Saturday, April 30, 2022

Fendace Collection Available On May 12

In September, Donatella Versace characterized the Fendace show as “a milestone moment,” a full-on creative swap presented on the runway, and the collection is now set to bow on May 12 with a dedicated communication campaign.

The Fendace collection will be available through a series of global events and pop-ups in cities such as Dubai, London and Los Angeles or New York, Paris and Tokyo, among others, and will be the only stores to offer the full collection.

The collection will also be divided through Fendi and Versace online and retail boutiques, with Fendi presenting the Versace by Fendi collection, and the Fendi by Versace styles available at Versace boutiques and the brand’s online store. A capsule of joint Fendace branded looks will be available from both fashion houses.

As reported, Donatella Versace, designed a Fendi collection and Kim Jones, Fendi’s artistic director of couture and womenswear, created a Versace lineup. Both collections are for pre-fall 2022.

The swapping went as far as Fendi producing the Versace collection and vice versa and the project meant each designer dived into the other brand’s archives.

“It’s a swap rather than a collaboration and, most of all, it is done out of friendship,” Jones said. “It is the beauty of togetherness after time apart and a celebration of women who have inspired me so much,” the designer added.

The Versace by Fendi collection features all the Versace signatures — the safety pins; the bold Baroque prints on super short dresses, tops and swimsuits as well as sheared fake furs with the Fendi squares and Versace print cut into them, and totes with the Medusa head. Versace’s take on Fendi added a strong dose of sexy to the brand with short short minis covered in the Fendi logo; mesh dresses; a ’70s denim pantsuit with bell-bottoms; Versace-ified Peekabos and Baguettes (including safety pins), and shimmering long pink and silver gowns.

The Fendace advertising campaign was lensed by Steven Meisel and includes videos from filmmaker Alec Maxwell.

“The campaign captures the same sense of friendship and energy we had when we were designing the collection,” said Donatella Versace, chief creative officer of Versace. “Kim is a visionary designer and innovator. To me, Fendace will always mean love.”

Presented across two celebratory campaign videos, each sees a cast of models ranging from Adut Akech and Amar Akway to Anja Rubik, Anok Yai, Imaan Hammam and Lina Zhang entering the Fendace nightclub wearing — what else — Fendace outfits. However, they need to get past two unusual bouncers at the door — Naomi Campbell and Kristen McMenamy.

Brides Go for Drama in Their Dresses; Grooms Seek Brighter Colors

Prospective brides seem to be looking for dramatic ballgowns with a dash of eccentricity, puff sleeves, as well as corsetry details and sensual high slits, while grooms are venturing into riskier territory, trading formal blue and black suits for brightly colored and laid-back attire.

These were the key trends that emerged at Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week, which returned as a live event again after a two-year hiatus. The five-day trade show closed on April 24 with a bang, drawing 18,600 visitors, mostly international, which compares with 22,000 attendees in 2019.

“Brides and their families are going way out now with large weddings and expensive gowns. The feeling coming out of the past two years with COVID-19 had really taken a toll on the bridal industry. Now everyone is back in the celebration mood, and it seems that the sky’s the limit,” said Dorothy Silver, director of sales and merchandising at Kleinfeld, anticipating the company’s budget will increase.

Pandemic fatigue didn’t dampen the mood at the fair and buyers lauded the event’s organizers for the upscale offering, while brands were optimistic about a recovery, noting bridalwear is fully enjoying the back-to-life vibe. Brides-to-be were also engaged via the fair’s digital platform, which amassed 40,000 views.

A host of runway shows, headlined by the first catwalk presentation of the Viktor & Rolf Mariage collection, a buyers’ favorite, punctuated the cloudy Barcelona days, with brands including Nicole Milano, Sophie et Voilà, Marco & Maria and Rosa Clará, among others, parading their spring 2023 collections at the fairgrounds.

All brands with an 8:30 p.m. show slot took the audience to the city’s landmarks for runway spectacles, including Pronovias, which orchestrated a show on Barcelona’s Montjuïc hill marked by dancers, giant balloons hanging from the ceiling and a cameo appearance by Y2K fashion model Esther Cañadas.

According to Mark Ingram, chief executive officer of New York-based Mark Ingram Atelier, the fair improves every year. “The fashion show production is very high and impressive, and overall, it is an extremely well organized and attended event. I am a firm believer of a centralized market. To my knowledge, a bridal exhibition of this magnitude exists nowhere else in the Western world.”

French department store Printemps attended the trade show for the first time as it aims to grow its bridal division and strengthen its positioning and offering with the introduction of designer brand bridal-inflected pieces from the likes of Jacquemus, Khaite and Zimmermann, among others.

According to Karen Abi Aad, bridal buyer for Printemps Mariage, future brides “are looking for a unique dress, and after two years into the pandemic they have bigger budgets. We noticed an increase of the average price point, as brides request quality and more coolness.”

Case in point: At Pronovias Group, average spending for wedding gowns has increased 10 percent, with its high-end collections from Nicole Couture and Pronovias Privè enjoying momentum. “It’s showing that brides want to see their wedding happen with a lot of drama,” said Amandine Ohayon, chief executive officer of the group.

“The market is extremely dynamic, we’re seeing a pent-up demand happening, we’ve seen that the restrictions have impacted the market for the past two years, but girls have been holding onto their dreams,” Ohayon noted, anticipating a strong couple of years ahead. She said the company is above 2019 revenues, with retail sales in the first quarter of the year up 9 percent and a positive outlook for Italy and the U.S., as well as China.

The Atelier Pronovias show telegraphed the group’s bullish plans to “take the market by storm,” as Ohayon put it, with a 44-look parade of opulent gowns inspired by Versailles’ lavish ceremonies.

The company has recently ventured into NFT territory reflecting its ambition to engage brides wherever they are, including the metaverse, the CEO explained. The move tops other digital-driven initiatives, including the website revamp and virtual appointments, but the executive ruled out embracing online sales altogether.

“Girls want to return to the stores and have physical interactions with the stylists and, more importantly, when you find your dress, it’s something that you feel when you try it on…it cannot happen online. It’s not as magic[al],” Ohayon said.

Over at Pignatelli, the hesitation of grooms to buy their wedding outfits online hindered the brand’s resilience throughout the pandemic, with 2021 sales still below pre-COVID-19 levels despite a 40 percent jump versus the previous years.

Francesco Pignatelli, the brand’s creative director, said he expects 2022 to mark the long-awaited rebound and the company’s presence in Barcelona signaled its ambitions of internationalization, given it generates 85 percent of revenues in Italy and has little exposure overseas.

The spring 2023 collection answered demand for outdoor ceremonies, breezy fabrics, and laid-back atmospheres, Pignatelli said. He injected a light and colorful spin into three-piece suits bearing damask embroideries, offered color-blocked combinations and tassel-bearing suits inspired by Moroccan vibes.

A buyers’ favorite was Andrea Sedici, a relatively new name on the radar, which stole the spotlight with its couture-level gowns — often light and airy, embellished with bling and lace flourishes. The designer Andrea Di Ninno established the brand and atelier in Italy’s Abruzzo region in 2019 after a six-year stint at Giorgio Armani and received praise at Milan’s Sì Sposaitalia trade fair that same year.

“Barcelona was the natural next step. I’m excited because a lot of the big bridal retailers have shared positive feedback and this confirms that my bet of powering through the pandemic was farsighted,” Di Ninno said. At Barcelona Bridal Fashion Week, the designer presented a selection of his creations, as he gears up for a destination fashion show somewhere in Italy later in the summer. With a strong international wholesale footprint already, he said he’s looking forward to landing at New York Luxury Bridal Fashion Week later this year.

Although seasonal trends such as demure bridal pantsuits, delicate and flat embroideries and threadwork, sheer layering, as well as off-shoulder sleeves were ubiquitous, bridal brands appealed to a wide array of sensibilities and styles to tap into a broader audience.

“I think most brides want to have a red-carpet moment…whatever that means for them,” noted Ingram. “I think slightly ‘over-the-top’ styling mixed with minimal design is super chic.”

“Ultimately, it’s all about finding their unique style. That was the best part of the show…from bohemian, to modern, to romantic, to traditional. Today’s brides want to find the dress that speaks to their personal style,” echoed Lori Conley, general merchandise manager at Anthropologie-owned Bhldn. She praised the event for its networking quality and said she left the trade show feeling inspired and invigorated.

Among her favorites was the family-run Spanish brand Yolancris, helmed by creative director Yolanda Pérez — she of the bohemian bridal look. The designer said it feels “riskier to stick to a single aesthetic,” and worked her spring collection over different themes, flanking her signature corsetry details, lace embellishments and belly-revealing crop tops with edgier looks, such as short frocks sprouting feathers and minimalist column dresses with high slits featuring cutouts and hardware details.

“It’s a good moment, we’re starting again to see a brisk activity, but I think recovery will happen step by step and we’ll probably see a rebound toward the end of the year,” Peréz contended.

Goth Is Going Mainstream

Oddly enough, the two most formative films of my youth were Interview With the Vampire and Bring It On. In the shadows of my teenage bedroom, I gorged on ghost stories, but in the daylight, my cheerleading uniform and study-time sweats cloaked my macabre interests. While I secretly lusted over mesh tops, Tripp NYC pants and lace chokers in my dark sanctuary, I was always too afraid to put down my pom-poms. Not because I didn’t care about clothes (far from it) but because I thought the styles I loved were off limits to Black girls — especially the ones who led school pep rallies.

