The just-style guest blog
The apparel and textile business guest blog on just-style
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Tech advances make work a home from home
28 Sep 2011 12:54
Launch shows for new software applications into the apparel industry are, I must admit, not a regular entry in my diary.
However, a number of factors combined to make a visit on Monday to see the US-based group Infor unveil its latest ERP (enterprise resource planning) product an intriguing use of time.
The first is the continued economic woe that characterises the climate most companies are operating in. Cost-cutting and efficiencies are at the heart of initiatives to raise the bottom line and the more you speak to companies about these programmes, the more you'll hear about efforts to install new systems in the search for a competitive edge.
The second was that a long-term partner of just-style, Lawson, had recently been acquired by Infor, and this was the first chance to see where this newly-enlarged group was heading.
Finally, I must admit to a certain geekish fascination with digital information platforms, something, I hope you'll agree, sits comfortably with my position as publisher of a style information and intelligence service.
A select group of potential customers from across the industry heard much about the speed and flexibility of the new product from presentations by Duncan Angove, Infor's president for products and support and Massimo Copoccia, its senior director for product management.
Undoubtedly, some of the technicalities were above my pay grade. But, what struck me most were the efforts made by the company to deliver a user experience akin to consumer applications such as Twitter and Facebook on a B2B platform.
It is symptomatic of the way technology in business is changing. Usability has been a low priority for years in software systems and digital tools at work. As long as the data, information or end result stood up, the way in which it was delivered was secondary. As long as it was functional, it was good enough.
But the extent to which Facebook and its ilk have pervaded almost every aspect of our lives and the premium placed on the user experience by tools such as the iPad have changed the way we view technology, even in the workplace.
"Enterprise software users want to work the way they live," said Angove. "They can see what's going on in the consumer world, where social media, collaboration and mobile devices combined with beautiful design, ready-to-use applications and agile technology have substantially improved the speed, value and productivity of the consumer experience. With Infor10, we are delivering a consumer-grade user experience that begins with a beautiful user interface."
Speed of information pertinent to the user, Twitter-style newsfeeds from across the organisation and the ability to monitor what is said about your brand on the world's social networks were just three of the examples of applications mentioned in Angove's presentation.
None of these are revolutionary to any regular user of digital technology at home, but they are indicative of a sea change of expectation of what technology should deliver at work. Functional is no longer good enough.
Goodbye from your news editor
27 Jun 2011 16:43
Having contributed to just-style for nearly six years it remains a true pleasure to observe and report on the fashion industry.
However, a slight change of path means that this week I will be trading Aroq headquarters for Optician magazine in London.
There have been many highlights, and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting the global just-style community at various gatherings.
Prime Source Forum in Hong Kong, IAF Convention and Sri Lanka Design Festival have all become vital parts of the just-style calender, and a great chance to meet our readers. Long may this continue.
While all these events will stick in the mind, one incident in particular seems to live on in the just-style office, for obvious reasons.
And so here I am, grinning like a Cheshire cat at Harrogate Lingerie & Swimwear Exhibition having met supermodel Caprice.
In the meantime, I leave you in the very dependable hands of my editor Leonie, and hope the next news editor of just-style enjoys their tenure as much as I have.
Moving across to optics means I'm not completely deserting the fashion world, so please 'keep an eye out' for me in the future.
Woolenstocks freezes willing guests
22 Jun 2011 22:47
Woollen slippers and boots, alongside dressing gowns, earrings and Volkswagen Beatles, are not always considered the most macho of belongings.
Last night, however, the merits of keeping your toes toasty were demonstrated to just-style by celebrity-favourite footwear brand Woolenstocks.
The UK firm hosted the launch of its latest range of outdoor boots, which are coveted by Hollywood star Sienna Miller, at no other than Ice Bar in London.
Handed a hooded poncho with stringed gloves, visiting Ice Bar brings back memories of childhood, snowball fights and sledging. Until, that is, I arrive at the frozen cocktail bar, which is more a reminder of latter youth.
Kept at minus seven degrees and with glasses, chairs, walls and seats made out of ice, the venue demonstrates perfectly where the idea for Woolenstocks derived from.
