The Business of Fashion Podcast
Combatting Anti-Asian Racism in Fashion

Combatting Anti-Asian Racism in Fashion

March 26, 2021

BoF’s Imran Amed talks with Michelle Lee, Susanna Lau and Phillip Lim about the intersectional issues and structural barriers at the core of Anti-Asian hate, and how the fashion professionals can be better allies.

The Year That Changed the World

The Year That Changed the World

March 19, 2021

A year after coronavirus lockdowns swept the world, BoF’s Imran Amed looks back at a period of sweeping change in conversation with leading voices from inside and outside fashion.

Big Tech’s Threat to Fashion

Big Tech’s Threat to Fashion

January 12, 2021
It’s hard to imagine running a successful brand in 2021 without advertising on Instagram, buying search ads on Google or selling on Amazon. At BoF VOICES, H&M’s Christopher Wylie and venture capitalist Roger McNamee talked about why that’s probably not a good thing — and how the industry can reduce its reliance on tech giants.
 
Before the pandemic, social media and e-commerce giants like Facebook and Amazon were ascendant. The physical isolation caused by the ongoing global health crisis has only consolidated their power. Nevertheless, fashion brands can’t rely on a handful of Silicon Valley firms to run their businesses, venture capitalist Roger McNamee said at BoF’s VOICES.
 
In an interview with Christopher Wylie, who blew the whistle on Cambridge Analytica’s improper use of Facebook user data during the 2016 election, McNamee outlined how big tech has touched off a “cascading series of catastrophes going from the online world into the real world.”
In fashion, Facebook, Amazon and Google have inserted themselves between brands and their customers. Though they offer unparalleled marketing and commerce capabilities, McNamee noted their clients pay a steep price in the long run by ceding control of such crucial elements of their businesses. But all is not lost.
 
“The fashion industry has a superpower,” he said. “You’re actually connected to culture, so people care what you have to say. You have to recognise as an industry that these guys are changing the rules and you have to fight back.”
 
 
Find out more about #BoFVOICES here.
 
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Tremaine Emory on Mixing Politics and Fashion

Tremaine Emory on Mixing Politics and Fashion

November 12, 2020
Imran Amed talks to the designer, also known as Denim Tears, about the US election and putting conditions on his collaboration with Converse.
 
This is just the beginning for designer Tremaine Emory. Following the US election, the designer, who is also known as Denim Tears, spoke to BoF’s Imran Amed about negotiating with big brands, leading with purpose and the work still ahead. “It’s been an incredible week and there’s a lot more work to do,” said Emory. “I hope this is the start.”
 
  • For Emory, principles come first when it comes to working with big brands, especially if they are using corporate activism in their marketing. The designer notably withheld the release of a collaboration with Converse earlier this year, posting a set of conditions for parent company Nike on Instagram that ranged from disclosing the number of Black employees in leadership roles to stopping all support for the Republican party. “I can’t put these sneakers out if all the company is doing is donating money,” said Emory. “I need to know specifically what they’re doing to combat police brutality in Black neighbourhoods… Who are we protecting with this money?” In negotiations with brands, Emory delineated the tango that comes with corporate partnerships: “Their number one thing is making money... how can I dance their bottom line with my bottom line?”
  • Reflecting on the results of the election, Emory emphasised the importance of registering young voters and getting them excited about the upcoming senate elections, particularly in his home state of Georgia. “We’re going to work to get people to vote and get Democrats in those seats,” he said.
  • Emory also hopes to introduce young consumers to new ideas and ways of thinking about American history and civil rights. “That’s probably my favourite part of my practice is being a bridge of knowledge between generations,” he said. “How can I condense... a James Baldwin book [or] a Black Panther book into a T-shirt?”
 
Watch and listen to more #BoFLIVE conversations here.
 
To contact The Business of Fashion with comments, questions or speaker ideas please email podcast@businessoffashion.com.
 

