A very interesting blog post on the FT about changes in the fashion industry caught my attention and I wanted to share the most subversive etail initiative I have ever heard about. 

www.honestby.com is the brainchild of Belgian designer Bruno Pieters. The site will sell a collection of 56 pieces for men and women. But what is groundbreaking about it is its transparency. It is transparent both financially and in terms of manufacturing.

By the time you press “buy” you will know exactly what you are paying for – everything from the material used, weight, who spun it, whether it is organic, a website for the supplier and so on – and you will find this for the fabric, the zipper, the lining, the trim, the label, the buttons, the thread etc. Under “price information” you will find out the cost per meter of the fabric, how much was ordered, how much was used, how much labour was involved, what the mark-up was, and how the profit was used.

High-end fashion has historically been a business built on opacity. Things cost what they cost and the less the consumer knows about the literal value of these, the better off the brands are and the more they can charge. It is precisely this attitude that Bruno wants to change as he thinks it breeds consumer mistrust – and why he wanted absolute clarity in his own brand. He has even gone so far to have said that if orders go up and he achieves economies of scale, his prices will come down.

It seems to me this has the potential to be a real game-changer in fashion, because if consumers get used to having this sort of information available, who knows, maybe they could start demanding it from other brands…

@natfut

honest-by

In fashion circles, ‘The September Issue’ of a magazine is a pretty big deal, capturing the fashion week trends that will inspire the year ahead. We’ve got our own September Issue. But it’s of the DERT (Digital, Entertainment, Rights and Technology) Trend Report, and we like to think it’s just as special as last month’s, next month’s and any month thereafter.

This edition looks at the latest in eco-friendly motoring, retail, festivals and books. Enjoy.

@AJGriffiths

BREAKING NEWS: Lady Gaga has finally knocked Britney Spears to No. 2 in the Twitter charts, according to gossip magazines, tabloids, the Telegraph, CNN, and the International Herald Tribune. The two have been cat-fighting it out  to be the pop star queen of Twitter for the past several weeks. Lady Gaga – with 5,803,000 followers to Britney’s 5,726,000 – marked the occasion with a tweet. "Thank you for beginning my reign as Twitter queen," she said in a video to her followers

Personally, I don’t count myself as a follower of either. I have absolutely no desire what so ever to know what Lady Gaga had for lunch today. So who does? And more importantly; Why? Are these two just popular because of who they are coupled with our infallible hunger for celebrity gossip, or, as entertainers, are they really genuinely influential and engaging online as well as on stage? Enter TweetLevel. What I found is rather interesting actually.

Lady Gaga has an overall TweetLevel influence score of 87; Britney Spears, 82. So, this tells us that Lady Gaga is indeed on top in this girl on girl battle, but let’s dig a little further, shall we?

Both have a popularity score of 99.8, so no news there. Britney is slightly more engaging that Lady Gaga, coming in with an engagement score of 51.1 to Gaga’s 48.2. Perhaps Britney Spears has slightly more time on her hands to respond to followers and participate in conversations?

While the scores are pretty close, both are rather low: Ashton Kutcher has an engagement score of 64.6 (and an overall influence score of 92). The most interesting stat however is the trust score. Though she is influential and participates in conversations, Britney’s trust score is, in comparison, a rather low 75.7. Lady Gaga triumphs in the category with a veritably whopping 92.2.

So, what does this all mean? When I started this little exercise, I was hoping to find that though she has more followers, Lady Gaga is not more influential than Britney Spears. But of course I now see the errors of my thinking.

Lady Gaga has made a name for herself because she is different in style and tone, her performances are as wacky as her personality and she draws attention from crowds and online communities. Lady Gaga’s brand embodies compelling authentic content, lesson No. 1 in social media engagement – or No. 5 of Mashable’s recent 10 tips for aspiring community managers. Furthermore, she uses her Twitter feed to broadcast updates but also videos and photos.

Britney on the other had is an unstable brand. Recently reappearing (again) on the celebrity scene, the once troubled-star seems to be have put her outrageous ways behind her and is rebuilding her celebrity profile with a highly-publicised stint on Glee and a new album. Still popular yes, but were we more interested in Britney when she was ripping out her hair? Still popular yes, but interest in what she has to offer the masses is dwindling. She may have been America’s sweetheart pop star and our favourite celebrity-gone-wild-to-watch, but we are just not the interested in what she is doing, or has to say anymore. Plus, we have Lindsay Lohan now.

Note to Lady Gaga/ Lady Gaga’s social media team: Start engaging with your followers and then maybe we can call you the Queen of Twitter. With 5,831,213 followers (at the time of writing), I am not convinced you have earned the title just yet.

@jacqui_cooper

A few weeks ago luxury fashion brand Chanel announced to the world the launch of its ecommerce platform, becoming the latest premium brand to embark on an online sales strategy.

