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Fashion Brands On Customizing the Retail Experience

Companies are constantly working to bring something new to the market: something custom-fit, made locally or with new technological capabilities. Yet, even brands that have innovated successfully cannot make it on originality alone. They must accompany their idea with new strategies in terms of presenting their product.

At Fashion Tech Forum in New York on Thursday, Deborah Weinswig, executive director and head of global retail and technology at the Fung Business Intelligence Centre, moderated a panel with Shoes of Prey Co-Founder and Director of Fashion, Jodie Fox; Reformation CEO and Founder Yael Aflalo; and Normal CEO Nikki Kaufman.

Customization is increasingly important as consumers are expecting personalization in new realms. Reed, who produces custom-fit, 3-D printed earphones at Normal, stated, “Consumers want something more than something off the shelf.” She added, “It’s a Goldilocks world. We want something that’s just right and just for us.”

At Shoes of Prey, the specialty is user-designed footwear to exact specifications for sizes 2.5-15 with half sizes and width adjustments. Fox asked, “How many of you have said or heard someone say, ‘Oh my god my feet hurt!’” or ‘They don’t have that in my size.” She added, “It’s so inexcusable that we’re in that place when we have technology to make things fit right for our bodies.”

In addition to customizing shoes, Fox believes that retailing strategies should be customized to the company’s customers. She said it doesn’t make sense to break up retailing into segments, and she doesn’t put a lot of stock in buzz concepts like omnichannel. “You’ve just got to be where your customers need you to be,” she said.

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Shoes of Prey decided to go offline when customers were showing up on the steps of their headquarters, asking to try on shoes. “The key thing that we kept hearing was, ‘What are my shoes gonna look like in real life?’” Fox said.

Opening their own shop turned out to be a winning strategy. The brand opened their first boutique in Australian department store David Jones in 2013, developing innovative shoe sculptures, a unique soundtrack and a bespoke fragrance. They won the Store Design of The Year at the 2013 World Retail Awards against Karl Lagerfeld.

Branding doesn’t always mean putting all your cards on the table. Reformation is a sustainable brand, but they don’t highlight that fact; they want people to buy the clothes because they’re a good product. If consumers want to learn more, it’s available.

“We call it a friendship,” Aflalo said. Once a customer explores the brand, she said, “We’ll take you on a journey to change your mind about sustainability, teach you about sustainability, show you little things that you can do during your day to do a better job for the world.”

Beyond the moral reasons, sustainability is a smart business model. Fox pointed out that since they produce product on demand, they greatly eliminate their waste. The return rate is very low, and the shoes that are returned are donated to underprivileged women.