The Business of Fashion Podcast
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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Welcome to Retail Reborn from The Business of Fashion | Trailer

Welcome to Retail Reborn from The Business of Fashion | Trailer

September 14, 2020

In an exclusive new series from The Business of Fashion in partnership with Brookfield Properties, Doug Stephens and BoF investigate the seismic shifts transforming the retail ecosystem. From the post-pandemic consumer psyches to increased risk and growing calls for responsibility, BoF identifies the forces transforming the retail market and what they mean for the global industry.

The Retail Reborn Podcast launches on Tuesday 15 September. Subscribe now to never miss an episode.

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Amber Valletta Says, ‘I Don’t Want to Work in an Industry That Is the Same as Before’

Amber Valletta Says, ‘I Don’t Want to Work in an Industry That Is the Same as Before’

July 14, 2020

The supermodel, actress and environmental activist talks to BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks about why the fashion industry cannot return to ‘business as normal.’

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — “The uncertainty has forced us to get really present.... We have an amazing opportunity to restart and to begin again,” Amber Valletta told BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks in the latest episode of The BoF Podcast. “It is an incredible opportunity to stop and really figure out where we want to go from here. We can redesign a future.”

 

The American supermodel and actress, who has graced the cover of American Vogue 13 times and starred in various television and film series, including Revenge, Legends and Hitch, shared her thoughts on why the pandemic and political unrest has signalled the need for an equitable supply chain and an overhaul of the fashion calendar to reflect the industry’s “new normal.” 

 

  • Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, many garment workers in countries like India and Bangladesh were left destitute as textile factories shuttered and retailers in the west cancelled orders. “Before the designers make this amazing piece, [garment workers] are the people who put in the blood, sweat and tears,” Valletta said. . “In the 21st century, we should have a supply chain that’s fair and equitable.” 
  • Affecting change may not be simple but it is definitely required, Valletta said. In order to thrive in a post-pandemic climate, the fashion industry at large needs “to be resilient… which means we have to really stop doing business as normal because normal is archaic now.” For Valletta, fashion is about change and innovation: “I don’t want to work in an industry that is the same as before,” she said. 
  • “Why aren’t we slowing down the calendar?,” Valletta asked, addressing the industry’s incessant output of clothes that has accelerated over the years. “I was blessed to live in the most spectacular time in fashion… the crews were smaller, everything… There was an intimacy and excitement that we don’t have today,” she said, reflecting on her modelling career. . “There was no [social media]... and there was anticipation of the next season… Everything coming at you was a discovery.”

 

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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Farfetch’s José Neves Says Profitability Is Still Possible in 2021

Farfetch’s José Neves Says Profitability Is Still Possible in 2021

July 9, 2020

LONDON, United Kingdom —For Farfetch Founder and Chief Executive José Neves, the last six months have not only been about protecting his own business from the fallout of Covid-19, but also supporting the hundreds of boutiques around the world — from China, Japan and Korea to the Middle East and Europe — that sell their goods online through the luxury marketplace.

“We've been able to support the boutiques and the brands on the platform at crucial time where online is, for many, the main channel and for some... the only channel,” Neves told BoF Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed in the latest episode of The BoF Podcast.

But as Neves explained, more challenges lie ahead for Farfetch and the global fashion industry at large.

  • Neves described the platform’s performance as “very solid,” and expects to see an acceleration in its second quarter, with year over year growth of 25-30%. Part of this success can be attributed to the business shifting its focus to markets where consumer sentiment has started to recover, according to Neves.
  • But Farfetch is still losing money, and investors and market analysts have questioned the company's recent acquisition of New Guards Group (NGG). The acquisition may have bolstered profitability, but it took the business in an unexpected direction: actually owning the brands it sells on its platform. But Neves said he remains “confident” that Farfetch will achieve profitability by 2021 — a goal it outlined last year, and that the NGG business is a brand platform in its own right.
  • The luxury industry has been bracing for what has been called “the mother of all sales,” as retailers are forced to drastically discount their surplus of spring merchandise. Some observers have pointed to Farfetch as a regular culprit with respect to the industry's discounting addiction even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Neves says the discounting decisions are made by the brands and the retailers themselves, and that Farfetch is simply the platform they use to go to the market, but acknowledges that deep discounting is a systemic industry problem.
  • Neves believes the fashion industry will finally reckon with its wasteful and unsustainable business practices — and partially because it can also reduce costs. “I do think the industry had an oversupply problem, which is an environmental problem as well," he said. “Platforms have a responsibility to… incentivise customers to shop consciously. By doing that you create an incentive for brands to be more conscious or to be totally ethical and sustainable if they can.”

 

Related Articles:

A Cloudy Picture at Farfetch

Farfetch Signals Growing Ambitions in Resale

Why Farfetch's Free-Spending Ways Have Some Investors Concerned

 

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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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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June Sarpong Says Fashion’s Gatekeepers Need to Start Thinking Differently About Diversity

June Sarpong Says Fashion’s Gatekeepers Need to Start Thinking Differently About Diversity

June 19, 2020

 June Sarpong shares her advice on how organisations can improve their diversity and inclusive representation, and effectively champion allyship.

 

Related Articles:
Fashion Media Called Out Over Workplace Racism
On Racism, Fashion Must Do More Than Speak Up
Op-Ed | Fashion Is Part of the Race Problem

 
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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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Marc Jacobs Says, ‘I Still Have Stories to Tell’

Marc Jacobs Says, ‘I Still Have Stories to Tell’

May 18, 2020

As American fashion changes rapidly in real-time, Jacobs shared his thoughts on the state of an industry in flux.

  • Jacobs revisited his last fashion show at the Park Avenue Armory. “I would be very happy if that were my last show,” he said. New York’s role in global fashion is waning, and the future of live fashion shows in the coming months and years remains uncertain. “We don’t know if there will be much of a fashion industry in New York,” said Jacobs. “Will the people that have the skill still be around?”
  • Furthermore, the waste within the industry, and the flawed system of scheduling and orders has put more of an impetus on designers to slow down. “The idea of being forced to create something and tell a story constantly when it has no soul feels so vacant,” said Jacobs, pointing also to the wasted fabrics and unused products that end up in landfills. “The urge to make things and create things hasn’t gone away… I still have stories to tell,” he added. Maybe how that happens will change.
  • Digital collections and online shopping aren’t adequate substitutes. “Ordering online in a pair of grubby sweats is not my idea of living life,” said Jacobs, comparing the experience to looking at art online. “I don’t look at a Rothko online and cry.”

 

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