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Guest Post: MA Fashion Retail Management explore New York’s fashion industry

Pic1 – Statue of Liberty
Pic1 – Statue of Liberty
Written by
Josh De Souza Crook
Published date
10 May 2016

A recent New York study trip was a valuable opportunity for 7 students from MA Fashion Retail Management (plus 4 students from 3 other MA courses) to gain unique insights into the New York fashion industry. The action packed trip included attending the American Collegiate Retailing Association (ACRA) conference where academics, including course leader Bethan Alexander, presented their research papers; a talk and tour of Space 98, Urban Outfitter’s retail concept store in Brooklyn and the new Diesel flagship store in Manhattan. This was followed by a two-day programme at LIM College, comprising a series of lectures, showroom visits and postgraduate student networking.

The students recapped on their time in the Big Apple below.

Pic1 - Statue of Liberty

Fashion Business School students recently visited New York to explore the cities fashion industry.

14-16 April: the ACRA Conference (Yan Yan & Gerda Micke)

The ACRA conference in New York City was an amazing opportunity to find out more about retail led academic research. A global mix of professors and PhD scholars took very different methodological approaches but all converged on retail, covering topics such as mobile commerce, technology innovations, CSR and sustainability. Bethan Alexander, MA Fashion Retail Management course leader, presented an applied approach to Fashion’s Third Places.

ACRA: Bethan Alexander, Retail as Social Experiences: Fashion Third Spaces from Traditional to the Virtual

The lively panel debate between academics and practitioners was one of the best sessions from ACRA conference. It not only presented different point of views, it was also interesting to see the similarities and differences between UK and American retail perspectives.

17th April: Talk & tour Space 98 Concept store (Carlota Franquesa)

Space 98 is the concept store developed by Urban Outfitters in Williamsburg, the “coolest”part of Brooklyn. With a different name that attracts curious shoppers, they desire to stand out from other Urban Outfitters and attract a slightly different type of consumer, usually with a higher income.

It took the UO team 6 years to find a space that would fit their needs. The objective of this type of store is not only to sell but engage with consumers on a more personal level, creating community. To maintain the essence of the building, and be more accepted in a neighbourhood occupied by smaller designers, they preserved the main structure of the building and the walls.

They have a special team for interiors design, and have everything made by themselves, for themselves: e.g. the floor, the plinths.  The merchandise and even furniture is changed often and occasionally the hold in store gigs. The ground floor is occupied by womenswear, a Calvin Klein pop up store, make up and a vinyl store. The next two floors have both women and menswear. The basement is the space for items on sale. On the last floor, there is a really cool rooftop bar and a fancy restaurant, both of which create traffic.

As they want to build community, they are very strong on social media and interact very closely with their customers. They host 2-3 workshops per week and 2-3 parties per month. Furthermore, they have invested in Beacon technology, which is capable of sending notifications to those consumers who have the UO App, when they get close to certain items. It’s a very interesting store that succeeds on creating long lasting valuable relations with its consumers.

The exterior of the flagship store in Manhattan.

The exterior of the flagship store in Manhattan.

18th April: Diesel flagship store tour (Corentin Daudigny)

Diesel chose Manhattan to unveil its first ever concept store at 625 Madison Avenue in New York. Aimed at translating and expressing its new positioning as an alternative luxury brand, the store embodies Diesel’s new retail strategy.

This concept store is 2.800 square feet of selling space, and was created under the direction of Diesel artistic director Nicola Formichetti and interior design firm Wonderwall. The brand’s design was built around ‘The Apartment’, featuring concrete flooring, wooden ceilings, antique furniture, Persian rugs and steel fixtures.

