Why fashion brands can't ignore the sharing economy

Posted on by Melanie Bender

Brands today are learning a lesson familiar to most preschoolers: if you want people to come play, you've gotta share. The $26B sharing economy has taken off, driven by a cycle of consumer demands for better price and convenience, a society that's more connected and experimental, and startups creating platforms for sharing everything from parking spaces to power tools. As more and more of us are getting physical goods and services from each other rather than buying them, where does that leave brands? 

You either compete with market trends or create with them. Do nothing, and you fall into the former, which is exactly where most fashion brands are when it comes to the sharing economy. But they shouldn't be, and here's why:

  1. It's your best consumers. There are some 80 million sharers in the US, and growing rapidly. If the number isn't persuasive enough, try the demographics: sharers tend to be 18 to 34 years old, heavily active on social media, and *affluent*. That's most fashion brand's target consumer, to a T.

  2. It's wide open (for now). Goods are among the sharing economy's hottest items, with 46% of consumers projected to be sharers of pre-owned goods by the end of 2014. But while demand is there, brands are not. A lot of success in today's rapidly-evolving market is about getting there early. We know this is happening, so why wait for the uphill battle?

  3. Your brand is there, even if you're not. A quick search of "Louis Vuitton" on eBay returns 37,000 product matches. Tibi's 3,000 matches shows nascent labels are no exception. As brands learned with social media two years ago, opting out isn't an option. To be in control of your own image, you have to get active.

Rent the Runway's showroom at Henri Bendel.

Rent the Runway's showroom at Henri Bendel.

So what should a brand's role be? The short answer: it needs to be driven by your consumer. What core values of your brand or product can be amplified by sharing? (Pro tip: start by looking at how consumers are already sharing your brand.) A few shapes that could take:

  1. Marketing to sharers, by partnering with sharing providers like Vaunte, Rent the Runway, Uber or AirBnB to provide branded products and experiences.

  2. Directly facilitate sharing, by adding a "Pre-Owned" section to e-commerce, which could be 'powered by' a sharing marketplace like The RealReal, or by hosting swap parties.

  3. Supporting sharing, by providing authenticity validation services, or imagery archives from past seasons. 

Remember, sharers are sharing because they want to (emotionally) and not because they have to (financially). Cater to why, and you'll be well-positioned in what's quickly becoming the next major brand channel.

Uber's partnership with Peroni for Stockholm Fashion Week.


Is activewear the new couture?

Posted on by Melanie Bender

Last week fitness fan-brand Lululemon announced a push into streetwear with &Go, a collection of dresses and drapey tanks more suited for the bar than barre. (Note: the &Go landing page has since been removed from Lululemon's site) Nike, Adidas and Athleta are also making conspicuous pushes into street categories. Meanwhile, Gap, Victorias Secret, Topshop and Juicy Couture are among the many fashion brands investing in activewear.

A dress ($198) from Lululemon's &Go line

A dress ($198) from Lululemon's &Go line

Product expansion is what brands do -- you start somewhere and then make play after play for total wallet dominance. But there's a reason why all this action is around activewear and why now. Activewear isn't just another product skew like shoes or handbags. It's a category of expression and aspiration, much like the role couture has played in designer fashion. Couture shows elite taste, craft and access. Activewear shows elite strength, culture and grit. Both are used to power aspirational campaigns -- a model in an unreal setting, an athlete performing an unreal feat. Both create powerful brand narratives, relevance and cache, then used to market mass products. 

Nike campaign image

Nike campaign image

So why now? As with so many things in fashion today, it's an artifact of the Age of the Selfie. With consumers broadcasting their daily runway via social media, where activewear wins over couture is everyday relevance and accessibility. Balancing aspiration with accessibility is the driving tension of any brand, but activewear brands are arguably among those doing this most successfully. While they've lowered the bar of price accessibility, they've added the bar of performance accessibility -- yes, you can shell out $500 for the complete look, but you can't buy the ability to dunk or do the scorpion pose. That may be why activewear is edging out almost any other category in spending growth (9% YoY), and earning more emphasis from top designers (see: Alexander Wang, Derek Lam, Isabel Marant and Kenzo). See-through-pants issues included, Lululemon's 2013 sales alone were projected at $1.6B. Activewear isn't going to replace couture, but it's no surprise it's becoming a sought-after territory for powerhouse brands.

Alexander Wang's Sprign 2012 sport-chic runway

Alexander Wang's Sprign 2012 sport-chic runway

 

 

What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender