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business Podcast product Retail

Choosing authenticity over hype

A brand’s success depends on authentic relationships and good design over hype, says Rodrigo Bazan, CEO of designer label Thom Browne, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

“I tend to like less anything based on hype or cool, or the hot thing of the moment, because by definition that’s going to cool down at some point. So I still believe that the big things that are happening are led by a very, very strong design idea,” he explains.

It’s for the same reason that dressing rapper Cardi B for this year’s Met Gala in a larger-than-life ruby ballgown made sense for the luxury label, he notes. 

The Thom Browne team does little PR and has no internal VIP team, meaning the relationship with Cardi, as well as sports superstars like basketballer LeBron James, happen organically.

Since launching in 2004, the brand has gained a loyal audience that appreciates its modern take on classic silhouettes. The designer’s discrete nature (he himself is not on social media) and timeless designs mean it has managed to stand out in a world of overconsumption and celebrity designers that rule social media, from Virgil Abloh at Off White and Louis Vuitton to Olivier Rousteing at Balmain. 

Bazan explains how the brand is averse to overexposure and flashiness, instead focusing on creating more of these meaningful partnerships, from dressing Barcelona FC players off the field to creating bespoke tailoring with Barneys. As a result, it is steadily growing a business aiming to survive the influencer fatigue that is starting to pick up speed. 

Join us to learn more from Bazan about what that means in practice, including how music and celebrity help fuel its success, why the brand believes in sportswear over streetwear, and just how its thinking about the balance of data and design today.

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Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business Podcast Retail sustainability

Rethinking single-use plastics

“Being creative gives us the ability to help change the world”, says Roland Mouret, a designer on a mission to eradicate single-use plastics in the supply chain, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

“Let’s not consider our creativity penalized by the fact that we have to become responsible,” he explains during the recording at the British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum this year. 

His view is that the concept of luxury that dominated the past few decades has been destroyed by the climate crisis, meaning having money, logos and power are no longer the values consumers want to be associated with. 

Instead, we’re seeing a global shift to a more sustainable approach, he explains. This makes for a highly complex business shift, he acknowledges, but he’s doing so by taking a small step that could add up to a big change if adopted across the industry. 

Consequently, one of his focuses is around the humble coat hanger. Not those glamorous types you see in luxury stores, but the cheap plastic ones that flood the supply chain to get products from manufacturer to shop floor, and ultimately end up going to waste. He is working with a startup called Arch & Hook to do so. 

Fashion designer Rouland Mouret with our co-founder, Liz Bacelar

He refers to hangers as the plastic straws of the fashion industry, highlighting their need to be replaced by sustainable alternatives. In doing so he ties the fashion supply chain in with the overconsumption challenge of single-use plastic. Worldwide, about eight million tons of it leak into the ocean every year. 

Join us for this episode where we also talk to Mouret about why he’s on a mission to make sustainability sexy, the major trend he thinks is dying out in fashion right now, and how the climate crisis is redefining power and the luxury industry. 

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business Podcast Retail social media technology

Why retail ‘experience’ is jargon

Creating retail experiences is essential for successful brick and mortar today, but it’s not a silver bullet, explains Jess Christie, chief brand officer of MatchesFashion.com, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

This is a luxury retailer that opened a new physical store in London’s Mayfair last year and hosted more than 100 different events in its first 9 months. If anyone knows what it takes to pull this sort of thing off, it’s Christie. 

“I think everyone should be doing it, but I think the problem is that you can’t just say we’re all going to do experiences, and then say that means we’re going to do loads of ‘in-conversations’ and that’s what an experience is, and then be cookie cutter. You have to really challenge yourself to know what your brand is, who your customer is, and what would engage and inspire them,” she explains.  

Indeed, by not thinking like this, the word ‘experience’ in itself has become almost meaningless, Christie suggests. It’s overused and often without direction – believed by many to be the answer to saving a challenged industry. Which is why we see everything from yoga classes to floristry workshops and ball pits taking over shop windows. 

A recent study shows that one-third of chief marketing officers will dedicate up to 50% of their budgets to experiential marketing over the next five years. The winners will be those who, as suggested by Christie, don’t just think of it as a silver bullet. 

