Future Accelerator 3: Action Lab
November 2, 2018 at Aster Textile, Istanbul, Turkey (2 day, internal workshop)
Future Accelerator … What is it?
Aster Textile is an innovative fashion design house, and also manufacturer, luxury brand and retailer. It is behind some of the world’s leading fashion brands, and most popular retailers.
Established in Turkey in 1993, Aster is a leading global multi-product textile company. From our three Business Development Centres in Istanbul, London and Barcelona, our wholly owned production facilities in Turkey and Serbia, to our investment partnerships in the Far East, we strive to offer the best in creativity, innovation and quality and the most flexible service to our many well known international clients. In 2013 Aster launched WtR, a multi-product own label brand positioned in the luxury sector. The first flagship store opened in Notting Hill, London.
Aster is a family business that has retained its core values throughout the expansion of the company. In Turkey we are ranked as one of the top 10 exporters and combined with our international manufacturing investments, have a yearly turnover in excess of €100M. It’s retail partners include Ermenegildo Zigna and Sandro, H&M and Zara, Marks and Spencer and Top Shop, Next and Tu, and many more.
What is the future of fashion? Where should Aster focus its innovation and growth? How can Aster most effectively support its retail partners around the world?
“Future Accelerator” is a high-energy, stretching and challenging, strategic process. It brings together the best talents within the business, exploring potential future scenarios, driven by market trends and consumer insights, creatively exploring new approaches, and inspired by the most innovative companies in every sector. It is future-back and outside-in, collaborative and focused.
It is built around three two-day workshops, initially opening up to explore every possibility, and then closing down to collectively make the best choices, and focus on a roadmap for the future:
Future Fashion … Why it matters?
Fashion retailers are under pressure. Many physical retailers, such as H&M and Zara have seen their sales decimated by the growth of online competitors like Asos and Zalando, who themselves are struggling to reach the expectations of investors. The fast fashion retail models pioneered by the likes of Inditex, has now created a new normal in terms of consumer expectations and behaviours that are difficult to meet.
Innovation has largely not kept pace with consumer behaviour, in a world of mobile-centric millennial consumers, where their aspirations are global, their choice is diverse, their influence is communal, and their patience is zero. Amazon has launched many private labels, H&M tried celebrity-designed ranges, Uniqlo invested in vending machines, Nike went for vast indoor experiences, Supreme became the ultra-hyped drop brand, and Depop is the new normal for reselling and vintage hunting.
Of all the trends influencing retail, personalisation – in the forms of customised products, personalised service, local engagement, personal shoppers and predicted curation – is perhaps the biggest trend for fashion retailers right now. In order to achieve that some retailers are using technologies such as AI and 3d printing, some are using expert staff and local kiosking, some are using data to build more sophisticated interplay between different channels.
Here are some of the most recent examples of fashion retail innovations:
Alibaba’s FashionAI with Guess
Alibaba’s New Retail concept seeks to rethink the entire retail experience, physical and digital, enabled by next generation technologies. This week the Chinese tech giant launched its first “FashionAI” concept store enabled by artificial intelligence. The Hong Kong store showcases Guess apparel through innovations such as smart mirrors, which display product information on a nearby screen when shoppers are touching or picking up a garment. The smart mirror also makes mix-and-match recommendations and points to where the suggested items can be found in the store. It also uses machine learning to computer vision to “learn” from consumers, designers and fashion aficionados within the e-commerce giant’s ecosystem. These insights include images of more than 500,000 outfits put together by stylists on its Taobao platform.
Adidas Berlin travel pass
Berlin transit authority BVG’s unusual collaboration with Adidas Originals – limited edition sneakers with a built-in BVG season travel pass. As such the wearer (as long as they are wearing the pair of sneakers at the time) will get free travel around the entire city on trams, buses, ferries and subways for the year. Although the shoes were quite highly priced at €180, the value of the annual travel pass is €728 which means they offer the owner a significant saving. Limited to 500 pairs, the shoes continue the BVG link in their design by mimicking the seat upholstery design used on the company’s train seats.