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Aniyia Williams on Why Self-Examination Is Critical to Dismantling Racism in Fashion

Aniyia Williams on Why Self-Examination Is Critical to Dismantling Racism in Fashion

July 1, 2020
LONDON, United Kingdom — Aniyia Williams is ready for difficult conversations. The opera singer-turned-fashion tech entrepreneur has navigated systemic racism within corporate culture for years. And as companies slowly begin the process of dismantling policies and norms that harm Black people within them, Williams has a few ideas on where they go from here.

“The biggest thing that gets in the way is self-interest,” Williams told BoF Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed in the latest edition of the BoF Podcast. “Discomfort is the key ingredient to getting to the other side.”

  • Self-examination is critical. “It starts with the blind spots,” Williams said. “You are going to find things you don’t like about yourself.” Companies should look to their own practises and corporate culture to understand who they benefit and what needs to change.
  • You’re not going to hire your way to diversity, inclusion and equity. “What’s more important,” said Williams, is the environment that exists to support those people once they’re hired. Diversity and inclusion initiatives can only go so far, and it starts with senior leadership recognising the need to change both policies and company culture. “If the leadership isn’t buying into those ideals... I don't know how you can expect anyone else to,” Williams added.
  • Act to make it true. Aside from social media posts and one-time donations, fashion companies need to push for a larger, longer-term change. Diversity and inclusion at its core is about creating shared realities that understand what each employee is facing. “What is our relationship to each other going to be and is it going to be as fair and equitable as it can be?” asked Williams.
 
 

Watch and listen to more #BoFLIVE conversations here. To contact The Business of Fashion with comments, questions, or speaker ideas please e-mail podcast@businessoffashion.com.

 

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Anna Sui Says, ‘You Can Define an Era By the Clothes’

Anna Sui Says, ‘You Can Define an Era By the Clothes’

June 16, 2020
The American designer speaks to BoF’s Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks about how fashion mirrors politics.
LONDON, United Kingdom — The world has changed immeasurably since designer Anna Sui’s last fashion show took place in New York in February. Her next collection is likely to reflect this transformation. “Fashion is a mirror of the times — you can define an era by the clothes,” Sui told BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks. “What people are wearing mimics the politics of the times.”
Over the last few months, the world has grappled with a pandemic, a steep economic downturn and, more recently, widespread anti-racist protests. In this week’s special edition of the BoF podcast, Sui makes predictions on how these global events might impact the future of her industry.
 
  • People have spent much of the lockdowns at home in sweats and a T-shirt. Sui believes that people might go polar opposite once social distancing restrictions are relaxed. “Suddenly [people] are going to want to be seen,” Sui said, adding that eating at restaurants and drinking at bars will once become occasions for self-expression.
  • Handicrafts may see a resurgence as “people are now taking the time to relearn those skills,” Sui said. Tie dying, crocheting and knitting might well become popular creative outlets for the many people investing time in new hobbies — and this shift could be reflected in upcoming collections.
  • Sui hopes the pace of the industry will slow down and allow space for self-reflection. Looking back to the 1990s, “[There] wasn’t this frantic need to be working all the time, I remember enjoying the holidays,” Sui said. “Let’s hope that this gets back under control and that we learn how to balance out our lifestyles again.”

Sweatsuits and Yoga Pants Are Selling Like Crazy. What Happens When Lockdowns End?
A Proposal for Rewiring the Fashion System
Why Fashion 'Seasons' Are Obsolete 

 

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Activist DeRay Mckesson on the Realities of Social Injustice

Activist DeRay Mckesson on the Realities of Social Injustice

June 5, 2020

The Black Lives Matter activist recently launched 8CantWait, a new campaign aimed at reducing police violence.

 

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Scott Galloway on Breaking Up Big Luxury | Inside Fashion

Scott Galloway on Breaking Up Big Luxury | Inside Fashion

May 29, 2020

The bestselling author and business professor offers his insight into the challenging market and M&A landscape that industry players of all sizes have to navigate.

