other than offering a huge range of products for a portion of online shoppers who want a one-stop shop for everything, the retailer also has an extremely highly rated shopping app in their roster (an unusual feat, even in today’s online-first retail world). Promising to make the experience of buying fashion even easier, the app includes neat features like street style photo inspiration, a barcode scanner to compare prices with items on high street, and an in-app parcel tracker.

To hear more from Zalando, be sure to attend our London Summit – on May 21, the retailer’s Head of Mobile Apps Christian Drehkopf will be in conversation with Jemima Kiss (The Guardian) and Daniel Murray (Grabble) to discuss how mobile strategy could be fashion’s big gamechanger.

Reported by Claire Healy

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Two major trends stood out at this year’s South by Southwest, Engagement and Relevance and here’s the lowdown on how they will impact brands in 2015.

1 – Engagement, the new storytelling

More than ever, fashion at SXSW is in search of meaning. Style and lifestyle no longer suffice. Brands arise that operate from the belief that fashion is more than representation. The increasingly dominant generation of millennials does not only consist of customers, but also brings forward designers and marketeers, and they are developing a new breed of brands.

The same language

These new brands are associated with concepts such as sustainability, self-expression and mindfulness. Entirely in accordance with the worldview of millennials this is a natural belief that goes without saying. This engagement doesn’t need to be emphasised all the time.

Hidden message

Look at the luxury brand Maiyet, Founder and creative director Kristy Caylor seemingly effortlessly combines a distinct style with traditional elements, sustainable sourcing and collaboration with craftsmanship from countries like India, Indonesia and Kenya. “Buying a two thousand dollar handbag is always about self indulgence.” she says. “We don’t have to wave a flag on sustainability. Millennials are getting it.”

Agile consumer

The previous generation, Generation X, thinks in extremes and sees no credible middle ground between charity or sustainability on the one hand and commerciality on the other. The millennial is much more agile and expects brands to be very commercial and intrinsically socially engaged at the same time.

Less for more

In the wider market this movement of awareness is also visible. In the middle and high fashion segments in the US, a slight decrease in the sales numbers is being reported (1% was mentioned), but people actually spent more (reportedly 5%). Established luxury brands play into this by creating more understated designs and marketing. They are forced to go back to their roots of craftsmanship and eye for detail, conveying their real value much better. Think back to the decision of Louis Vuitton to largely ban the famous monogram from their products.

From the heart

Even mainstream brands are slowly moving along, take high street favourite H&M’s 7 commitments (such as care for fashion conscious customers and selecting and rewarding responsible partners) begin to be credible and contribute to the already strong reasons to buying at H&M.

Fair share

To be clear, we’re not talking about an assumed identity. This conviction comes from within. As the next example, take Cuyana [http://www.cuyana.com/], a young brand from San Francisco. Founder Karla Gallardo explains that their motto is ‘Fewer, better items’ and that they recently started the ‘Lean closet movement’. Customers who choose ‘lean shipping’ at checkout receive a reusable bag that they can fill up with items that they don’t wear so much anymore. The items are sent to non-profit partners who make sure that the garments are delivered to people who really need them. The philosophy of Cuyana is about awareness and promotes, as they call it, intentional buying.

SXSW featured many brands with a similar mindset, and who certainly made it clear only authenticity survives. Check out The Real Real, Stelle Audio, Red Bubble and Repack.

2 Creating relevance: right place, right time, the right message

Consumers in 2015 aren’t either click or brick. They’re all over the place. They wake up with their smartphone (60% of Americans pick up their phone literally as the first thing they do every day) and they go to bed with it. From their laptop, they ‘like’ one of your posts on Facebook, to their afternoon of shopping in town before crashing on their couch in the evening with their tablet (30%). And when they’re in your bricks & mortar store they order your products using their phone (over 10%!). Because: why would you go stand in a long line at the checkout if you can order online immediately?

Channel chaos?

The word loyalty is hardly known by consumers these days. Confidence boosts the urge to discover and everything is just a click away. Google provides extreme transparency that even the luxury brands have to cope with. Customers want to buy quickly, easily and where and when it suits them.

