Hanging Chads, Whoops, We Mean Hangtags

June 25 2014

Slowly, but surely it seems the fashion industry is joining the 21st century in terms of social awareness. From racial diversity on the runway, to more body types being shown in ads, to accountability in manufacturing conditions—there seems to be a glimmer of change.


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Which is why when I recently bought a dress from the ultra-cool Swedish collective brand, Acne Studios, I was taken aback by their hangtag design. Acne’s tag uses plastic and two heavy pieces of paper, which seems like (or rather—is) a total waste of resources. It’s overkill. For a brand known for such a modern, sleek, and minimalist aesthetic, the wasteful and environmentally unfriendly tag presents a weird brand disconnect. And Acne is not the only brand to overdo, or rather overuse, in this arena.


left & right

Now, no one is equating runway racism with eco-unfriendly waste in terms of fashion injustices. However, the oddity of the whole issue stems from the lack of thought and consideration. It’s 2014! Our cars can are programmed to stop before they crash. We order our groceries online. We trustingly buy our life insurance online. Therefore it can’t be that hard to design a green and eco-friendly hangtag. Ethical Fashion, an online forum that addresses a wide range of issues within the industry, recently posted about some underground labels using tags that are washer ready. The tags are made of a soap mixture that disintegrates in the washer and rids the fabric of any chemicals added during manufacturing. So it can be done!

Hangtags are an applied expression of a brand’s positioning and design aesthetic. A more thoughtfully designed and produced hangtag can be a win-win for a fashion brand, and a small but easily achievable step in protecting our natural resources.

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Courting the Milennials: Banana Republic Ramps it Up

June 03 2014

with guest blogger Annie G.


Banana Republic is a brand that has long been seen as Gap's older, more mature counterpart (or at least since its induction to the Gap Inc. family in 1983). The company has transitioned from its original positioning, exchanging the original safari themed items and decor for a more polished look. Their aesthetic has been targeted towards Ben and Anna (say it out loud and you'll get it), their fictional, 30-40 year old, well-off, style conscious customer. Simon Kneen, Creative Director since 2009, successfully designed for this audience for many years. However, in recent seasons, Kneen has been criticized for dulling the brand down and perhaps being out of touch with current trends.


photo by Billy Farrell Agency

Enter Kneen’s replacement, Marissa Webb, Banana's new Creative Director. Not only is Webb young and stylish, but she's more plugged in. She's conscious of the vital role social media plays, and is an avid Instagram user. Webb’s personal Spring 2014 line displayed a fresh vision that will help push Banana's image forward, and her point-of-view will create a shift in Banana’s design sensibilities, audience, and marketing that will help them to reach hip, twenty-something millennials and their buying power. While Ben and Anna remain a core part of Banana Republic's demographic, Benji and Annalise are the new kids in town. They may still have brunch dates like their parents, but they're young professionals with blogs to write and tweets to send, and they want to look cute while they’re gramming.

While Webb isn't expected to debut a collection until next summer, her ascension has already created a notable shift in the brand's product. Additionally, the late L'Wren Scott designed a successful colourful and bold collection for the company. Her prints were a bit louder, the colors more saturated. The cuts were sleek and (dare we say) sexy. And all of a sudden, Banana engaged in some effective social media marketing. With the release of Scott’s line came a Twitter/Instagram selfie contest. Fitting room mirrors had decals that read #ThisIsGlam, and encouraged customers to take and post pictures in the collection. Last week, Banana Republic also launched another collaboration with Marimekko, the graphic and funky Finnish brand that has already staged a successful comeback.

While the brand will always be loyal to Ben & Anna, the duo who love neutrals, classic non-iron shirts, and perfectly fitted Sloan pants, the future may have a positive pop of colour for Banana Republic. Will this mass-market clothing brand successfully throw off its mumsy identity and evolve with the times and develop deeper and more vital market reach? We’ll be sipping on our Arnold Palmers and taking a wait-and-see.


photo by Banana Republic

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Tyrells: Chips (or Crisps), Depending Upon Where You Live

March 14 2014

The other day I went to the grocery store in search of a delicious salty snack. A photo of a group of little old ladies caught my eye, and I knew I had found what I was looking for: Tyrrells English Chips (or Crisps for you Brits). The chips were absolutely delicious. In this case, the packaging was witty and effective in differentiating the product, and definitely pulled me in.


via

The company was running a promotion that was featured on the bag that I decided to enter (more on that later), and after a quick google search, I found that they had two different websites, one for their US customers (tyrrellschips.com), and one for their UK consumers (tyrrellscrisps.co.uk). While the sites have the same look and feel, I could see a slight difference in the language, which makes sense given that the UK and the US are two countries separated by a common and similar language! The UK product offerings are far more extensive, offering a wider variety of flavors like Sunday Best Roast Chicken and Naked. The brand’s witty, playful voice comes across in the flavor naming and design, which is very effective (note that I bought the first time I encountered the chip = 100% success for the brand). Having a more extensive product line in the UK makes sense considering that Tyrells is well-known in Britain, and the UK is their main market.


