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fashion

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Starkweather comes home to Chicago

It was a really wonderful day in Chicago at the Casino where Starkweather went back to its roots. The weather acted accordingly, changing from summer to fall almost overnight to set the mood for the layering and cozy wrapped up feeling you get when trying on these pieces in a setting such as the venerable building in downtown Chicago. 

It was great to have a chance to highlight the fabrics that are the most critical element of the pieces. Some favorites were the cashmere wool backed with weather proofing nylon from Colombo in Italy and the buttery lambskin leather from Bodin Joyeux in France.

Showing some pieces for Fall / Winter and some pieces for Spring, there was a feeling of harmony that fit so naturally on the fantastic women who came through to try on, discover and acquire a piece of the Starkweather story for their own wardrobe.

You read it here first: Starkweather will be back in Chicago on November 13 for a follow up show and party with  a surprise that we are anxious to reveal. 

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Storytelling Through the Customer: Experience as a Business Model

Products carry a lot of baggage. We associate a lot of emotion with our things. Think about how hard it is to give up things that we loved in our youth or that belonged to past loves, how we choose one brand over another for a comparable product, and how fashion is such a powerful tool of individual communication.

We make choices with our clothes that tell a story about us. We make inadvertent assumptions about others based on the way they dress. These associations are universal enough that they’ve become a system of sartorial codes that we interpret when we interact with others.

How did this come to be? We can’t ignore the following facts: Brands have celebrity ambassadors, official and unofficial. Brands have price tags. Brands tell stories. Brands advertise. Consumers read magazines, emulate celebrities, go into debt for designer goods, often associate with people who dress much like themselves.

And so through our purchases we buy into the brand’s narrative, and project that story through our own personal narrative. Associating ourselves with the outdoor lifestyle of Patagonia or the edgy luxury of Balenciaga, the trend-loving-ever-changing wardrobe of Topshop or the budget conscious, design savvy Target.

As consumers, we empowered brands, over time, to play this role because we get something in return. It takes the guesswork out of decision-making, and gives us the power of the brand to tell our story. Through storytelling and advertising, a brand can speak to the consumer, but we know how that it is on the street through people wearing the products that the brand finds its voice.

As brands, in order to develop these narratives we curate and design experiences: The experience when discovering a brand or a product, then during the purchase whether on or offline, and then with the product in the world.

Brands are learning new ways all the time to create novel opportunities of experience for their customers. Today this exists as a constant back and forth between the brand and the consumer. And, much like I discussed in the article on apps accelerating consumerism, these methods can work for the consumer or against the consumer depending on your perspective. Here’s a list of some ways it’s going down:

1. It means letting the consumer participate more and more in generating brand content.

Increasingly, brands are using consumer-generated content to tell their story. A company like olapic, which collects the instagram photos of products taken by customers for their brand partners. The brands then curate that content on their site, creating a celebrity moment for that customer, and also driving aspiration for their customer base with fresh new ideas of how to wear those Steve Madden shoes or that J-crew cardigan.

Street style has become it’s own commercial operation. The old story of bloggers becoming brand ambassadors was a lesson to brands that the street has a strong voice and a lesson to normal folks that they could reach the brands & even become part of their sales strategy & communication (advertising).

These are all commercial opportunities for brands that can then inform their product development based on the way the consumer is engaging with their current offering.

2. It means not always letting the product speak for itself, but providing information around the product that will add to its value.

This is a tool that eco-brands & companies like Everlane and Honest By are based off of. It is their prerogative to communicate as much as possible about every element of the brand the same way it the prerogative of Armani to communicate on the men and women wearing the label on the red carpet.

Where is the garment made? What is it made of? Where does the material come from? What does “Made in Italy” or “Made in France” really mean? How is the price determined? Were the celebrities paid to go to the show? Were they paid to wear the dress or the tuxedo to the Oscars?

The label inside a product used to be more than enough to tell us the value of a garment. But now, there are many more elements weighed into that decision. The product no longer speaks for itself. The product needs a story.

3. It means being everywhere the customer might look for you.

Having online and offline accessibility is becoming common practice. Online presence provides a platform for the storytelling side, and the physical world is where you back up your claims with tactile reinforcement, gaining trust & loyalty.

Warby Parker, Blank Label: these companies are largely based online, but offer brick & mortar locations for discovery & for that tactile and face-to-face interaction we sometimes crave.

Being online is also a portal for people who aren’t nearby to browse discover a brand, browse its products and inquire, read about your story and get to know the brand. Being on social media so they can hear your voice and converse with you.

