The Cloud Lounge by HP @ The Belmont March 10th – 12th 10pm-2am
[The following post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]
I've read biographies about great American leaders since my early childhood. I can still fondly recall things I learned about Ben Franklin, Teddy Roosevelt, MLK and other icons of leadership. The quality that stands out the most is that they all led by doing, and doing first more often than not.
Think about it: Ben Franklin wasn't called "The First American" because he was following in someone else's footsteps. At 42 years of age, Teddy Roosevelt became the youngest president in the nation's history back in 1901. He later became the first president to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Another Peace Prize winner, MLK didn't recall anyone else's dream before sharing his own with the world in that famous speech.
So what does all this have to do with fashion?
Well, through my work in the past few years from launching a pop-up sneaker boutique and creating South by Southwest's fashion footprint with Style X to meeting hundreds of fashion insiders for stories and attending major events like New York Fashion Week, I've come to realize fashion is in a much-needed transition of leadership.
Technology and user-generated content is revolutionizing commerce. Global production capabilities are democratizing quality. Trends are changing more rapidly, but also gaining total reach through the Internet. These aren't the '90s anymore.
The old guard's first question -- whether it's mega-brand executives or esteemed fashion designers or prominent magazine editors -- is always, and I do mean always, "Who else is doing it?"
This is not the mentality of a leader. Instead, it's always about worrying about the competition, gaming the industry, following the trend, and targeting the masses.
The new guard's first question is much different: "No one else is doing it, why shouldn't we?"
It's all about the start-up mentality of finding a gap, creating a niche market, establishing a new trend or behavior pattern and targeting super fans.
From Apple computers to Christopher Nolan's Inception to the Toyota Prius to Twitter to PBS's Austin City Limits to Barack Obama's 2008 presidential election... the new guard and its start-up mentality has deeply impacted and, in most cases, trumped the old guard's approach to established ways of thinking.
It's 2012, and I'm proud to say that I know a handful of people in the fashion business that are a part of a new guard of leaders paving the way for groundbreaking changes to an otherwise stagnant fashion industry hoping for a return to 1990s consumer behavior.
[Author Note: I've invited these leaders down to Austin for Style X and couldn't be happier.]
Here are a few of them and the major industry trends they represent:
Lyst -- For Realizing Social Curation is the Future
Because I fully agree with Macala Wright from FMM; the future of retail will be curated.
Lyst.com is a social commerce website revolutionizing the fashion industry by providing users with a personalized way to discover and shop for fashion online.
"Our curated commerce model surfaces more relevant content and product recommendations for users to shop," said Hilary Peterson, VP of business development at Lyst. "We've been thrilled by the growth which has been driven by connecting more people with products they love."
Refinery29 -- For Understanding That It's Either Go Local or Go Home
Because we live in a global world, but we also live in cities.
"Refinery29's local point of view is a huge point of difference for us; so much of fashion and shopping is local these days from the latest street style bloggers to emerging designers and, of course, boutique owners," opined co-founder Philippe von Borries. "We are building the go-to platform to connect and mobilize consumers to the best in local style and shopping acting as a resource for our consumers and driving awareness and sales for local brands and fashion enthusiasts."
"We get social, and we get what it means to connect to our readers authentically. As a result, we put a lot of care and thought into brand integration and how that impacts the overall experience; ultimately, we prefer to integrate brands only in ways we feel positively add to/enhance our readers' lives," concluded von Borries.
Grungy Gentleman's Jace Lipstein -- For Having True 360-Degree Influence
Because in a sea of so-called fashion "influencers", there are only so many people whom really carry the cards.
"Content is my driving force. When producing thought provoking and substantial content is your complete focus, you will put yourself in a good place," said Jace Lipstein best known as Grungy Gentleman.
Lipstein added, "The most rewarding aspect of what I do is the talent that I am fortunate to constantly be surrounded by. My peers and their brilliance constantly rub off on me and my style."
NAMI's Sarah Nami Ahn -- For Following Her True Passions
Because if we've learned anything from the economic downturn, it's that following your true calling is better than sticking to what you know.
"Life is ephemeral, delicate, and beautiful... all things that were startlingly made aware to me with my brother's near-death (motorcycle) accident; I couldn't spend another moment not doing what I felt passionate about in life, to create art," said Sarah Nami Ahn, who left her Ph.D. in neurosciences behind to launch NAMI.
"My approach to fashion is unique having the background of science; design can be logical, a way of problem-solving to make the most beautiful garment you can with the given variables at hand," she added.
Tortoise & Blonde's Steven & Evan Weisfeld -- For Knowing Family, like Father, Knows Best
Because following in the footsteps of the Olsen Twins and Ari & David Goldberg who founded StyleCaster isn't a bad idea.
"With Tortoise & Blonde, I am able to set the same high standards in quality control by utilizing the years of experience I have in selling eyewear to my patients; the level of consumer confidence is increased knowing that a doctor is behind a company selling Rx eyeglasses, and when needed I can personally address any technical questions the customer may have," said CEO and optometrist Steven Weisfeld.
"I think of it as old meets new school; where my dad is the expert in optometry and fulfillment, I'm able to focus on marketing, strategy and social commerce -- it's a pretty good complement," added son Evan Weisfeld, who is driving the company's outreach to bands like Ra Ra Riot and Jukebox the Ghost.
PR Couture's Crosby Noricks -- For Creating a Network, Not Just a Distribution List
Because the PR industry still has its agency tentacles firmly wrapped around the fashion business, but the game has changed a bit.
"My approach is to strategically drive customer actions in support of business objectives by extend branding enthusiasm through interactive and engaging stories across multiple marketing channels," said Crosby Noricks who founded fashion and retail marketing hub PR Couture.
"Success today requires a commitment of time, resources and creativity to endear the social customer's brand loyalty for the long haul," she added. "We must capture her attention, delight her with information and provide her with shareable tools to demonstrate how her personality, lifestyle and values connect with those of the brand."
[The following post originally posted on HuffingtonPost.com]
It's not just Santa coming to town, but an epic transformation in commerce. The holiday season gives us a glimpse into the future of shopping behavior, and we're not too far from online shopping becoming the modus operandi of American consumers. Strip malls may never be the same.
According to comScore, e-commerce spending is up 15 percent for the first 39 days of the 2011 holiday season. The nearly $25 billion spent online in that period should not be viewed simply as an indication of lots of holiday cheer. With more online shopping taking place throughout the year, and online consumer confidence tracking with it, the notion of having to go to the store is leaving our collective memories.
Meanwhile, online shopping strategies improve with the proliferation of customer ratings and reviews on brand and retail sites, Facebook fan pages with dynamic shopping apps and mobile device technology aimed at streamlining on-the-go customers.
Etsy, the online destination for all things handmade and vintage, is one of the companies best positioned to benefit from this shift in shopping behavior. The company's remarkable growth under CTO-turned-CEO Chad Dickerson may seem technology-driven, but it's also about consumer buying patterns.
"On Etsy, peak holiday shopping begins with Black Friday and continues through the following weeks. This year our community sold a record amount of goods on Cyber Monday," said Emily Bidwell from Etsy's merchandising team. "Tuesday's sales surpassed that amount, and continue to be strong. In our view it's not about one date on the calendar; it's a time of year when people take advantage of the opportunity to find all their gifts at a value."
And that last word, value, is where it really starts to get interesting. With online retailers being challenged by flash sale sites like Park & Bond, the GQ-Gilt Groupe menswear site, and One Kings Lane, which specializes in housewares, both perceived and real value is on a premium.