In the past, such brands have maintained a niche business model built around ‘exclusivity’ and an ‘aspirational lifestyle’ that was intended to be unattainable by the masses. Like season sales, online shopping was, and is still, very much perceived to have the ability to devalue brands. In an industry where exclusivity means everything, broadening accessibility is usually something to be avoided. We only have to look at Burberry in the early noughties when it was garishly worn by ‘chavs’ all over England which had serious consequences on the brand in the years to follow.

But at a time when economic conditions continue to remain uncertain and as many fashion labels have suffered a sharp decline in sales, brands like Chanel have reconsidered their sales and digital marketing strategies, turning their interests towards the internet and social media platforms which present strong growth opportunities. These alternatives are also viewed favourably as the effectiveness of traditional glossy print advertising is questioned and the resonance it was once considered to have on consumers continues to flail.

Chanel is not the first luxury brand to yield to such pressures, (Louis Vuitton and Hermes have already led the way), nor will it be the last, but the decision for what is arguably the most sophisticated fashion house in the world to open an online sales platform may represent a new era for luxury brands.

Elite brands have always rationalised exclusivity through a customer’s sensory experience. It’s not just the quality and design of a product that is symbolic of a brand’s heritage; seeing and touching, as well as customisation, store atmosphere and personal service all translate into a premium experience. With such strong values to consider, recreating a brand’s presence online is more than a small task.

Burberry has done this with remarkable success. By engaging consumers with its Twitter account, Facebook page, and its most recent campaign – theArt of the Trench’ – the brand continued to reach even greater heights by experimenting with technology in an effort to captivate young, affluent ‘Millennials’.

Earlier this year Burberry gave the fashion world what’s been described as a ‘technological makeover’ as it streamed its London Fashion Week show in 3D to five cities around the world which could be viewed live online by fashionistas everywhere. The effect it had on the colours, fabrics and textures of the clothes invited the audience to become part of the experience. Such digital initiatives contributed to the brand’s sales increase and it is now reported that the online channel has now surpassed sales in many flagship stores.

I think that opening an online platform is a good move for Chanel. Starting off by selling its fragrances online and potentially including its fashion accessories range later in the year, the platform helps keep the brand in-line with the competition. However, I doubt that it will go as far as making its handbags available as they continue to remain key to the brand and could damage Chanel’s brand equity and image of exclusivity if they were made widely available.

@lucydesadavies

There was a moment when the new intake of girls at school stopped being brace-muzzled, awkward creatures in baggy flares and neon tops, with their eyes ringed in zingy, badly applied electric blue mascara. It coincided with the moment when Topshop became a fashionable, on-trend outlet; taking looks straight off the catwalk and onto the average person in the street, placing everyone suddenly within reach of style.

The girls became leggy, blonde and polished, arriving with their thirteen-year-old fashion senses already honed and with wardrobes to match. Topshop stopped being a place where you could buy a vest, jumper or T-shirt in every colour of the rainbow, and became a chain of fashion palaces, complete with ‘shoe lounges’, nail bars and shiny new shop fronts.

Did ex-director Jane Shepherdson’s phenomenal rebranding exercise (which undoubtedly changed the face of the British high street) rebrand the consumers themselves, or was it just a case of the right strategy at the right time?

One thing is certain, British teenagers are now rated the most fashion-obsessed in the world:

‘The advertising agency JWT recently asked young people in the UK, America, Brazil, Canada and Australia which items they would never cut back on, no matter how tight their finances. Brits ranked “buying new clothes” higher than any other nation in the poll.’

This isn’t in traditionally chic France or in sun-kissed Hollywood. This is in Britain, never internationally renowned for the beauty of its people or their style sense. But that’s all changed.

It is no coincidence that in the past decade, the rise of a youth culture fixated by fashion and celebrity has been so marked in Britain. Teen idol Emma Watson’s decision to head Stateside for university to be ‘more anonymous’ says a lot about the kind of world Brits are growing up in.

This trend of fashion-obsessed teenagers doesn’t mean they’re all running around in designer labels, flashing Louboutin soles. The astronomical growth of sites like ASOS.com (As Seen on Screen) demonstrates the fact that everyone now wants access to celebrity wardrobes, high fashion, runway styles and the associated glamour, all in a purse-friendly, disposable form. Yes, the odd birthday presents might be iPhones and Marc Jacobs bags, but the average purchases of these teenagers are under £40 and happening every week.

Going back to the discussion last month about Madonna and Jimmy Choo taking to the High Street, perhaps this is the most financially savvy move brands can make. By jumping onto the Topshop/ASOS bandwagon of affordable yet aspirational trends that teens can buy into week in, week out, big brands can sell to the most important emergent demographic; one that has a large disposable income, but is also surprisingly discerning.

Sarah Ventress – @sarahventress

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