Overall, the concept store keeps its promise regarding Diesel’s new positioning as a Premium brand but does lack in-store excitement and entertainment. If Diesel wants to broaden its target customer and engage with Millennials, who have higher disposable incomes, the Italian brand will have to answer their changing behaviors in their up-coming international

18th April: LIM College (Marieke Berendsen)

We were warmly welcomed at LIM College by Jacquline M. Jenkins (Dean of Graduate Studies) and Michael Londrigan (Dean of Academic Affairs) with a lunch. LIM College organised two full days of lectures and store visits for us. It started with a lecture by Michael Londrigan, who talked about the current and future challenges and innovations of the fashion industry such as Millennials, Omnichannel retailing, CRS, 3D-printing, delivery drones and mobile devices.

We visited the showroom of Junting Wei, an inspiring entrepreneur and jewellery designer. Junting was really enthusiastic and willing to answer all our questions. Her designs are unique and inspired by her Chinese roots. The jewellery is sold in boutiques, to private clients and at art exhibitions. To become an entrepreneur, it is really important that you have passion for your product in order to convince others to invest in your company. Also, you need to follow your intuition, keep your majority share and learn to work with creative people.

We then went to the Global Brands Group showroom, which was hosted by Melinda Cooke, the Senior Vice President of Merchandising. The Global Brands Group designs home wear for well-known brands such as Tommy Hilfiger. It was interesting to hear how external companies work together with fashion brands to make a ‘home’ collection.

Story was the highlight retail visit of the day. Story is an innovative retail concept, that changes its merchandise and theme every four to eight weeks. Story is currently working together with Pepsi on the theme ‘Have Fun’; a concept focused on self-expression and enjoyment. The store had a photo booth, ping pong table and a DIY style studio. Previous themes include Made in America, Love, and F-Word. Really interesting and innovative concept!

LIM and LCF students together during a visit to New York.

LIM and LCF students together during a visit to New York.

19th April: LIM College, The Entrepreneurship focused morning at LIM was interesting and inspiring.

Jackie Trebilcock, Managing Director of New York Fashion Tech Lab, shared with us a business development program which aims to help raise capital and seek opportunities for fashion tech start-ups that are women-led. It was fascinating to learn how the company has successfully connected many start-ups with major fashion retail companies from the likes of LVHM to Kate Spade. The company provides the labels with workshops, mentoring and direct access to retailers through ‘live pitch’ events. It was a stimulating surprise to learn that the programme is not exclusive  to start-ups from the USA, but open to start-ups from other countries that are interested in expanding into the USA. This is encouraging news for tech entrepreneurs who are looking to go global.

The next speaker, Zach Davis, Digital Executive, Brand Manager and Entrepreneur is a veteran in the field of entrepreneurship having started four companies in 15 years. He shared with us two companies which he founded – ‘Stylitics’ and ‘In Our Building’. “Entrepreneurship is being passionate about what you like,” he said as he went on to explain how to better understand people, take control of our future and the importance of creating a story of our own. He then shared a few interesting video presentations which were inspiring and thought-provoking.

The final talk was about the digital influences on fashion marketing. Julia DiNardo, founder of Fashion Pulse Daily, created an engaging blog about the latest fashion trends and news. She shared many examples of how brands are crafted through social strategies such as Instagram and Snapchat. It was intriguing to learn how people market themselves through blogging, thereafter becoming an influencer on social media and brand owner. And how new social-media based positions have been created in recent years due to this booming digital trend. It was definitely a valuable session as I left feeling renewed and inspired.

A social media message from Kimora Lee Simmons following the visit from London College of Fashion.

A social media message from Kimora Lee Simmons following the visit from London College of Fashion.

Kimora Lee Simmons (Carlota Franquesa)

We were lucky enough to visit Kimora Lee Simmons’ New York Head Quarters. Kimora Lee is a former fashion model who decided to launch her fashion brand. As she describes, “Distinguished by structured yet comfortable silhouettes, KLS combines exquisite materials with luxurious details such as flattering panel construction and colour blocking, leather accents, and fearless prints”. We were warmly welcomed by the CEO, Jacqui Wenzel. We had the chance to witness how the design process takes place: from mood boards, sketches, fabrics samples to the design of the first product sample. Jacqui, with a fashion buyer background, told us about her professional life experience and about the brand.