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Gucci’s e-commerce sales increase by over 50% to help push double digit growth

Gucci have announced a double digit boost in sales for Q3, with sales up 17% from 2015 – the first time they’ve posted double digit percentage sales increases since 2012 – helping the Kering group achieve a 10.5% organic growth for the quarter.

Tom Hiddleston models Gucci's new tailoring range.

Tom Hiddleston models Gucci’s new tailoring range.

While the Italian giants’ performance has been inconsistent in recent years, with disappointing sales figures under Frida Gianni and Patrizio Di Marco in 2013 and 2015, today’s figures were described by Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault as ‘[the] foundation for steady, sustainable growth’. Many will be hoping that this signifies a new chapter for the brand which has been experiencing a self-described ‘creative reinvention’ under Alessandro Michele.

Pinault attributed Gucci’s “sharp acceleration” to “the relevance of [their] strategy and the effectiveness of its execution”. It appears that investment into e-commerce played a large part in that, with Gucci’s ‘innovative digital strategy’ translating into bumper sales.

“Our excellent sales in the third quarter underscore the relevance of our strategy and the effectiveness of its execution. In a complex environment, we stepped up the pace of revenue growth and continued to gain market share”

François-Henri Pinault, Kering CEO 

Much of this can be attributed to Michele and the large focus he’s put on digital engagement, including an overhaul of their e-commerce sites and the addition of new content marketing hub ‘The Agenda’ which provides a behind-the-scenes look at their shows, collections and products. The introduction of exclusive online-only capsule collections, as well as ‘acclaimed partnerships’, helped sales from Gucci’s e-commerce site grow by ‘more than 50%’ during the quarter.

Gucci have a stable online presence in 2016, enjoying a 5.3% share of the online luxury market – the fifth highest share after Louis Vuitton, Coach, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren. They gained nearly 5m followers to their Instagram account between 2015 and 2016, as well as adding over 1.5m Twitter followers and 700,000 likes on Facebook, putting their social media performance for 2016 ahead of the likes of Prada, Coach and Armani but behind Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

This can be put down to innovative collaborations which have helped increase the brands’ visibility whilst promoting a dynamic and forward-thinking image.

GucciGhost's work on Gucci's store on Fifth Avenue

GucciGhost’s work on Gucci’s store on Fifth Avenue

Their collaboration with GucciGhost represents an innovative shift for notoriously overprotective luxury brands. While Louis Vuitton and Burberry fiercely protect their trademarks, Gucci have accepted and encouraged GucciGhost’s work to the point of plastering it on their stores. GucciGhosts’ graffiti inspired designs and his penchant for customisation has infused Gucci with a sense of streetwear credibility, making the brand more visible, and more relevant, to a younger demographic.

Kering’s announcement also included news of a 33.9% increase of sales at YSL and a drop at Bottega Veneta. Mentions of Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Demna Gvasalia’s Balenciaga were fleeting, though Kering confirmed each posted growth of around 10% or more to contribute to a to a 2.5% comparable lift in the Groups’ ‘Other Luxury brands’ category.

Common Projects tone it down for AW16

Common Projects AW16

Common Projects have gone from strength to strength since they created what has become the benchmark for luxury sneakers back in 2004. Their cult following has only strengthened as their stock has risen, becoming a staple for Instagram-famous fashionistas and A-list celebrities alike.

The Italian-American brands’ newest collection adds more depth to their current classics, with the Achilles Low now available in matte leather and range of suede tones.

The stand-out dusky pink suede Achilles Low continues the summer trend for pastel shades, while the black matte edition provides the perfect canvas for the iconic gold lettering.

Their crepe-soled Chelsea boots and Achilles High also receive an autumnal update with new muted colour ways in various shades of grey.

This autumn extension of their recipe for success – premium materials crafted into timeless designs – ensures that Prathan Poopat and Flavio Girolami’s Common Projects continue to set the pace in an increasingly crowded luxury mens sneaker market.

 

 

 

 

Shoppable video offers a bridge between cash and clothing – but is it enough?

While the rise of digital marketing and e-commerce has provided luxury brands with new ways to reinvigorate their revenues, there’s an increasing gap between customers’ expectations of luxury and the level of service that digital platforms can offer.

Luxury businesses and fashion houses have shown that they are willing to embrace digital marketing – Snapchat, Instagram and Periscope have been mainstays at this years’ various fashion weeks – and consumers have shown that there is an insatiable appetite for content and clothing. The problem for brands is that there is a disconnection between their digital output and the demand for products – highlighted no less by the highly publicised changes to the fashion calendar by major brands – but also by the restrictive nature of social platforms when it comes to converting followers into customers.

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Periscope and Snapchat are the digital battlegrounds for brands and designers this year

The limits of social

As great as social media is for connecting brands to fans, it’s far less successful at converting fans into customers. For example, brands on Instagram are often reduced to directing would-be buyers to a link in their profile bio, whilst Twitter only offers a one-size-fits-all‘Buy’ button; a particularly crude call-to-action when shopping for luxury goods.