Targeted content

How do you deal with that as a brand? How do you attract attention? A frequently heard solution at SXSW is personalisation: providing targeted content in the right place at the right time. Relevance, panelists say, is the only way to stand out for your busy customers.

Who, what, where

Big Data – knowing what your customers do, where they are, what they want – was a hot topic during SXSW this year. Big names such as ASOS, Topshop, Birchbox, Lincoln, etc. use the term. But it’s not entirely clear what brands are just flirting with the concept, and who is seriously doing good business with it.

Emotional connection

But knowing what customers do, where they are, what they want is just the start.

The brands that stand out, offer more than this, using inspirational content to reach customers on a personal level and provide an experience (check out the launch of Lincoln in China).

2015 will see the death of the segregated channels. A sale is a sale. Everyone in your organization has to contribute to it, no matter where and how that sale is made. In 2020, 80 percent of the world’s population will own a smartphone that is always online. New marketing will be commonplace: Big Data will have become BD, Internet of Things will be known as IOT. We’ll go from ‘bricks and mortar’ to ‘bricks and mobile’. Offline retail? That will cease to exist.

 Guestpost by Louise Roose and Pieter Jongerius, Fabrique

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When you go to Eva Chen’s Instagram, you receive the usual riot of colour-coordinated #shoesies, brunches and CTAs to buy carefully arranged products that you’d expect from your favourite fashion bloggers. Except Eva Chen’s actually an editor-in-chief – heading up Lucky magazine for two years this June, the stylish editor and prolific social media poster has taken the magazine into a new era. The key shift, for many, is the introduction of Lucky Shops – the e-commerce platform that now forms part of the Lucky Group alongside the magazine. When the announcement was made last Autumn to spin off from Conde Nast and join forces with BeachMint for a heavy focus on e-commerce, trendwatchers were worried. With other traditional media companies having tried and failed at e-commerce, where does the marriage of commerce and publishing stand in 2015?

 

While independent magazine publishing ostensibly booms, those traditionally at the top find it hard to compete in the global market. Just last week, Nylon Media Inc. announced that it was shutting down the U.S. print edition of its men’s magazine, Nylon Guys. According to statistics from MediaFinder, 190 new magazines launched in the US and Canada in 2014, but magazine closures were also on the up – 43 more magazines closed this year than last, bringing the total to 99.

 

One answer to the fashion magazine industry’s woes that’s been floated most often has been e-commerce. But not everyone has been as lucky as Eva Chen and her team’s social media-driven adventures in e-commerce – although, as it should be remembered, Lucky Shops is still in its early days. Condé Nast has been accused of reacting too slowly to the shifting landscape in their own industry, leaving them trailing behind. But their own e-commerce efforts will ramp up this year. Franck Zayan (formerly e-commerce director at Galeries Lafayette) is heading up a dedicated division at the media powerhouse, which is set to finally start selling products to its readers this year. Bridging commerce and content is something e-commerce companies have been doing for years – Net-a-Porter and ASOS, with their dedicated magazines, are of course primary examples – and it looks like the magazine industry’s biggest player is finally catching up.

 

Bolstered by the notion that consumers want their online commerce to be content-driven, the drive for e-commerce in publishing continues apace. Just this week, Condé Nast owned Glamour announced that it will begin some kind of e-commerce initiative this year – beginning first in the US and UK before branching out to all its international markets. It will be interesting to see whether consumers respond in the way that the editors at the top are hoping – which means, for Eva Chen and others, turning an Instagram like, or a turn of a magazine page, into an online purchase or two.

Written by: Claire Healy

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French beauty retailer Sephora is gunning to become a forerunner in digital beauty retailing with the launch of an innovation lab and four new digital initiatives.

Billed as an incubation hub for the ideation, development and testing of new digital initiatives, the lab – based in a San Francisco warehouse – will also host a monthly internal Think Tank team, charged with grooming the next generation of Sephora digital leaders, and predicting the shopping landscape five years from now. Additionally, it will house ‘Idea Central’ – a programme that sources and delivers ideas from employees, regardless of rank or role.

