The Business of Fashion Podcast
10 Retail Archetypes for the Post-Pandemic Era

10 Retail Archetypes for the Post-Pandemic Era

April 9, 2021

As retail stores begin to re-open this summer after a year of lockdown, Doug Stephens shares strategies for post-pandemic success from his new book, Resurrecting Retail.

 

Retail’s Darwinian shakeout over the last year has consolidated market power in the hands of dominant e-commerce players. But a brand, even if small, can still be mighty. The key is focus and finding a relevant niche, Doug Stephens said at VOICES 2020, previewing his new book, Resurrecting Retail, out on April 13.”

In the post-pandemic retail era, purpose will be the new positioning,” Stephens said. “What will be your brand’s reason for existing?” he asked.Stephens outlines 10 reasons why retail should exist in 2021 and beyond, from product education to activism.

  • “I see Covid-19 not as a mere accelerator, I see it as a threshold,” said Stephens. “As a unique wormhole in time where society as a whole is being pulled out of the industrial era and across the threshold of the digital age.” Though 2020 was challenging for a lot of retail companies, it has made the big ones like Amazon, Alibaba, JD.com and Walmart even stronger and better prepared to capture more of the global retail economy.

  • Brands must think about purpose: what is the question your brand answers? Companies that succeed in the marketplace do this well. “When we buy Nike products, we’re buying a cultural point of view, and Nike answers a very specific consumer question. The question, of course, is ‘Who inspires me?’” Stephens said.

  • In the post-pandemic world, the media will no longer be just the message. “Every form of media now, that the consumer has exposure to, is no longer simply a call out to go to the store,” Stephens said. “Every form of media must be the store.”

 

Related Articles:

Take a Look Inside The Post-Pandemic Store

The New Rules of Brick-and-Mortar Retail

Tapping Into the Future of Physical Retail

 

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The Multi-Versal Self and the Rise of Virtual Fashion

The Multi-Versal Self and the Rise of Virtual Fashion

March 30, 2021
 
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.

The Business of the British Monarchy: What Happens Now?

The Business of the British Monarchy: What Happens Now?

March 12, 2021

On Sunday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — also known as Harry and Meghan — rocked the world when they revealed intimate details about their experiences in the British royal family and their decision to step back as ‘senior members’ in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. What they revealed in the interview has left not just the UK and the Commonwealth reeling, but challenged the entire world’s perception of the monarchy. BoF’s Imran Amed sat down with Elizabeth Holmes, a New York Times bestselling author, notable ‘royal watcher’ and style expert to contextualise the conversation with Winfrey and what it means for the future of royal fashion.

”When Princess Diana left the Royal Family, she made it very clear she did not need fashion in the same way, because she was able to use her own voice… And I think Meghan — now in her move to California — definitely doesn’t need it either,” Holmes said. “She will still continue to use it and promote brands that she believes in and has connections to, but when you can use your voice, you’re not relying on your fashion to talk for you.”

 

Related Articles:

Have We Reached Peak Royalty?

Monetising Meghan Markle

Could Meghan Markle Cash In on Her Powerful Influencer Status?

 

External clips courtesy of Today, India Today, Sky News Australia, CPAC, Good Morning Britain, Harpo Productions/CBS, and CTV News.

 

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How Virgil Abloh Is Lifting Up Fashion’s Next Generation of Creatives

How Virgil Abloh Is Lifting Up Fashion’s Next Generation of Creatives

February 23, 2021

The designer speaks with BoF editor-at-large Tim Blanks about his latest collection, making change and the importance of elevating the next generation of fashion creatives.

 

When Virgil Abloh first broke into fashion he remembers feeling like a tourist. The designer began his career in architecture and says he struggled to find his place in an industry of insiders. But after three years at the helm of Louis Vuitton’s menswear division, the Off-White founder is now very much part of the establishment. In the latest episode of the BoF Podcast, Abloh speaks with BoF editor-at-large Tim Blanks about his hopes of paving the way to a more democratic and inclusive industry for the younger generation and why he’s launched a TV station.

The designer is increasingly focused on lifting up the next generation of young designers, conscious of his responsibility to open up the industry. Last year, he raised $1 million to launch the “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund for Black students.

 

Related Articles:

Virgil Abloh: ‘You Have to Choose Your Message Wisely’

What’s Off-White Without Virgil?

Virgil Abloh: ‘I Am Not a Designer’

 

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How Fashion Can Leverage the Audio Appeal of Clubhouse

How Fashion Can Leverage the Audio Appeal of Clubhouse

February 2, 2021

At VOICES 2020. Paul Davison and Virgil Abloh discussed the audio-only social network’s potential impact in the fashion industry with BoF’s Imran Amed.

While the influence of Clubhouse has been growing in the power corridors of Silicon Valley for almost one year, the audio-only social network officially hit the mainstream this month, having grown to more than 2 million users and closed a funding round valuing the business at $1.4 billion. Then, on Monday, none other than Elon Musk made a surprise appearance on Clubhouse, driving global news coverage of his impromptu conversation with Robinhood’s co-founder, Vladimir Tenev, about the remarkable rise in value of Gamestop shares driven by passionate Reddit users.

But what could the rise of Clubhouse mean for fashion? In December, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer Paul Davison made his first public speaking appearance at BoF VOICES alongside Virgil Abloh to discuss the power of creating a space to listen and learn — and how the fashion industry can get involved.

