Editor’s Letter by Lisa: The Future of Retail
How will we shop in the future? As personalized experiences emerge as the number one trend for 2018 – with tech leading the way – Lisa waits for the real revolution to happen.
I’m currently watching an AMC drama from 2014 called Halt and Catch Fire (available on Netflix, at least in the US). It recreates the dawn of the personal computer era in the 80’s, and the plot revolves around the quest of figuring out the future of technology. Like: will we actually communicate online? It’s pretty good, worth a watch, there are four seasons to indulge in.
And you’ll have to excuse my mushy baby parent brain — as soon as I have an hour with a sleeping baby and nowhere else to be, my mind wonders and I think of “revolutionary” ideas that absolutely have to be written down…
But if you’re still reading this, hear me out: fashion retail is in that same state of uncertainty (as, ehum, personal computing was in the 80’s). Hehe. Please stay with me. We know technology is a major driving-force for how retail will look in the future, but there’s still a major disconnect between fashion and tech. It needs to be fine-tuned in a million ways, and it especially needs to be revolutionized at the consumer end. And, it has to figure out the sometimes paradoxical relationship between personal curation (made by a human with feelings) and data-driven curation (that can be personal, as it’s based on consumer patterns, but lacks the genius, wonderful, irreplaceable unpredictability a human selection brings).
How Reformation takes cues from Apple and Tesla
Personalization in retail – customized experiences with the help of data – is the trend that many industry insiders predict as the next big thing. Digital brands already have a lot of data — such as customers’ shopping behavior and perhaps also the footprints of their entire digital lives (hi Facebook, Google and whatever else) — but aren’t sure how to use it in a relevant way.
Experts also agree that the modern luxury consumer wants a unique and personalized experience; a relationship to brands that is more than transactional.
There’s a huge need to treat the wealth of data with respect – I think we’ll start talking more about surveillance issues in fashion retail soon — and most importantly, with creative minds.
I’m not talking about, like, in-store touch screens, although the ones at Reformation, inspired by Apple and Tesla retail experiences allowing you to click on what you want to try on and then find it waiting for you in a dressing room, do feel quite “futuristic”, read more about that here.
I’m talking about entirely new retail experiences. Based on data and hearts.
Ideas that will feel obvious once they are established, perhaps 10 or 15 years from now.
When we will read this text and laugh in the same way we laugh when we watch Halt and Catch Fire episodes about developing chat-rooms or computers with personalities.
Our minds aren’t quite there yet.
But they will. Hopefully?
Other quick thoughts on the current state of fashion, from a personal perspective, having spent a few weeks in Los Angeles:
– Brick-and-mortar second hand retail is dead. I say this with a heavy heart as I love treasure hunting in whatever city I’m in. But given the supply online nowadays, it’s like my attitude has changed. Today I found a pair of pretty amazing Prada heels in my size, and my old self would’ve been thrilled. But my current self thought that I can find even better ones online.
– Actually, brick-and-mortar second hand retail is not entirely dead. But it will have to take different forms. One brilliant example I noticed the other day is Reformation’s one (out of two) Melrose Avenue store, only offering selected second hand. Very clever and fun.
– A thought on use of words: “second hand” is not so popular, it doesn’t flow well. In Swedish there’s a synonym, “begagnat”, which is even worse, it drives people crazy because it sounds so unfashionable. New words for second hand pop up as its status elevates: “pre-loved” and “pre-owned” are current favorites in English.
And I’ve realized “pre-loved” is also more accurate than “begagnat”, because most garments on leading resale sites like Vestiaire Collective and The Real Real are in fact not previously used. They are brand new, tags and all. Only, the first buyer never got around to wearing it. Which, of course, says everything about the current speed of fashion. We use garments only a few times, or never, before we move on to the next thing.
– Another example of a smart way of offering second hand in a physical store is realized at General Store on Lincoln Boulevard. It’s one of those ridiculously well-curated stores, offering a perfect mix of fashion, interior, ceramics, books and other cute things, new alongside second hand. I was there today and it made me realize one thing about my own shopping behavior:
– Department stores are dead. Well, they are at least struggling. Because more is definitely not more nowadays. For me, and I think I’m not the only one, the only retailers worth my time are the ones that are carefully curated according to my preferences. Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Shop Super Street, that kind. I don’t feel like running around like a mad person in a department store that carries just about everything. And:
– As long as it does that for me — offer a curation that is personal and sincere — it doesn’t matter if the retail experience is digital or physical. Brick-and-mortar retail, then, isn’t dead either, but it needs to change. Perhaps physical stores will work more as complement to digital brand identities in the future.
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