Fashion and Travel Branding

fashion and travel branding

Fashion has been used for some time  as an upscale or luxury branding tool in travel, especially for hotels and airlines. But in a new twist, we see an effective example of what it can do for a destination with Shinola and Detroit.

Big name designers have been leaving their mark on uniforms for years with airlines and hotels. Luxury designers from Armani to Versace and Missoni brand hotels and spearhead all aspects of design and sometimes even dining. Then we have had fashions made exclusively for resorts such as the  Christian Louboutin espadrilles for One & Only Palmilla , fashion popups to generate buzz and new customers, and boutiques that are destinations in themselves.  Interestingly enough, cruise lines have been slow to embrace this marketing and sales opportunity for some reason (any ideas why?).

fashion and travel branding

Now, hello fashion and destination marketing. Shinola which makes watches, high end bikes (think $2950 for a city bike) and classic design leather goods, has an advertising program that touts its Made in Detroit  roots. It plays on authenticity and a cool factor that also works to be a symbol of Detroit’s renaissance.  The graphic design of the ad campaign is sleek, classic contemporary, and pops.

fashion and travel branding

In Miami, home of its newest store, ad agency Partners & Spade opted for large placements as in full page ads, digital advertising and wall ads you could see from the highway. Photography is by the iconic Bruce Weber.  And the Miami shop was very well chosen to be in the hip artist district of Wynwood, best known for its street art. The bottom line: it’s effective in branding Detroit, heralding its rebirth, and imparting an image that’s at the same time classic and hip.  With revenues of $60 million in 2014, Shinola has also contributed jobs to the city’s rebirth. A win win for all. For more about Shinola, check out this article in the New York Times, “Detroit Cool Hits the Road”.

High End Bricks and Mortar Retail: Last Man Standing*1200xx3264-1836-0-306.jpg

All the signs are there in luxury retail trends. Soaring urban real estate costs. Inevitable lifting of rent controls, most recently in Spain. Struggling popular priced malls. Lower middle class and middle class incomes strapped by stagnating wage growth. And add to this the rapid acceleration of online shopping.  In the developed world malls and mom and pop retailers are going away, the pace picking up steam.

What will replace them? For starters, in the short term, more ubiquitous and ever larger emporiums of global luxury brands and shopping centers geared to the affluent and elite affluent. Every summer when I go to Madrid I see it happening – independent fashion boutiques replaced by the names you know. In Miami, it’s starkly apparent. With Brickell’s CitiCentre project by Swire Properties, Miami-Dade County will have four high end shopping destinations – Bal Harbour Shops, Village of Merrick Park, and the Design District. During Art Basel I paid a visit to the new section of the Design District and frankly couldn’t believe my eyes – I thought I was transported to Beijing and the shopping center adjacent to the Opposite Hotel (operated by Swire Hotels).

I wrote “the short term” because I think that longer term, the affluent will be looking for more alternatives to the same global designer fare you find in Paris, London, New York or Shanghai. LVMH, Hermes and others have recognized this, and for awhile a few years back there was talk about going global and thinking local, as in designing products that were more of the place. I think they were on to something big, but there hasn’t been much talk of that recently. Absent this, and there will come a time when the affluent will look elsewhere, which they’re already doing online.

At the same time, the cost of marketing for small, independent retailers used to make business challenging, but now, with social media, promotion for a small budget is in the cards. And how about rents? I predict independent high end retailers will thrive despite the rents, considering the kind of profit margins they enjoy.

But there’s a lesson here too for smart real estate developers. My advice? To sprinkle their shopping centers with unique shops at mid-high price points to not only provide variety, but also, draw in the lesser affluent who can make one time luxury purchases and patronize the restaurants and bars. I read that CitiCentre plans to do this very thing. The shopping part of the project is run by the owners of Bal Harbour Shops. It will be very interesting to see what they do. Stay tuned.





Design and Fashion: What the Hotel Doctor Calls For

kwe blog AC by marriott

When even Apple, an icon of high technology, makes moves to become what tech analysis site Stratechery called a fashion house, you know there’s something major afoot in branding.  For those who haven’t read it, an important article, “Apple’s Team of Tastemakers” appeared in the New York Times recently about the company’s hires of tastemakers from Yves St.Laurent and  Burberry to the addition of Beats’ founders Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine for top management positions.  Their mandate is to remake the marketing strategy.

