Thursday, 29 April 2010

Google extends Street View to shop interiors

Many of you will be aware of Google's Street View product which enables consumers to see views of their high street from the comfort of their own home. Drapers has reported Google's plan to extend this product to include images of the interiors of retail stores. The initial test involves 30 towns and cities in the US, Australia and Japan. Any business that is signed up to Google's Places service, can now ask Google to visit their premises and carry out a free photo shoot of the interior of their business.

In order to avoid any issues surrounding privacy, Google explain on their "Business Pages" website, that they will adopt "state-of-the-art blurring technology to blur out faces of people who appear in the photos", but Google also recommend that businesses inform staff and customers when the photo shoot will take place so that people can move out of shot if they do not want to be photographed.

While this could be a new way for consumers to "browse" their favourite store remotely, retailers must be alive to the potential privacy issues and ensure that photos are approved before they are uploaded to the site. Ultimately retailers may prefer to drive traffic to their own e-commerce sites where they can control all aspects of their brand and imagery.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Clever Little Bag

Fashionista is excited about Puma's new Clever Little Bag which was designed by star industrial designer Yves Behar . The idea is as simple as it is brilliant: a single sheet of folded cardboard inside a bright red re-usable bag consisting of recycled PET.

Puma's figures are impressive : the bag/"box" uses 65% less cardboard than the standard shoe box and this paper reduction will reduce water, energy and fuel consumption on the manufacturing level by more than 60% per year. During transport 500,000 litres of diesel is saved and, due to the replacement of traditional shopping bags with the lighter built-in bag the difference in weight can save up to 275 tons of plastic!

The bag is part of Puma's more extensive sustainability programme. Until 2015, Puma is planning
• a 25% reduction of CO2, energy, water and waste in PUMA offices, stores, warehouses and direct supplier factories.
• a paperless office policy through a 75% reduction and offsetting initiatives for the remaining paper usage such as tree planting initiatives.
• a 25% CO2 reduction through more efficient product transport solutions by its logistic partners.
• to begin collaborating with its strategic suppliers and logistic service providers to offset their own footprints in the long-term.
• to introduce the PUMA Sustainability-Index (S-Index) standard that serves as a benchmark for sustainable products and communicates the products’ sustainable features to consumers.
• that 50% of PUMA’s international collections will be manufactured according to the PUMA S-Index standard by 2015, using sustainable materials such as organic cotton, Cotton Made in Africa or recycled polyester as well as applying best practice production processes.
So Puma is planning to use Clever Little Bags for its apparel collections, too, and thereby to avoid an equivalent of 29 million plastic bags! And T-shirts are said to be folded one more time to reduce the packaging size and thus save CO2 emissions and costs during transport.

Fashionista would love for The Clever Little Bag to be introduced immediately, but it seems that she will have to wait until mid-2011. The supply chain, distribution centres and retail stores all have to take this new Clever Little Bag on board, first. Hopefully, this will be sorted out, soon, and new Puma shoes, T-Shirts, and any other Puma products can be taken home in Clever Little Bags - and the bags used for more shopping even if that shopping is for groceries and books rather than fashion!

Congratulations to Erdem!

As a fan from the early days, this Fashionista was delighted to read in the Daily Telegraph that one of the UK's most talented young designers, Erdem has won the inaugral British Fashion Council & Vogue Designer Fashion Fund giving him access to director level mentors from within the industry and a healthy £200,000 prize to invest in his growing business. Since winning the Fashion Fringe award in 2005 Erdem has gained recognition within the industry and most importantly from his growing female fan-base which now includes both Sarah Brown and Samantha Cameron. Who knows maybe the winning first lady of politics will be wearing an Erdem dress on election night!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Let Girls be Girls

Fashionista read with interest today's news that bargain fashion chain Primark has been criticised for promoting products which are considered too adult to be promoted to children. The store, which removed its padded bikini tops for girls as young as seven from sale today, follows the likes of Asda (which has been singled out for selling lace lingerie, including a push-up bra aimed at young girls) and Tesco (which recently withdrew a pole-dancing kit from its toys section).

