Held in conjunction with the Asia Fashion Exchange, the Asia Fashion Summit brings the insiders of the fashion industry together with those who have a stake in the fashion business in a two-day conference on all things fashion. Here’s the 5 lessons that we took home from the star-studded panel of speakers that included Hussein Chalayan, Colin McDowell and Ann Kositchotitana.
Viva la revolución
Mercedes Gonzalez, industry strategist and founder of Global Purchasing Companies put it plainly: “We’re an industry in crisis and we need a revolution”. The sales-driven universe that the industry exists in at the moment assumes that the consumer is a computer programme that will respond to pre-determined commands and this bubble needs to burst.
Existing brands and future fashion entrepreneurs will need to turn the current modus operandi upside-down by putting the consumer at the centre. Advertising will need to become only a support and not an altar upon which to place a product. It is necessary to understand the new-age consumer who is concerned about quality, ethical production, prices and an emotional connection with the product. This consumer’s attention is captured by design and innovation, not identical and generic pieces. She or he wants their personal voice heard, not suppressed in a sea of generality. This awareness of the consumer persona is at the heart of the retail revolution.
An A-list idea is worthless without an equally A-list team and strategy.
So you’ve got the whole innovation thing down and you’re teeming with ideas but without a good team whose mantra is “I’ve got your back” and a clear strategy, your ideas will not make it off of the sketch pad and Ann Kositchotitana, founder of the Front Row Group, having spent years in the fashion industry speaks of this from her own experience. The 5 people that your team cannot live without: a marketing guru, a top-notch merchandizer, a savvy commercial director, a dedicated product designer and an architect with a vision. Then comes the strategy that your brand cannot live without: knowing your product demand, knowing not to underestimate your customers and knowing not to overestimate yourself.
Don’t be anti-social (at least, not on the web).
Social media is takin’ over the fashion industry and any legitimate fashion brand without a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account will want to hide its face in shame in this atmosphere. Of course this means that any human being with access to the internet can post their material online. The only way that a brand can succeed is if there is an active effort to stand out.
Social media is all about the personal voice that the modern consumer. We had the opportunity to speak to Daniel Saynt, CEO of Socialyte and his advice is that the key to getting the consumer to take notice of your brand on social media is a campaign with a personal connection – pushing a brand name but with a real persona or face behind it (take a page from the DKNY PR girl campaign here). This does not mean that traditional marketing is going to get thrown out the window. Daniel Saynt emphasizes that social media marketing runs upon some of the same principles that traditional marketing does so a foundation in traditional marketing is a must. He also assures us that there is no need for brands to worry that the social media channel is a fad that’ll go past its heyday soon. Social media has given the individual power and influence in marketing campaigns and there is just no way that a person in their right mind will give that up.
Brain-storming is so last season. Dream-storming is the new black.
Brain-storming kills design and so does the stifling corporate environment. Product designers excel in an environment that makes them feel at home at work. (Everyone’s probably going duh at this point but really, despite knowing this fact well, few are putting it into practice.) Brand leaders need to encourage their designers to dream, not think. The fashion industry is probably one of the lucky few where losing touch with reality pays (I mean, come on, if Karl Lagerfeld put on a fashion show on the Great Wall of China and Pierre Cardin put his models on camels, there’s really no need to even keep reality in question when it comes to fashion).
It’s not the clothes. It’s the experience.
This is probably where the architect-with-a-vision buddy comes in real handy. Studies presented at the Summit taught us an important thing on consumer behaviour: a positive store experience makes people spend money (even if they sometimes came in with the intention not to). This experience is not to be confused with service, because there’s no excuse to consider good service as something optional. This experience is about the interior decor, the lighting, the arrangement and even the temperature. Just as much as you need to make your designers feel at home at work, you need to make your buyer feel at home in the store too.