Creative Retail Futures - MA Global Fashion Retailing
Teams of MA Global Fashion Retailing students joined forces with design agency Checkland Kindleysides to develop innovative, strategic design proposals with a focus on sustainability, as part of their Creative Retail Futures unit. The collaborative project was lead by Global Fashion Retailing Course Director, Bethan Alexander, alongside Mike Tristram, Senior Strategist at Checkland Kindleysides.
What was the student brief Checkland Kindleysides set for 2020-21?
Mike: This year there really wasn’t any question, the brief had to be focused on sustainability. It’s a top priority for all of our clients right now, consumers and for us as a business. As such we set the students the challenge of proposing a circular fashion pop-up. We selected a diverse and exciting mix of brands, from Balmain to Uniqlo and Lululemon to Calvin Klein, for them to base their concepts on.
The key criteria was for the concepts to not only be circular in design, but to also find innovative ways to drive sustainable mindsets and behaviours amongst today’s hyper-connected fashionistas. We really wanted ideas that weren’t just for click-bait, but experiences that could drive a meaningful step-change.
Why do you choose to collaborate with MA Global Fashion Retailing?
Mike: LCF has a world-renowned reputation in the fashion-industry. As a global design agency and world leader in retail and interior design, it really is a no-brainer. Bethan is also an authority in fashion retailing and someone we have immense respect for. She’s always a joy to work with, which is why the collaboration has spanned over six years.
Why do you choose to collaborate with Checkland Kindleysides?
Bethan: I had the privilege of working with Checkland Kindleysides years ago when I worked in industry at Converse on 3D brand visualisation projects. We worked with them for their novel approach to bringing brands to life in 3D form. Till today they continue to innovate, push boundaries, and think differently about each and every client project.
Which team won, and why?
Mike: The design proposal for Balmain won this year’s top accolade. The winning team came up with an idea to have a Balmain branded, solar-powered yacht travel the French Riviera. From Cannes Film Festival to the Monaco Gran Prix (you know, the types of places where luxury elite consumers spend their time and money!). The idea was that consumers, and celebrity influencers would be invited on board to rent out the latest collection for the night or the duration of their vacation. The team had a really strong rationale and had thought through every single touchpoint. From the use of Balmain’s Army on social media to raise awareness, to an e-scooter concierge that would collect the clothes from the consumer’s hotel or apartment. It was a great balance of high-luxury and high-tech. In my four years of doing this collaboration, it’s probably up there as one of, if not the best.
What were the highlights from this year’s team projects?
Mike: At Checkland Kindleysides we strive to create game-changing work that leads where others follow. To ignite consumer desire wherever people fall in love with brands. Which is why we take a connected and holistic approach to design.
This is what I was looking for from the student proposals – originality, pushing the boundaries and omni-channel thinking. Designing the journey and thinking about the outcome, not just what the output looks like. I challenged them to think outside the box and I really think they came through.
Bethan: Every year Checkland Kindleysides has delivered on-point projects that resonate with the changing fashion retail landscape, which demands our students to rise to the challenge, deploying creative and critical thinking in ideating new concepts for future retail. This year was no different, with the focus on circularity. Students had to demonstrate rigorous research skills, and produce relevant insights to inform their proposals that not only had to be circular in design but trigger and/or expand circular purchasing behaviours. All teams rose to the challenge, with four selected to present their concepts to the client, from which one winning team was selected. I’m very proud of what the students achieved, not only in terms of creativity and criticality but also teamwork, communication organisation and professionalism, despite the pandemic challenges of blended learning.
What makes an effective collaboration between academia and industry?
Mike: I think it’s three things – respect, empathy and growth-mentality. For me to have empathy and understand that students must meet an academic criterion to get their grades. And the respect of the students and lecturers to value non-academic, but industry professionals' experience and take that onboard. But above all what makes it work best is to approach this as a learning experience – not just the students but myself and the lecturers included. To all learn from each other. I feel I have learnt as much as the students over the years, it's offered me the perspective of being on the other side of the table. Putting myself in the shoes of a client has been invaluable.
Bethan: I fundamentally believe in the power of partnerships, that two-way exchange of knowledge. This is where, for me, the catalyst of learning in action happens, that serves to deepen learning and improve the overall student experience. So many students have posted on their LinkedIn sharing that this was the “best experience ever”. To make this happen is joyous.
Everyone benefits from newly acquired skills. Working successfully towards a common goal with others, an openness to learn, share and overall trust in each other and the outcome. It’s been a fabulous six-years collaborating with Checkland Kindleysides, thank you for investing time and people in this amazing shared experience.