There are of course examples of this truly working in the market. Apple, Nike and Lululemon have all made a name for themselves for their approach. MatchesFashion.com is now taking its strategy on tour around the world. 

Jess Christie, Chief Brand Officer at MatchesFashion.com & Rachel Arthur, co-founder & chief innovation officer at Current Global

Join us for this live conversation with Christie held at a FashMash event in London as we explore her view on all things experiences, as well as what it means to think about personal shopping through the eyes of technology today, and the role content plays in connecting online and offline together.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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e-commerce Podcast

Why Pinterest pushes shopping over commerce

There’s a big difference today between the role of commerce, and that of shopping, says Tim Weingarten, head of shopping product at Pinterest, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

“Commerce has this implication of pushing for the transaction – about reducing friction in the conversion. Whereas shopping is one of joy. It’s one of serendipity, it’s one of discovering something you didn’t know existed,” he explains.  

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It’s that mentality that underpins everything his team does at the company, focusing primarily on how to better the user experience with discovery and personalization at its core. This includes the introduction of a series of tools that filter and predict needs – from Pinterest Lens, which allows customers to find items from the database by photographing similar ones, to the newly announced Catalogs feature, where brands can upload their entire product catalog as shoppable pins.

What makes Pinterest stand out among its competitors, is that its users navigate the platform for entirely personal reasons, such as renovating their kitchens or achieving the perfect hairstyle, as opposed to pushing aspirational content to followers, Weingarten comments. Being able to capitalize on that then comes down to having the right algorithms in place.

“The more data you have, the more you can personalize. But on an e commerce site, the only data they have is based on prior transactions. That’s a very sparse dataset and it happens very infrequently. If you switch gears to Pinterest, what you have is someone visiting every day doing this authentic thing – saving things for particular use cases. This engagement signal can be applied to all products… And because we have this authentic form of engagement, we’re able to understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and actually personalize it to your tastes,” he says.

Pinterest has been around for nearly a decade with a quiet yet steady climb to the top. As of 2018, users on the platform had pinned 175 billion items on three billion virtual boards. The company is now on track to top $1bn in revenue, and is rumored to be moving forward with an IPO this summer at a valuation of $12bn.

During this conversation recorded at Shoptalk with the Current Global’s Rachel Arthur, Weingarten dissects how Pinterest is only getting better at predicting consumer needs before they’re voiced; shares how the platform balances being commercial with keeping the joy of inspiration alive, and hints at the types of technologies he’s looking at to further personalize the shopping experience.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Categories
Podcast technology

Nick Knight on why AI cannot simulate creativity

Artificial intelligence is not yet good enough to simulate creativity, says British fashion photographer Nick Knight on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

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Speaking live at a FashMash event in London, he explained that AI as it stands today, is a long way from what creativity is: “When you create a picture, it is done through desire, accident, failure, fear, love, and arousal. Predicting what I will do by how I did past steps is not a good way to create my next piece of art; it’s not a good way to simulate creativity.”

He was referring to the way in which AI looks back at past behavior in order to work out what is probable next. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t one day figure out how to do so, he noted, adding that he is working on new projects that will keep him on the frontline of it so as to have a say in what it could look like down the road.

Knight has built his career on pushing the boundaries of image making. He has photographed some of the world’s biggest celebrities and models – from Lady Gaga and Bjork to Kate Moss and the late Alexander McQueen. Almost two decades ago, he launched SHOWstudio, an online platform celebrating fashion film, and changing the way fashion was consumed through the internet.

Now his next act is understanding how technologies like AI and robotics will impact creativity, and how he can become a part of such a movement.

During this conversation with guest host Rosanna Falconer, Knight explains what the smartphone has to do with Shakespeare; how SHOWstudio broke the internet but created history with the first ever live streamed fashion show for Alexander McQueen in late 2009; and why he is an eternal optimist about the future.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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e-commerce Podcast Startups technology

Warby Parker on why technology is the lynchpin to customer service

Technology can enable us to do great things, says Warby Parker co-founder and CEO, Neil Blumenthal, with regards to the brand’s meteoric rise in the direct-to-consumer space, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar at this year’s NRF Big Show in New York, Blumenthal explains how technology is critical to making customers’ lives easier.

