All of fashion is on the move — and the moneyed crowd is following.
Amazon arrived in apparel, stores are reinventing, digital natives are launching by the day, mall traffic is waning, influencers are sharpening their business chops and the beauty sector is popping both with sales growth and dealmaking.
The crossroads where style and finance meet have never been busier.
To help keep track of it all, Fairchild Media, which acquired FashInvest in some dealmaking of its own last year, is introducing WWD’s FashInvest Newsletter featuring dispatches on the ups and downs in the market. The action is only heating up as the brick-and-mortar retailers that were once the final word in fashion respond to their many existential challenges. Start-ups, brands and merchants are all racing ahead to keep up with consumers, who are more digital, more mobile, less loyal and ever hungrier for experiences.
In a frenzied effort to get ahead or at least keep up:
• Strategic players are both trimming down to their fighting weight — VF Corp. is offloading the belabored Nautica brand — and trying to grow bigger — Albertsons and Rite Aid agreed to merge and form an $83 billion grocery and pharmacy competitor.
• Private equity firms have more than $950 billion to put to work with savvy investors chasing the ultra cool, as was the case in Carlyle’s $500 million investment bet on Supreme last year.
• And venture funds are looking for the next big idea to follow Stitch Fix Inc., the AI-powered styling service that had an uneasy start after its November IPO, but is now solidly valued at $1.9 billion — one of the nearly mythical unicorns made real.
Since 2009, FashInvest has brought together stylemakers and moneymakers and will continue to do so under Fairchild Media, deepening WWD’s coverage of emerging companies, start-ups and the financial players laying the groundwork for the fashion industry of tomorrow.
Exactly what that future looks like is still being determined with even the definition of something as simple as “fast” up for grabs.
Witness Hennes & Mauritz, quick-turn disruptor of yesterday that is struggling to keep up as its even faster rivals pressure it with supply chains that are shorter and start closer to home, allowing for lightening-fast reaction to trends.
Getting shoppers what they want at the moment they want it has become not the aspiration, but the cost of entry — or survival.
Hence Target Corp.’s $550 million acquisition of same-day delivery firm Shipt, which gets it into the last-mile, last-minute game that has Amazon’s Prime Now delivering orders in hours.
The next step is to find all those shoppers and treat them as individuals, to love them, bring them into the fold and hold on to the tight. That’s what Katrina Lake, Stitch Fix’s founder and chief executive officer, has done with an army of AI-backed human stylists who choose and deliver personalized styles to try on at home.
And then on to virtual reality and augmented reality, digital fitting rooms, more machine learning and data mining and on and on to whatever comes next.
Each step along the way, fashion players new and old are going to need funding and new ideas to rise to the challenge and make the future.