Speaking at the Wharton Business School's BizTech event after Black Friday, Edison Ventures' Mike Kopelman said, "the barrier to enter the flash deals business is not high, but the barrier to endure is. "
This may be true, but even if sites like Jack Threads and Fab.com don't have long life spans as businesses, the short-term impact on major retailers and consumer behavior is huge. They are re-writing what value means to consumers, along with companies like Groupon and LivingSocial, which raised another $176 million from private investors recently.
It used to be that Black Friday was a day that consumers knew they'd get the absolute best deal and the most value. That's why the alarms were set and the cars packed with gifts shortly thereafter.
Now there's Green Monday the following week, which happens be called Cyber Week. And Free Shipping Day -- the last day to get a gift delivered before Christmas Eve -- which falls on Dec. 16th this year -- so more price-conscious deals are to be expected. All that said, why worry about being trampled at the entryway to some big box retailer and missing time with the family (or sleep) if that same deal -- if not a better one -- is available the following week or month online?
Perhaps this is a thought one will soon have. But...
"It's not about shopping in person one day, then online another. People are shopping in different channels and expecting the same experience no matter where they are," said Etsy's Bidwell.
Well, OK. So if the Black Friday experience -- at least the fun, shopping-spree experience -- is still desired online, where will consumers go? The main thing that online shopping sites don't provide compared to their brick-and-mortar brethren is a feeling of shared experience and interest. We may all be fighting for that Tickle-Me Elmo or Banana Republic sweater, but at least we're fighting for the same reason.
Lyst.com, a social curation startup that combines features of Twitter with elements of music discovery sites like Last.fm, provides a look at a possible answer. Its members sign up and receive a personalized feed of fashion items relevant to their own tastes. So there you go, reaching for that sweater knowing someone else shares your interest.
"Socially-curated shopping was designed principally to help people discover items for themselves, however, it's now changing the way gifts are bought online as well," said Lyst.com CEO Chris Morton. "Users can now share detailed lists of items they love with friends and family to make sure they get the perfect present as the holiday season approaches."
As the reliance on Black Friday, and brick-and-mortar shopping trips, decreases and the focus on online increases, companies like Etsy, Gilt and Lyst.com stand ready to support your search for unique gifts that come with the backing of a community. But even if it's not them on the front lines, major e-retailers like Walmart and Macy's are certain to adjust to the changing landscape, as well.
Many of these Fortune companies and fashion retailers are already populating their sites with customer conversations in the forms of ratings, reviews, questions, answers and customer stories. The next layer will involve bringing your social networks onto these sites, or vice versa.
Ultimately, you may have to give up that feeling of finding some amazing deal hidden away from the view of others on a Black Friday morning in some back aisle or discounted clothing bin of a big box retailer. In exchange, you'll end up with a lot more time to make your gift purchases backed with the kind of buying confidence that only your friends and family -- Facebook friends and Twitter followers included -- can give you.
Regardless of how it all transpires and what's gained or lost, we should all be pretty excited about the things to come both with the holidays and in the world of commerce.
Admit it. You sometimes use Facebook to check up on people you used to know. Old elementary, middle, and – most definitely – high school friends. College classmates. Former coworkers. Exes. Yes, exes. No, they don’t all live in Texas. That’s why Facebook is such a wonderful application of technology, isn’t it!?
Anyway, my point is simple: Facebook is a good stalking tool. But this isn’t stalking in the sense of following someone into their apartment building or grocery store. No, that’s real stalking. Like what happens to movie stars. Or Erin Andrews, bless her heart. No, I’m talking about Facebook stalking.
I know you won’t believe me, but this isn’t something I make a habit of (who wouldn’t say that, I know), but I promise you I’m being honest. Long story short, I ended up spending a couple of minutes…seriously, just a couple of minutes…searching around to see what was going on with some girls I dated in the past.