While Primark reacted swiftly to the complaints by removing the product from sale, apologising to its customers for "causing offence" and confirming that it would donate profits to a children's charity, Primark maintains it promise on its website that: "We make no exception for our younger ladies. All the high fashion trends can be found in our Girlswear section, no matter what age you are." The balance between allowing youngsters to enjoy fashion and follow trends and ensuring they are protected as children, is clearly difficult to maintain.

Fashionista wonders whether the recent launch of the Mumsnet “Let Girls Be Girls” campaign, to lobby retailers against sales of adult items to children, will help retailers maintain this balance. Asda, Boden and Start-rite have already endorsed the campaign. Fashionista wonders if Primark will be next....

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Customers as investors: online crowdsourcing à la mode

"New website brings crowd sourcing to fashion" is the curious title of a short article by Reuters which really caught Fashionista's fancy. She has often wished that some of her faraway friends could come and visit her as email-attachments -- so much quicker than intercontinental travel and so much kinder to one's skin, hair and temper -- and this title suggested that whole crowds might somehow make it through the ether for her next soirée. The truth, as usual, was more prosaic, but none the less interesting for all that. According to the article, soon-to-be-launched internet start-up Fashion Stake plans to let customers directly fund fashion designers by browsing online collections, buying a stake in a collection in return for credits to buy clothes. Patrons can also share ideas with designers and vote on collections. The piece continues:
"The model ...taps into a growing business model called crowd sourcing where entrepreneurs go directly to customers for content, funding, and distribution. ...

Advocates of crowd sourcing say it offers consumers a cheaper, more flexible alternative and frees artists from having to get past big corporations.

... Recent years have seen a rapid growth in interactive business models and Internet-based social media, or so-called Web 2.0. Global communities centered around services like Facebook and Twitter are millions strong.

Peer-to-peer lending, linking individual lenders with borrowers, has taken off in the U.S. ... while so-called open innovation companies ... allow corporations to outsource problems to networks of innovators. ...”
The notion of making your customers your investors is intriguing, says Fashionista, and it gives investors a vested interest in retaining loyalty to labels they invest in. And there's one more curiosity to note: if you key 'crowdsourcing' into the leading search engine, you get nearly four times as many hits if you type it as one word than if you type it as two.

Friday, 2 April 2010

If a leopard can't change its spots, can a Croc ...?

In "Crocs Gives Its Footwear A Loving Makeover", Sara Zucker writes on brandchannel of a neat side-step by a the love-them-or-hate-them Crocs brand. Instead of the colourful clogs that made the company famous, Crocs' latest promotion highlights a variety of modern slip-ons. The article links to a 30-second video which introduces consumers to Croslite, "a technology in all branded shoes designed to increase comfort and hug a wearer's foot". The new Crocs styles, says Global VP of Marketing Ken Chaplin, "reflect our expertise in the design, development and marketing of custom contouring footwear.” Adds Zucker:
"Crocs still deserves credit for reaching out to customers who just want to relax at home; this could help the brand to lose its widespread reputation for unfashionable footwear. The Crocs brand isn't the Snuggie, after all".
Fashionista knows how difficult it can be for any brand, in any market, to change its image -- not least since that can involve a change of loyal clientele too. It's also true that, except in the case of some elegant folk who could go out for the night dressed in disposable plastic bags and still look glamorous, many people found it difficult to wear the original Crocs with any real style and panache. Will this change of focus work, she wonders? On a deeper level, she ponders whether there is a middle ground between the fashionable and the unfashionable -- a sort of fashion-neutral position that Crocs can seek to occupy -- and whether that middle ground is a beachhead from which to leverage a brand or whether, perceived as neither fashionable nor the opposite, the brand will end up stranded like a beached whale. Can Crocs change their spots? Only time will tell.