In the mid-to-late-2000s, goth was largely considered a “white” thing. While I’m sure there were kids of colour lurking around with eyebrow piercings and velvet corsets, I never saw them in the light of day. In fact, the only goths I did see fit a very specific stereotype: pale skin, straight hair and all-black attire à la Morticia Addams. As a preppy Jamaican girl, I wasn’t included in that aesthetic, so I buried it instead.

A decade (and a Y2K revival) later, my desire to gothify myself has come back from the dead, thanks (in part) to the Spring 2022 runways. Balenciaga presented bountiful black styles, bringing the gothic drama in cloaklike gowns and oversized outerwear. LaQuan Smith’s sexy meshy silhouettes seemed to celebrate goth’s fetishistic and formerly taboo nature. And Marc Jacobs incorporated shredded fringe and dark designs into his spring collection.

However, the real goth-aissance is happening on TikTok. Tags like #goth, #gothic and #gothcore currently boast 10 billion, 1.9 billion and 15 million views respectively. Content creators like Xowie Jones, Baby Succubuz, Nerdy Winter and Vocally Shook have gone viral for their descent into darkness. And with social media brushing off the proverbial cobwebs, goth has evolved from a maverick lifestyle into a mainstream movement. But don’t be fooled — this isn’t the whitewashed goth from my adolescence. This time around, goth is available to everyone.

When asked for her definition of goth, Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York, describes it as more of a sensibility than a style. “Goth is a strange beauty,” says Steele, who curated FIT’s 2008–2009 exhibition Gothic: Dark Glamour and wrote the accompanying book. “It’s a dark romanticism.”

The subculture started in the late 1970s to early ’80s in the United Kingdom, when English goth rock, a subset of the more volatile punk rock, rose in popularity. While both movements originated as a rejection of the conservatism, materialism and elitism that U.K. prime minister Margaret Thatcher and U.S. president Ronald Reagan had come to embody, goths were ultimately more moody and poetic than angry and violent. British band Bauhaus’s anthem “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” released in 1979, is often cited as the true beginning of the trend, with glam rock icons Siouxsie Sioux and American Patricia Morrison pioneering the ashen skin, long dark hair, fishnets and Victorian corsets that came to define the style.

Although many shied away from the campiness of goth, post-punk designers like Vivienne Westwood leaned into the uncanny glamour of it all. By the early ’90s, designers like Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens and Alexander McQueen were following in her fetish-y footsteps.

Goth challenged the order, trendiness and propriety of traditional beauty. The subculture intended to build safe spaces for society’s outsiders, but its rigid fashion and beauty “rules” were, by default, often exclusionary. The gothic preoccupation with corpselike complexions, for example, is a beauty standard quite literally rooted in whiteness. It rejects the mainstream preference for a healthy flush beneath tanned skin by propping up an aesthetic that dark-skinned people could never achieve. Goths reject the norm, but Black beauty wasn’t the norm to begin with.

In 2022, Gen Z goth enthusiasts face fewer obstacles than I did, and Steele believes that COVID and lockdowns might have played a part in this sudden interest in morbidity. “With the constant threat of death and destruction, some people want to have brightly coloured ‘dopamine fashion’ while others are like, ‘This is a dystopian moment; I don’t feel like that,’” she says. “It works both ways.”

As the goth community expands, TikToker Victoria Maddox — known professionally as Baby Succubuz — says she’s seen more alternative Black creators here than on any other platform. “It has made me feel less alone,” she admits, reflecting on the process of becoming friends with other creators who look like her for the first time. Goth activist and lifestyle coach Jamila Anahata — professionally known as The Soulful Veganista — agrees, describing the amount of feedback she’s received from her popular Instagram account, where she posts about fashion, veganism and spirituality. Over the years, young Black girls have reached out to thank the influencer for her stunning representation of the Afrogoth fashion they’d always wanted to wear.

Content creator turned music artist Jones adds that the goth rules are more accommodating than they once were. The 22-year-old has over 7.3 million TikTok followers who watch her go from glam to gore in a single transition. “It doesn’t have to be super extravagant,” she shares. “You can wear a black T-shirt and jeans and still be goth.” Other goth creators have stepped away from the all-black trademark and opted for lighter interpretations. “I consider myself a Bubble Goth,” says Maddox. The 29-year-old influencer livens up her looks with colourful hair, makeup and accessories for her 108K followers. “With Bubble Goth, you take a light aesthetic and a dark aesthetic and kind of mush them together,” she says about her current colour fixations.

When asked about how much someone must adhere to the rules to consider themselves goth, Steele comments on the naïveté of those searching for a “100 per cent real, authentic thing” in the subculture. She says, “That kind of authenticity is a chimera — it doesn’t really exist.”

I can very much relate. At the beginning of 2020, I did something I’ve wanted to do since I was 13: I got my septum pierced — one small step for your average goth aficionado, one giant step for a former goth wannabe. Since then, my overall style has gotten a lot darker (and a lot more me) as well. In 2022, I wouldn’t say I’m goth, but I wouldn’t say I’m not goth either.

Goths are not monoliths, and neither are BIPOC. The evolution of the subculture in the age of TikTok promises that this remains true for both. Different representations of goth — whether they’re race, age or style — don’t diminish what already exists. Instead, these newer additions create a fuller, richer community that’s stronger than what existed before. Rather than fighting to protect a past that’s less inclusive than we remember, let’s celebrate the present with those who find beauty in darkness.

Experience Matters: As Metaverse Looms, Retailers Get Immersive

As traditional retailers battle to retain consumers’ attention in an increasingly digital world, the role of stores is shifting away from products toward experiences — and the more immersive, the better.

In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, which accelerated the shift to online shopping, and with the metaverse looming, retailers are luring back visitors with formats that employ sight, sound and smell to transport them into dimensions previously associated with gaming or movies.

“Stores are no longer only competing with cafés and restaurants in terms of experiences, but really are now competing with a Fortnite, or Roblox, or Netflix or TikTok,” said Bas Van De Poel, cofounder and innovation director at think tank and design studio Modem.

“There’s an entire new generation of youngsters, customers who have extremely high expectations and a really well-established aesthetic sensibility and taste level as a result of spending more time online, in these really immersive environments,” he added.

Modem worked with Nike on the FitAdv Weather Dome, unveiled earlier this year at the sporting good giant’s House of Innovation flagship on Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. It used state-of-the-art technology, including a 23-foot-wide high-resolution LED screen, wind turbines and an HDR lighting rig to create a larger-than-life try-on experience for its FitAdv apparel line.

“The actual experience combines physical elements like wind and light with a rendered digital environment that you’re stepping into, filmed by a very sophisticated robotic arm carrying a quite expensive camera, so you’re getting, like, a Hollywood production when entering a store,” Van De Poel explained.

When the recording is completed, visitors scan a QR code to receive a custom video edit, ready to be shared on social media.

Amsterdam-based Modem, launched in March 2021, is dedicated to studying the impact of digitalization on our lives, whether through research papers with institutions like MIT, or its work with clients such as Snap Inc. and Ikea, where Van De Poel previously worked as creative director of Space10, the Swedish furniture company’s experimental innovation lab.

He’s convinced that in the future, the productivity of stores will be measured not by the amount of merchandise shifted, but by the experiences they deliver.

“The role and the proposition of the store is in that sense shifting as digital becomes increasingly more important,” he said. “Stores are really more transforming into these branded worlds, basically, where you can create a full expression of a brand’s DNA that is perhaps not possible in an online environment, at least today.”

The evolution has not been lost on department stores, which are competing to offer visitors transformational experiences.

La Samaritaine, the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned Paris institution that reopened last year after a 16-year renovation of its Art Nouveau building, teamed up with French audio technology company Devialet and aerospace firm ArianeGroup on what it dubbed a “sound journey to space.”

Visitors entered a white sound-proofed cube where eight Phantom I Devialet speakers broadcast the sound of an Ariane 5 launch from Arianespace’s Guiana Space Center — think bristling jungle sounds, followed by the roar of rocket boosters.

“It’s the loudest sound produced by man on Earth,” said Nathalie Chopra, head of international marketing and communications at Devialet, who experienced the recording in person. “It’s incredible, and it’s not just the intensity of the sound, but the complexity of the frequencies, the way the sound is constructed.”

She reported growing demand from retailers and luxury brands for tailor-made soundscapes, such as the “phantom orchestra” it designed for the Paris Opera. The discovery area inside the historic Palais Garnier building uses 16 custom-designed Phantom speakers to broadcast the sound of different instruments.

“Experience is our essence,” said Chopra. “At Devialet, we want to restore sound to its rightful place, because we think people have been bombarded with images. Hearing is a sense that has been neglected. We want to surprise people and show them that when you listen intently, sound can tell many stories and generate unique emotions.”

Last year, Devialet joined French luxury goods association Comité Colbert, and one of its projects involves capturing the sounds of a silversmith’s workshop.

“We’re the first technology brand to join Comité Colbert, so we were thrilled, and it has put us in touch with incredible brands that really get what we do,” she said. “I think there’s a very high-end clientele that’s a little saturated by traditional services and gifts, so people often come to us to create experiences that have never been done before.”

With its recent Superself wellness event, Selfridges in London touted “a new kind of retail therapy” with experiences including confidence coaching, breath work, sex therapy and sensory pods promising “a safe trip.”

Developed by Dutch health tech company Sensiks, the pods were equipped with voice-activated systems that stimulate the senses through temperature, airflow, sound, light and smell, combined with virtual reality, to create a hyper-realistic simulated reality designed to improve mood and reduce stress.

Fred Galstaun, founder and chief executive officer of Sensiks, initially developed the technology for medical purposes. After launching the pods at the SXSW Festival in 2017, he tested them among mentally disabled and elderly people in a care home in the Netherlands, with further clinical trials focusing on the treatment of trauma, anxieties and addictions.

While the experience has been available at the KLM business lounge at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, this was his first time working with a retailer. “We’ve been getting more and more requests from stores lately because everything is opening up again. To create centers of well-being is becoming more and more popular,” he noted.

While Galstaun was somewhat surprised that Selfridges should be interested in the benefits of psychedelic experiences for mental health, he made sure the 10-minute sequence, which incorporates fractal patterns and scents like incense and peppermint, was accessible to a mainstream crowd.

“I think Selfridges is doing a great job. They’re really creating a lifestyle, a place to hang out, and that, for me, was an eye-opener,” he said. “That was for me the best store experience ever, because normally I want to run out of every store. I never do any shopping. But it’s a really positive vibe and a lot is going on there.”

Now Sensiks is moving further into the realm of personal care and entertainment. In addition to building software development tool kits for leading game engines like Unity and Unreal, it’s preparing to launch home pods.

“We have the software and the content platform for games and content, VR or maybe only just music, to program into a multisensory experience to increase the immersion in the digital worlds,” he said.

“Experience also happens in your brain, and if you look at this whole metaverse thing which is going on, I think that will become a very important part of our lives, because if you utilize the possibility of your brain to undergo experiences as real from your house, for instance, or from any location, a lot of things become possible in a very sustainable way, and that is I think exactly what the world needs right now,” Galstaun added.

That increases the pressure on retailers to offer compelling reasons to venture out into the real world.

“We’re living in an unprecedented moment in time where, due to the pandemic, a lot of things have accelerated and more than ever before, you need to have a resilient strategy when it comes to reaching your audience. And the way you’re going to reach your audience will be increasingly more fragmented, and you need to have multiple strategies at play in order to reach your goals,” said Van De Poel.

He believes that while the development of the metaverse is still in its infancy, retailers can’t afford to ignore its potential impact. “Where computing becomes spatial, I think that’s going to be a major shift and you already need to be investigating and investing in that space. But I think it’s quite early to say what it will be like and what it will mean for retail,” he said.

“The experience is still limited and it’s also challenging the reason to go to a store in the first place, because you could also activate that AR experience anywhere else. So the thing is really about trying to define what is the role of the store in this digital age and how do you differentiate yourself from a game or a competing digital experience,” Van De Poel concluded.

Friday, April 29, 2022

What Is The Metaverse, Exactly?

To hear tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg or Satya Nadella talk about it, the metaverse is the future of the internet. Or it's a video game. Or maybe it's a deeply uncomfortable, worse version of Zoom? It's hard to say.

It's been nearly six months since Facebook announced it was rebranding to Meta and would focus its future on the upcoming “metaverse.” In the time since, what that term means hasn't gotten any clearer. Meta is building a VR social platform, Roblox is facilitating user-generated video games, and some companies are offering up little more than broken game worlds that happen to have NFTs attached.

Advocates from niche startups to tech giants have argued that this lack of coherence is because the metaverse is still being built, and it's too new to define what it means. The internet existed in the 1970s, for example, but not every idea of what that would eventually look like was true.

On the other hand, there's a lot of marketing hype (and money) wrapped up in selling the idea of “the metaverse.” Facebook, in particular, is in an especially vulnerable place after Apple's move to limit ad tracking hit the company's bottom line. It's impossible to separate Facebook's vision of a future in which everyone has a digital wardrobe to swipe through from the fact that Facebook really wants to make money selling virtual clothes. But Facebook isn't the only company that stands to financially benefit from metaverse hype.

So, with all that in mind …
Seriously, What Does “Metaverse” Mean?

To help you get a sense of how vague and complex a term “the metaverse” can be, here's an exercise: Mentally replace the phrase “the metaverse” in a sentence with “cyberspace.” Ninety percent of the time, the meaning won't substantially change. That's because the term doesn't really refer to any one specific type of technology, but rather a broad (and often speculative) shift in how we interact with technology. And it's entirely possible that the term itself will eventually become just as antiquated, even as the specific technology it once described becomes commonplace.

Broadly speaking, the technologies companies refer to when they talk about “the metaverse” can include virtual reality—characterized by persistent virtual worlds that continue to exist even when you're not playing—as well as augmented reality that combines aspects of the digital and physical worlds. However, it doesn't require that those spaces be exclusively accessed via VR or AR. Virtual worlds—such as aspects of Fortnite that can be accessed through PCs, game consoles, and even phones—have started referring to themselves as “the metaverse.”

Many companies that have hopped on board the metaverse bandwagon also envision some sort of new digital economy, where users can create, buy, and sell goods. In the more idealistic visions of the metaverse, it's interoperable, allowing you to take virtual items like clothes or cars from one platform to another, though this is harder than it sounds. While some advocates claim new technologies like NFTs can enable portable digital assets, this simply isn't true, and bringing items from one video game or virtual world to another is an enormously complex task that no one company can solve.

It's difficult to parse what all this means because when you hear descriptions like those above, an understandable response is, “Wait, doesn't that exist already?” World of Warcraft, for example, is a persistent virtual world where players can buy and sell goods. Fortnite has virtual experiences like concerts and an exhibit where Rick Sanchez can learn about MLK Jr. You can strap on an Oculus headset and be in your own personal virtual home. Is that really what “the metaverse” means? Just some new kinds of video games?

Well, yes and no. Saying that Fortnite is “the metaverse” would be a bit like saying Google is “the internet.” Even if you spend large chunks of time in Fortnite, socializing, buying things, learning, and playing games, that doesn't necessarily mean it encompasses the entire scope of what people and companies mean when they say "the metaverse." Just as Google, which builds parts of the internet—from physical data centers to security layers—isn't the entire internet.

Tech giants like Microsoft and Meta are working on building tech related to interacting with virtual worlds, but they're not the only ones. Many other large companies, including Nvidia, Unity, Roblox, and even Snap—as well as a variety of smaller companies and startups—are building the infrastructure to create better virtual worlds that more closely mimic our physical life.

For example, Epic has acquired a number of companies that help create or distribute digital assets, in part to bolster its powerful Unreal Engine 5 platform. And while Unreal may be a video game platform, it's also being used in the film industry and could make it easier for anyone to create virtual experiences. There are tangible and exciting developments in the realm of building digital worlds.

Despite this, the idea of a Ready Player One-like single unified place called “the metaverse" is still largely impossible. That is in part because such a world requires companies to cooperate in a way that simply isn't profitable or desirable—Fortnite doesn't have much motivation to give players a portal to jump straight over to World of Warcraft, even if it were easy to do so, for example—and partially because the raw computing power needed for such a concept could be much further away than we think.

This inconvenient fact has given rise to slightly different terminology. Now many companies or advocates instead refer to any single game or platform as “a metaverse.” By this definition, anything from a VR concert app to a video game would count as a “metaverse.” Some take it further, calling the collection of various metaverses a “multiverse of metaverses.” Or maybe we're living in a “hybrid-verse.”

Or these words can mean anything at all. Coca-Cola launched a “flavor born in the metaverse” alongside a Fortnite tie-in mini-game. There are no rules.

It's at this point that most discussions of what the metaverse entails start to stall. We have a vague sense of what things currently exist that we could kind of call the metaverse if we massage the definition of words the right way. And we know which companies are investing in the idea, but after months, there's nothing approaching agreement on what it is. Meta thinks it will include fake houses you can invite all your friends to hang out in. Microsoft seems to think it could involve virtual meeting rooms to train new hires or chat with your remote coworkers.

The pitches for these visions of the future range from optimistic to outright fan fiction. At one point during Meta's original presentation on the metaverse, the company showed a scenario in which a young woman is sitting on her couch scrolling through Instagram when she sees a video a friend posted of a concert that's happening halfway across the world.

The video then cuts to the concert, where the woman appears in an Avengers-style hologram. She's able to make eye contact with her friend who is physically there, they're both able to hear the concert, and they can see floating text hovering above the stage. This seems cool, but it's not really advertising a real product, or even a possible future one. In fact, it brings us to the biggest problem with “the metaverse.”
Why Does the Metaverse Involve Holograms?

When the internet first arrived, it started with a series of technological innovations, like the ability to let computers talk to each other over great distances or the ability to hyperlink from one web page to another. These technical features were the building blocks that were then used to make the abstract structures we know the internet for: websites, apps, social networks, and everything else that relies on those core elements. And that's to say nothing of the convergence of the interface innovations that aren't strictly part of the internet but are still necessary to make it work, such as displays, keyboards, mice, and touchscreens.

With the metaverse, there are some new building blocks in place, like the ability to host hundreds of people in a single instance of a server (idealistic metaverse predictions suppose this will grow to thousands or even millions of people at once, but this might be overly optimistic), or motion-tracking tools that can distinguish where a person is looking or where their hands are. These new technologies can be very exciting and feel futuristic.

However, there are limitations that may be impossible to overcome. When tech companies like Microsoft or Meta show fictionalized videos of their visions of the future, they frequently tend to gloss over just how people will interact with the metaverse. VR headsets are still very clunky, and most people experience motion sickness or physical pain if they wear them for too long. Augmented reality glasses face a similar problem, on top of the not-insignificant issue of figuring out how people can wear them around in public without looking like huge dorks. And then there are the accessibility challenges of VR that many companies are shrugging off for now.