A brand needs to be wherever the potential customer might stumble through their door.

4. It means good customer service, following up and follow through, listening to feedback and responding to questions.

The customer experience depends on the brand treating the indivudial as such. Personalization is a buzz word these days, and although sometimes misapplied I do believe it to be a key in the customer service process.

Brands need to listen to the consumer and make adjustments. Often now brands make themselves available to customers with customer service twitter feeds, 24 hour customer service, and live chats built into their websites.*

Companies hire people to go through their platform, place an order, experience the brand anonymously and then report back on their experience.

*Recent and frequent experience reminds me this is still a very American quality (the customer is always right, no?). Customer service in France, for example, has a long way to go.


In many ways, it’s all advertising, all marketing, and so it’s nearly impossible to tell what part of a brand’s narrative is genuine and what has been bought. As the consumer becomes more educated and more empowered, the most important code of a brand experience becomes honesty and transparency.

Tangible versus aspirational.

As brands, we have the choice whether to pioneer transparency before the demand from consumers forces us to do so, or we can continue to sell a dream, for the same of an outdated idea of luxury, with no real tangible provenance. To me luxury is in the choice and empowerment of the consumer, not the vague aspiration of a dream. This is the route we choose at Starkweather. Building a foundation on transparency, it’s a narrative I’m proud to sell.

As a consumer, we have the choice to buy things because some marketing campaign told us to, or because we are informed and we know what we’re getting for the hard earned cash we’re dishing out. When I make a purchase, empowered by my knowledge of the product and where my money is going, that positive experience lives on with the product and I’ll become an unofficial ambassador for that brand. It becomes a story I’m proud to tell.



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Lovely local fibers and fashion: Naxos, Greece

There were some beautiful local textile moments in Naxos, Greece.

On a hike from Halki to Moni, we walked into a quiet corner of Moni where a woman was sitting, working on a textile pinned to a pillow on her lap, sitting on a stoop near a marble square while she chatted with her daughter. We said hello and asked directions to a café and she asked us if we were interested in seeing the process of the weaving. I jumped at it, and was so glad to have done so. She showed us the process and how the loom worked, and then we browsed her textile collection: traditional long & narrow sizes mostly with stripes in red, natural white and blue. All of them in cotton, and much like you see in shops in all of the towns as typical Cycladic souvenirs. And then there was this one in wool:

It's something worth bringing home & something worth supporting.

It's something worth bringing home & something worth supporting.

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The above photo is the back side, made of local Naxian wool and hand woven on the loom. There was only one made of wool out of dozens made of cotton. The wool fibers being rare as they spool the fibers for the wool themselves from the sheep of the village. This small, 2x4' piece of woolen love is a true treasure. 

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Eleftheria Krpodini showing us her process at the loom. 

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A view of dusk on the hills, hiking back towards Halki.

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A doorway at one square where the village children were practicing dances for the Panaghia festival on 15 August.


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The Loom: Greek made, organic clothes in central downtown Naxos. Rustic and rough around the edges, but with good stuff inside.

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A beautiful Greek designer Ioanna Kourbela. This black cotton voile vest with herringbone cotton ribbon trim blew my mind.

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Greek (Hellenic) knitwear, made in Greece of "environ mentally" friendly Greek cotton.

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This Week's best reads

Prada and Barneys rekindle their love

"Even when we reduce genuine deep thoughts to fashion deep thoughts, it’s still stimulating, engaging and fun to discuss and debate. In this case, the deep-thoughts windows beckon viewers in and up to the fourth floor, where they’ll come upon some of the very best fashion has to offer — clothes that offer a powerful fusion of beautiful and interesting."

Bridget Foley's Diary WWD

The awesomeness of Joor

“I think it comes down to it’s a good idea, it’s viable,” she says. “From there, it’s really about execution and hiring the right people and thinking about execution not in terms of technology, but of product. Product is really about how good the technology stands up and how the client feels when he or she is using the product. That’s been the lesson, and for me it’s been how do you continue to focus on improving that experience?”

Upstart Business Journal

On Rent the Runway's next phase

“We really wanted to attack Zara andH&M head on,” Hyman told WWD in aninterview at the company’s headquarters here about the beta launch of Rent the Runway’s Unlimited business, which is part of what she calls Rent the Runway 2.0. “When there is a trend and you want to update, the mass-market customer will go to H&M or Zara and buy something disposable — [they] buy [this] like junkfood."

"This business is here to save designer fashion. [We have to] stop this addiction that we’ve had to disposable junk over the last 15 years.”