To coincide with the launch, Sephora has also prepared a number of key digital initiatives:

  • Devised in collaboration with New York-based, cross-platform beauty app Map My Beauty, Pocket Contour is a virtual make-up artist application for contouring. The app identifies face shapes and provides a personalised, step-by-step guide on how to create a contoured look. The tool can be accessed via Sephora’s website (on mobiles) or the app.
  • In April 2015, it will launch its first augmented reality (AR) experience via its existing Sephora-to-Go mobile app for iPhones. Users will be able to unlock digital content – including interviews with beauty experts, product videos and product pages on Sephora.com – by hovering over the faces of nine beauty brand founders, including US-based Laura Mercier, which are featured in windows and in-store display cases.
  • Bluetooth beacons are to be rolled out in Sephora stores across the US, delivering personalised alerts to the mobile devices of customers who have opted in to the service (see Sales-Boosting Beacons for more on how this works). When shoppers are either in or close to a branch, they can be notified when new demonstrations or activities are happening in-store, and receive birthday alerts or loyalty programme updates.
  • Lastly, frequent shoppers can sign up for Flash, which grants two-day shipping on all online products ordered within the US. The service is free for Rouge Beauty Insider members (the top tier of Sephora’s three-tier loyalty rewards programme), or $10 per year for all non-members

Guest post Stylus.com by Alison Gough, EditorKatie Baron, Head of Retail

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Decoded Fashion hits SXSW Interactive on March 13-17 – in the run-up, we’ll be posting content that gives you a sneak peek of what to expect: including panel sessions, special events and the return of our Mentorship Hub.

Hitting SXSW Interactive over the long weekend? The Decoded Fashion Mentorship Hub should be your first stop: there, you’ll find top execs and creatives from the fashion, retail and beauty world ready to share their expert knowledge and coach startup founders on growing their business. SXstyle, taking place at the JW Marriott Hotel, has plenty more to pique your interest. Get the lowdown on SXSW’s most stylish arm with our essential guide – from screenings to talks, here’s the best of the rest.

The Emperor’s New…Wearables?

This panel will thrash out the notion of devices that will disappear altogether in years to come. Speakers including Brandon Little (CCO, Fossil) and Sandra Lopez (Intel) will discuss how big industry players will make wearable electronics feel increasingly invisible.

(Friday March 13, 12.30pm)

Is there still room for Fashion Blogging?

This panel is inspired by last year’s New York Magazine article by influential fashion critic Robin Givhan, which asked whether the influence of the noughties’ fashion guerrillas is waning in a post-digital age. Presented by Caroline Waxler, founder of Harkness Hall, this talk will explore what’s next for bloggers – how can they stay relevant in a crowded blogosphere?

(Tuesday March 17, 11.00am)

T H E U N S E E N

Taking place at the Austin Convention Centre, this interactive talk and demo session showcase the work of Material Alchemist Lauren Bowker and her team of anatomists, engineers and chemists. Their world aims to collide couture luxury products and science in unforeseen ways – including a recent, color-changing AIR collection. Perfect for those who want to check out the vanguard of material design.

(Monday March 16, 12.30pm)

Full details of Decoded Fashion’s SXSW activities can be found here.

Reported by Claire Healy

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Set to hit Kings Cross on May 20-21, our annual London Summit will feature speakers from both the technology-first and fashion-first sides of the industry: including Google, Matchesfashion.com, Farfetch and John Lewis. One of the companies that has been most eager for two worlds to collide is Amazon Fashion, whose European VP Sergio Bucher will be speaking at the Summit. Ahead of his appearance, we thought we’d give you an update on the fastest growing and most fashionable arm of the WWW’s most famous e-commerce site: then, now, and what’s coming next.

Then:

It was back in the 2000s that Amazon started making inroads into the fashion industry – jewellery and watches were available from 2007, with clothing following the year afterwards. Trying to emulate the booming success of sites like ASOS and NET-A-PORTER, Amazon Fashion worked as a subset of the site where customers could buy a range of mid-level brands – such as Kate Spade, and denim brands like 7 for All Mankind – in a format that resembled the rest of the site. 