What is this about?  Design and fashon that are leading the lifestyle charge. We see this  across product categories and price points. If anything, expect it to accelerate with marketers’ attention turning increasingly to Millennials whom research has shown to  expect a major dose of style and good design,

This hasn’t been lost on the hotel industry as major groups continue to announce new lifestyle brands that they always bill as design forward, one of the latest being AC by Marriott. I couldn’t help but think will we soon see yet another new brand —  the hotel counterpart to a Zara or an H & M — low cost, big fashion statement,  and wildly successful? And then many of these same groups have new executive positions with serious titles who are like creative directors, helping ensure the brands continue to align with changing design and fashion values.

Travelers are seeing hotels with new eyes and new words to describe the hotel product.I  couldn’t help but think about the term “boutique hotel” which, when first deployed, implied a property with special style. Not so much anymore.With simple bed and breakfasts calling themselves boutiques, will this term become meaningless? I think so.

Amenities, even ones with a “wow” don’t seem enough to cut it these days. Travelers are going beyond that, looking for fresh new looks that excite and entertain.  A large dose of creativity is just what the hotel doctor calls for.

For more on hotels and fashion brands, click here to read a previous post on the topic.



Urban Armor, New Twist in Clothes

kwe personal space dress

Urban Armor. Who would have thought — clothes that are about more than dressing as in self defense, pollution protection, personal privacy and more. Wearable tech — be it watches with internet a la Dick Tracy, Google Glass, and more are very much in the news. But the newest wrinkle is Urban Armor by Tokyo based, 27 year old New York artist Kathleen McDermott. Her signature piece, described in the Wall Street Journal is a dress said to “reclaim personal space by expanding several inches when sensors detect another person is standing too close”. The dress inflates while someone stands as close as 15 inches. Some have described a special benefit of the dress of “avoiding unwanted sexual advances”. Hmmm. It’s only in prototype now, along with other projects McDermott developed for her master’s of fine arts degree at City University of Hong Kong.  Other clothing items she has created include the “autofilter”, a scarf that inflates to protect from pollution and “miss my face” a hat and veil lined with infrared lights to hide a person’s face when viewed on close circuit security systems. Interested in making your own dress, tapping into her know how? Instructions are on her website.

Latest Trends: Men, The Rich Opportunity for Luxury Segment

luxury latest trends

New Berluti Shop in New York


Most everything comes full circle at some point, so in that sense it’s not surprising that men, once far surpassing women in sales of luxury goods, are back as a major target. And nowhere is this more evident than in luxury retail. LVMH, whom we know is the lead to follow, is investing tens of millions of dollars in the male market segment. This week they’re opening the first New York store of Berluti, the maker of expensive men’s shoes that they’ve turned into a full apparel and accessories line and are showcasing this in their new outpost. This is part of a $137 million investment they’re making according to the Wall Street Journal. During the Great Recession many women who previously traded up become introduced to the likes of H & M, Zara, Forever 21 and others, and realized they could get knockoffs of the latest trends, such as an “it” bag or clothing items, for a lot less. And it’s unlikely they’ll return to shopping as before. Not so men, who, according to the article, are more loyal to brands and care less about the latest trends. Plus, according to Bain & Co., between 2009 and 2013 men’s luxury spending increased 55% compared with 37% for women. So the luxury heavyweights are opening men only stores. In the past year alone, for example, in Miami’s Design District, Dior and Christian Louboutin have opened shops for men only along with a Berluti store.  If fashion leads the way in luxury latest trends, then what can we expect to see  for men in other lifestyle categories like hotels and spas?  Sounds like a real business opportunity.


Keeping up with the Crawleys (of Downton Abbey)

More and more consumers these days want to live the Manor Life. Call it the Downton Abbey Effect: demand for the well-staffed home is on the rise, according to agencies and house managers alike. Clients are calling for live-in couples, live-out housekeepers, flight attendants for private jets, stewards for the yachts and chefs for the summer house.

