Vanessa Friedman, Tory Burch, Steven Kolb and Alex Bolen.

SOONER THAN LATER: However nebulous the future of fashion is as a topic, four insiders tried to unpack the many factors that are tied to it in this digital age Wednesday night at Samsung 837.

New York Times’ fashion director Vanessa Friedman moderated the discussion with Tory Burch, CFDA president and chief executive officer Steven Kolb and Oscar de la Renta ceo Alex Bolen. Four-hundred consumers filed into the stadium seating and lined the three-tier space to hear what they had to say about the overburdened fashion system, consumer-facing shows, experiential retail and the sharing economy.

Burch, who launched e-commerce when her business started 11 years ago, said her team is constantly being challenged to improve omnichannel. Shoppers can order three different sizes of a pant styles and then return whichever don’t fit.

Asked for predictions, Burch said, “The concept of personalization is going to start happening. One of the most interesting companies is one that is taking DNA from cows to grow leather. The implications of what that can mean for the environment to what it means to growing a sneaker without seams is extraordinary. Intellectual property will change. It will be not necessarily the object but the recipe to make the object,” Bolen said. “We will change the names of the collections. Our firm will be showing six months ahead of time to someone.”

Kolb said, “We’ll see more brands selling direct-to-consumer and the wholesale model as we know it today will become something different. As Tory said, we’ll see more lightweight fabrics that are more seasonless.”

Big on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, Burch said social media is a really authentic dialogue with our customer and it has helped build our brand. How to personalize shoppers’ visits is something Burch is spending a lot of time on. We have a profile when they walk in; we can tell who the customer is, if they have been with us before, what she has bought, and suggest things she might like based on what she’s bought in the past. We did a reorganization of our company in December to really think about ‘What does it mean to be in technology?’ That’s a question that is on a lot of people’s minds.”

Kolb agreed that social media is a good thing, but also referenced a few effects on fashion week. “There is this immediacy of imagery that is getting out there right away. That contributes to the fatigue the customer is experiencing, but it also contributes to the copying of what designers are doing,” he said.

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