Sustainability in Fashion: A Passing Fad or the New Standard? {Sustainability in Fashion: A Passing Fad or the New Standard?} – English

Sustainability in Fashion: A Passing Fad or the New Standard? {Sustainability in Fashion: A Passing Fad or the New Standard?} – English

From food to fashion, sustainability has become a forward principle in recent years. Bolstered by a shift towards social accountability, many consumer brands have put a heightened value on doing good with their products—whether that be reducing their environmental footprint, supporting eco-friendly causes or using business models as a vehicle for change.

This trend towards environmental stewardship has been embraced by the fashion world, and, some will say, not only embraced but driven forward. Certainly, the movement has opened a door of opportunity for brands that emphasize ecological responsibility.

Whether proactive or reactive, it makes sense that brands of nearly every caliber have begun to put a priority on environmental stewardship. Global textile production has more than doubled over the past 15 years, according to reports by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. A full 85 percent of discarded clothing ends up in landfills in the United States—a cycle that produces more greenhouse emissions than sea and air shipping combined, Fortune reports.    

Yet, while the fashion industry has made strides towards greater sustainability, progress slowed last year, according to the latest Pulse of the Fashion Industry report. The annual study found that adoption of socially and environmentally conscious practices improved in 2018, but at a slower rate than in 2017. The industry’s score rose four points to 42 out of 100, which was less than the six-point gain a year earlier.

“The fashion industry is still far from sustainable,” a summary of the report states plainly. “Furthermore, the findings demonstrate that fashion companies are not implementing sustainable solutions fast enough to counterbalance the negative environmental and social impacts of the rapidly growing fashion industry.”

The amount of clothing purchased globally each year is expected to rise 63 percent by 2030 to 102 million tons. On the current trajectory, the report notes, that growth will cause the gap between sustainability progress and industry output to widen.

However, many industry leaders see an opportunity to connect with audiences and bolster their brands through elevated sustainability initiatives. Their vision—fewer, better products that reflect consumers’ interest and lifestyles. Less mass production and more personalization.

Sustainability “totally fits with what we believe in,” Anya Hindmarch, founder of the British handbag label told Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International Summit this week. Customers now expect a personal story behind the product, rather than “fast fashion,” she added.

“Nowadays [consumers] don’t just want an object, they want something to talks to them,” said Kristina Blahnik, speaking at the same event.

The approach of designing products targeted to consumers’ interests may be a winning strategy, and one that may help reduce the fashion industry’s footprint. Seventy-three percent of Millennials, the fastest-growing wealth segment, say they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands, according to Neilson’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability report. Eighty-one percent say they expect companies they support to make public declarations of corporate responsibility.

More than prior generations, Millennials are not content to simply observe, either. They are more likely to actively engage in the conversation. Nearly three-quarters say they will voice their opinions about a company’s social policies, according to research by Cone Communications, and with the advent of social media, they have a bullhorn to do so.

Certainly, commercial sustainability has ebbed and flowed over the past several decades. But the cultural shift among Millennials—a population that exceeds 80 million in the United States alone and which stands to inherit the largest wealth transfer in history (an estimated $30 trillion from Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers over the next 30 years)—suggests environmental awareness is more than just a passing fad.

How the fashion industry responds may well determine the future of many leading brands—and open the door to newcomers. In an era where experience is its own currency, it seems designers would be wise to follow those leaders who are personalizing their products, and reducing waste in the process.

Meow Wolf: Convention-Defying Art House Is Turning Heads {Meow Wolf: Convention-Defying Art House Is Turning Heads} – English

Meow Wolf: Convention-Defying Art House Is Turning Heads {Meow Wolf: Convention-Defying Art House Is Turning Heads} – English

It’s been called “Disney Land for the Instagram age” and a sensory experience that “defies description.” Tucked in a former bowling alley miles away from the established art scene of Santa Fe’s Canyon Road, Meow Wolf is an immersive, eclectic art installation that is commanding the attention of connoisseurs, casual passers-by and experience-seekers from around the world—and growing rapidly in the process.  

Truly, it would be hard to put a label on what, exactly, Meow Wolf is. At its core, it is a communal space for artists and creators of nearly every medium. Established in 2008, the organization has grown to more than 300 employees, including over 200 full-time artists and 80 operational staff. But that would be like describing the Taj Mahal in terms of nails and boards.

The lifeforce of Meow Wolf is its convention-defying, “massive, immersive, multimedia” installations. Impressive in their scope and style, these artworks employ everything from paint and sculpture to “cross-reality” and performance to achieve the surreal. They might be likened to an art gallery on psychedelics.

