Models Who Do More: The Hyphenates Photo Shoot, including Lunchbox Fund founder Topaz Page-Green

September 27 2013

Awhile ago, I was thinking about models, those beautiful people blessed with extraordinary genes, some of whom are committed to projects and work that is much bigger and profound than you would think. My trend nose must have been twitching, as this was a bit before a few of the major fashion magazines published stories in this vein.

Anyway, I contacted my wondrous friend, photographer Matthew Jordan Smith, who is a committed humanitarian himself, to see if he would like to work on a fashion shoot that I called The Hyphenates, about models who had other active lives beyond the camera, both creative andphilanthropic.

One of the special people we photographed was Topaz Page-Green, a stunning model from South Africa who started The Lunchbox Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing daily meals for at-risk school children in township and rural areas of South Africa, a country where 65% of all children live in poverty. This month, she was featured in American Vogue's all-important September issue. The article talked about the interesting philanthropic model she has created, and the event she is organizing for foodies in NY, where you can photograph your meal at participating restaurants, tag the restaurant, and voila! the restaurant gives a donation to the fund. It’s a clever use of the photos we all take on a daily basis, and all for a good cause.

In honor of Topaz (in Pucci) and Jihae (in Rick Owens), who was long the face of Eileen Fisher, and who is a rocking chanteuse, and Gulia, an ER nurse who continues to work in front of the camera (cleverly outfitted in Harajuku Girls Red Cross T-shirt)), I'd like to share this wonderful fashion portfolio of The Hyphenates--models who do more.

Enjoy, and do more! As I tell all my clients, go forth with your dreams and put them into action. That’s how you satisfy yourself, and also build your brand.

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No Change at the Cash Register: Confusion at JC Penny

September 21 2013

jcpenny

Makeovers come in all forms. A little touch up paint, a vase on the corner table, or in some extreme cases a complete, top-to-bottom transformation. It’s an internal process that manifests externally, whether we are dealing with our personal lives or our professional and business lives. Our hope is that we’ll make a room stand out or look more like “us,” or that we can turn around a failing business. The latter is what former JC Penny CEO, Ron Johnson, was going for.

When Johnson came into the position of CEO he determined that JC Penny was having an aesthetic and experiential problem at the retail level, and that it had caused sales to drop dramatically. Apparently, he didn’t feel that the core problem was the rough economy, or that their wide range of competitors had better products or prices. If you followed his short-lived plan of attack then you already know it didn’t go as planned. Sales continued to fall—twenty-five percent to be exact.

Johnson also decided that the JC Pricing strategy needed a makeover. Instead of putting out merchandise at full price and then marking it down later, he thought it would be better to start at a cut-rate price. The brands that JC Penny sells weren’t too happy with the news that their merchandise was being sold at discount, as it devalued their brands and put pressure on them to lower their prices overall. Johnson’s strategy was flawed, since historically, the JC Penny customer is more willing to buy when they think they are getting a deal. These days in particular, bargain hunting is in most people’s blood. If there is no scent of a sale, shoppers are more likely to move on.

Finally, after two years of ineffective strategizing, Johnson was relieved from his CEO duties. The company is now faced with bouncing back from a hole that just seems to be getting deeper. JC Penny needs a visionary CEO who is able to develop a new strategy and positioning that will build confidence and consistency, and that will bring customers back to the brand. Consistency and sustainability are the name of the game in good brand management, even when implementing a shift from existing positioning. Brands evolve over time, or sometimes go through a major reinvention, which is fine. But radically switching gears every few years will drive customers away. Brand confusion doesn’t work on any level.

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