Before too long the ski gloves are on, and prevent the embarrassing alternative of just-style's news editor getting his hands stuck to an iced glass of Apple Mojito.
Woolenstocks managing director tells just-style her felt wool and faux fur footwear business was, in fact, inspired not by Ice Bars, but by some universally popular holiday gifts. "People liked them so I ordered them, it started with something small but grew," she adds.
Handmade in the Himalayas by locals, each Woolenstock shoe is said to take 40 hours to produce - equating to a lead time of three to four months for a mass order.
Plenty of retailers are willing to wait though, including Amazon in the US, where the UK brand has been on sale for three years now.
Woolenstocks also tells just-style that. at GBP50-100 a pair, its shoes are "cheaper than Uggs" too - another product my male ego will permit for emergency sub-zero situations only.
Timberland offer illustrates M&A uptick
20 Jun 2011 17:06
Last week saw more M&A activity in the apparel sector with news thatVF Corporation is to acquire outdoor apparel giant Timberland forUS$2bn.
Timberland, which will remain headquartered in Stratham, NewHampshire, will slot into an expanding VF outdoor portfolio that alsoincludes The North Face.
VF hopes that the deal, which is still subject to conditions, willoffer a swift return on investment through e-commerce andinternational synergies, together with top-line sales from theTimberland and Smartwool brands.
It represents the largest deal in a flurry of recent buyout activityin the industry, which has also seen Oxford Apparel, Jimmy Choo andKurt Geiger snapped up in the past few months.
Also in the news last week was value fashion chain Primark, which wasawarded an apology by the BBC over certain footage the media outlethad gathered for its Panorama documentary 'Primark: On the Rack'.
Footage of three boys testing the stitching of Primark garments inBangalore was likely to have been fake, concluded the BBC Trust'sEditorial Standards Committee (ESC)
Primark said it had been vindicated after three years and severalinvestigations into the 2008 documentary.
Meanwhile, there were comings and goings at the top of US fashionfirms JC Penney, Levi Strauss and Collective Brands last week.
The president and CEO of Levi Strauss, John Anderson, is to retireeffective 1 September, while Collective Brands' longstanding bossMatthew Rubel has resigned, and JC Penney has appointed Apple retailsupremo Ron Johnson as its new CEO.
A week of headlines on just-style
13 Jun 2011 11:28
Designing responsible children's wear was the focus of widespread media attention in the UK early last week, with new guidelines rolled out to high street retailers.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) launched new recommendations amid a Government review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of children.
Retailers including George, Next, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's and Tesco are signed up to the BRC initiative, which bans items such as padded bras and high heels.
In further signs that the cotton market is beginning to stabilise, major producer India raised its cap on exports of the raw material from 5.5m to 6.5m bales late last week.
Volatile cotton prices began to creep down last month, having peaked at record highs earlier in the year. India's government first decided to halt exports, to curb the soaring prices domestically, in April last year - a measure that is gradually being eased.
In other news last week, Swiss luxury goods group Labelux continued on the acquisition trail with the purchase of outdoor apparel retailer Belstaff for an undisclosed amount. It comes hot on the heels of its investment in luxury shoe maker for over GBP500m (US$813.7m) last month.
Meanwhile, Italian fashion firm Benetton Group looks set for a brand makeover after appointing You Nguyen as its new chief merchandising officer and creative director last week.
Alessandro Benetton, executive deputy chairman of Benetton Group, said former Levi Strauss & Co executive Nguyen's international experience will help "write a new chapter" for the fashion brand.
New Look screens reality fashion show
02 Jun 2011 14:32
UK value fashion chain New Look is running a television series to scout for a cutting edge stylist.
The soaring popularity of reality television in recent years suggests that New Look will enjoy a flurry of exposure for its collections on the back of it too.
The new series, called New Look Style the Nation, will begin this weekend and is hosted by Channel 4's Nick Grimshaw. It will also feature New Look creative director Barbara Horspool, designer Giles Deacon and a guest panelist for the week.