Not to name names or point fingers, but I ended my Facebook stalking session in a weird place because of what I found. I have three main conclusions: 1) I’m definitely at that age where all my exes start getting engaged (I counted three in the last 6 months alone). 2) I'm happy for them, but (and this is the crudest, cruelest thing I’ll ever say) I think I got the best of them, 3) I am a rather pathetic person. I mean would I want my exes looking at my Facebook pictures and making conclusions about my level of happiness, the person I’m dating, the life I live, the places I travel, etc.? Probably not.
But this damn Facebook thing is too damn powerful. I feel like it’s a waste of good technology not to catch up on old friends and flames. I mean that is why Zuck built it, right?
Maybe I should think about creating a category of blogs for regrettable posts. What do you think?
[Post-Disclaimer: My girlfriend says she doesn’t read my blog because they always seem to rub her the wrong way, so I’m going to chalk this one up as one of those blogs she won’t lay her eyes on. That, of course, means she will. As The Wire’s McNulty would say with a dumbfounded look, “what did I do?”]
I don’t know what Steve Jobs’ death means to you. I don’t know what his life meant to you either. But I know what it all means to me.
I could try to write a diatribe about Steve Jobs’ impact on our generation. I could write a dissertation about how much of a factor he’s been on American society. But it’d all be a waste.
I say this because the only thing that matters to me right this moment: celebrating what Steve Jobs meant to me, personally.
Perhaps it’s selfish. Perhaps it’s too soon. Forgive me. My girlfriend Deva and I were having sushi and had just returned home while talking about my need for white space. Something a Ph.D. just told me after I did a Myers-Briggs test, too. That’s when I found out about Steve Jobs’ death.
Writing, it turns out, is my white space. As you can see from my lack of blogs posts here these last few weeks, I haven’t had a lot of that either. But Steve Jobs’ death is my source of inspiration right this moment. It’s why I’ve created white space for myself. To celebrate his life and what he’s meant to me.
Steve Jobs wasn’t a quitter. That’s what he meant to me. Seeing him at product announcements or on TV was always a reminder of his inability to quit.
We live in a society full of big problems that continually lack leadership, life-long dedication and sustained passion of self-described “creatives” or academically smart kids.
Many of these young people, unlike Jobs, grew up with well-to-do biological parents, attained college degrees, and have plenty reason to succeed in this world from the start. Still, it’s troubling how many are quitters; how many forget the truly important and big problems their talent is intended for and choose less confrontational paths; paths with much less purpose and far too much pleasure. Not everyone can lead and invent, true. But why so few join and innovate is disheartening.
Sure, Steve Jobs obviously liked nice things and interesting people like the rest of us, otherwise he wouldn’t have been so good at forecasting our desires. However, he always seemed to see the forest through the trees. The big and upcoming problems – albeit technologically focused - through the apathy and bullshit of the small and current issues.
This thinking allowed him to help spawn innovations in entertainment (Pixar), operating software (NeXT) and the music industry (iTunes). He never quit on the philosophy of innovation that he developed as a young man and mastered throughout his life.
Steve Jobs may have dropped out of college, but he didn’t quit doing the college thing: learning. At the 2005 Stanford University commencement, he spoke of the calligraphy class that helped him learn the significance of fonts in design. The impact of that college experience was free to him, but he paid it back to society by creating a computer company that helped us see beyond floppy and onward to flat.
Steve Jobs may have lost his job at Apple, the company he started years before, but he didn’t stop innovating. He didn’t quit serving his life’s purpose. Pixar is just one of the great things that came out of his time away from Apple early on, and we can thank that studio for movies like Toy Story and Up. These aren’t just movies with animated figures to ooh and aah at. These are films with animated characters with real stories to share.
Steve Jobs may have taken a break from Apple after getting pancreatic cancer, but he didn’t take a break from living. He got back on the saddle as CEO and gave us the iPad, further exposed our need for technology products that didn’t just do inherently, but technology enablers that helped us to do more intuitively.
Steve Jobs may have died today, Wednesday, October 5, 2011, but he sure as hell didn’t quit. That means more to me than anything I can buy in the Apple store.