Ralph Lauren Turns NYC Street Into Runway

The Wall Street Journal: “In the can-you-top-this stakes of New York Fashion Week stunts, Ralph Lauren is nearly shutting down one block of Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side to host the label’s latest women’s runway show. The block, between 71st and 72nd streets, is home to Mr. Lauren’s flagship women’s store on the left, its men’s store on the right, and children’s store.”

“Models will emerge from the women’s store to sashay down Madison Avenue in a giant glass-enclosed tent. Immediately after, the women’s store will be open to guests and customers, who will be able to buy anything from the collection that was just shown. The move makes Ralph Lauren the largest American brand to make an entire runway collection immediately available to shoppers, part of a growing industry trend to close the monthslong gap between when clothes are shown and when they arrive in stores.”

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Luxury of Privacy: Moda Operandi Madison

The New York Times: “Moda Operandi Madison, which occupies two floors of a 1910 townhouse on 64th Street just west of Madison Avenue, is not a shop as conventionally understood. It is a by-appointment showroom for the very few. Those invited to buy there — likely no more than 300 per year … will enter a store whose goods are customized to their sizes, tastes and tendencies, whose salespeople know the full history of their dealings with Moda Operandi online: what they bought, browsed, bookmarked, exchanged or returned (very little, according to the company).”

“In New York, the only indication from the outside that Moda Operandi Madison is open for business is one small street-facing window, behind which, inside a decorative inset frame, a single Giambattista Valli couture gown undulates slightly in a manufactured breeze … Inside, past the heavy curtains in the vestibule, Moda is a confectionary wonderland, a haven with gelato-colored walls and blush suede furniture … There is an on-site kitchen for when shopping and lunch coincide.”

Moda Operandi “plans an aggressive rollout worldwide, the next in Abu Dhabi in 2017. The rest of the Middle East, Hong Kong and South Korea are on the horizon. The company plans to have 15 showrooms by 2021, the better to white-glove its customers where they live, as well as where they travel.”

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Zalando: Fashion, Emotion & Ecommerce

The Economist: “One of Europe’s most interesting technology companies sells shoes and threads … Zalando has a Silicon Valley-inspired work environment, holding “f**k-up nights’ to celebrate failure and ‘hack weeks’ to cook up new ideas. It encourages its employees to abandon hierarchy and structure for what it calls ‘radical agility.’ It has a 1,350-strong, and rapidly growing, technology team. Among its other assets are its software, which it built itself, and its user-friendly apps (two-thirds of all traffic goes through mobile phones).”

“Zalando pays close attention to data. It gleans a wealth of numbers from the more-than-5m daily visits to its site, and some brands and retailers of the bricks-and-mortar sort give it access to their stock counts. Both sets of figures help improve the firm’s forecasting of fickle fashion trends, its use of targeted ads and the speed of its responses to shifts in weather patterns or fashion tastes. Through data-mining it can spot the trendsetters among its customers and stock up on what they buy. In future it wants to sell its insights to the rest of the industry.”

“Amazon is pursuing the more price-conscious shopper, whereas Zalando is after a higher-value, more brand-conscious segment. The company believes that for such customers, shopping for clothes, shoes and accessories is an emotional activity; shopping on Amazon is just a transaction.”

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Abercrombie & The Demographics of Fashion

Business Insider: “Abercrombie has been trying to save itself for a while now, reinventing its image and as a result becoming totally unrecognizable to the generation of kids who grew up shopping there in the late ’90s and early aughts. The goal was to appeal to older shoppers — 18 to 25 year olds, not teens … In theory, this was a smart idea … this would open the gates to a demographic with more spending money. The move would also help Abercrombie set itself apart from its more teen-friendly sister brand, Hollister … But the brand’s attempt to execute a turnaround is proving to be very difficult.”

Eric Beder of Wunderlich Securities comments: “While the shift to an older customer is a strategy for Abercrombie, we see limited reasons for older customers to shift back to a ‘teen’ brand and, frankly, there are better brands and lifestyles for the 20+ customer to focus on.”

Betty Chen, managing director of Mizuho Securities adds: “In the history of retail, it is very difficult when a brand tries to reposition itself anywhere along the age demographic. You can almost predict failure when you’re going older or younger.”

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Quote of the Day: Dick Johnson

“The facts are that most of the basketball shoes that we sell never see a basketball court. Most of the running shoes that we sell never see the roads or the trail or the track. They just look really good, and they’re part of the sneaker culture that we really support.” – Dick Johnson, CEO of Foot Locker, reporting that second-quarter sales at existing Foot Locker stores rose 4.7%, via The Wall Street Journal.