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Novel Way to Communicate Quality Message

kwe lecole3


Luxury retailers are turning to offering apprenticeships for a day or less in a new twist on communicating quality, artisanry and detail that goes into making the pricey goods, one of the new luxury retail trends. Two of the more innovative programs include Van Cleef & Arpels’ L’Ecole in their 18th century mansion in Paris. They offer classes in three areas: History of Art, Universe of Gemstones and Le Savoir Faire. In the latter series, “Admiring Uniqueness and Team Craftsmanship”, participants create a mock up by painting a design in gouache, cut wax to make a model and practice ways of working with metal for the setting. Sessions start at $800 for four hours depending on the class. Patek Philippe in its New York office offers half day classes by invitation only, including insights into the craft of watchmaking and hands on instruciton. For instance, students put the Tiffany & Co logo on Patek dials using an antique stamping machine. Then they look through high tech microsopes to look at the inside of a Patek Grand Complications. It’d be interesting to know how many pieces of jewelry and watches are sold to participants after the classes.



Ethical Fashion

First it was fashion produced from environmentally sustainable materials. Recently I read about air purifying clothes. And now we have what I call “ethical fashion” or, as described in the Wall Street Journal, “good goods”. A series of young online brands are focusing on socially responsible production as in making a commitment to worker safety. As you can imagine, this issue has been brought to the fore with the tragedy at the factory in Bangladesh. Four new companies are leading the charge including Everlane offering clothing and accessories, essentials for men and women that are affordable; Of a Kind working with indie designers on limited edition merchandise; Honest By the brainchild of a Belgian designer, rather avant garde; and  Zady, due to debut this month, offering 40 labels of clothes they describe as “grown up hipster”. How do you know this is the real deal ethical? Everlane shows videos and photos on its website of the factories and production process.  Zady uses icons so shoppers know if something is locally sourced, handmade, made in the US, made from high quality raw materials, and environmentally conscious, among other things. Honest by provides detailed information on everything from the source of each and every material going into the product, to the address and owner of the production facility, cost breakdown and markup, and carbon footprint. Of a Kind co-founder Claire Mazur said the company’s revenues were up 300% in 2012 over the previous year. So it seems there’s definitely a market for this. Let’s hope the ‘big boys’ of retailing catch on.

Totally Branded Hotel: A Marketer’s Dream

Hotel St.Barth Isle de France, Now Owned by LVMH

Hotel St.Barth Isle de France, Now Owned by LVMH

In a Hotels’ magazine blogpost I read about the purchase of the the Hotel Saint Barth Isle de France by LVMH. My wheels started turning about all of the possibilities for luxury lifestyle marketing with their different brands. They can  turn the hotel into a showcase for their brands. To be sure, there are other luxury fashion branded hotels like Armani, Missoni, Versace, and Bulgari, but no others with the number and scope of brands that LVMH has. And one of the better places to do this is St.Barth’s, the winter watering hole of the rich and famous. Plus the island is French as is the birthplace of the firm. The scenario goes like this: guests enter the lobby which is perfumed by Dior and greeted by former runway models. They go to their guest rooms and find Louis Vuitton leather goods and if they choose a suite, it’s designed by Givenchy. In the afternoons guests have an iced champagne (Moet, mais oui) at the Moet Ice Lounge and dinners of course are accompanied by Chateau d’Yquem or Chateau Cheval Blanc wines . No lack of shopping opportunities here for guests at the LVMH boutique with their jewelry, watch and other fashion brands. Sounds like a marketer’s dream.

Luxury Marketing Trend 2013: Upgrade Product, Price Point

An interesting article in Luxury Briefing documented a repositioning trend with upmarket brands.In an about face, a luxury marketing trend 2013, major  players are making strategic moves to switch emphasis from entry level and aspirational products to those driving sales of higher end goods and price points. It’s all about raising the quality and exclusivity, as they look to price rather than volume to be the revenue driver.  We’ve  documented in KWE’s trends letters how the anti-brand movement continues to grow, especially in retail, where counterfeit goods have weakened the appeal of logo merchandise.  Both Louis Vuitton and Gucci report particular sales success with their non- monogrammed products, with Gucci’s leathergoods and exotic skin items posting double digit growth last year.  The big names are looking to slow the rate of new store growth, preferring to concentrate on improving profit margins in existing locations and seeing this as an opportunity to prevent excessive inventory which leads to big markdowns. Raising opening price points, they all would agree,  also enhances upmarket positioning which helps with the most robust segment of the affluent market, hyper luxury . In a similar vein, there’s also a push toward more made-to-order and bespoke in everything from leathergoods and watches to jewelry and fragrance, all available at higher price points of course.