Nike Luxury: It Means Better Service

Business Insider: “For anyone who has recently bought Nike shoes or apparel, or walked into one of its latest stores, this won’t be news: Nike has slid upscale recently … The brand’s promotional efforts skew towards its newest and greatest inventions, as well as its more expensive offerings.”

“More recently, Nike has signaled a different approach to welcoming customers into its stores. Its new store in New York’s Soho neighborhood offers customers the opportunity to make one-on-one appointments with Nike staff … Customers can bring in all kinds of concerns for the staff to help with … The store also has areas where customers can test out its shoes and equipment in an ‘immersive experience.’ It represents a shift in how the company sees brick-and-mortar retail, and is being called a guide for future stores from the brand.”

“Nike clearly believes that an elevated price point also means elevated service, and it’s headed full speed in that direction. As Nike places a larger emphasis on its direct-to-consumer division, it’s also taking greater care of how it is perceived by customers, as well as how it interacts with those customers.”


Layer 3: Luxury & The Set-Top Box

The Washington Post: “At a time when Americans are increasingly abandoning their cable companies — flocking to alternatives such as Netflix and Hulu — Layer3’s premise is that the big bundle of basic and premium channels that has sustained the industry for decades is still a viable formula.”

“It turns out that the most avid cord-cutters among us tend to be lower-income Americans … To help court those high-end customers, Layer3 is trying to improve on the reputation many cable providers have gained as stodgy, hulking corporations trying to nickel-and-dime their customers. It isn’t just rolling out red-carpet customer service … or a ‘white-glove’ customer experience, such as your ability to text the company whenever you have questions or concerns. It’s also trying to lure subscribers with the promise of next-gen technology embedded in its product.”

“Layer3’s wireless set-top box supports 4K-resolution video. It offers a curated feed that automatically learns what you like to watch, and it has integration with Facebook and Twitter, along with a few other bells and whistles … All of this is aimed at raising the bar for cable service, making it so that consumers feel they’re actually getting what they pay for — or more.”


Sephora Becomes Its Own Best Customer

The Wall Street Journal: “As Sephora has emerged as the hottest retailer in luxury beauty, cosmetics companies are increasingly losing out—to Sephora … Sephora and its owner, French luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, have emerged as a competitor—launching a stream of new beauty brand … sold at Sephora stores alongside Estée Lauder’s Smashbox and L’Oreal’s Urban Decay.”

“In the core makeup area of a Sephora store, LVMH’s beauty brands can take up nearly half of the shelf space. Yet, Sephora’s parent manufactures only 15 beauty brands compared with more than 200 the retailer can carry at any given time … The situation puts high-end cosmetic brands in a conundrum. Many are becoming increasingly dependent on Sephora for sales growth, but are faced with shrinking shelf space at the retailer as LVMH makes room for its own new brands.”

“To sell at Sephora, which has more than 2,300 stores around the world, brands can pay more than 60% from each sale, a higher rate than at most department stores and specialty retailers … Capitalizing on other channels isn’t always easy because Sephora has required that some brands sell their hottest products at its stores only … Revlon Inc. Chief Executive Fabian Garcia, when asked if Sephora is a heavy-handed partner, paused, ‘As a matter of practice, I will never say a customer is heavy handed. But I will say they are assertive’.”


Logomania: The Champion of Fashion

The New York Times: “Late last year, the high-fashion radical pranksters of Vetements released what would become one of the brand’s signature pieces: a misshapen hoodie with a logo on the chest that played off the traditional Champion script logo, rotating the oversize C 90 degrees to make a V … Ava Nirui, a writer, artist and part of a loose group of bootleg-influenced design provocateurs who use corporate identities as raw material, thought the price, around $700, was outrageous …And so she decided to poke fun at Vetements by seeing its borrowing, and raising it — or more to the point, interrogating it.”

“One at a time, she took actual Champion sweatshirts and incorporated the elongated-C logo into the names of other designers — Rick Owens, Chanel, Gucci, Marc Jacobs — by embroidering the names around the C in utilitarian font. She made them for herself, snapping pictures and posting them to her Instagram account with a shrug emoticon as the caption.”

“Vetements’s cheeky appropriation and Ms. Nirui’s meta-cheeky reappropriation represent two phases of what has become a mini-resurgence of interest among tastemakers, from high fashion to streetwear … This burst of renewed interest has extended to the brand’s history. The sneaker reseller Flight Club in New York currently has a floor-to-ceiling grid of dozens of 1980s and ’90s American-made Champion sweatshirts, which have been selling briskly. ‘The Champion sweatshirt is such a regal piece,’ said Josh Matthews, the director of merchandising at Flight Club and a longtime collector of the brand.


Horsehair Mattress: Sleep Tight @ $2 / Hour

The Washington Post: “So how much would you pay to get a good night’s sleep? How about $150,000? … That’s what the ownership at Hästens, a firm founded in 1852 and based in Köping, Sweden is betting on. The company claims that its beds ‘will change your life, and alter the way you think about sleep forever’ … Each bed is custom made for over 320 hours by four ‘master artisans,’ using a slow-growing Swedish pinewood frame, a box-spring equipped with pure steel springs, layers of flax, horsetail hair, cotton and wool batting, all specially stacked … like a lasagna.”

“The horsehair is braided and unbraided by hand and ‘acts as a miniature airway to wick moisture away so there’s no sweat buildup’ … Bloomberg’s James Gaddy reviewed the bed at the company’s New York showroom and fell in love … So enamored was he that he started doing what customers usually do when they really, really want something: they rationalize.”