The most recent evolution of the space is a 20,000 square-foot “House of Eternal Return,” a sprawling showcase of otherworldliness and the first permanent installation. Introduced in 2016, the experiential-art encourages patrons to explore—literally, to rifle through papers, find a combination to a safe or open the fridge (spoiler: its contents aren’t sandwich makings).

As Curbed put it, descriptions don’t quite capture the Meow Wolf’s “hallucinatory weirdness.” That is intentional, the organization’s creative directors explain, who talk about the attractions with purposeful vagueness. The experience is part of the art itself—which could be said for nearly any arthouse, but it is taken to another level by Meow Wolf. That’s largely what distinguishes it from other modern, envelope-pushing conceptions, like San Francisco’s Color Factory or Museum of Ice Cream.

Not surprisingly, Meow Wolf’s popularity has been propelled by social media. Hashtagged over 100,000 times and with nearly a quarter-million followers, Meow Wolf’s digital following is bit of a phenomenon in itself. But photos only scratch the surface.

“We’ve been called out as a place where people go to just take pictures for Instagram,” Caity Kennedy, a creative director, says. “By the very nature of it, they’re unable to see the other 80 percent of what’s in the space that is un-photographable, that’s un-Instagrammable.”

The intangible, you-had-to-be-there qualities make Meow Wolf so remarkable, and the company seems to embrace the quirkiness. Its websites notes, Meow Wolf “champions otherness, weirdness, challenging norms, radical inclusion, and the power of creativity to change the world.” That appeal attracted more than 400,000 guests in 2016, and visitation continues to grow.

Meow Wolf’s missions is nearly as innovative as its art. The organization is committed to community and to supporting artists. It offers an impressive benefits package to workers, including health insurance, gym memberships and classes at the local community college. This year, the company increased its minimum wage to $17 an hour, and it regularly works with local schools to bring art to life. Registered as a Public Benefit Corporation, Meow Wolf earned a solid B-rating for its community impact.

So where does an organization that thrives on creativity go from here? Buoyed by the House of Eternal Return’s success, Meow Wolf is launching exhibits across the country. This year it will introduce the Kaleidoscope, a “non-linear” amusement ride—yes, ride—that invites participants to form their own narrative. Other works are planned for Washington, D.C. in 2022 and Phoenix, Arizona.

This year Meow Wolf hired a new chief creative director, Ali Rubenstein, who previously spent 22 years with Disney where she most recently oversaw the company’s theme parks in Asia. “Here is this amazing company that is championing weirdness and otherness and inclusively,” she told a local news station. “This is a company that I think truly believes and truly can change the world through creativity.”

Online Retail and the Future of the Luxury Brand {Online Retail and the Future of the Luxury Brand} – English

Online Retail and the Future of the Luxury Brand {Online Retail and the Future of the Luxury Brand} – English

The rise of the digital marketplace—propelled by online giants like Amazon and Alibaba and carried by a slate of popular brands operating primarily as direct-to-consumer—has been heralded by many analysts as a death-knoll for physical retail. By these forecasts, luxury-good storefronts should be among the first casualties. But is the brick-and-mortar shop really on life support?

Certainly, there is compelling evidence to indicate that traditional retail is undergoing a reformation. A rash of recent store closings and bankruptcies among major chains like Toys ‘R Us, Sears and Rite Aid has sent a shiver down the spine of investors. That wasn’t helped any by lackluster Q4 reports from the likes of Kohls, JCPenny and Macy’s—whose over-zealous bet on a blowout holiday season helped wipe out $34 billion in market value from the sector.

The fever seems to have hit mid-market outlets that depended heavily on a physical presence to drive sales particularly hard. From Victoria’s Secret (which announced in February it will shutter 53 locations in addition to 30 last year) to ShopKo (which is closing 38 stores and selling off its pharmacy), the wave of businesses on the doorstep of Chapter 11 points to the challenges facing traditional retail. To be sure, much of that owes to the emergence of newcomers who outperformed the old-guard, particularly in the online space—which only further drives home the point.

In the luxury-goods market, vacancies along Fifth and Madison Avenues suggest a similar trend, and there are plenty of brands that have gone the way of their blue-collar counterparts. In April, Italian fashion-house Roberto Cavalli filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy as it liquidated its U.S. arm. Fashion retailer Pretty Green was placed into administration in March, and last year J.Mendel filed for Chapter 11 protection.   

According to CNBC, major retailers have closed more than 4,800 stores through March of this year. That’s compared to just over 5,500 through all of 2018, which was down more than 30 percent from a record 8,139 closures announced in 2017.