Scott Galloway is no stranger to expressing views as provocative as they are incisive. The author, business school professor and serial entrepreneur has a lot to say about the state of the market in the era of Covid-19, but his observations and predictions are also, crucially, grounded in wider social, political and economic arguments — whether that’s the now-untenable position of American exceptionalism, the burden of student debt or the failings of intergenerational wealth distribution. Speaking in conversation with Imran Amed, Galloway shares his thoughts on the state of the luxury sector, importance of e-commerce and the indomitable power of Amazon, a company he describes as “firing on all 12,000 cylinders” yet still can’t crack the fashion market. Here are some of the key takeaways:
 
  • “The class of IPOs that will come to the markets in the next 3-6 months will boom,” said Galloway. “I think the markets are going to accelerate but people conflate the markets with the economic health of america. The markets are nothing more than an indication of how the top decile of Europe and America are doing.” 
  • Amazon’s tricky relationship with fashion and luxury is hard to reconcile. “Amazon partners with an industry the way a virus partners with a host,” he said, which explains why luxury brands have traditionally kept the e-commerce giant at arm’s length. Even with the remarkable acceleration of e-commerce in the past eight weeks, however, Amazon’s algorithmically driven retail model does not allow for the forward-looking trend cycle on which the fashion industry operates.
  • Luxury is a relatively well-positioned industry. “The majority of sectors in the world would pray for luxury’s problems right now,” he said, but much like big tech companies, conglomerates in the luxury space create “an unhealthy environment where too few players are allowed to [accrue] too much power... if you wanted to oxygenate the economy around luxury you would go ahead and break them up.”
 
 
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Jochen Zeitz on the Power of Fashion to Drive Sustainable Change

Jochen Zeitz on the Power of Fashion to Drive Sustainable Change

May 21, 2020

The former CEO of Puma has been one of the fashion industry’s leading sustainability advocates. As part of our special edition on building a responsible fashion business, Zeitz talks to BoF CEO Imran Amed about finding opportunities in crisis.

  • The former CEO of Puma has spent his career advocating, and sometimes agitating, for change to more responsible business practices. As he steps into a new role at the head of Harley-Davidson, he offers advice about finding opportunities in crisis.
  • “Iconic brands have a tremendous opportunity to contribute to a change in consumer behaviour as a whole,” Zeitz said, mounting a defense of consumer culture when managed responsibly. “Growing while reducing has to be the parameter of the future. We can grow, but we have to reduce our footprint over-proportionately to the impact we are having through our growth.”
  • The current crisis in particular could prove an important catalyst to drive change towards better ways of doing business. “Now you can make the business case for the planet and you can say what we’re experiencing now with the virus is just a fast way of experiencing climate change that will happen over decades,” Zeitz said. “This virus is testament for a needed fast change in order to deal with a much bigger crisis that will be affecting all our lives around the world in 20, 30 years to come.”
  • Companies that fail to move may well get left behind. “I look at every crisis as an opportunity… to look at your business and how you operate and say what can we really essentially change to adjust ourselves to the new normal,” Zeitz said. “If businesses don’t ask themselves that question, you will be part of history, rather than the future.”

 

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Millard Drexler on Why ‘Growth Is the Enemy

Millard Drexler on Why ‘Growth Is the Enemy

May 15, 2020
The New York-based “merchant prince,” best known for his time at J. Crew and Gap, is now watching the American retail landscape crumble as brands and retailers struggle under store shutdowns and debt restructuring. He did offer some advice, and warnings, on the state of American shopping, and what it might look like after the pandemic.
  • “If you’re not a micromanager, you’re not doing your job well,” said Drexler. With too much assortment, and too much retail space, brands need to determine what’s necessary and get creative with their offerings. This same practice should also be applied to wholesale accounts. “Own the brand, don’t let someone else put it on sale, and you’re safe,” he said.
  • Rethink what growth means for your brand. “Growth is the enemy,” said Drexler, looking to the rise of VC-backed brands that have struggled to successfully scale and break even. Now is not the time to pursue top-line growth at the cost of profit margins. “That’s what investors want, and they’ll do dumb things to get there,” said Drexler. “More is not better, the new big is small in my mind.”
  • The American department store’s make or break. “It’s pretty much near the end,” said Drexler. There’s no reason for them, he argued, unless the assortment and store curation are unique and compelling: “I’m not impressed [and] I haven't been for years with the choices out there.”

 

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