So, how do tech companies show off the idea of their technology without showing the reality of bulky headsets and dorky glasses? So far, their primary solution seems to be to simply fabricate technology from whole cloth. The holographic woman from Meta's presentation? I hate to shatter the illusion, but it's simply not possible with even very advanced versions of existing technology.

Unlike motion-tracked digital avatars, which are kind of janky right now but could be better someday, there's no janky version of making a three-dimensional picture appear in midair without tightly controlled circumstances. No matter what Iron Man tells you. Perhaps these are meant to be interpreted as images projected via glasses—both women in the demo video are wearing similar glasses, after all—but even that assumes a lot about the physical capabilities of compact glasses, which Snap can tell you isn't a simple problem to solve.

This kind of glossing over reality occurs frequently in video demos of how the metaverse could work. Another of Meta's demos showed characters floating in space—is this person strapped to an immersive aerial rig or are they just sitting at a desk? A person represented by a hologram—do they have a headset on, and if so how is their face being scanned? And at points, a person grabs virtual items but then holds those objects in what seems to be their physical hands.

This demo raises so many more questions than it answers.

To a limited extent, this is fine. Microsoft, Meta, and every other company that shows wild demos like this are trying to give an artistic impression of what the future could be, not necessarily account for every technical question. It's a time-honored tradition going back to AT&T's demo of a voice-controlled foldable phone that could magically erase people from images and generate 3D models, all of which might've seemed similarly impossible at the time.

However, the last several months of metaverse pitches—from tech giants and startups alike—have relied heavily on lofty visions that break from reality. Chipotle's “metaverse” was an ad disguised as a Roblox video game. Stories about scarce “real estate” in “the metaverse” refer to little more than a buggy video game with virtual land tokens (which also glosses over the very real security and privacy issues with most popular NFTs right now).

The confusion and disappointment surrounding most “metaverse” projects are so pervasive that when a video from 2017 of a Walmart VR shopping demo started trending again in January 2022, people immediately thought it was yet another metaverse demo. It also helped demonstrate how much of the current metaverse discussion is built on hype alone. Walmart's VR shopping demo obviously never went anywhere (and for good reason). So why should anyone believe that it's the future when Chipotle does it?

This kind of wishful-thinking-as-tech-demo leaves us in a place where it's hard to pinpoint which aspects of the various visions of the metaverse (if any) will actually be real one day. If VR and AR headsets become comfortable and cheap enough for people to wear on a daily basis—a substantial “if”—then perhaps a virtual poker game with your friends as robots and holograms and floating in space could be somewhat close to reality. If not, well you could always play Tabletop Simulator on a Discord video call.

The flashiness of VR and AR also obscure the more mundane ways that our existing, interconnected digital world could be improved right now. It would be trivial for tech companies to invent, say, an open digital avatar standard, a type of file that includes characteristics you might enter into a character creator—like eye color, hairstyle, or clothing options—and let you take that data everywhere, to be interpreted by a game engine however it chooses. There's no need to build a more comfortable VR headset for that.

But that's not as fun to imagine.
What's the Metaverse Like Right Now?

The paradox of defining the metaverse is that in order for it to be the future, you have to define away the present. We already have MMOs that are essentially entire virtual worlds, digital concerts, video calls with people from all over the world, online avatars, and commerce platforms. So in order to sell these things as a new vision of the world, there has to be some element of it that's new.

Spend enough time having discussions about the metaverse and someone will inevitably (and exhaustingly) reference fictional stories like Snow Crash—the 1992 novel that coined the term “metaverse”—or Ready Player One, which depicts a VR world where everyone works, plays, and shops. Combined with the general pop culture idea of holograms and heads-up displays (basically anything Iron Man has used in his last 10 movies) these stories serve as an imaginative reference point for what the metaverse—a metaverse that tech companies might actually sell as something new—could look like.

Mentally replace the phrase “the metaverse” in a sentence with “cyberspace.” Ninety percent of the time, the meaning won't substantially change.

That kind of hype is arguably more vital to the idea of the metaverse than any specific technology. It's no wonder, then, that people promoting things like NFTs—cryptographic tokens that can serve as certificates of ownership of a digital item, sort of—are also latching onto the idea of the metaverse. Sure, NFTs are bad for the environment and the public blockchains most are built on come with massive privacy and security problems, but if a tech company can argue that they'll be the digital key to your virtual mansion in Roblox, then boom. You've just transformed your hobby of buying memes into a crucial piece of infrastructure for the future of the internet (and possibly raised the value of all that cryptocurrency you're holding.)

It's important to keep all this context in mind because while it's tempting to compare the proto-metaverse ideas we have today to the early internet and assume everything will get better and progress in a linear fashion, that's not a given. There's no guarantee people will even want to hang out sans legs in a virtual office or play poker with Dreamworks Mark Zuckerberg, much less that VR and AR tech will ever become seamless enough to be as common as smartphones and computers are today.

In the months since Facebook's rebrand, the concept of “the metaverse” has served as a powerful vehicle for repackaging old tech, overselling the benefits of new tech, and capturing the imagination of speculative investors. But money pouring into a space doesn't necessarily mean a massive paradigm shift is right around the corner, as everything from 3D TVs to Amazon's delivery drones and Google Glass can attest. The history of tech is littered with the skeletons of failed investments.

That doesn't mean there's nothing cool on the horizon. VR headsets like the Quest 2 are cheaper than ever and finally weaning off of expensive desktop or console rigs. Video games and other virtual worlds are getting easier to build and design. And personally, I think the advances in photogrammetry—the process of creating digital 3D objects out of photos or video—is an incredibly cool tool for digital artists.

But to a certain extent, the tech industry writ large depends on futurism. Selling a phone is fine, but selling the future is more profitable. In reality, it may be the case that any real “metaverse” would be little more than some cool VR games and digital avatars in Zoom calls, but mostly just something we still think of as the internet.

Digital Worlds Are the New Frontier In Fashion Storytelling

Fashion businesses have long relied on photography, runway shows (with their elaborate sets and show notes), store design and other methods to build fantasies around their brands and products. These days, they’re adding new digital elements to their repertoires, including NFTs, video games and virtual experiences that offer other means of telling stories.

Traditionalists might not view these as the most prestigious channels for brand building, and there have been some high-profile misfires that give sceptics reason to pause, like elements of the recent Metaverse Fashion Week. But they’re gaining importance as the audience for video games, crypto and digital events continues to grow. Fashion businesses are beginning to experiment with them now so they aren’t caught off guard later.

One native web3 brand at the forefront of using NFTs for storytelling is RTFKT, the maker of virtual sneakers and NFTs that Nike acquired last year.

The company has “airdropped” freebies to the crypto wallets of those who own the CloneX NFT avatars it created with artist Takashi Murakami. These include a “space pod” that’s a sort of living quarters for the fictional Clone — and which RTFKT described as the beginning of a Clone multiverse civilisation — and a MNLTH, a mysterious cube that uses the programmable “smart contracts” embedded in NFTs. For months RTFKT had MNLTH holders solve puzzles it called “quests” to unlock the cube step by step, until finally revealing its first co-branded virtual sneaker with Nike and other products last week.

What RTFKT is doing goes beyond a series of NFTs. It’s building an ecosystem where each release adds to the mythology it wants to create.

RTFKT adds to the story all the time in various ways. Benoit Pagotto, one of the company’s co-founders, even recently tweeted a logo for the “operating system” powering its virtual “CryptoKicks” with Nike.

“Don’t start to freak out it’s not a game, we just take the lore we’re building seriously,” he cautioned followers, who do tend to freak out over new NFT goodies or riddles to solve.

Gamification, myth-making and dropping bread crumbs for fans to obsess over aren’t new engagement tactics. The original Matrix trilogy and other movies and television shows used these ideas effectively as far back as the 1990s, with plot hints hidden within elaborate websites and video games. But they’re not the usual methods of a company that sells fashion, even virtual fashion.

This approach can have its drawbacks, like building extremely high expectations for new reveals. When RTFKT first unveiled what was inside the MNLTH, a common sentiment in its Discord was basically, “All that for a shoe?” The price of a MNLTH on the secondary market abruptly fell before bouncing back. (The price is now up slightly from where it was before the reveal.)

Other digital mediums like video games and virtual experiences have their own advantages for storytelling. They can be immersive, interactive and let brands do what they can’t in the real world, at relatively low costs. Brands such as Gucci, Marni, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Nike and more have built their own miniature worlds where all the elements are there to help tell whatever story they want, whether it’s about creativity, otherworldly beauty, promotion of fun and fitness or something else.

Traditional channels can struggle to hit all these notes simultaneously. Photography can present a fantasy world but isn’t really immersive. Physical stores are immersive and interactive but have high costs and are bound by the rules of physics, not to mention zoning laws and other restrictions. Big runway shows can come close to doing it all, like in 2017 when Chanel simulated a rocket launch. But it takes a Chanel-sized budget to do that.

Of course, these digital experiences come with their own challenges, and getting the experience right within them is far from a given. When you work in an interactive space like a video game, you have to translate a brand image into an experience that’s, well, interactive.

“It can be super difficult,” Marcus Holmström, co-founder and CEO of The Gang, an agency that has created experiences on Roblox for brands such as Vans and automaker McLaren, recently told me. “If you take a high fashion brand, for example, it might not be that it can be easily connected to a gaming idea. You have to think a bit more, and think out of the box.”