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Binu Binu: Soap as Body-Soul Exorcism

The New York Times: “For the Toronto native Karen Kim, 36, the memory of her Korean grandmother buffing her body when she was 5 years old left a lasting impression … Something about the purity of a simple “soap and water” beauty routine stuck with Kim. So much so that last spring, she left her job in fashion at La Garçonne in New York City … to try her hand at soap making, reinterpreting the old-fashioned traditions of Korean bath life into a line of modern cleansing goods.”

“Called binu binu (or ‘soap soap’ in Korean), it comprises six restorative bars, all made with a base of boricha, a barley tea that’s prized for its detoxifying powers.”

“Each bar starts with a story, many of which include strong female characters in Korean culture. Her Haenyeo Sea Woman soap, for example, is an homage to the haenyeo deep-sea divers of Jeju Island … Her blend of black Hiwa Kai sea salt, seaweed extract and peppermint oil riffs on the bracing feeling of plunging into the ocean. Others, like her Shaman Black Charcoal soap, conjure up the modern mudang shamans … the essential oils in the charcoal soap — lavender, cedarwood and clary sage — are often used in purification ceremonies and provide a deep cleanse that, she says, is akin to ‘an exorcism’ for the body and soul.”

“Kim cuts the bars by hand, forming monolithic shapes inspired by the severe blocklike aesthetic of Donald Judd. ‘I love the idea of soap being a little sculptural element in your bathroom,’ she notes.”

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Adidas ‘Speedfactory’ Customizes Faster

Quartz: “Adidas is bringing some new robotic manufacturing to the US. The German sneaker and apparel company … plans to have a robot-staffed ‘Speedfactory’ up and fully functional in the Atlanta, Georgia, area by the end of 2017. The aim is to bring Adidas products to US customers as quickly as possible, and Adidas says the factory will also allow it ‘unprecedented’ customization opportunities beyond what it currently offers.”

“Adidas, which debuted its first Speedfactory in Germany last year, believes decentralizing production and building factories closer to its major consumer markets will let it react more quickly to demand … Adidas’s goal for its US Speedfactory is to produce 50,000 pairs of sneakers, primarily running footwear, in the back half of 2017, but in the mid-term it aims to manufacture 500,000 pairs of shoes for running and other activities.”

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Longevity Market: Boomer Brands Booming

The New York Times: Some companies “are plugging into a wealthy slice of the over-50 demographic called the longevity market, whose annual economic activity currently amounts to $7.6 trillion … With an estimated 74.9 million baby boomers … the biggest market opportunity for start-ups is older Americans rather than hip millennials … The staggering size of the total longevity economy — bigger even than Japan’s — has been attracting more entrepreneurs, deep-pocketed financiers and places to pitch new ideas in the past few years.”

“New business ideas that cater to boomers are nearly endless … and include chefs, online dating sites and yoga instructors for people with health issues … Even businesses with decidedly mundane products are finding ways to capture the longevity niche. Foot care, for example, is a huge market … One of the founders of the Rockport Company, Bruce R. Katz, reinvented himself in 2013 by starting the Samuel Hubbard Shoe Company to sell comfortable footwear to baby boomer men.”

“In a validation of the brand’s appeal to baby boomers, former President Bill Clinton, who turns 70 this month, was even photographed walking a dog, wearing Samuel Hubbard’s sky blue shoes.”

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Brand Promises: Final Sale? Just Kidding!

The Wall Street Journal: “The phrase used to mean a last-ditch promotion, with steep price reductions on end-of-season castoffs and no chance of returns. But lately some brands are using a different sort of ‘final sale,’ strategically discounting slow-moving merchandise in mid-season, even though future discounts may still be possible. The new tactic still means no returns or exchanges … Fickle shoppers, hungry for discounts but accustomed to changing their minds, aren’t pleased.”

“Lauren Taylor Baker, a 31-year-old digital entrepreneur in Atlanta, says she used to get a thrill from finding a great bargain marked final sale … But after several final-sale purchases she regretted, Ms. Baker says she feels burned and no longer believes a final-sale price is the lowest it will go. Now, she says, when shopping for something marked final sale, she ignores the original full price and evaluates it based on quality and fit.”

“Katie Amato, of Buffalo, N.Y., does most of her shopping online. While she likes a sale, she tends to avoid final sale items. ‘Things might not fit, or the quality might not be as expected, and then you are stuck with it,’ says the 30-year-old postdoctoral researcher. Final sales make her feel ‘trapped or manipulated,’ she says.”

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