In many cases, the user journey from social media to an online store is clunky and complicated – certainly not on par with the luxury experience that brick-and-mortar shoppers receive – so it’s not surprising to see brands like Chanel with over 10 million followers on Instagram whilst offering no option to purchase through their website. While this gap is probably part of a wider strategy to retain an air of exclusivity, it will at some point become logical for businesses like Chanel to monetise their loyal online following. JJ Martin, editor of Wallpaper* has her own hypothesis to why brands aren’t making more effort:

The brands are petrified. They know they need to embrace digital and they don’t know how – JJ Martin, editor of Wallpaper*

The problem these brands face is that it’s currently very difficult to deliver a luxury, digital shopping experience – and no amount of HTML or CSS can change that.

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Chanel’s Instagram account boasts over 10m followers but no online store

One company hoping to bridge the gap between digital media and e-commerce is Cinematique, a video sharing platform which offers ‘shoppable videos’. The concept is simple: viewers tap or click on the products they like whilst watching a video which adds it to a sort of “video basket”. The user can then open their “basket” to see the information of the products they’ve selected and buy directly through the video.

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Cinematique videos allow users to shop while they consume content

Having raised over $5m in recent funding, Cinematique already boasts Net-a-Porter, Diane Von Furstenberg and  Harpers Bazaar among its users and it is one of the first of a new breed of platforms designed with e-commerce at its core. Websites such as Grailed maintain a thriving e-commerce space for second-hand luxury goods, whilst developments in AI and messaging applications have begun to push the boundaries of personalisation and truly opened up two-way digital communications with customers. However, until recently there has been a significant lack in the development of an online e-commerce system befitting of a luxury brand.

Technological developments represent a huge opportunity for luxury brands to get closer to their customers. Burberry and Coach have had success with their organic Snapchat campaigns, putting their brand in the palms of millenials worldwide, but there’s no doubt that at present these efforts are more of a branding exercise than a sales drive. Increasingly sophisticated CRM software, A/B testing and research can optimise the platforms available at the moment, but a gap remains between the tangible nature of luxury goods and the sterile digital world.

However, where there are gaps there are opportunities. With technology becoming more tactile and immersive than ever (VR fashion shows, anyone?) it’s inevitable that someone will crack the code. It’s just a question of who and when.

There’s never been a better time to be in fashion, there’s never been more of a need for storytelling in fashion. I call it the digital campfire, which is the ability to tell stories in a more successful and direct way. Who’s doing that? – Business of Fashion’s Tim Blanks

 

MFW | Giorgio Armani AW16

Giorgio Armani’s RTW AW16 show provided audiences with an odd juxtaposition of Italian flair within subdued outfits. The looks on display were packed with incredible detailing, with leaden colours invigorated through the use of textures, patterns and geometric designs – often simultaneously.

Furs, wools and leathers were prominent in a number of the looks, with unconventional cuts combining to provide incredible depth to each outfit. Loose silhouettes allowed for more creativity in layering, often framed with flowing overcoats, with curved edges on the jackets enhancing the softness of the silhouettes.

There was a vast array of tailoring on offer – single and double breasted, pinstriped and checked, velvet and wool – paired utilitarian bags and a ubiquitous rimmed hat.

LCM | 1205 Fall 2016

Topman’s star studded event made sure that the 2016 London Collection: Mens got underway with significant pomp, but it was a more subdued mid-afternoon show which caught the eye of many. This was Paula Gerbase’s first full mens show with her 1205 brand at LCM, having focussed for the past few seasons on women’s wear.

Launched in 2010, 1205 focuses on the ‘quality of cut, fabric and proportion’ with an emphasis on traditional craftsmanship – values evident from Gerbase’s time on Saville Row – all of which permeated a collection which focused on tonality and design rather than embellishment and eccentricities.

1205 Men's Fall 2016

1205 Men’s Fall 2016

The subtle styling of the collection was a testament to Gerbase’s commitment to ‘seeking the silence within the noise’. In a recent interview with NY Times, Gerbase announced that ‘so many people [make] so much noise, and I always felt that it was quite empty noise’. In a weekend which featured demanding designs from the likes of Moschino and Nasir Mazhar, 1205’s dedication to silence forced the audience to pay attention to the more delicate aspects of menswear design.

The AW16 collection offers a progression from silence towards gently sustained notes, carried by hues of navy, olive and grey in harmony with layers of contrasting fabrics. Tweeds and wools featured across tailoring and outerwear – the latter of which was a highlight – with the muted shearling jackets creating notably masculine silhouettes.

The collection offered an assured transition towards the AW16 trends which were ubiquitous throughout LCM; slouchier fits, mixed fabrics and cropped trousers. Gerbase may be seeking silence but her AW16 collection deserves nothing but rapturous applause.

Burberry takes an organic approach to social media marketing on Snapchat

Snapchat users were offered a glimpse into the advertising potential of the ephemeral photo-sharing platform as Burberry launched their Spring/Summer 16 collection through their native Snapchat story – becoming the first brand to shoot and publish an advertising campaign live through the app.

