Fashioning Change: How the fashion industry, media brands and companies are coping through this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. MA Fashion Media Practice student, Zoë Goetzmann on the Fashioning Change conference.
The Master’s Programme at Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design hosted a two-day conference via Zoom for its students entitled, “Fashioning Change,” delving into how the fashion industry, media brands and companies are adapting to this ‘new normal.’ Topics ranged from audience research, trend-forecasting, consumer behaviour and insights, brand strategy and management, as well as creative story-telling.
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Lecturers invited to this two-day conference hailed from a variety of different industry backgrounds ranging from the world of Condé Nast to creative insight agencies such as Eight Inc. and Sense Worldwide who’ve collaborated with top brands such as Apple, Chanel and Samsung.
The first day of lectures included speakers such as:
- Aled John, Head of Business Development, Condé Nast
- Alex Rückheim, Senior Consultant, Insight & Innovation, Sense Worldwide
- Dr. Carolyn Mair author of the book The Psychology of Fashion: (The Psychology of Everything)
- Alex Bradley, Executive Strategy Director, Eight Inc.
- Ruth Marshall-Johnson, Insights Consultant, Founder of Do Your Own Research (produced cultural research and development programmes for Condé Nast and WGSN)
On the second day, morning discussions were moderated by Zoe Souter, Marketing Manager at the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design. Speakers on this day included:
- Teo van den Broeke, Style and Grooming Director, British GQ
- Michael Harrison, Art Director Editorial Development, Condé Nast International
- Anna Bryne, Head of Creative Strategy, Condé Nast Britain
- Jess Firmston-Williams, Performance Campaign Manager, Condé Nast Britain
- Ben Evans – Art Coordinator, Vogue
- Honor Pheysey, Account Director, Vogue Advertising
- Joris Hendrik, Social Editorial Producer, Vogue International (and former CNC Vogue Certificate graduate!)
Adapt and Survive: Understand Your Audience
The first day of the conference revolved around the importance of consumer, brand and trend research. During this global crisis, companies are choosing whether to “adapt” or “go under,” as Dr. Carolyn Mair speculates (referring to the Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Co. State of Fashion 2020: Coronavirus Update report as a guide).
Brands and companies must pay attention to cultural insights, industry drivers and trends in order to appease the ever-changing consumer. During this ongoing pandemic, Teo van den Broeke of British GQ explains that consumers and readers crave “newness constantly.” Insights are derived through primary and secondary research (i.e. interviews, focus groups, case studies and ‘mind maps’ etc).
Consumers incite industry change. Change incites opportunities. Brands and companies look to the consumers’ needs, leveraging on these opportunities to sustain its businesses. During this lockdown period, Aled Johnson of Condé Nast advises students to take this specific time to build an initial audience. Michael Harrison of Condé Nast International also tells students to reach out to his or her “[industry] heroes” in order to establish a preliminary network.
Creative Collaboration: ‘Innovation Breeds Necessity’
“Brands are [becoming] innovative and creative out of necessity,’ explains Alex Rückheim of Sense Worldwide. During this ongoing pandemic, industries have implemented more innovative, creative practices in order to adapt to this ‘new normal.’ Strategies mentioned in this two-day conference include webinars, sponsored (online) events, IGTV series and even podcasts. Now more than ever, brands and companies must think of ‘short-term’ and ‘long-term’ solutions, leaning on ‘industry authorities’ to engage its customers and keep businesses afloat. Rückheim adds that if an audience doesn’t already “exist,” brands and companies should take the initiative to establish one for themselves.
Looking at the Bigger Picture
When looking for alternate creative solutions, lecturers advise students to look beyond the immediate scope of ‘fashion,’ pointing to ‘sector-specific’ areas such as film/television, social media, blogs, politics, science and even academia for inspiration. Cross-collaboration and (radical) transparency between industries is imperative in order for industry players to reach a (hopeful) post-pandemic recovery. Psychology represents a key practice which enables brands, companies and even consumers to adopt a wider, more ‘socially-responsible’ perspective on the fashion industry, during a time when people are choosing to ‘buy less’ as a result of economic hardship.
‘Fashion & Change/Innovation in Adversity’ – Reflection and Ideation Workshop:
Ruth Marshall-Johnson, an Insights Consultant who has worked with companies such as Condé Nast and WGSN, held reflection workshops for the master’s students. In the first workshop, students imagined how they might ‘think differently’ post-pandemic. Key themes included desires for more ‘active’ experiences, ‘saying yes to more [opportunities]’ (i.e. ‘appreciating the simpler things’) as well as choosing to ‘invest’ in more ‘unique’ clothing rather than buying from fast-fashion retailers.
In the second workshop, through a brief ‘sprinting’ session, students brainstormed potential products and services which might prove useful to brands and companies post COVID-19. Ideas proposed by students focused on a need for more ‘recreational experiences,’ less ‘waste-producing’ practices as well as a desire for products and clothing with inherent ‘long-term’ value – an important trait to remember during these financially-unstable times.
A Special Thank You!
A special thank you to the incredible line-up of speakers who took the time out of their schedules to take part in this conference. An additional thank you goes out to Programme Directors Johannes Reponen and Lisa Mann for organising an insightful, collaborative event which I’m sure will serve as a solid jumping-off point – for us, as master’s students – as we continue to work on our final thesis projects!
By Zoë Goetzmann
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