Yet, for all the hype behind online retail and the anecdotal evidence against physical retail, the data still indicates that brick-and-mortar hasn’t given up the ghost just yet—nor is it likely to do so soon. Over 90 percent of retail transactions were made in a physical location last year, and more than 80 percent of sales are expected to still be made in-store by 2025. That reality, many experts caution, recasts the outlook.

“The so-called ‘retail apocalypse’ is not ubiquitous. It does not apply uniformly to all retailers, nor to all types of retail, nor to all geographic markets,” Jim Dillavou of Paragon Commercial Group says. “Indeed, the retail that is dying is the retail that should die. E-commerce is actually doing something important and healthy for retail: it is forcing investment, improvement and innovation in a marketplace that has not changed in decades.”

What about the dip in leases along luxury corridors in places like Manhattan? As Gene Spiegelman, vice chairman and principal at Ripco Real Estate, tells Real Estate Weekly, it is more of a sea change than an emptying river.

“Disruption of the traditional retail model exacerbated a real estate market that was already overheating. Not unlike other financial bubbles, the micro-bubble of high-value urban retail real estate burst by the end of 2016,” Spiegelman says.

He points to the spate of luxury brands migrating to Hudson Yards, the new mixed-use development on the far west side of Manhattan, which is also the most expensive real-estate development in U.S. history. The development has attracted a bevy of luxury names, including Balenciaga, Hermès, Cartier and Dior. Flexible lease options have also drawn in e-commerce brands like Mack Weldon and LovePop to test run brick-and-mortar operations.

The health of physical retail depends largely on who you ask. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle. Brands that have failed to create a strong digital presence have suffered the consequences and forfeited their market share to savvier newcomers. At the same time, online behemoths including Apple and Amazon are investing heavily in retail locations.

What’s clear for retail in an otherwise murky market outlook is this: Successful businesses need both a strong online capacity, an extraordinary experience for customers in-store and the ability to evolve with consumer preferences.

A New Class of Consumers Is Changing the Luxury-Goods Market {A New Class of Consumers Is Changing the Luxury-Goods Market} – English

A New Class of Consumers Is Changing the Luxury-Goods Market {A New Class of Consumers Is Changing the Luxury-Goods Market} – English

For the world’s top luxury brands, business has been good in recent years. Increasingly, this growth is coming from a new crop of consumers.

Despite a slowdown in several major global markets, the outlook for luxury brands remains strong. The latest Global Powers of Luxury Goods, an annual report published by Deloitte, finds that the aggregated revenue of the top 100 luxury-goods companies topped $247 billion in FY 2017 (the latest data available). That reflects a nearly 11-percent growth in year-over-year sales.

Between 2015 and 2017, the growth rate in this market segment exceeded five percent—which likely would have been higher but was pulled down by a lackluster performance in 2016, which logged only a one-percent increase for the year.

According to the report, the minimum revenue threshold to enter the list of the world’s top 100 luxury-goods companies was $218 million, up $7 million from the previous year. The average company size on the list was $2.47 billion.

Once again, the ten largest companies accounted for the lion’s share of the total luxury-good sales (48.2 percent) and accounted for 14.2 percent of composite sales growth.

Breaking from historic trends, recent growth in the luxury markets is being driven more and more by younger, digitally-savvy consumers, the Deloitte report notes. Unlike older generations, these high-earners-not-rich-yet, or “HENRYs,” are seeking inclusive, personalized and self-expressive products and experiences. And it has brands scrambling to cater to a shifting consumer base.

“Companies are re-examining the value of brand heritage and brand history for their new customers and are adopting an omni-personal approach, focusing solely on the consumer, even prior to channel identification,” Deloitte’s analysis states.

“In this path between the old and the new, companies are faced with consumers’ increasing sensitivity towards privacy, but are trying to convert it into an opportunity to offer more personalized products and services to their customer base.”

This younger consumer demographic is moving luxury brands away from traditional marketing strategies, which emphasized legacy and company history, to instead prioritize lifestyle and personal touchpoints. Not surprisingly, the shift has directed companies to social media, greater online presences and peer-to-peer and experiential marketing.

“Long established luxury brands face a new reality,” Deloitte reports. “The reality is that ‘new’ luxury consumers only care about the brands that have created value for them in the last 24 hours.”

As more Gen-X and Millennial consumers move into the luxury space it’s likely these trends will accelerate further. That provides a real opportunity for shrewd brands to connect with new audiences—if they can navigate the change. It also provides a challenge for long-established brands to reinvent themselves to stay relevant.

Wherever brands find themselves in the equation, all signs point to a healthy luxury-goods markets rife for continued growth. But that may change over the long-term as younger consumers gravitate towards purchases that reflect their lifestyles and interests.