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Tapestry Taps Its Vendor Base to Advance Product Innovation

There may be few better ways to innovate than to tap the vendor-supply base to see what’s on offer that’s new, improved and not yet in use.

That’s the thinking behind the first-of-its-kind innovation platform hosted by Tapestry Inc., the parent company of the Coach, Stuart Weitzman and Kate Spade brands. An event held earlier this month at the company’s headquarters at Hudson Yards invited vendors to showcase their latest offerings over the course of three days.

Sort of a speed dating for sourcing, Tapestry gave vendors a chance to present and allowed for its team to question the vendors. While Tapestry’s teams focused on how different components can bring a unique look to their creative visions, it was up to the vendors to highlight how their products can be used commercially. Roughly half of the invited vendors were from Asia, with the balance from Europe and the Americas, a spokeswoman for Tapestry said.

The pool of 115 vendors was sourced from Tapestry’s existing supplier base, plus some hopeful prospects. Each vendor presented its best new offerings–that have yet to be shown anywhere else–hoping to capture the attention of each brand’s creative and product development teams as they previewed what could potentially elevate the merchandise assortment.

The mix of raw materials suppliers, and those specializing in techniques and finishes, was an eclectic one. From fabric suppliers to leather purveyors with novel finishes as well as buckle and clasp suppliers, pitches were packed with new concepts for product development.

Any vendor signed to a partnership would essentially ink a licensing agreement that gives Tapestry use of the special technique or finish.

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With this platform, Tapestry has made clear it’s taking the initiative on the innovation front. While retailers such as Walmart have held open calls to vendors as they seek new product to sell to their customer base, Tapestry is taking things a step further. By pulling both sides together, the handbag and accessories firm is looking to unlock some innovation through partnerships and collaborations that can only be found at its brands–hence, the idea of using new techniques through licensing.

Victor Luis, Tapestry’s chief executive officer, said as much in his introductory remarks on the event’s first day. The simple objective in hosting the event, he said, was to have everyone “coming together and innovating together.” Both the vendor firms and Tapestry faced the same competitive pressure, one that is mired in how “consumers want newness” at every turn, Luis said.

And, as he pointed out, it’s about bringing excitement to those consumers. “That is how we win together,” Luis said.

As Coach creative director Stuart Vevers noted, he’s aiming to “push the boundaries on what Coach could be,” telling vendors that the Coach consumer is a free-spirited dreamer, and little touches, like a tea rose flower appliqué, could represent individualism for the end user.

Using iconic design elements, like the “Spade” clasp featured on the brand’s handbags, has long been a play for Kate Spade, and the brand’s creative director Nicola Glass, stressed the importance of these types of details as consumers are “expressing themselves with elements of the collection.”

Innovation, Stuart Weitzman creative director Edmundo Castillo added, is about the “subtle changes.”

Tapestry has plans for additional iterations of its vendor innovation fair, and Luis pointed to the company’s intent to “leverage this platform” in the future.