“All the conversations that I’ve hosted or been a part of on Clubhouse related to fashion in a weird way have been more in-depth than interviews or regular-format media,” Abloh said. “It’s an interesting case study making sure brands have something to say when you can’t escape to creating an image.”

 

Related Articles:

LVMH Is Trusting Kim Jones to Define Fendi’s Post-Karl Look
Dior’s Air Jordans and the Return of Pre-Pandemic Hype
Will Luxury Streetwear Get Millennials Into Department Stores

 

 

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Robin Givhan on the US Capitol Siege and Vogue’s Kamala Harris Cover

Robin Givhan on the US Capitol Siege and Vogue’s Kamala Harris Cover

January 14, 2021

Speaking with Imran Amed, the Washington Post’s senior critic-at-large shares her thoughts on the controversially ‘familiar’ image of the vice president-elect, and explains where it sits within the wider political climate of the United States as it is due to enter a new chapter.

When the cover of American Vogue’s February issue leaked on Saturday, January 9, a flurry of controversy ensued. Many took to social media to deride the image of vice president-elect Kamala Harris, lensed by Tyler Mitchell, for its casual styling, unflattering lighting and lack of gravitas. The criticism focused on the argument that the portrait lacked the stately deference they believed such a political figure — not least the first Black, South Asian female vice-president — should command.Among those to share their thoughts was Robin Givhan, The Washington Post’s senior critic-at-large who penned a column on January 11 in which she said “the cover did not give Kamala D. Harris due respect… It was a cover image that, in effect, called Harris by her first name without invitation.” Givhan, who became the first fashion writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2006, sat down with Imran Amed in the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, to further discuss the cover’s significance and the wider tumultuous landscape of US politics. 
  • Debating Harris’ portrait is about more than just a critique of the technicalities and production value of a fashion glossy. Its release comes at a time of political division and fraught race relations, just days after a violent right-wing mob stormed Washington D.C.’s Capitol building, an event incited by President Trump, who now faces a second impeachment for his involvement in the incident. “The last few years have been an exhausting, emotionally draining time,” said Givhan. “I was very surprised that [the cover] became such an issue. I was really stunned that people were so exercised about it. When you think about it, it’s [like] pain from a thousand papercuts, and this was the 1001st papercut.”
  • The informality of the image chosen for the print cover carries greater historical significance and weight. Vogue and Anna Wintour defended it as an extension of the Biden-Harris campaign’s platform of accessibility, which Givhan described as a “legitimate” point of view. But, she said, “I think that the upset is rooted not so much in the current moment but its history. Throughout history, Black women in particular were not given the kind of respect that white women were. People had this familiarity with Black women that was not about friendship and equality but was condescending. Understanding the complicated nature of that would give one pause in presenting the first female vice president — a Black woman — in that way.”
  • While the alternative digital cover image, which depicts Harris in a more presidential light and formal style, offers some reprieve, this print issue has significance as a cultural souvenir (“you can’t give a screengrab to your grandchildren,” said Givhan), and there is no real opportunity for a do-over. “There’s no way to make people happy,” said Givhan, adding that it’s important to instead listen to criticism and “recognise where things went astray” in allowing this misstep to happen. “You just have to do better the next time, and the time after that and the time after that.”

External clips courtesy of Good Morning America and ABC7 News

 

Related Articles:
Anna Wintour Speaks on VP Cover Controversy, Amazon and Diversity Efforts
The Risks and Rewards of Dressing American Politicians 

 
Find out more about #BoFVOICES  here.
 
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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.”
 
 
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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.
 
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The Fate of the Physical Runway Show

The Fate of the Physical Runway Show

September 10, 2020

BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks, The Washington Post’s fashion critic Robin Givhan and GQ’s Rachel Tashjian explore the past, present and the future of the event that makes the industry go round — the fashion show.

 

LONDON, United Kingdom — Do fashion shows still matter? In the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks, The Washington Post’s fashion critic Robin Givhan and GQ Magazine writer Rachel Tashjian join BoF Executive Editor Lauren Sherman in a virtual panel discussion on how the pandemic tested designers’ ability to captivate buyers, media and consumers through creativity and the use of digital tool. What happens next?
  • For Blanks, in order to look forward, you must look back. Fashion shows have always “[meant] almost everything in fashion to an enormous degree… They challenge, they provoke, they’re disturbing, they’re overwhelming,” he said. However, over the years, people have looked at the shows of the past as “a world that’s gone in a way… it has that kind of poignant tug.”
  • As industry commentators, Blanks, Givhan and Tashjian have taken note of how designers pivoted their strategies following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and what set them apart. For Givhan, JW Anderson’s “show in a box” tapped into “the desire for something tactile, the desire for something that felt personal… that you could hold, that wasn’t a digital... distant thing.” Although livestreams have a way of broadening a brand’s reach, as a critic, Givhan finds being “forced to look in one particular direction” hinders the experience. “Sometimes I find the most interesting element to be something that’s over in a corner, but that’s not the main thing that’s walking down the runway towards me,” she said.
  • In the future, Givhan hopes designers will use technology to “tell a story about their clothing, to weave a narrative in some way… to evoke emotion,” instead of carbon-copying a traditional runway in a digital way. “It [just] feels… like something that… doesn’t really quite fit,” she said. For Blanks, what has come out of this period of uncertainty — and the modes of communication adopted — shouldn’t be forgotten. “I hope that there will be this immediate contact, this sort of intimacy,” he said. “I find that more interesting than maybe the way that we used to deal with things. I don’t want a press release, I want to talk to people.”

 

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