Fashion brands are just starting to explore the storytelling possibilities in these spaces. But they seem likely to keep at it since telling good stories is how they get shoppers to buy their brands and not just their products.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

What Is Influencer Marketing: How To Develop Your Strategy

A decade ago, the influencer marketing arena was limited only to celebrities and a few dedicated bloggers. Now, it seems like we’ve seen social media influencers rise, saturate the market and even get caught up in fraud.

If you’ve started researched on influencer marketing before, you may have found conflicting information, with recommendations that range from you should absolutely be using social influencers or that they’re not necessary for growth.

Influencer marketing strategies are more difficult to navigate than ever as a brand, but we’re here with a guide to making sense of it all.

What is influencer marketing?

At a fundamental level, influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers–individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts within their niche. Influencer marketing works because of the high amount of trust that social influencers have built up with their following, and recommendations from them serve as a form of social proof to your brand’s potential customers.

The current state of the influencer marketing landscape

Standing out in 2014 on Instagram was easier than today. If you were lucky enough to be featured on Instagram’s featured page or your look was just distinctive enough, then your chances of being tapped as an influencer were high. After enough brand partnerships, some have turned social media influencer marketing into a full-time career.

Rosie Clayton’s Instagram feed is filled with colorful dresses and outfits against colorful walls. During a time when VSCO’s muted tone filters were becoming popular, Rosie’s highly saturated photos jumped out. She works with brands around the world, fitting them into her aesthetic.

But things change, right?

We’re influenced by what we see and aesthetics are no different. Bright images are more common now as well as carefully propped up food against interesting backgrounds. When the ‘typical look’ of influencer marketing no longer becomes unique, what comes next?

Taylor Lorenz’s article in The Atlantic forecasts a more ‘authentic’ trend driven by the network’s youngest users that strives to return to what Instagram used to look like when your feed was just friends. Lorenz wrote, “While Millennial influencers hauled DSLR cameras to the beach and mastered photo editing to get the perfect shot, the generation younger than they are largely post directly from their mobile phones.”

To be a fashion influencer among this younger demographic, you may no longer need to rely solely on perfectly shot photos. Instead, casual poses and limited editing are now becoming more welcome on the feed.

Keep in mind that the article covered only a subset of influencers: young, Instagram users. If anything, this shift over the last five years should show how influencer marketing’s only constant is change.

Manage influencer campaigns with Sprout Social

From reporting on campaigns and partnerships to managing incoming messages, Sprout can help you manage social influencer campaigns from start to finish.

The value of influencer marketing

While Instagram influencer marketing is a well-known strategy, there are many other networks that are growing for influencers. According to Adweek, the industry is set to reach $10 billion in worth by 2020. Other networks like Snapchat, YouTube and TikTok have their own set of influencers with different demographics.

Influencer marketing agency Mediakix surveyed marketers at the end of 2018 to see what their feelings on influencers were for the new year.

Of those surveyed, 89% said ROI from influencer marketing was comparable to or better than other networks. The same survey noted that 65% of marketers plan on increasing their budgets for 2019.

And now that you know where we’re at in the industry, let’s examine how to create an influencer strategy.

How to create an influencer marketing strategy

Like any marketing tactic, an influencer program takes deliberate targeting and planning. You won’t find strategic success just by sending free things out to everyone who asks or to your existing friends and acquaintances

1. How to find influencers and what to pay them

Much like any strategy, research is the first step. Choose the platform you want to focus on first. You can always expand to other platforms later but if you’re just starting out, stick with one. Ideally, your brand should already have a presence on this network or be looking to expand into it.

If you’re unsure of where to begin, social listening can help you identify where people are talking about your industry and brand—and it can help you find the most influential voices in your industry on each platform. Check out our guide to social listening to learn more.

The industry you’re in also matters when you’re planning to implement an influencer marketing strategy. Beauty and fashion brands shine on Instagram and YouTube. The video game industry dominates on Twitch.

During your research phase, look into the type of influencers you’re interested in. Are you going for celebrities with massive followings? Or microinfluencers with less than 2000 followers? Perhaps something in between in the 5–10k follower range is more your preference. Whatever you decide to focus on will determine your budget.

Compensation varies wildly, too, so be sure to look at common rates for those influencer types. Microinfluencers tend to be focused on a few topics and accept products. Some microinfluencers work independently while others may be represented by an agency or network. Whereas, larger accounts and celebrities will need compensation and might even go through a talent agency.

You’ll need to think about the expected ROI of your social influencer marketing campaign: how will you gauge the contributions of influencer posts to your overall marketing goals? One approach might be to compare your expectations for influencers to other firms – look at how you might gauge the budget for a video production firm’s work in creating an ad for you versus an influencer creating a video. It may initially seem like judging the value of influencers is unpredictable, but this type of approach will give you a familiar point of comparison and contrast.

In 2017, published the results of their research into Instagram influencer payment. They looked at the average cost per Instagram post and found:The overall average price was $271 per post.
The average price for micro-influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers was $83 per post.
The average price for influencers with more than 100,000 followers was $763 per post.

Research is key and you’ll find yourself returning to this step often in the process.

2. Set a budget and management strategy

Now that you have some idea of what to pay influencers, you need to create your budget. Be sure to also factor in time for planning, executing and reviewing your influencer program. Running a successful influencer marketing campaign is not a set-it-and-go type of strategy. It’ll involve careful monitoring and follow up.

Unlike a more automated ad strategy, influencers are human and frequently balancing multiple partnerships, so some may fall behind in their commitments to post on time or make errors in your requested tags or calls to action. You’ll need to have the time to be more hands-on with these relationships to cultivate them, and refine your approach through experience about what works and what doesn’t in your niche.

If you have the time and money, consider setting up a formal ambassador program. Fujifilm utilizes its ambassadors in new product launches and in supplementing their content. With a variety of photographers and videographers at their disposal, the company’s able to diversify their feed to showcase what their equipment can do.

For brands that need a wider pool of influencers, hiring an influencer marketing agency who will do the research and coordination for you is a good bet.

3. Decide on goals and message

The two most common reasons for using influencer marketing are to elevate brand awareness and increase sales. However, instead of setting these broad targets as your two goals, it will be more effective to kick off on your strategy by honing in on what your brand’s needs are. Perhaps you want to increase your customer base in a younger demographic. Or you want to expand into a new user group with a new product. Or you want to skip trends and utilize influencers to talk about your brand values.

Influencers have the ability to reach very specific audiences. Instead of you relying on thousands of followers, influencers will help you ensure a very targeted audience who is likely to be interested in your product reads and engages with your content.

Influencer content that features a conversational tone and personal narrative help differentiate these posts from the type of features- or sales-driven ones a brand might do for the same product on their own feed.

Your message is just as important as your goal. While you don’t want to stifle an influencer’s creativity and uniqueness, you also don’t want them to post about something unrelated to your campaign. Determine how you want to structure your influencer marketing campaign and message so you can stick to it later on.

4. Influencer outreach: How to contact influencers

Back to step one: research. With a plan set around your network, goals and what types of influencers you want to target, we go back to researching how to actually find the right influencers to work with.

During this research, keep in mind the below:Does the influencer already post about similar things to your service? For example, if you’re a restaurant and you want to promote a new menu, you should be looking for influencers who regularly post about dining out and the food they eat.

Are they legit? This means scrolling through their feed and clicking through on posts. A poor engagement ratio to follower count and spam-like comments are signs of a fraudulent account.
Have they worked with similar brands before? Depending on what type of influencer you’re looking for, a seasoned one will be able to show you a press kit that contains a portfolio of their work. The more you invest in an influencer, the more you’ll want to vet them.

You can also use Twitter analytics tools to identify potential influencers that will fit your campaigns.

Next, determine how you’ll be reaching out to them. For microinfluencers, you could reach out directly in a private message on the same platform. For more established ones, click around their profile and they may list contact information for business inquiries in their bio. They may also link a website that denotes brand partnerships.

Summer Rayne Oakes has a multi-channel presence, which is a perk for her brand partners. In this particular video, she’s partnered up with Gardener’s Supply Company to give away a product. The brand gets increased visibility with Summer’s followers and she gets to keep them engaged with an interesting product. Even if they don’t win, they’ve been exposed to a new product.

5. Review and refine your strategy

Even if your influencer marketing campaign is ongoing, you should still have pre-determined dates where you’ll measure its progress. The next part of this guide will go into how to track your results. Not all campaigns are successful but hopefully, you’ll learn with each one you create.

How to track influencer marketing campaigns

There are a few ways of measuring the success of your campaign. You can create a specific hashtag, like #SproutPartner, to track what your influencers are doing. The Sprout Smart Inbox makes it easy to see what’s being talked about with specific hashtags, or to watch for mentions of specific Twitter keywords.

If you’re aiming for more sales, giving out affiliate codes or tracking links is an easy way of seeing how much is being generated from influencers.

Sprout’s reporting makes it easy to tag campaign-related posts. Use this feature to compare how these posts perform.


Influencers are here to stay but how the world of influencer marketing looks and operates has changed a great deal in a short time, and in five years may be drastically different from today. This guide will help you get started with building your strategy, but like any social strategy it’s important to be ready for change.

Still, while there are some unique considerations to working with influencers, setting up a campaign is the same as most marketing campaigns: research, set a budget, determine goals, find your influencers and review and revise.

