Great New Color Trend Service

Are you a little bored with the same old color trend services year after year? Any design director who has been in the business for while starts to recognize the color service without seeing the label. A bigger problem is that many pricey forecasts come out about 18 months in advance. How can they be right? Fashion designers should strive to work closer to season.

Introducing a new women’s color trend service called COLORSCOOP. What sets it apart, is it comes out closer to the season (about 12 months in advance) and is chock full of beautiful, current images to support the forecast. This exciting service comes as a wired-bound book, with Pantone textile references and understandable commentary. Created by a design director for design directors and an economical $295 per season.

A page from spring 2015 Colorscoop.

A page from spring 2015 Colorscoop.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel, footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

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Spring 2015 Fashion – Green Energy

Green the color of optimism, growth, renewal and happiness. Couldn’t we all use some of that right now?

Bountiful greens are the biggest trend for spring 2015 fashion. Expect the unexpected, you will see them everywhere including sportswear, handbags, lingerie, active wear, swim, footwear , accessories, jewelry and in beauty. These exuberant greens range from the palest mint, jade, spearmint to deep dark forest. They cast slightly blue. Green can be a tad retro, bohemian or classic. This is the most sustainable form of green energy. Check out COLORSCOOP, the best new women’s color trend forecast!

Fresh greens are the big news for spring 2015!

Fresh greens are the big news for spring 2015!

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel,  footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

Fashion Activewear Wins the Gold

Let’s face it, there is too much apparel offered for the North American market to absorb. Strong evidence is that most price points of casual apparel, haven’t risen in decades. Part of the deflation was the elimination of quotas. The main reason is when there is an over-supply of something, it loses pricing power.  40-60% off anyone?Fashion Activewear

Another factor is a lack of excitement in casual fashion. Year after year, we see endless commodity tees, jeans and shorts,  Big yawn.

There is a bright spot. Athletic wear, active wear, performance apparel, whatever you call it, is dominating casual fashion. These industry terms are nothing more than comfortable casual clothes, in unique fabrics that flatter the body, while taking a beating. Appearing active provides an “in” to the hip club of people who care about their bodies and wellness; even if most people will never do yoga or run a marathon.There has been fashion “risk taking” in silhouettes and fabrics in the active category. Lululemon even with their recent pant and PR foibles has dominated by offering compelling fashion in a range of technical fabrics.  They broke all the dreary rules of developing safe, cheap active apparel. Dense and constructed fabrics smooth flaws and support the body.  High prices are part of the status appeal. The offer continuous newness. Rule breakers often find opportunity in the road-less-traveled.

Who cares if clothes are anti-stink, moisture wicking or breathable, if you aren’t wearing them to exercise? They have supernatural powers to make the wearer feel sexier, current and part of the aspirational “it” club. Fashion is about emotion after all. Under Armour, the other dominant brand, born from apparel roots, understands they are selling “power” not poly. (Under Armour’s 2013’s revenue grew 27.1%) Companies with a strong “brand promise” have pricing power.

Smartly, Nike understands the trend and stepped up their apparel game compared to most footwear companies. Nike announced that its branded apparel has grown by 40% in the last 3 years!  This isn’t true for most footwear brands, creating humdrum clothing, as an afterthought. There is a mushrooming market for fashion-driven active brands like Michi, Prism Sport, Koral and Stella MCartney for Adidas. You can see others on the newly launched, active fashion ecommerce site, Carbon 38.  

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel,  footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

Will Fashion Still Drive Sports Apparel?

Active apparel has experienced significant growth over the past five years. According to Forbes magazine estimates, the global sports apparel market was worth $135 billion in 2012. It is no secret that Lululemon and Under Armour became the defacto leaders of the sports apparel industry in terms of fashion and overall growth rates. Nike, the largest player in sports apparel, upped their game significantly and their share of the overall activewear market increased from 3.9% in 2007 to 4.9% in 2012, according to Forbes.

Men's is a huge opportunity for Lululemon.

Men’s is a huge opportunity for Lululemon.

The sports apparel market was once controlled by male-dominated footwear companies that dished out low quality, masculine basics emblazoned with their logos. Apparel was a “foot note” in their bureaucratic shoe cultures, driven by industrial designers, on a rigid shoe production schedule with little understanding of fashion. This has been true of other shoe companies that extend into apparel as well. Apparel companies operate and think in a very different way. They tend to be more agile, trend driven, work closer to need and repeat very little season to season.

