The panel on fashion was moderated by Annette Weber, Editor in Chief of InStyle Germany, who was joined by three speakers. Donald Schneider is the Creative Director at H&M. The retailing giant has around 3,500 stores spread across 55 countries. A few years ago, H&M announced its first collaboration with a designer: Karl Lagerfeld. Many more have followed since, and the initiative is the brainchild of Schreiber.
Soraya Darabi, co-founder of Zady. Zady is a brand grown online for the modern, conscientious consumer, which is vertically integrated. It tells the stories of how its products were produced. Recently, the first item in its series Essentials went online and sold out within two days. Before co-founding Zady, Darabi was Manager of Digital Partnerships and Social Media at The New York Times, amongst other things.
The last speaker, Edgardo Osorio, was introduced as “the next Manolo Blahnik”. His shoes sell in 44 countries, including in the recently opened flagship store in Florence. The three speakers thus represented mass industry, eco fashion, and luxury respectively.
With regard to whether online or actual stores are preferable, the panelists all emphasized that customers have to be able to get a real sense of the product. To have it in their hands, or to feel as if they have by being introduced to an item through a video, as Zady does.
Schneider said he does not see online a store sales as separate but complementary. Germans do most of their shopping on Sunday, however, therefore not having an online store would seriously impact sales.
The success of Zady showed that more and more people want to feel a connection to what they buy that goes deeper than aesthetics. “We believe deep storytelling is the future of fashion,” Darabi said. Those stories should not only be well told but also authentic. One recent successful campaign of H&M’s had Giselle Bündchen singing a song, a secret hobby of the model she had previously been unable to share. “Giselle was so happy we’d asked her to sing that she shared the ad on all of her social media channels,” Schneider said. Osorio said he uses Instagram to connect to customers, and his initial success came after a social media buzz around a pair of his shoes during Paris Fashion Week.
Bringing the panel discussion to an end, Annette Weber asked her panelists to share their advice for future entrepreneurs. Soraya Darabi recommended finding a mentor in the industry and documenting the journey. Osorio said the key to maintaining success was keeping the product fresh.