Maria Grazia Chiuri On Her Time At Dior, Costume Design and Teamwork

“I am convinced that only art will save the world.” So believes Maria Grazia Chiuri, artistic director of womenswear at Dior, speaking with WWD about “Nuit Romaine,” a film directed by Angelin Preljocaj that is set in the 16th-century stately Renaissance Palazzo Farnese, headquarters of the French Embassy in Italy. The embassy, Dior and the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma worked together to complete the film, which will be broadcast on Friday, International Dance Day, on the couture brand’s YouTube channel and social networks.

“Art is so strong that it has the power to look beyond the difficult moments and regenerate,” said Chiuri in one of the salons of the palazzo, following a preview screening of the film.

She was grateful to Dior and her team for succeeding in working through the COVID-19 pandemic last year and delivering the fashion collections, but also for allowing her to create the costumes for “Nuit Romaine” during “difficult times for everyone — it was tough for small brands but for established ones, as well,” she admitted. “All sectors were touched and it was emotional to see the film now, knowing what went into it, working during the lockdowns and the travel restrictions, with half the team in Rome, half in Paris. And last year we never stopped, we held the cruise show in Lecce, we did the film with Matteo Garrone to show the couture collection. It’s been an incredible year. And now with this war [in Ukraine], the moment is even more poignant and it is important to give hope, that all of this can be overcome.”

Chiuri is thus more focused than ever on promoting the arts, as well as fashion, thinking about the new generations, including the dancers who were shut out from any public activity during the pandemic. “So many young people saw their life change radically and felt lost. We need to support them, help them by giving them prospects for the future.”

For “Nuit Romaine,” Chiuri collaborated once again with Eleonora Abbagnato, ballet director of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and star of the Opéra national de Paris, following the ballet “Nuit Blanche” in 2019, whose costumes she also designed.

“I very much believe in communal projects, in the exchange between different worlds. To be an artist means to create a world that you would want, that you dream of,” she said.

Clearly, Chiuri does not believe in designers trapped in their ivory towers, and she gave a shout-out to the Biagiotti atelier, also based in Rome, which helped her during the pandemic with some of the costumes for “Nuit Romaine,” leveraging a long-standing personal relationship with the Biagiotti family.

Six years after landing her post at Dior, Chiuri is not looking back and, on the contrary, she continues to be passionate about her work, underscoring the importance of being stimulated by sharing projects with other creative minds or with young designers, including her daughter Rachele Regini, who has joined the Dior team.

In “Nuit Romaine,” Abbagnato plays Nox, goddess of the night, and is flanked by Friedemann Vogel. As she dances through the palace, she meets other dancers portraying popes, dukes and noble women who lived in Palazzo Farnese over the centuries.

“It’s so inspiring to measure yourself with artists that use their bodies in different ways, experimenting with new techniques, but working on an aesthetic that must also be functional,” explained Chiuri, who shares with Christian Dior himself a passion for ballet.

The costumes were exquisite, with delicate draping and pleating executed by hand on capes and dresses that at times, though, also needed to convey the idea of armor, yet allow freedom of movement. Lace inlays, cascades of beads and color gradations created spectacular effects. Hand-painted costumes, designed as trompe-l’oeil, were decorated with the characters that are featured in the Carracci frescoes on the vault of the Farnese Gallery. Like a journey through time and in contrast, some jeans, T-shirts and sneakers were also part of the lineup.

As a Roman, Chiuri was familiar with Palazzo Farnese and its artworks, but she admitted pairing the different characters, the history and the art with the clothes was “quite complex.”

Costume design is not a new outlet for Chiuri, who in 2016 also worked with the Rome Opera when she was creative codirector of Valentino, designing costumes for “La Traviata” directed by Sofia Coppola.

Asked whether she believed there was generally an increasing interest in period films, the designer said: “Yes, they make you think about how society has changed — and it has changed a lot. Clothes reflect a historical period and the evolution of humanity and our bodies. The value of fashion and clothes is underestimated. Clothes say a lot about us and they have deep meanings. As do colors: think about red and how it conveys power. I am interested not only in fashion, but in the history of fashion and the evolution of clothes. As a feminist, I believe the lives of women have been conditioned through clothes, when they couldn’t walk or leave the home because they were so cumbersome.”

After 38 years in the industry, Chiuri said she’s seen her share of cycles, but that women leading fashion houses are still few and far between. “There are many women working in fashion, but it’s very complex to get to the top as it is in other sectors. We must insist and make it easier for the new generations to have more access to the pivotal spots,” reasoned Chiuri, praising Dior for its role in mentoring young women.

“You can never lower your guard and must always push to have a voice and fight for your rights,” she said lamenting how, for example, “there’s not enough talk about Afghan women today now.”

Abbagnato is an example of “strong will, rigorous training and talent” having contributed to her success, said Chiuri. “To know her and work with her has enriched me. She trusts me and my work and we have become friends. I consider all the people I have worked with my creative family, the exchange is always stimulating and we continue the relationships beyond our common projects.”

Like Chiuri, Abbagnato has built a cultural bridge between Italy and France and, responding to a question about her time working in the latter country, the designer said: “France is very institutional compared with Italy. Fashion is strongly embedded within the cultural system, there is no difference between fashion, art, culture, or theater, it’s all under the same cultural umbrella.”

In Italy, on the other hand, is “unfortunately less so as fashion is seen more as an artisanal business or a social experience, and there is less awareness at the institutional levels of the value of fashion. However, Italy is Mediterranean, surrounded by three seas, and it’s a country that has the ability to deal with everyone with an easy attitude. I like to think that I brought a little of this lightness to France — I maintained the shapes while lightening up the constructions,” she said with a chuckle.

“I like to be in constant dialogue between two worlds and two cultures. I try to take the best of both, respecting the Dior heritage and bringing it forward. I learned a lot in these six years at Dior and we think we know a country or a culture, but to live and breathe a culture is something else, you understand more of your own and your own references,” she concluded.

Pete Davidson Style Star: He’s The Face Of H&M’s New Menswear Ad's

Pete Davidson is furthering his modeling career with a new campaign. The “Saturday Night Live” comedian is the face of H&M’s new menswear campaign, which is meant to “capture the fresh energy of men’s fashion, such as the freedom of expression and self-confidence in personal style.”

“Collaborating on this campaign was a great experience,” Davidson said in a statement. “We had a lot of fun creating the photos and content. The clothes are comfortable and feel great to wear, which is what I love about H&M.”

Davidson appears in the campaign wearing pieces from H&M’s current and previous menswear collections. By leveraging the brand’s previous collections for the campaign, H&M is aiming to “encourage men around the world to enjoy what they already own, buy vintage and add new pieces that matter from H&M’s menswear collections.”

“We are thrilled that Pete Davidson is the face of our new menswear campaign,” said Henrik Nordvall, global business unit director for menswear at H&M, in a statement. “Pete encapsulates everything H&M loves about the new menswear mood, with his self-confidence and play with personal style. He is so relatable, inspiring guys around the world to create the moment with their look themselves.”

Davidson’s H&M campaign is just the latest project for the comedian in the fashion world. Last December, Davidson was tapped by Calvin Klein to take over the brand’s Instagram account, where he shared photos of himself wearing the brand’s pieces and appeared in an Instagram Live with musician Machine Gun Kelly, where they showed off their Calvin Klein briefs.

The comedian has also appeared in fall 2021 campaigns for Rowing Blazers — modeling alongside fellow comedian Ziwe — and for Moose Knuckles, where he appeared with models Emily Ratajkowski and Adwoa Aboah.

Balenciaga Continues Its Reign As Hottest Brand In the World For Q1 2022

Balenciaga has one again found its way to the top, reigning as the world’s hottest brand for Q1 2022. According to the Lyst Index, Demna‘s vision continues to stay top of mind, re-writing the rules of what luxury fashion means in today’s world. Demna made quite the statement with his Fall/Winter 2022 collection, commenting on the digital future and using his IRl platform to draw attention to the Russian-Ukraine war that unfolded at the time of the runway show. Demand for the brand saw a spike of 108% this quarter, placing Balenciaga at the forefront and top brand for three consecutive quarters. With celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber tapped as the brand’s ambassadors, the brand appears untouchable.

Gucci falls behind in second despite releasing the second drop of its highly coveted The North Face collaboration and announcing a collab with adidas for FW22. Louis Vuitton rises in the ranks from fourth to third place after revealing its final collection from Virgil Abloh while Prada, Valentino and Dior follow suit in ranking.

In terms of footwear, the Balenciaga Defender Sneakers found itself as one of the top hottest men’s products alongside the New Balance 550 Aimé Leon Dore, Prada (HKSE:1913.HK -0.75%) loafers and The Fear of God California which rounded out the top ten. New Balance has become the only brand that is featured in both the men’s and women’s hottest products list with the 327 sneakers taking the top trend for women’s footwear.

Diesel saw an uptick in interst, jumping 31 places into 15th place and entering the Lyst Index for the first time. Miu Miu also saw great success after the reveal of its viral mini-skirt, the third hottest women’s product, causing a 400% increase in searches for the brand in the past three months. Rick Owens also jumped nine places and re-entered the brands list at number 16. after global searches for the brand increased by 68% this quarter.

The obsession with Y2K youth culture continues to be an ongoing trend thanks to TikTok. With 12 out of the top 20 products this quarter being footwear, the variety is an eclectic mix that includes Moon Boots, UGGs and heels. Loafers have made it as a hot item for men for the second quarter in a row while TikTok continues to inspire trends for brands as seen with the #nakedwolfe which saw the shoes on stars like Hailey Bieber, Kourtney Kardashian and Rosalía.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Defining Queer Fashion

Queer fashion is fashion among Queer and nonbinary people that goes beyond common style conventions that usually associate certain colors and shapes with one of the two binary genders. Queer fashion aims to be perceived by consumers as a fashion style that focuses on experimenting garments based on people's different body shapes instead of following the restrictions given by gendered clothing categorization.

