Stylish, while at the same time engaging, the Fashion Forward Conference hosted by Booth’s Retail and Luxury Group brought out a diverse group of industry players, who are disrupting the fashion and retail ecosystem. A panel filled with both entrepreneurs like ZipFit CEO, Liz Tilatti, and Founder and Creative Director of Fischer Voyage, Steven Fischer, touched on how retailers are shifting their strategies based on a new consumer consciousness. This conscious consumer expects more from brands than in the past. They addressed how consumers demand transparency in categories where traditional business practices were opaque.
Fischer, who also teaches a course on the luxury and fashion industry at Northwestern, confessed during the panel that aspirational consumers are “bored” with the current offerings in the market and are looking for brands that connect on a more authentic level. Fischer Voyage makes luxury American-made leather bags that are priced at nearly $10,000. The bags and leather belts are sold in the UK department store, Bergdorf Goodman, and Fischer says many Voyage sales come from one on one referrals. While Fischer Voyage has done very little traditional marketing, the pricey travel bags have received significant national media attention and flourished under a sense of exclusivity that Fischer says he hopes to maintain.
After past years of dormancy, the Retail and Luxury Group is in full swing this year, with a retail trek to New York City and the sold out Fashion Forward event, highlighting their resurgence. Hosted on the 6th floor of the Gleacher Center, the Fashion Forward ambiance boasted panoramic views of downtown Chicago and showcased attendees’ unique style including spotting a Givenchy Bambi and Female Form Print sweater and floral patterns with lace. Yet, fashion and consumer trends weren’t the only focal points of this event, but also the trend towards the fashion industry embracing MBAs. Patrick Yan, Booth 16’, and outgoing Co-chair of RAL, told ChiBus “More retail and fashion companies are recognizing the value of the MBA and we hope to bring these recruiters to Booth students, who are looking to break into this space.” Yan also mentioned that he encourages his classmates to experience the industry through as many channels as possible including internships and volunteering at fashion industry events in order to really understand what it’s like working in this competitive space.
Addressing how technology and analytics are impacting the retail industry, a panel including retail tech expert Jose Chan, Mike LaVitola, Founder and CEO of Foxtrot, Jan Seale, Senior Director of Sales at Trunk Club, and Stephen Walmsley, SVP at Kohl’s, emphasized the importance of building an omni-channel and on-demand operations in retail. As technology enables consumers more flexibility around the purchase process retailers must acclimate to the demand through innovative product experiences and delivery.
Alexis Miler is a first year MBA at Booth with a passion for entertainment, media, blogging, and cooking.