He comments: “If you keep it for 25 years and get eight hours of sleep every night, think of it as paying $2 every hour for the privilege of blissful, blissful sleep” … “Gaddy concludes that with a good night’s sleep, he can live longer, learn faster, function better, stay in better shape, and look younger.”


Adidas Biofabric: A Shoe That Melts in Your Sink

Wired: “The Adidas Futurecraft Biofabric, a biodegradable running shoe, debuted at last week’s Biofabricate conference in New York … the Futurecraft Biofabric looks a lot like a modern athletic shoe. The open-knit upper has a golden sheen, and it connects to Adidas’s trademark Boost sole … the shoe is 15 percent lighter than one made from traditional polymers, and credits its weight-savings … a synthetic spider silk it calls Biosteel.”

“AMSilk creates that Biosteel textile by fermenting genetically modified bacteria.That process creates a powder substrate, which AMSilk then spins into its Biosteel yarn. All of this happens in a lab, and … uses a fraction of the electricity and fossil fuels that plastics take to produce … AMSilk also created an enzyme solution that lets shoe owners dissolve their kicks at home, in the sink, after about two years of high-impact wear … the solution comes in little packets … and can safely disintegrate a pair of Futurecraft Biofabric shoes in a matter of hours.”

“Biodegradability both defines the shoe’s appeal and presents its biggest obstacle … High performance sportswear has certainly trended slimmer and lighter … But a shoe that’s designed to disintegrate?” James Carnes of Adidas thinks it’s on trend: “Most people don’t think about buying a product that’s intended to break down. Luxury absolutely used to mean heavy and stiff and solid, and slowly it’s changed into buying other things. Like if you buy a down jacket, it’s expected to be insulated and lightweight.”


Motoring May Be a Virtual Reality

The New York Times: “Through the wizardry of digital technology some of today’s most sophisticated vehicles, like the GMC Sierra Denali, are designed to keep annoying engine noise from seeping into the cabin. Others, like the Lexus NX F Sport, include digital tuners to accentuate the engine’s throaty growl to satisfy the primal urges of driver and passengers. And sometimes — in a seeming contradiction — the same car does a bit of both.”

“In the Nissan Maxima, for example, noise-cancellation technology helps suppress undesirable droning frequencies from the engine. But the throb of horsepower is acoustically amplified when the driver steps on the gas … All of this, like so much else in modern automobiles, happens through the magic of digital software and hardware … Suppressing noise digitally can reduce the need for insulation, helping to make vehicles lighter and thus improving fuel economy … Noise cancellation can also improve the accuracy of voice recognition for navigation systems … it can make it easier to appreciate the music from sophisticated onboard audio systems, or even make it easier to have conversations.”

Meanwhile: “Because the current generation of smaller, more fuel-efficient engines and turbochargers often does not generate the sort of throaty resonance drivers expect, automakers design systems to augment the sonic experience … consumers in different parts of the world have different opinions on what constitutes a ‘good’ engine sound. In the past, for example, car companies might have had to design different exhaust systems for a European car and an American model of the same car.” Now, all that’s required is a software update.


The Art of Retail: A New Media Canvas

The New York Times: “Art is playing a larger role in stores, as retailers do whatever they can to make shopping in person fun, inspiring and worth the time.” Peter Marino, a retail architect, comments: “Shopping can be stressful but the art uplifts and makes you smile. And when people go back to the hotel, it’s the art they discuss and remember.”

“The focus on art is part of the change in retail and the continuing move to digital transactions. ‘The product isn’t enough now, it’s the experience,’ said Rob Ronen, an owner of Material Good, a watch and jewelry store in SoHo … ‘Because if the shop is just about the product people go online’ … The jeweler Stephen Webster opened a store in London’s Mayfair neighborhood in May that has opposite the door a taxidermied swan in full flight, with wings outstretched, greeting his visitors.” He explains: “People ask questions about the swan, and it focuses people more on what is in store.”

“Art historically has a strong track record drawing people into stores. Take the Paris department store Bon Marché, which became the fashionable place to be in 1875 when it opened an art gallery … Carla Sozzani, founder of Milan’s 10 Corso Como concept store, which has blended fashion, design and books with art for 25 years, believes that displaying art slows the way people shop.” She comments: “Even the way people purchase changes because they think more about what they are buying so they buy things they really want, which creates a faithful clientele.”


Grass-Fed Beef: Not a ‘Luxury’ Anymore

The Wall Street Journal: “Grass-fed beef, once a niche luxury, is now sold at ballgames, convention centers and nearly every Wal-Mart in the U.S. Beef labeled as grass-fed connotes much more than cattle that were raised in a pasture, say grocers and restaurateurs. Many consumers perceive grass-fed beef as a healthier, higher-quality alternative to conventional beef and are willing to pay more for it, no matter that labeling—and flavor—can be inconsistent.”

“Not every retailer is onboard. Costco Wholesale Corp., the country’s second largest retailer after Wal-Mart, doesn’t sell grass-fed beef, though it sells organic ground beef in every U.S. store. The definition of grass-fed beef is still too ambiguous, the taste too inconsistent and Costco consumers gravitate most to an ‘organic’ label for now, says Jeff Lyons, Costco’s senior vice president of fresh foods.”

“Theo Weening, Whole Foods’ global meat coordinator, expects demand for grass-fed beef to grow well beyond human appetites. ‘When a customer likes grass-fed beef and they have a dog, they want the dog to have grass-fed beef, too,’ he says.”


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.”