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Warby Parker sees itself sitting at the intersection of three communities – tech, fashion, and social enterprise, he notes. It’s both a tech company and a retailer focused on creating products and services that tangibly impact consumers every day.

Warby Parker is one of Silicon Valley’s first so-called unicorns, a special group of startups that exceed expectations to pioneer within their own category by hitting over $1bn in valuation – including Airbnb, Uber and WeWork.

The nine-year-old company has paved the way to creating a great retail experience that transverses seamlessly between online and offline, and as a result, inspired the business model of many single-product focused startups known to consumers today – from suitcases at Away,  to footwear at Allbirds.

But from its scrappy beginnings hosting a showroom at Blumenthal’s New York apartment, to being one of the first DTC brands to launch a brick-and-mortar retail space, the eyewear company has had a razor sharp focus on treating the whole experience of buying glasses as a single product – from trial to wear.

From its successful at-home trial program to digital eye tests, Warby Parker works with a team of in-house technologists to constantly iterate its approach to better serving the customer. For example, after receiving feedback that it was inconvenient for customers to take time off work to get an eye exam, it developed a prescription app that pairs an iPhone to a second screen to test the user’s vision. Recently, it then deployed Apple’s new AR technology to launch a virtual try-on feature.

During this conversation, Blumenthal also shares how the brand has been built to resonate with multiple consumer segments, the importance of the social aspect of the company, and why he sees Amazon more as inspiration, rather than threat.

Liz Bacelar and Neil Blumenthal Warby Parker
Liz Bacelar and Neil Blumenthal

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Editor's pick Podcast Retail technology

Retailers are holding back real innovation, reveals departing leader of Neiman Marcus iLab

The head of the Neiman Marcus iLab, one of most established retail innovation programs in the world, no longer believes internal teams can deliver the results needed to drive the industry forward.

Incubation units dedicated to innovation through technology are held back by the culture of the legacy organizations in which they have been built, and the cumbersome procurement processes that surround them, Scott Emmons highlights.

Emmons is backing his statement by departing the lab he founded in 2012 to take up a new position as Chief Technology Officer at TheCurrent Global, a consultancy transforming how fashion and retail brands intersect with technology.

“Corporate innovation programs seem to start strong and sharp, but over time, they are devoured and diminished by surrounding day-to-day business processes, making it nearly impossible to maintain momentum. It’s one thing to talk to agility and risk, but when you’re not built for either, measured by cost reductions and operating within a silo, results tend only to be incremental. It’s time for that to change. For fashion and retail brands to succeed, they need to shift from an internally driven culture to one focused on open innovation with the world’s top technology and talent,” says Emmons.

The move marks a new era for retail innovation. Traditional businesses introduced internal innovation teams at a time when digital transformation was the primary goal. Increased competition from nimble digital players, or those willing and able to take risk, resulted in a need for experimentation.

The promise of these incubation units was around driving change from an operations, marketing and corporate culture standpoint in the context of toughening market conditions and ever-increasing consumer expectations. But with the majority of retailers focused on solving and building solutions internally – instantly limiting them on resource and breadth of expertise – successful results have been relatively sporadic.

Neiman Marcus has always been a frontrunner in the retail innovation space, largely thanks to the work Emmons has done. This has included a memory mirror, 4K touch table lookbooks, store associate IOT communicators, intelligent mobile phone charging stations and new fitting room technology.

But Emmons now believes corporate culture and processes are counterproductive to recruiting, onboarding and maintaining relationships with startups or innovative solution providers. He joins TheCurrent Global to focus on that aim alongside founders Liz Bacelar, Chief Executive Officer, and Rachel Arthur, Chief Innovation Officer. Founded in 2017, TheCurrent Global has worked with clients including Gucci, Burberry, Tiffany & Co, Mulberry, Shiseido, Swarovski, LVMH and the British Fashion Council to bring open innovation and actionable insights to fashion and retail brands.

“I am honored to join the team at TheCurrent Global to integrate top technology solutions from around the world into a multitude of retail and brand partners. This methodology is what the industry needs – an agile workforce that can act as an extension of your team,” says Emmons.