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Photographed by Mario Testino, the story started by introducing the ‘The British Cast’ before leading into a behind-the-scenes show which consisted of models clad in the SS16 collection. The main content of the Snaptchat story was made up of a blend of photographs and video content from the photoshoot, concluding with a picture of Testino and Burberry Chief Creative and CEO Christopher Bailey. While the models were dressed in Burberry’s SS16 offerings, the content itself was stylised through Snapchat’s native filters – maintaining a gritty authenticity to the platform whilst supporting the brand’s stylish ideals. Snapchat is unashamedly open about the fact that it isn’t designed to ‘capture the traditional Kodak moment’, something typically at odds with the sleek, ultra-preened brand image associated with Burberry. It was an interesting experiment for the brand – especially utilising a platform whose current fashion offering is limited to Refinery29 and Cosmopolitan magazine – whilst diversifying their social activity from other traditional fashion-heavy social platforms such as Instagram.

“We wanted to play with the traditional format of an advertising campaign to make more immediate and accessible.”

Bailey offered some insight into the decision: “We wanted to play with the traditional format of an advertising campaign to make it much more immediate and accessible just as we did with our runway show last month”.  Creatively this is incredibly exciting as we are totally focused on capturing the energy and the rawness of the shoot and sharing it the moment it happens.”

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Having advertised the campaign in the days running up to the launch (again, through their own Snapchat story), Burberry generated a real buzz for people to return to the app at a designated time and engage with the brand in real time. With 45% of Snapchat users aged between 18-24, it’s a smart (and cheap) way to attract a younger demographic to the brand, embracing the ‘rawness’ of Snapchat and intertwining it with Burberry’s luxury credentials.What is evident is that this is just the beginning of Burberry’s foray into new media channels, especially as the brand seeks to find new ways to continue it’s growth in the midst of China’s economic slowdown. The company recently announced a modest 3% increase in pre-tax profits to £152.9m, with annual sales hovering around the £1.1bn mark.

Ralph Lauren and the Future of Branding

Below is a review of Ralph Lauren’s SS15 collection, written by Noah Johnson in August 2014. I came across this review whilst researching for an article and I thought it provided an insightful look into the future of branding and luxury fashion from a fashion orientated background. As someone with an interest in branding and fashion, the review was particularly interesting, combining aspects of Ralph Lauren’s success and discussing how it has affected their sartorial offerings – all while looking to the future.

Ralph Lauren’s greatest achievement was creating an all-encompassing aspirational lifestyle disguised as a clothing brand. His labels—Polo, Purple Label, Black Label, RLX—are best experienced in their immersive retail environments and through photographer Bruce Weber’s cinematic ads. The clothing is no less desirable than the styling—the lifestyling, if you will—of the ranches and yachts and rugby teams and shoppable “mansions” Lauren has built around the world.

But the aspirational lifestyle is an evolving concept. Now we find it in the most unlikely places, often via the frenetic streams of Instagram (where Ralph Lauren has 940K followers and counting), Tumblr, and e-commerce, platforms that are free from the confines of physical space. Everything is a brand. People are brands, and they are no less special than actual brands. Labels are as desirable as ever, but their worlds are somehow less vivid than the worlds captured in the more personal accounts we follow. So where does that leave Ralph Lauren?

In the case of Purple Label, the clothes have never looked better. The browns and creams of the haberdashery section were classic and timeless, even with the distinctly old-timey flair of collar stands exaggerated to appear removable. Throughout, there was an emphasis on textured, breathable fabrics, such as a chunky silk and linen twill that felt much lighter than it looked. The strongest statements in tailoring came in shades of blue—the vibrant, French blue double-breasted blazer with wide peak lapel and a lightweight denim three-piece suit that looked more like a rich navy linen were highlights. A selection of Purple Label sportswear could have been billed as Polo’s greatest hits, including bonded leather jackets and trunks in vintage French prints. The safari section—quintessential Ralph Lauren—was given a slight twist rendered in black and tan. Black Label, equally refined, proposed a European take on the Purple Label ethos. Suits were slimmer, softer, and minimally adorned.

The preppy, Polo-wearing jock, meanwhile, hasn’t changed too much over the years. He still layers his clothes with careful dishevelment, contorts his collars and cuffs to turn up at the perfect angles, and mixes his oxfords and blazers with his sports gear. Polo juxtaposed every trope of American masculinity—it was boyish and rugged, nerdy and jockish, preppy and rough-hewn. The real news here is that the Polo guy will soon be getting some female company, with a Polo women’s line and accompanying Fifth Avenue flagship slated to launch this month.

The appeal of Ralph Lauren’s lifestyle hasn’t faded, but the way we experience it is changing. Stores and ads, no matter how perfectly they’re styled, don’t have the impact they once had. Ralph Lauren’s challenge is to figure out how to control our desire in this brave new multichannel world. We consume differently because we see each other and ourselves differently. You imagine a pioneer like Lauren will relish the challenge. In fact, Weber’s portfolio for Polo women’s won’t just appear in print but will have an online life in the form of a video series on ralphlauren.com. It might be an acknowledgment that the guy from the glossy Polo spread isn’t real enough anymore, or at least can no longer stand alone. He may still exist, but you won’t find him only in the mansion.