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The US and UK sites do share a few promotions, such as a Facebook potato sack race game and caption contest, but the “big-ticket” promos differ vastly. In the US, you can enter to win a Cambridge Satchel. This style of bag has been very popular this past year in the fashion industry in the US (and still is). It is a slice of traditional English design that is still very much in vogue with the younger crowd. The bag design is a play between modern and vintage, and it works well with the Tyrrells brand voice and aesthetic.

The UK promo is quite different, and very quirky. You can win prizes like “A Monkey’s Uncle”, “A Pack of Lies” or “Inappropriate Trousers”—the actual prize being £25,000, but of course, if you’d prefer an awkward head massage, they’d be happy to oblige. The UK promo really emphasizes Tyrell’s humorous voice to a degree that a caption contest cannot capture, and as an established brand in the UK they can run an almost snarky promotion. This type of oddball promo might not fly yet America because their audience here does not know them well enough. I’m going to track them to see how they promote in the US in the future.

The takeaway? When marketing and communicating your brand in different markets, like Tyrrells, it’s likely that you will want to shade your marketing and communications to target and engage your specific audiences based on the culture and country. Your approach to marketing your brand is unlikely to be monolithic, whether you are selling a service, product, or company.

Down Home in New York: Fishs Eddy, and the Retail Experience

January 23 2014

Many may view kitchenware shopping as a boring chore, but Fishs Eddy makes the experience totally fun and enjoyable. Honestly, it’s less like shopping, and more like the easiest treasure hunt you’ve ever done. Fishs Eddy is fully stocked with one-of-a-kind vintage and vintage-inspired pieces. They have literally everything you need, and plenty of things you never knew you needed so much. The merchandising and display reinforce the sense of personal fun, yet its true power is in being tied to our memories of a solid America that many of us have only experienced through books, movies, and the things we buy and the homes we create. So the brand is about a personal, universal, and romantic view of America, much like an uber brand like Ralph Lauren, or even a mall brand like Anthropologie.


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Fishs Eddy is a consistent and well-managed brand that has been around since 1986, one that has weathered many trends in home décor and entertaining. Shoppers respond to their casual vibe and country flea market "general store" environment, where hand-painted signage and wooden crates spill over with sturdy china bowls and plates. Even with their rustic aesthetic, the designs still feel relevant and on trend — a perfect example is their recent collaboration with minimalist, stylized wildlife illustrator Charley Harper. The pieces he designed with Fishs Eddy are crisp and modern, yet their retro, mid-century feel fits in perfectly with the brand’s thrifty, eclectic atmosphere and products. I can just as easily imagine a 50’s southern housewife shopping here, as well as a hip, young New Yorker. The shoppers around me were saying that it’s simply impossible to leave without purchasing at least one tiny cup.


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The takeaway: Know your brand, and manage it well. Know your market, and hit your market with consistent brand touch points. Have a think on that, and then we can meet for some apple pie and coffee, served on Fishs Eddy’s dishware. Later!

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Aerie, American Eagle, and the Building of a Retail Brand

October 01 2013

How many of you know about or shop at Aerie, a growing intimates brand established by American Eagle? Their demographic is for girls aged fifteen–twenty-five. Since the line was launched in 2006, it has only gained in popularity. However, right now, they are functioning more like a sub-brand, rather than as the sister- brand they want to be.


via ae.com/blog

The majority of Aerie’s current departments are situated inside larger American Eagle stores, but there is a definite difference in vibe between the two. Aerie is set up to function more of a store within a store, much like you would find DKNY or Ralph Lauren at Bloomingdales. Aerie has their own female sales staff. The atmosphere is brighter, lighter, and almost ethereal, while American Eagle is darker and more masculine – more about an All-American, casual, worn vibe. American Eagle’s merchandise, advertising, store design and marketing communicate a broad sense of vintage authenticity, even though the brand was born in 1977. On the other hand, Aerie projects a voice that is new and youthful. The brand is not rooted in Dad’s old memorabilia. Aerie’s wants to make girls feel pretty inside and out. They are the “girl-next-door” of intimates, and they aspire to be in every girl’s closet.

Aerie has definitely benefitted from being under American Eagle’s roof and brand umbrella. Being situated both physically and digitally in the American Eagle retail experience has helped bring them traffic and brand awareness. However, they have cultivated a different kind of aesthetic, both in their products and retail presence, one that differentiates from their parent brand. They have the potential to be a big competitor in intimates, but to do so, they need to continue to expand beyond such a close consumer alliance with American Eagle and add more stand-alone stores. If not, they will be forever overshadowed—a sub-brand, not a sister brand. It is definitely time for them to move out of their parent’s house.

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