Now:

In 2015, Amazon’s big push into high-end fashion is well on its way. In 2012, Jeff Bezos told critics that Amazon was ready to make a significant investment in attracting high-end couture brands, a statement backed up by president of Amazon Fashion, Cathy Beaudoin. Taking its cues from its own acquired and/or launched retail websites (MyHabit, endless, zappos and Shopbop are all Amazon-owned), the team are promising better presentation for luxury goods. Notably, the team’s patent-pending technology assures that items can be placed on site just hours after being shot. 2015’s figures are bound to impress: that’s a cool 40 million customers, 1000s of brands and 1000 employees for the fastest-growing category at Amazon. 

Next:

“When we think of what’s next, we think of ourselves”, Cathy Beaudoin told WWD in 2013. With a clearly engaged customer base, who more than responding to the site’s ease-of-use, are remaining loyal to the marketplace, Amazon Fashion looks like one to beat in the next few years. In fact, whether the high-end fashion brands ever take the bait seems less important – for Amazon, creating a better e-commerce experience for customers is always the number 1 consideration. But, more than using data to offer shoppers convenience and speed, will Amazon Fashion ever become a desirable destination for serious fashionistas? Sure to offer insight on the site’s future is Vice President of Amazon Fashion EU Sergio Bucher, who will be speaking at our May Summit.

Book your ticket for the London Summit here.

Reported by Claire Healy

Zara-App-

As e-commerce makes the shift to mobile, fashion retailers aren’t planning on getting left behind. Indeed, smartphone app use among retail consumers has far exceeded expectations, with app use in-store or on-the-go fast becoming the norm for the average shopper: according to Cisco’s fifth annual retail survey, 55% of shoppers said they will use a retailer’s app for or during a shop. Here’s our pick of the top apps combining convenience, hyper-relevance and a stylish look on the current mobile marketplace.

1~ Zara

The Spanish retailer recently came out at #1 in Push Technology’s review of high street retailers’ mobile apps for Drapers – scoring 70.5 out of 80 to beat H&M, Asos and a notably low-scoring Topshop. Why? The user experience is seriously easy-going, allowing you to add items to your basket without going through the bore of creating an account. What’s more, the app’s internal pathways are logical, simple and, best of all, fast. It seems that speed is key when it comes to high-street shopping on your mobile – nobody wants a clunky experience that gives you the kind of pause for thought that will take those shoes right out of your basket again. They don’t call it fast fashion for nothing, you know.

2~ Vestiaire Collective

We love Vestiaire Collective – the Parisian eBay for luxury pre-owned fashion, the website allows users to browse and buy designer items that will be authenticated and checked by in-house experts before arriving at your house. Even better than VC’s website, though, is their nifty app for iPhones, iPads and Android, which allows you to be alerted in real time by push notifications about items you’re following. What’s more, if you want to sell items on the platform instead of buying them, the in-app form for doing so is super intuitive and quick, allowing you to take photos of your item there and then.

3~ Nordstrom

Just this week across the pond, a consumer study by Market Force Information revealed that Nordstrom was consumers’ favourite fashion retailer for the third consecutive year. This could be down to their app, which boasts a high uptake rate and high ratings in the app store. Good-looking and easy to use, it lends itself to an omni-channel shopping experience: you can buy directly from the app to pick up in store, check item availability in a store close to you, or even scan pages of the printed catalogue to shop it directly from the app.

Reported by Claire Healy

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“Young adult men are more likely to make a purchase on a smartphone than any other group, according to a new survey from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. […] Popular items purchased via mobile commerce this season, in order of popularity, are: clothing; meals; music/videos/books; toys and games; and consumer electronics, according to the survey.”

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“eBay had plans to release the new iPad app in Q1 this next year, but wanted to find out for themselves how it did during the prime holiday shopping season. Pittman mentioned this is part of the new eBay strategy to be more agile and move faster to keep up with the way we shop in the future.”

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