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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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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