Liz Bacelar, CEO, TheCurrent Global, comments: “Real innovation can only happen today by tackling problems in a new way. We all know it is insanity to expect different results using the same approaches. With the help of outside experts, businesses can achieve growth in a new way, with both speed and efficiency. What TheCurrent Global brings is the ability to take the incredible work Scott has done at Neiman Marcus and take it to CEOs who want to lead the innovation conversation. We do that by relying on our industry expertise and access to an ecosystem of thousands of curated startups, technologies and entrepreneurs from around the world.”

UPDATE: Emmons’ story has hit headlines this week, including in WWD, The Business of Fashion, Glossy, Fashion United and more. Before this amazing press coverage, we sat down with him for our Innovators podcast to discuss his reasons for leaving Neiman Marcus, and exactly what he’s going to bring to TheCurrent Global. You can listen to it here or via the links below.

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Podcast technology Uncategorized

L’Oréal on how tech enhances the customer bond

Technology emphasizes the bond of customer experience, says Stephane Lannuzel, operations chief digital officer at L’Oréal, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent Global.

“Every CEO should be consumer-oriented, and technology can reinforce that link,” he explains.

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For years L’Oréal has been on an innovation path that has seen the group heavily invest in technologies that help personalize the consumer experience across the spectrum – from fully customized products to monitoring tools. At the heart of this is the importance of the shopping experience, Lannuzel notes.

He references Lancôme’s custom foundation, Le Teint Particulier, which makes use of a machine expertly mixing a formula to perfectly suit the individual consumer’s skin tone. He explains that at the end of the purchase journey, what consumers remember is not the technology itself, but the fact that they were made to feel special. This, he concludes, is the ultimate luxury experience, only enhanced by the use of tech.

Liz Bacelar and Stephane Lannuzel

There are plenty of challenges to working within such a large organization such as L’Oréal, but part of Lannuzel’s role is to make it move faster. Slowly but surely, the company is thinking digital-first; so much so that the group’s CEO, Jean Paul Agon, has said that digital is no longer the cherry on the cake for the company, but rather the whole cake itself.

The group approaches digital innovation through the lens of key trends as opposed to the technology itself, Lannuzel further explains. This includes looking at how to reduce a product’s time to market; the role of connected products and experiences; more agile operations; and the need for personalization.

During this conversation with TheCurrent Global’s Liz Bacelar, Lannuzel also talks about the huge role data and AI is playing in all of this – from manufacturing to consumer-facing interactions – and why there is a sweet spot when jumping on a new technology.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global, here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Campaigns Podcast social media technology

TheCurrent Debate: Is there real value in CGI models?

Balmain CGI Models
Balmain CGI Models

CGI models are having a moment in luxury fashion right now, but it’s up for debate as to whether they hold true value for the brands embracing them, according to the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

Co-hosts Liz Bacelar and Rachel Arthur, who discuss various technologies pertinent to the industry every month on this show, bring opposing viewpoints to the table.

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CGI or virtual models have been used in fashion advertising campaigns to an increasing degree over the past few years, with big name brands including Louis VuittonPrada and Balmain all employing them. Some of those involved, including one called Lil Miquela, and another named Shudu, have generated enormous buzz and impressively large social media followings as a result, as though they were indeed influencers in their own right.

Lil Miquela for UGG
Lil Miquela for UGG

Most recently, Lil Miquela featured in UGG’s 40th anniversary campaign, blending in seamlessly alongside two real-life influencers as though she were a natural part of the cast. For the unsuspecting onlooker, it’s not immediately clear she’s not.

One of the questions raised during the episode is whether such a move is merely about gaining from some of the hype such models currently present, or if they can in fact drive ROI for the brands making use of them long term. Rachel presents some interesting statistics that show how engagement of for CGI remains significantly lower than any example of a ‘human’ influencer, but Liz counters that view with the argument that what we’re looking at here is a form of artistic expression.

The duo also dive into what such flawless representations of women mean for beauty ideals in the era of fake news we currently live in, as well as the notion that we may all have a CGI or avatar version of ourselves in the future, not least the real life influencers who could ultimately gain increased revenue opportunities for themselves, even posthumously.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.