WWD

This was supposed to be The Year of the wearable

"The success of any one device in the wearable market will greatly depend on the utility that device provides—and the utility is determined by the software. However, given the ignominious fate of the Segway and general ridicule of Google Glass, the wearable industry would be foolish to completely ignore the importance of design if the market is to survive long past the Year of the Wearable."

1776

What Amazon's new 3D printing store means for 3D printing

"The introduction of the store does indeed mark a potential turning point in the sale of online goods – it means the largest online retailer in the English-speaking world is endorsing a means of direct production and selling that could change how future products are conceived and planned. One-offs and small runs are much more affordable via 3D printing, so theoretically the sky’s the limit on the range of things customers could order, provided 3D printing technology keeps evolving."

TechCrunch

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Of Brands and Distributors

We are witnessing a shift at this time in the fashion industry, a rapprochement to the tech industry, opening up opportunities in distribution and marketing models that were not possible before the internet. From the fashion industry side, we've barely tapped into the potential of this alignment. The challenge is finding a way to introduce the concept of endless possibilities to the fashion community in terms of technological tools and innovations, and the endless possibilities of branding through design (back and front end) to the tech community getting their toes wet with fashion companies. 

Fashion companies are accustomed to the idea of "anything is possible" in terms of realizing a creative vision, but when it comes to compromise concerning industry pain points, there is a consensus that generally accepts things to remain the same. Why can't we imagine our businesses with the view that anything is possible– design our businesses with the same precision and care with which we design our garments? 

Emerging product based technology doesn't need fashion designers for the time being because the most important and relevant innovations are in the health and fitness realms where tech-y looking things are ok. The innovation in online platforms is mostly coming from the tech and business side and acting as distribution models or branding 'basics' by adopting an existing aesthetic identity and ameliorating the experience through technology/online. There is an available space here for brands with unique and distinctive creative identities to step in, answer to a lifestyle and also define the direction of that lifestyle by carrying it into the future. That being said, there has to be a point of entry, a place for the consumer to connect with the product from where they stand, but for the brand to take the consumer away from the predicted trajectory–the rote of the fashion cycle, for example–and into a better and more highly designed, curated, and cared for experience.

What is the difference between a brand and a distributor? 

A brand has to have a creative ethos & a specific customer they create products for a lifestyle. It's about the aesthetic and the narrative.

A distributor speaks to a specific lifestyle through its curated selection of products from a variety of wholesalers. It's about range and customer experience.

Naturally, a bridge of similarities exists between the two and the obstacle is the status quo of how products reach the end consumer. Technology offers the chance to create a model  the benefits of both: reinforcing the brand identity through the methods of lifestyle curation pioneered by distributors.

What can the brand do beyond the creative ethos to add value?

A distributor focuses on experience, and hierarchy amongst distributors is determined by the quality of service and the level of personalization. Distributors take on characteristics of a brand when they capitalize on consistency. The narrative power of the distributor is in the brands they use to help tell their story. Again, rather than existing as two separate entities, the benefits of each to the other can be realized in one hybrid business model.

If the brand could provide a service that became a powerful acquisition tool, the product can tell a narrative that strengthens the ethos of the distribution model. It's something like a perfect storm of design, experience, online, offline, service, and communication. Empowering the business to prioritize all of these things through the use of technology. In places where digital can be more effective than brick and mortar, for example, the online experience will differentiate itself from the offline experience and already create two different demographic appeals. 

That bridge between brand and distributor is as real as the bridge between fashion and technology, but we're still swinging across the divide one by one, and even then it's only a brave few. In many cases I believe the fashion brands of the future don't exist yet and what we know of the industry today will get stuck in it's own vicious cycle. We adventure and explore more easily with lighter loads, so if brands start experimenting while small and agile rather than follow the predetermined business model of fashion brands which seems more certain at the time, we'll see some exciting changes in the way consumers engage directly with brands to get their hands on beautiful things while sharing a beautiful experience.

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Fall 2014 : The Classics

For Fall 2014, these classic styles are coming back, new and improved:

The Lambskin Liner and the Starkweather Overcoat

The Lambskin Liner and the Starkweather Overcoat

Paired with the T-Crux

Paired with the T-Crux

The Shawl Crux and the Sweater Coat

The Shawl Crux and the Sweater Coat

And the Curve Seamed Leather Jacket

And the Curve Seamed Leather Jacket

With an updated combination of tech-advanced and deliciously luxurious fabrics, they will be better than ever. More updates will be posted regarding re-stock and events throughout 2014 to come try on and discover...

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