After, to the bane of the news-hungry attendees in the room, Alessandro Bogliolo, president of Tiffany & Co., was strict to “concentrate on the legacy” of the brand, not veering from his talking points, although Carol Massar anchor of Bloomberg BusinessWeek was laudable in her persistence to try to get more on the rumored LVMH acquisition.
Earlier this month, WWD spoke with Bogliolo, detailing the brand’s 182-year-old history and the executive’s strategies for growth.
After Bogliolo was out of the spotlight, the full focus was on sustainability with a panel comprised of Jennifer Hyman, chief executive officer and cofounder of Rent the Runway; Matt Scanlan, ceo and cofounder of Naadam; and Cara Smyth, Glasgow Caledonian University New York vice president and founder, The Fair Fashion Center who recently spoke at LVMH’s “Future Life” series last month.
For Scanlan, the year ahead is about “sustainable material development,” while for Hyman it’s all about “packaging innovation,” and Smyth added, “people coming together.”
Respectively, each vision is of equal importance. A challenge faced by the media, fashion companies and brands alike is in defining sustainability. It’s arguably “subjective and variable,” according to Scanlan.
“Every brand should define it for themselves,” said Scanlan. For affordable luxury cashmere brand Naadam, which recently opened a store in Hudson Yards, that means a focus on “cultural preservation” and being able to balance values so that financial profitability and environmental sustainability are not compromised.
But the key is defining it. Brands that have yet to define sustainability going into the next year are already behind and further vulnerable for disruption.
Take it from a disruptor — Hyman sees the shift of sustainability from a “nice-to-have” to “an absolute must-have in intrinsic value,” predicting the next two years to be more definitive than the past 25 years. She champions “wear data” as another means of more sustainable production, that can be used to directly inform the manufacturing processes for Rent the Runway’s some 1,000 brand partners.
Smyth is putting her concerns on a timeline as well, citing “3,000 days left before irreversible climate change,” also pointing out the benefits of starting now as a disruptive company in the fashion business versus a longtime heritage brand.
“They have the benefit of information and starting now,” said Smyth, who, in the Fair Fashion Center’s “ceo coalition” (comprising more than 40 ceo’s, representing 251 brands and more than 11 percent of the global business) is helping to operationalize concrete systems change solutions through value-based collective action, often working with fashion brands that have been around for a “very long time.”
“Really important people are doing things individually, everyone has to find their own approach. But at the same time, if we don’t have a mass of people moving in the same direction on the key areas related to sustainability — can we make specific choices on chemicals, can we make specific choices on responsible [improvement], what does a sustainable fiber strategy look like — if we don’t get a mass of people moving in that direction, then it’s going to be more difficult,” reiterated Smyth, who believes cross-sector collaboration is crucial.
Another fashion-focused conversation was with Massimo Caronna, president of Brunello Cucinelli USA; who stood in on behalf of his longtime friend and eponymous founder, Brunello Cucinelli.
Aptly titled “Fashion and Community,” the conversation traced the workplace culture, multichannel approach of the Italian luxury brand — and uniquely, its stance on “humanistic capitalism.”
“Everything we’ve done is really personal,” said Caronna. “It’s not just fashion.” Since entering into wholesale 16 years ago, the brand is drafting more “shop-in-shop” concepts and events while continuing to create newness with its bimonthly product releases.
The company anticipates the opening of its next store in New York City, in Gansevoort Row in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The store will neighbor Hermès.
But the company doesn’t consider its garments expensive (despite blazers that retail for about $4,000) but rather “costly,” reflecting the shifting perception that is in stride with the twofold industry and consumer demand for transparency into the typically opaque value chain.
Luxury is becoming more about “access” than ever before, and luxury fashion brands and retailers will need to maintain their brand legacies, core product competencies and company cultures — while taking an active stance on topics like sustainability for the year ahead.
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