Coronavirus is impacting our democracies, our economies, our individual and social behaviors… When it comes to fashion, the virus is showing how difficult is to manage a seasonal business in such volatile and uncertain environment. Covid is killing cash flows in one of the most inventory-intensive businesses.
Values-led collaborations in the sustainable era
When it comes to finding solutions to reduce uncertainty risks, fast-fashion emerges as a way to increase product-releases while fine-tuning the forecasting model. Accelerating design while aligning supply chain operations. Traditional players, mostly located in the luxury segment, are adapting their strategies to Millennials´s values and shopping behavior. Louis Vuitton, for example, is betting for “streetwear” with Virgil Abloh as a designer. In 2017, Louis Vuitton partnered with Supreme too. Supreme, a brand that started as a skateboarding store in NYC and became one of the hottest brands in America, sold 50% stake to Carlyle Group. Ralph Lauren collaborated with Palace, Fendi with Fila, Moncler with Fendi, etc. Urban language is the new fashion.
But, timeless fashion is also a growing trend when it comes to rethink the business model and merchandising. If sustainability is a growing trend, this should be the right strategy, but it´s not black and white. Brands will balance their collections based on style and time on offer, maintaining their cash cows and genuine values. Aligning slow-fashion and sustainability while considering an uncertain demand scenario will require to adapt supply chain, specially sourcing and manufacturing strategies.
Jaume Miquel, Tendam (Tendam brands include Cortefiel, Springfield, Women’Secret, Pedro del Hierro) Chairman and CEO said “We firmly believe that Tendam is extremely well-positioned to lead the sector into the future, which will be shaped by five key trends: exponential growth in online business, more responsible consumers, fashion which is more timeless but offers greater added value, the need to integrate sustainability into every facet of our lives and companies taking a more active role in contributing to a better society” (June 2020).
On the one hand, classical brands tend to offer timeless, neutral designs but their target is getting older. On the other hand, neutral designs could be considered as boring for new generations that are shopping streetwear, urban, vintage brands. Also, fashion is an index of change and the economic crisis could see colorful clothing preferences emerge, as seen in previous downturns. Last week, I visited Citadium, the streetwear and lifestyle concept store for Millennials and GenZ in Paris.
Citadium Beauburg, Paris
Citadium´s brand portfolio included Le Coq Sportif, Carhartt, Vans, Obey, K-Way, Fila, Reebok, The North Face, Ecoalf, Patagonia, Rains, etc. How luxury brands are collaborating with sportswear brands is a sign that “neutral-design” is probably not the right move if you are targeting Millennials or GenZ.
Design is a primary focus when companies are looking to create awareness and increase revenues. Examples of collaborations include Zegna and Maserati or Apple and Nike. In Apparel, capsule collections are the most common tactical move to boost sales through limited editions. This is a way to create a fad, alternative to fast-fashion micro-collections. In this case, we find many examples between mass-market players and “VIP” designers like H&M and Karl Lagerfeld limited edition or Uniqlo and JW Anderson regular collections.
Luxury brands seems to look for inspiration and Gucci is an example with its new “ArtLab” in Florence or latest collab with The North Face (even if Alessandro Michelle is already revamping the italian house). If ArtLab is a futuristic center of industrial craftsmanship and experimental laboratory, the collaboration with The North Face illustrates how important is outwear and casual wear in the covid era. It´s a matter of style but also lifestyle and values. Gucci and The North Face (deep dive into sustainability on its site: “Clothes the loop” describes the company´s efforts in regards products, operations and conservation) collab is a values-led partnership where sustainability is the key driver.
Customers are more sensitive to sustainability and The North Face is a brand that bets big on sustainability. Gucci keeps investing in sustainability with its Equilibrium collection, Designed for those mindful of their environmental impact (e.g. Jane Fonda). Gucci Off The Grid is the first collection from Gucci Circular Lines, created in line with the House’s vision for circular production.
Jane Fonda (actress & political activist) and Gucci Off the Grid collection
A few days ago, Gucci and The Realreal (see Resale in Fashion) revealed its new partnership, a move that goes in line to Gucci´s circular economy goals. This collaboration extends the life cycle of items and promotes circularity for luxury fashion.
Covid-19 is limiting events attendance. Customers are not buying clothing and accessories to wear during parties, weddings or other celebrations. Sportswear and casualwear are growing strongly. Furthermore, the sport industry is growing. Bikes are the new “toilet paper”.
For a luxury brand, developing a new line (e.g. sportswear) in the short term while ensuring quality of raw materials, control manufacturing… is complex and risky. Looking for potential synergies is the right strategy.
Another recent collaboration is Adidas and Lego ZX 8000 LEGO Trainer. In this case, the ZX 8000 model in the color palettes used on LEGO pieces such as green, blue, yellow and red.
Lego is also collaborating with Levi´s. “This is such a fun collaboration celebrating self-expression, creativity and nostalgia,” says Karyn Hillman, Chief Product Officer for Levi Strauss & Co. Then, Puma and Nintendo created RS-Dreamer Super Mario shoes, that are already sold out on their site. But, as Hillman says above, this is about creativity.
Customers, and Millennials specially, are looking for experiences, but unique and engaging ones. An example of this is how brands are becoming activists in consonance to their tribe of customers. Special and unique (e.g. limited editions) designs is another example.
Collaborations and marketing (the objective is increasing sales and brand-awareness) mixed with the scarcity principle is one of the favourite formulas in retail, and now sustainability-based or value-led collaborations is a trend that is here to stay.