New Look Style the Nation will take to the road offering participants GBP300 (US$490)to come up with outfits from New Look's fashion ranges. Shoppers can also take part online by dressing a virtual mannequin on the New Look website.
Personally, I find that wearing full outfits bought from the same fashion retailer feels somewhat uninspiring, so the challenge is on for budding designers to mix and match within four walls only.
What next for Burberry?
27 May 2011 11:17
The boss of Burberry hailed an "historic" fiscal year for the company this week, going on to say there was more to come.
The luxury goods firm has posted a 38% increase in profit before tax, to GBP296m, and pledged to invest extra money into its thriving retail stores.
Burberry saw its sales boom in Asia, where the company has recently acquired its Chinese operations, while stores in well-established markets including to UK are also getting a makeover.
"We believe we can do a lot more this year and get a significant return on investment," Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts vows in the You Tube clip below.
It will be some investment too, with capital expenditure for the forthcoming year planned at GBP180-200m, compared with GBP108m last year. Investments will be made to accelerate new space growth to 12-13% and on 15-20 major store renovations.
All in all, it seems the time has come for Burberry to indulge itself.
PPR begins green account
16 May 2011 11:44
just-style is heading into London today for meetings organised by French luxury goods firm PPR Group and sizing company Alvanon Group.
Jochen Zeitz, the CEO of PPR-owned Puma, will be heading up the first event, where PPR is announcing the first results of its Environmental Profit & Loss Account (EP&L).
While business journalists are quite used to financial balance sheets, analysing the environmental results of a company is a new one to me.
Zeitz is leading the PPR Home initiative, which was announced in March and will include a ‘Creative Sustainability Lab’ to focus on green design, together with moves to offset CO2 emissions from company headquarters.
While the move towards quantitative data is a step forward by PPR, today’s initial results provide just a glimpse of what is to come.
Alvanon, meanwhile, will be talking just-style through a series of fit forms based on a new European women's and menswear fit standard. The company is a leading player in the movement towards measuring by shape as well as size.
It should be an action-packed day, with some home truths about my carbon footprint, and even shape, to boot.
Famous at last
06 May 2011 06:51
It is not every day you wake up in Istanbul to find yourself the subject of a local newspaper report, but that's exactly what happened this morning.
Indeed, the presence of just-style at this year's Istanbul Fashion Apparel Conference has made page ten of Turkey's Milliyet newspaper.
Unfortunately, the article is in Turkish, but I'll be sure to bring it back to the UK with me and gloat to friends and family.
Having said that, I am hoping the article is complimentary and doesn't turn out to be lost in translation, like one of those Chinese symbol tattoos people get.
The headline reads 'Trend avcisi Ayling geliyor', which doesn't sound too bad, although I don't speak a word of Turkish.
Anyway, the final day of this week's conference includes a session on cotton prices, which have began to steady after more than doubling in the space of a year.
Being a major supplier of denim, both for export and domestic brands such as Mavi, Turkey's reliance on the cotton market is huge.
Istanbul Fashion Apparel Conference – Day One
05 May 2011 17:27
It has been a busy day in Turkey's capital for the opening of the Istanbul Fashion Apparel Conference.
Any doubts about the importance of the country's apparel industry were dispelled by an appearance by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who opened today's proceedings.
Erdogan made a grand entrance to the auditorium surrounded by a mass security entourage and was quickly swamped by paparazzi.
With just 37 days until the Turkish elections, his speech went beyond the nuts and bolts of the textile industry – also addressing addressing education, debt and rising inflation.
It emerged that Turkey is setting a $500bn export target by 2013, with $60bn to come from clothing alone – up from $15bn a year currently.
The vast majority of Turkey's garment exports are to EU markets, where it enjoys preferential access, but a booming domestic retail market also carries potential for suppliers.
Following on from the PM was the co-CEO of Itlalian luxury brand Loro Piana. Pier Luigi Loro Piana said Turkish brands should focus on the value added by local manufacturing to grow, rather than entering any race to the bottom.
In between sessions we've had enough Turkish tea and baklava to sink a ship, more than taking the edge off the continued dull weather here in Istanbul.