Amazon Echo Look gets stylish
Amazon Echo Look’s screen and camera functionality is being put to good use by fashion publications Vogue and GQ. Customers can use the device’s AI stylist to get style suggestions from the magazines by uploading photos from their smartphone. The magazines will also host weekly content on the Echo Look app’s home screen with the ability for customers to click through and buy items. Although Amazon says Vogue and GQ don’t get a cut from any purchases made, it’s the sort of collaboration that you could add such an element to.
Columbia Sportswear’s Azure cloud
Columbia Sportswear has collaborated with Microsoft to offer a better customer experience. The company uses Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 and Azure cloud services to get insights into how customers respond to products – regardless of the channel used. This then helps Columbia Sportswear to personalise the experience. The technology is also used to improve merchandise management by offering better reporting and analysis.
H&M’s Afound discount marketplace
H&M is extending to discount fashion with its new marketplace Afound. Significantly, H&M will allow other fashion labels to be sold on Afound. And of course H&M will use it sell its own unsold inventory. The marketplace will be accessible online and through a physical store in Sweden. The aim is to present a mix of brands at different price points. Similarly, Inditex’s remainder products are sold through a separate brand Lefties in which own brand labels are changed from Zara or Mango to Lefties.
LVMH 24sevres multi-brand store
LVMH’s first ecommerce project is 24servres.com, which is a digital realisation of the Le Bon Marche store in Paris. The idea is to extend the physical experience to customers all around the world, including recreating the store’s famous window displays. LVMH also believes that its curated experience is what sets it apart with the brand taking an editorial approach to merchandising the site’s inventory.
Miquela, the digital influencer
Miquela Sousa is a 19 year old LA-based model and influencer. So far, so normal. But Sousa is actually a computer-generated figure – and no-one knows who is actually behind her. Still, she has more than 899,000 Instagram followers and fills her feed with images of outfits from brands such as Chanel, Supreme and Vans.
Net a Porter’s intelligent shopper
Luxury online retailer Net a Porter has invested £442 million in technology and personalisation. A robot selects clothes for customers based on their future plans, for example a planned vacation. The system uses AI to offer the personalised service. Net a Porter has also developed another tool that uses AI to put together outfits based on other items a customer has selected.
Nike’s superfast customisation
The Nike By You studio in New York lets customers customise a pair of trainers in less than 90 minutes. Known as the Nike Makers’ Experience, the process involves a series of graphic options and patterns, plus colour and size options, to create a design that’s unique to the customer. The experience uses a special model of trainer, the Nike Presto X, which was specifically created for it. Currently the Nike Makers’ Experience is invitation only.
Nordstrom’s local advisory stores
US department store Nordstrom’s new retail model is very different to its existing store proposition. The new concept deconstructs the department store into smaller, targeted spaces. The first of these is Nordstrom Local, which is a clothing store that stocks no clothes. Instead the small space has a stylish suite and dressing room with personal stylists ordering in products for customers to try. If they want to buy anything it will be shipped to their home. The space also offers alterations and tailoring.
Orchard Mile’s personalised ‘shopping street’
It’s been a slow process but more and more luxury brands are online, whether via their own initiatives or platforms like Net-a-Porter and Farfetch. One company changing how customers shop for these brands is Orchard Mile which lets customers create their own ‘shopping street’. The customer pick their favourite brands to populate the street, They can then click on them and go to a customised website featuring the designer’s entire collection. The goal is to make the experience akin to walking into the brand’s shop.
Start Today’s ZOZOsuit
The US subsidiary of Japanese fashion brand Start Today is aiming to change the way we buy online with its new at-home measurement device. The ZOZOsuit is an enhanced suit that uses sensor technology to capture 15,000 measurements from all over the wearer’s body. The data is then sent by bluetooth to the accompanying ZOZO app. Customers can then shop Start Today’s products and get recommendations on what will fit based on their exact measurements.