Queer style is the expression of an identity that does not conform to typical cultural and societal norms of gender through the expression of fashion, typically through the combination of (though not always) clothing and accessories originally designed for men and/or women. Though the impetus behind expressing a Queer or nonbinary identity through fashion is typically only the desire for self-expression, it may be seen as a political act in the society and culture in which the Queer person exists.

The differentiation between gender norms through clothing came into more prominence and importance during the 19th century, mainly through the use of different fabrics, trims and constructions for different genders.These distinctions were meant to mirror gender roles in society as masculine clothing aimed to be practical while female fashion was perceived as purely aesthetic. Despite the entrenchment of links between fashion and gender identity, gender expression today is recognized by the LGBT community as a very personal and subjective behaviour; Queer style is therefore intrinsically tied to identity, and as such, includes a vast range of aesthetics. This expression of gender through fashion is seen as a fundamental aspect of both self-realisation and presentation, with changes in clothing often playing a key role in this realisation.

However, the presentation of a nonbinary or Queer identity through fashion often presents problems in societies wherein clothing is produced in a heavily gendered way, which often in turn reflect that society's interpretation of gender identity, meaning that the expression of a Queer identity is often politicised and restricted. In an article featuring gender non-conforming writer and performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon, Vaid-Menon posited that fashion represented the inherent politics of a person, with Queer and transgender people, whose existence is often politicised, being especially aware of this, particularly for people assigned male at birth, for whom the act of presenting femininely, through wearing dresses and makeup, is likely to attract unwanted attention.

There's a material consequence to me presenting feminine, and there's not a material consequence to me presenting masculine, the minute I wear lipstick, or the minute I put on earrings, or the minute I'm wearing a skirt, my entire reality shifts.

The heightened aspect of risk for nonbinary people assigned male at birth presenting their identity through fashion was emphasised in 2017 study from Davidson Skylar, showing that non-binary people assigned male at birth encountered more negative employment outcomes than non-binary people who were assigned female at birth, a phenomenon considered to be an aspect of transmisogyny.

Emerging designers

Most mainstream stores separate man and women clothing in different sections, making it difficult for Queer people to find clothes that fit. Queer designers are trying to build a bridge between menswear and womenswear by meeting the clothing needs of all identities. For example, the clothing brand NO SESSO specializes in using different prints, fabric and reconstructed materials to dress various body types and gender identities.

Sharpe Suiting is a fashion line that through a Kickstarter campaign was able to manufacture custom-constructed dresswear and a ready-to-wear line for a niche of masculine and androgynous people. Its innovative feature consists in developing a system of measuring and tailoring techniques that minimize female curves of people who don't identify as women. This method is called andropometrics and is an androgynous alternative to the standard anthropometrics method used by most manufacturers.

Maternity lines often include stereotypically feminine elements both in shapes and patterns, as motherhood and femininity are commonly considered to be matching. An alternative was offered by the startup company butchbaby & co, the first wear line for pregnant Queer individuals.

Global retail brands

Non-conforming fashion styles are gaining acceptance by a larger audience; for this reason, brands such as Zara and H&M are trying to offer unisex clothing lines to consumers by launching gender neutral collections.

These collections are represented by female or male models only. Also, these unisex products display an aesthetic typically considered masculine, both in shapes and colours (grey, beige and brown).

High fashion modeling

Queer fashion is being increasingly recognized by high fashion designers who are now showcasing it on their runaways. For example, during Moschino's Fall 2018 menswear and women's Pre-Fall show, Jeremy Scott presented a gender non-conforming look modelled by nonbinary model Oslo Grace and Queer drag queen Violet Chachki. In Violet Chachki's words: "It's very important to have visual representation, to show that Queers are important, Queers are powerful, Queers are beautiful, Queers are valid, and you can't erase us".

Moreover, modeling agencies are starting to scout non-binary models. This is the case of My Friend Ned; a South African agency that officially divides its models in male, female and non-binary sections.

Overall, Queer representation in the high fashion world appears to be growing and to be increasingly acknowledged by the media. Famous examples of Queer/non-binary models are Casey Legler, labelled as the world's first "female male model", Elliott Sailors, Rain Dove, Stas Fedyanin and Erika Linder.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Meta Will Open The Doors To Its First Retail Store Next Month

Meta wants people to be able to try out its hardware with hands-on experiences. The parent company of Facebook has announced that it will be opening its first retail store come May.

The Meta Store will be located on the company’s Burlingame, California campus, right near the Reality Labs HQ, where employees are working on building out the metaverse.

In the 1,550-square-foot space, customers can take part in exciting new demos, such as making calls to retail associates with Portal and exploring the immersion of VR with a first-of-its-kind immersive Quest 2 experience.

The Meta Store will feature a curved LED wall-to-wall display that showcases what customers participating in a Quest 2 demo see in-headset. After testing out games such as Beat Saber, GOLF+, Real VR Fishing or Supernatural, customers will receive a 30-second mixed reality clip of their demo experience.

“The Meta Store is going to help people make that connection to how our products can be the gateway to the metaverse in the future,” Head of Meta Store Martin Gilliard said. “We’re not selling the metaverse in our store, but hopefully people will come in and walk out knowing a little bit more about how our products will help connect them to it.”

Located at 322 Airport Blvd in Burlingame, California, the Meta Store will open its doors on May 9. It will sell Quest 2, Quest 2 accessories and Portal devices in-store. For those interested in purchasing Ray-Ban Stories, retail associates will assist customers in ordering them directly from the Ray-Ban website.

Metaverse Malls

New research on the metaverse offers some surprising revelations, including one that may thrill mall operators.

On one hand, the study by CommerceNext, CommX, Bizrate and Coresight Research helps confirm what brands already know — that many consumers still have no idea what a metaverse is.

However, among those who do and spend time in virtual worlds, there’s a healthy appetite for shopping the metaverse for physical products, with virtual malls being of particular interest.

“We only saw 13 percent [of this group] say that they buy hairstyles or haircuts for their avatar, or 12 percent said they buy digital clothing for their avatar,” Veronika Sonsev, cofounder of CommerceNext, told WWD. “But we saw a lot of people say that they’re interested, even though they haven’t done it yet, in shopping in a virtual mall, and they’re interested in buying real-world products.”

According to the metaverse survey, which polled 557 online shoppers of different age groups, nearly half of the respondents, at 48 percent, said they hadn’t heard of the term, as noted in a cleverly titled section of the report called “Putting the Meh in Metaverse.”

Ultimately, less than one-fifth said they were familiar with virtual worlds or participated in them. The researchers drilled down into this group to glean insights about their interests. That’s when they saw that a significant portion want their avatars to hit the mall, particularly older consumers.

The interest breaks down to 29 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, 35 percent of 30- to 39-year-olds, 35 percent of 40- to 49-year-olds and 37 percent of 50- to 59-year-olds. The generational difference could come down to who even remembers the time when the mall was the social and cultural touchstone for communities.

The broader concept of shopping the metaverse for physical goods registered even more, breaking down to 43 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, 49 percent of 40- to 49-year-olds and 42 percent of 50- to 59-year-olds. Least interested were 30- to 39-year-olds, with 26 percent.

“To me, those were very promising statistics,” Sonsev continued. “It’s still early, but the idea of using virtual worlds to buy physical products is something that consumers are interested in. That was really surprising to us.”

It’s fair to question whether these numbers translate to the mall business in the real world. The shopping orientation could be influenced by the nature of this sample as well, as more than half, at 58 percent, happened to be women. Still, Sonsev believes the signs look rather good.

“The metaverse, by any means, is still early adopters. But the imagination of the people who have used virtual worlds was very much leaning into, ‘I could see myself buying physical goods here, getting a sense of these products and then shopping in malls and shopping with my friends,’” she added.

“So I think it points to opportunities to come, as more and more people spend time on virtual worlds.”

The study also looked at other contexts, inside and outside the metaverse, including virtual events, social commerce and livestream shopping — the latter of which hasn’t latched onto the mainstream consciousness either. According to the report, over half of the respondents, at 54 percent, hadn’t heard of it. In other words, more people have heard of the metaverse than livestream shopping.

The Death Of Streetwear Culture Is A Class Rule

Recently, a friend referred me to a Twitter thread by Russ Bengtson, former editor at Complex and Slam magazines, and an OG sneakerhead (Bengtson has gotten off Twitter last week). It began with a brief analysis of Virgil Abloh’s tenure at Louis Vuitton, correctly noting that Virgil was good at generating hype by giving people an elevated version of what they already had, ending with a lament for the death of streetwear culture at the hands of the corporatized release and resale market on the one side, and the monied consumer on the other. The entire thing is worth a read, though the pointed criticism of your average rich hypebeast whose only measure of value is price is already familiar. But there was an underlying subject in that rant that often goes if not unnoticed, then undiscussed, and that is worth consideration.

