Please excuse the slap-dash format of this post. These are the highlights from my notes on Day One of the Decoded Fashion New York Summit.
Brick and mortar retail:
“They need to change everything about everything they do.” – Dick Lockard The Big Space
“Nimble, innovative” takeaway words from Dick Lockard "Agility:" takeaway word from Glen Schanen, Macy's
“We want to be wherever the consumer is” whether it’s a department store, a mom & pop shop, or online. – Andrew Fletcher VF Sportswear
Renting allows RTR to introduce people to new brands & transition a potential designer customer out of fast fashion into better shopping habits.
Zara and H&M are essentially rentals. You know it’s going to last 2-3 wears and then fall apart. “Rent the things you’ll only wear one-three times. Then take the money you save and invest in better shoes, a better purse, etc.”
On their new Brick & Mortar location:
Now that there is a store – if you ever have a problem, we can solve it within an hour. Also, there is an “element of security going into a physical store that will never be achieved online” JH
Online (thanks to data) you can service the customer in more ways than brick and mortar. More about personalization.
45 min with a stylist and you’re outfitted for the entire season (social calendar is integrated in personal info)
On their new "Unlimited" subscription service:
“What woman doesn’t have a dream of a constantly rotating closet? What if there was a trap door in the back of your closet that took you into the rent the runway warehouse.” Hyman's dream for the "unlimited" subscription service.
What is RTR Unlimited? Very similar to Netflix à la 1998, you pay a monthly fee & then are sent 3 things from your queue at a time.
On the trajectory of the company:
The mission has evolved from delivering “Cinderella Moments” because that idea really relates to a guy. The 5 million customers have shown that they are dressing up for so many other reasons than just occasions involving men. That they are cooler, more diverse than they originally anticipated.
Will RTR segue into menswear, too? Probably not. Sticking to their value proposition: Self confidence, fun with fashion, - doesn’t resonate as much with men, so the service will continue to focus on women for now.
Keep every year and every chapter in the story of the business full of new entrepreneurial experiences.
First we were disrupting others and now we’re constantly disrupting ourselves, internally.
Average woman dresses up for 28 special occasions per year. (dates included) – 5 yrs later, 34 occasions per year (because rent the runway is a cheap & easy solution to dressing up. So the mentality has shifted.) increasing the size of the designer market. Be smart about the way we consume.
On speaking to VCs:
Make it clear how massive of a market potential there is, if the immediate reflex which is to relate the concept to their wives, does not hit home.
Symphony Commerce gave a presentation on their approach to re-fashioning fashion business infrastructure.
Notes from that presentation:
How tech can help / or not / scale a business
100 times cheaper to build a tech company now from 10 years ago
how to bring the same scale & efficiency to fashion & retail?
Internet= cost, intelligence, reach
Disintermediation (Everlane), intelligence (stitch fix), infrastructure (Yoox)
“Take the same sophistication of infrastructure of an Amazon and apply it to emerging and fast growing brands” &
“How do you bring yoox.com infrastructure to an emerging brand?”
It might be easy to START a brand today, but it’s much more competitive to SCALE a brand.
How much time (forget money for a second) is spend on order related issues? Logistics issues. (right now growing startups are spending 50% + of their time on these issues)
It’s a business operations issue – one client scaled from 4-40 million over 18 months with the same employee count. Just better organized. Usually adding employees every million you grow, but there are more efficient ways to grow.
Iteration on store front. “It’s not a one time build”
Their insourcing vs outsourcing timeline:
1-2-5 million your in-sourcing because you’re non-stop iterating (nimble & agile in your business) then around 5-50 million you can outsource much more (definitely fulfillment and maybe store front) so the team can focus on making a better product. Then upwards of 50 you have enough scale to bring it back in. You’re in a new phase of iterative process. Investing in R&D.
Understanding the inventory velocity across channels – online and offline inventory fulfillment is handled separately. Marry the relationship of online and offline fulfillment of inventory
Omni channel retailing REQUIRES omni channel fulfillment. (Requirements of wholesale shipments that have heavy charge backs for miss-packaged orders)
How do yo go back from outsource to insource? Fashion Digital in LA – Clarins is an example: They left marketing outsourced but they brought the operational side back in-house.
Customer service is one factor that should always be in-sourced for certain types of brands.
Rebecca and Uri Minkoff talked about their new retail location which is the most advanced tech-oriented Brick and Mortar store this shopper has ever heard of.
The editors' response after the preview: "You gave me something I didn't know I wanted but now I know I need."
Others said that it preemptively ruined every other store shopping experience. Or that it is like a new kind of therapy.
They highlighted these considerations for the foundation of their design and interactive components:
The moment of entry
The fitting room
Their goal, as they stated, is to constantly be pushing the boundaries of how technology can serve their business. Their version of the customer experience seems to be actually customer oriented and not data oriented. They have considered the human aspect of everything they do, which makes the technology feel natural and intuitive.
I have lots of love for the values of this company, granted all I know of it is how active Uri and Rebecca are in their transparency about the brand and their communication for the benefit of their business but also those with whom they share.
Smart Manufacturing Panel:
Why have fashion brands been slow to adopt technology?
Because: technology is inaccessible & expensive- Francis Bitonti
Specialized manufacturers are necessary for a lot of these technologies (integrated tech in textiles, etc) Manufacturers must become very hybrid.
“We have to create tools that enable the hybrid experience from both sides” AP
Software that is enabling & engaging for designers – pattern makers understanding the translation of 3d-2d back to 3d. They aren’t yet trained to think from 3d to 3d.
“There is a 3D printing aesthetic that is coming from the materials and capabilities that are available to us” but bringing artisanship into the 21st century can result in a product where people say “How did you achieve that form?”
“3D printing has the potential to be sustainable but right now isn’t” Amanda Parkes
Would love to create a line of garments that literally disintegrates after 3 months.
“Either it’s meant to stay, or it’s not meant to stay” Let’s not make more clothes that are destined for the landfill. AR
We need to look outside of the fashion industry for the innovation that will inform our future choices. (tomato farmers in California using biodegradable mulch, for example)
“It’s very important to us not to see the technology” SS
Then the tech is completely seamless – this will make it easier for brands to connect it to the consumer.
“I want my garment to be my computer. We need to relearn the human-computer interaction to evolve this idea.”
“The further we go, the more biology + tech will go into these products. We are actually at the height of exposure now” AR responding to a question on heath concerns in wearables & smart textiles.
You can’t think about the limitations you have to look at the solutions and define your business around that process. – FB
Tesla, for example, they realized they have to make batteries. It’s not enough to make a solar car.
One last thought that came up on both days is about the division between fashion and technology: many people were saying you have to choose which one you are, but isn't this a mixed message? Here we are at a conference promoting the mergence of fashion & technology, and all of these speakers are insisting that you can't be both. But of course we then demand everyone be both.
Simon Collins “You’re either a designer or a startup founder.”
When you take the tech out is the product still something the consumer will want? If no, then look into the licensing route – collaborate with designers.
“Be tech or be design – you need to choose one or the other.”
The point is clear, and it's a valid one: collaborate, don't fake it. If you don't know design, find a designer. If you don't know technology, find an engineer. We might not have many who can do both right now but we do have a few and that number will grow. But in the meantime, cross-disciplinary cooperation is our best tool.