Stitch Fix intelligent box
Stitch Fix is using artificial intelligence to take the effort out of finding new clothes. Rather than the customer going from store-to-store browsing, the company uses a mix of human personal styling and AI to find and send products directly to customers. It uses customer data to find the products it thinks the individual will like. The AI is constantly learning based on what the customer returns and keeps, which means its recommendation get better and more personalised over time.
Tie Bar’s data-gathering stores
Menswear brand The Tie Bar started as an online store, but has since moved into physical retail. Notably the company started with pop–up stores, but found they were turning a profit so converted them into permanent stores. However they don’t operate in isolation. The Tie Bar uses the stores to improve its online offering by testing out new products and uses learnings from customers’ in-store stylist sessions to improve its online equivalent. The Tie Bar also uses online data about where its customers live and what they buy to decide where to open new stores.
Untuckit’s RFID merchandise
Casual men’s apparel retailer Untuckit is piloting the use of RFID in its Fifth Avenue store. The company will use the tech to track inventory and see which items are selling best. They can then use this to optimise inventory in real-time. Just as importantly the RFID will show which sizes and styles have low demand enabling Untuckit to remove or improve them. The store can also track staff and shoppers around the store to better understand journeys.
Viktor & Rolf and Zalando’s recycled collection
Zalando has linked up with fashion designers Viktor & Rolf to create a collection focused around using recycled materials to make handcrafted garments. Called RE:CYCLE, the new collection consists of 17 pieces of womenswear. The materials come from Zalando’s overstock fabrics, while Viktor & Rolf manage the design. The collection is deliberately priced to be accessible with the idea being that it’s a viable alternative to a customer’s usual purchases.
Wardrobe’s direct-to-consumer luxury
Wardrobe.nyc is a luxury direct-to-consumer fashion label from designers Josh Goot and Christine Centenera. The brand sells clothes as ‘wardrobes’ with customers having the choice or four or eight seasonal essentials costing £1,104 and £2,208 respectively. Catering for both men and women it’s an interesting look at where luxury fashion could go in the future by offering high quality products, curated into capsule wardrobes at a lower price.
Zara self-service kiosks
With click-and-collect a well-established part of the retail mix some brands are looking at ways to improve the process. Zara is one of these. It’s testing self-service ‘pickup towers’ in-store which can hold up to 4,000 packages. Customers can use them to retrieve their online orders by scanning a barcode on their phone. The machine then locates and retrieves the package in just a few seconds. Given that most retailers’ click-and-collect services requires customers to queue up at a desk or till to get their items, this technology is a win-win. It makes the process faster for customers and frees up staff to do more important tasks.
More on fashion
- Channel: Future Fashion … “Gamechangers” of the fashion world, including 25 case studies from 1Atelier to Agua Bendita, Diesel to Rapha, Toms and Triangl, Under Armour and Vinyana
- Article: The future of luxury … How can luxury brands capture the new luxuries of time, individuality, authenticity, belonging and experiences?
- Article: A New Textiles Economy … Fashion and the Circular Economy, exploring the changing role of sustainability within fashion, by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation
- Article: Future Fashion Report … Why creating a more future-focused fashion industry is essential, according to The Future Laboratory
More on retail
- Channel: Future Store … “Gamechangers” of the retail world, including 25 case studies from Amazon to & Other Stories, Etsy and Farfetch, Inditex and Sonae
- Article: Retail Futures … Alfred to Amazon, Brandless Brands and Sephora’s Studio … Smart, personal and integrated
- Article: Creating the future one click at a time … why Amazon has just been voted the world’s most innovative company
- Article: Design thinking with Fortnum & Mason … the beautiful reinvention of a British retail icon, combining heritage and innovation