Bengtson wrote, “In sneakers, this was always a thing—looking for that rare version no one else had—but at least at the beginning, it wasn't about spending more money. It was about knowing your shit, about having connections, about fucking digging through old sporting goods stores.” This was an unexamined acknowledgement that in its ‘80s and ‘90s heyday, by and large streetwear culture was driven by the kids from low-income neighborhoods in major American cities. The very term "streetwear" bears that notion—it’s a style born in the streets, in schoolyards, on handball and basketball courts, and on brownstone stoops. More often than not, streetwear heroes—athletes and rappers—came from the working class, more often than not they were Black. There was a time, now unfathomable, when those very people were snubbed by the likes of the streetwear giants, let alone European luxury brands, that now line up to collaborate with them. This attitude was not limited to sneakers. I clearly remember how in the mid-‘90s Hennessy tried to distance itself from hip-hop, as rappers enthusiastically poured its cognac on various parts of female anatomy in their videos. By 2012, however, Nas was featured in Hennesy ads.

As far as sneakers go, adidas executives had to be actively persuaded by Russell Simmons that Run DMC was their meal ticket to an entirely new consumer base, going as far as taking the brand’s suited executives to their concert to witness the power of “My Adidas.” Nike was shreweder in its courting of the “urban” kids. As Naomi Klein recounts in her anti-consumerist book, No Logo, by the end of the ‘90s the smartest brands knew where “cool” came from. “Over the past decade, young Black men in American inner cities have been the market most aggressively mined by the brand masters as a source of borrowed ‘meaning’ and identity. This was the key to the success of Nike and Tommy Hilfiger, both of which were catapulted to brand superstardom in no small part by poor kids who incorporated Nike and Hilfiger into hip-hop style at the very moment when rap was being thrust into expanding youth-culture limelight by MTV and Vibe.” For the likes of Nike, their “first stop was the basketball courts of America’s poorest neighborhoods.”

Nike’s marketers had a practice of testing out new styles in low-income urban neighborhoods. According to Klein, they even had a term for it: “bro-ing.” She recounted a 1997 interview with the Nike designer Aaron Cooper about his marketing trips to Harlem, “We go to the playground, and we dump the shoes out. It’s unbelievable. The kids go nuts. That’s when you realize the importance of Nike. Having kids tell you Nike is their number one thing in their life—number two is their girlfriend.”

A lot has changed since 1997. In the soul-searching that goes in the diehard streetwear circles today about how the roots of streetwear culture have been torn out of its soil, a simple fact gets lost. The world today is much richer than it was in the ‘90s. There were 5 million millionaires in the US in 1995. By 2016, that number had risen threefold to 15 million. Globally, there were 56.1 million millionaires in the world in 2020. The direction of consumption by the newly minted rich tends to be the same as it is for the working class: aspirational and therefore conspicuous. From hip-hop stars to the crypto whales to the international students spending their parents' wealth, the story is the same—more bling for more money. Scarcity and expensiveness indeed have become the new streetwear values. Take into account the constant need for validation that comes with nouveau riche anxiety, exacerbated by Instagram’s aiding and abetting of our epidemic of narcissism, and the picture becomes clear. The streetwear giants no longer need the cool poor kids. They can now market directly to the rich via the rapper-athlete industrial complex, because there are so many of them. Hype, created by purely artificial and planned scarcity, keeps the brands front and center, shielded by their vapid and hollow pieties about “democratization of fashion.”

The person who is often credited with democratizing fashion is Virgil Abloh. But democratization means giving access to something to the largest number of people possible, and Louis Vuitton’s $500 logoed tees and $1,200 sneakers hardly fit that definition. In the last decade, increases in price levels for luxury fashion—and Louis Vuitton is in that segment—have by far outpaced inflation, in some years rising by 10 to 20%. The market has absorbed these price increases with flying colors, as evidenced by record-beating profits from luxury conglomerates and sportswear giants alike. This can mean only one thing: there is enough wealth out there to support it. Meanwhile, the poor, as has customarily been the case in American history, are left behind.

The same could be said about Virgil’s collaboration with Nike that no person of modest income could afford by the time the sneakers hit the reseller market. Earlier this year, Sotheby’s, the auction house more known for flinging uber-expensive art than sneakers, auctioned off Off-White x Nike Air Force 1s, of which only 200 pairs were made. Some pairs fetched as much as $60,000. Mind you, nothing prevented Nike from producing these sneakers in sufficient numbers if they really cared about anything but hype hysteria.

What’s left to do for those who lament this sorry state of affairs? One simple answer is, opt out. In terms of style, go your own way. Don’t let anyone, and especially anyone on Instagram, tell you what’s cool. After a withdrawal, you will find this liberating. And don’t give any validation to the hypebeast sheep. Validation is the engine that keeps the hype economy rolling and the erasure of streetwear culture along with it. Or as Bengtson emphatically put it, “If rich people need to buy expensive, rare shit to feel better about themselves or justify their obscene wealth or just flash their plumage to those who are into that kind of shit, fuck 'em. They're fucking followers themselves. Why follow them?”

LBV. Expands, Creating An Affordable ‘Fast Luxury’ Collection

LBV., the ready-to-wear brand founded by Joss Sackler, is changing course and expanding with a new, affordable collection.

Sackler, founded the brand back in 2019 as an offshoot from her female members-only wine club, tapping Elizabeth Kennedy as creative director, showing her luxury priced collection at New York Fashion Week. Sackler, who is chief executive officer, added e-commerce in 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when “some of the major retailers were faced with their own issues of surviving during COVID-19, so we became direct-to-consumer. At the same time, we viewed this as a strategic move to increase our profitability,” Sackler explained.

“The large retailers didn’t want to carry a Sackler brand, and they experienced a lot of financial hardship from the pandemic,” admitted Sackler, who is married to David Sackler, whose family owns Purdue Pharma, the controversial maker of OxyContin. The prescription drug company has been sued by governments and individuals for its key role in the opioid crisis. While Joss Sackler is not technically part of the company, she is, through her last name, attached to the family’s cultural notoriety.

“Solution: we went d-to-c; we weren’t at the mercy of anyone running an anti-Sackler campaign and we control our own sales,” she said.

That was 2020, and now as most of the world has reemerged, she sees an opportunity for her brand to expand to a new customer. “We analyzed the existing landscape in mass market retail and realized there was a gap and that we could do it better,” she said. “LBV. is producing affordable clothing, with original design, and with better quality and fit compared to the competition.”

Part of the new direction is a bit of a re-brand, adding a period to the LBV. name “to showcase the expansion of the brand,” she said.

The executive deems her offering — priced from $45 to $159 — as “fast luxury,” defining it as not replicating runway trends at a mass-market level. “Fast luxury produces high-end design at a low cost according to a quarterly product drop schedule. This accessible luxury allows for longevity,” she explained.

“We are attracting a wider generation of shoppers that have a very real internet presence,” the CEO said, when asked about the new customer for LBV.

“On average, people spend two to three hours per day on social media,” she continued. “LBV.’s goal is to appeal to these customers regardless of their social platform of choice. Our new website offers an integration with both TikTok and Instagram, which merges customers’ social feeds with our homepage. We also take into account that today’s customer wants a better sense of community from the brands they support and are looking to be wholly immersed into the world of those brands.”

Sackler explained that she plans to leverage the community concept with a new wave of technology centered around gamification and 3D digital fashion. “We have come to realize that the era when customers would look to place preorders for next season’s collection is now dated. Nowadays, people want to buy now and wear now, without having to forfeit good design. LBV. provides customers with luxury level design and instant gratification.

“It’s not what I think, it’s what I know,” she said firmly, when asked what her brand brings to the mass price point fashion conversation, placing LBV. on the same playing field as Zara and H&M. “We have taken the consumer into account every step of the way. We have an in-house creative design team with Elizabeth Kennedy at the helm. We pay particular attention to quality and fit, replicating the development process we use at the couture level. This includes a minimum of two fittings on a live model and sometimes even three before going into production,” she said.

“The translation to mass price point is surprisingly very seamless,” said creative director Kennedy, adding that the collection has a range of suiting appropriate for day or evening, as well as evening pieces.

“The truth is that you can achieve a very couture look at a much more accessible price-point,” Kennedy said of her work with sequins, matte jersey and crepe. “We have homed in on the fundamentals — fabric, fit and thoughtful construction. I find the fit of a garment to be one of the most, if not the most, important components of designing a garment; somewhere I feel other mass market brands are missing the mark.”

The first collection in the affordable category will nod to the company’s greatest hits over the past six seasons. “We have translated many of our couture looks for the launch, and you will see us continue to reference previous seasons as inspiration for each collection,” she said. The first summer collection will drop in May with a color palette of candy pink, a vibrant green, metallics and neutrals. Speaking of hits — Kennedy said the summer collection will see an update to its spring 2021 wide-leg tan pant suit, worn by the likes of Sharon Stone and Rita Ora.

Its tailored experiential digital shopping program includes the ability for customers to view product on three e-commerce models in sizes two, six and 12, with digital renderings that offer 360-degree views of the clothing by Dressx, and includes interactive games to earn reward points.

Kennedy explained that while the first collection will be a bit larger, helping to establish the brand voice, the aim is to have four collections a year, dropping product every three to four months. “As we expand and establish our core product offering, we will replenish the site more frequently,” she said. “We will also be introducing some limited-edition pieces and couture made-to-order come August.”

“We offer styles worn by countless celebrities on the red carpet,” Sackler added. “Most importantly, we have set up LBV. so that it is positioned to scale quickly. To that end, we have implemented hassle-free returns, translation of our website to other languages such as Arabic, the ability to shop our website globally in more than 100 different currencies, global shipping and a desirable loyalty rewards program.”

LBV.’s first images will roll out on social channels with wild postings around four major cities: New York, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles in May.