Under Armour was born from an apparel mentality. With its higher prices and slick styling, they quickly became the company to beat in men’s sports apparel. They added sex appeal and attainable luxury in a sea of dumpy poly/cotton logo tees. Lululemon came along and blew away every preconceived notion about the category. They proved consumers are willing to pay a premium for innovative feminine styling, flattering fits and exciting fashion color. They almost never discount and have trained their customers to buy now, with a  limited inventory on new styles. I see a huge future for this company. Women are introducing Lulu to their men and are a fixture in the dressing area with their female counterparts. They are currently constrained by their store count. I could see men’s growing significantly and a huge opportunity, if they did Lulu kids. Companies like Athleta and Title Nine aren’t real competition for Lululemon. They are riding the sports apparel wave, but their basic styling and “Zen-like” prints are more masculine, formulaic and old-school.

Lululemon and Under Armour brought fashion to a dead zone. The genie is out of the bottle and it is never going back. These companies offer “aspirational luxury” and consumers love wearing these comfy duds on the street, whether they participate in sports or not. Nike was smart to apply the same winning principles to their apparel without knocking off them off. These leaders are in constant forward motion. The future isn’t about commodity black yoga pants.

Flattering and feminine styles drive sales at Lululemon.

Flattering and feminine styles drive sales at Lululemon.

Brands create value with a unique vision that is consistent across their product lines and find the audience to whom it resonates. The challenge for footwear companies in apparel is their industrial design driven culture. Most athletic footwear companies apparel offerings aren’t consistent with their shoe brands. They tend to be less hip and very sports marketing driven. Women don’t care about athlete endorsements and they buy a lot more clothes than men. The market is wide open for another sports apparel brand with original ideas to grab market share.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting Creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale apparel,  footwear, consumer products and branding agencies. Follow me to get the latest posts

Lululemon Pant Recall – Sheer Madness

Last week Lululemon’s stock took a hit on news of a recall of a batch of their “Wunder Under” black yoga pants. When worn by a consumer the pants appeared too sheer. This represented about 17% of their first quarter bottoms assortment and will have an impact on first quarter sales. Lululemon reacted quickly to recall the pants and in the spirit of “transparency”, notified Wall Street of the flap.

Lululemon spring gym bags.

Lululemon spring gym bags.

This sort of thing happens to all manufacturers and brought to mind an incident in my career when the company I worked for, shipped black pants weakened by overdyeing. The pants were splitting in the field and the unassuming customers were showing a lot more than a shadow of their undies! We survived and thrived. This is a case of sheer madness.

Jealous competitors will be disappointed, this incident will not put a dent in the Lululemon lovefest. The beloved Canadian active maker acted the hero, the protector of quality and the decency of their customer.  The missing inventory only represents a piece of their bottoms assortment.

Lululemon continues to innovate and delight their customers.

Lululemon continues to innovate and delight their customers.

The big winners will be those who buy the stock on the dip!

Dix&Pond is the blog of www.dixandpond.com Creative and strategic consulting for retail and wholesale apparel, shoe and consumer product companies. Follow me to get the latest posts

Coral – Must-Have Color Summer 2013

Coral - Spring-Summer 2013's Must-Have Color

Coral – Spring-Summer 2013’s Must-Have Color

Spring/summer 2013’s must-have color is pink’s fraternal twin coral. Coral conjures thoughts of beaches, bikinis and chilled Bellini’s. Fashion is on a feminine trajectory and these pinky-orange hues are found in every level of the apparel (and home) markets for tops, jeans, active wear, swimwear, lingerie, dresses, handbags, footwear, jewelry, etc.

Pale lady slipper, peach, melon to rich begonia, this blushing beauty flatters all skin tones. It is precious and precocious, tender and tantalizing. Whatever the shade, it packs a lady-like punch and says girly girl from a thousand feet.

Pair coral tonally, with pure white or soft neutrals. Expect these trending hues to bloom bigger for spring/summer 2014.

Dix&Pond is the blog of www.dixandpond.com Creative and strategic consulting for retail and wholesale apparel, shoe and consumer product companies. Follow me to get the latest posts

Feeding Frenzy – Lululemon

I admit it, I’m a dyed-in-the-Lycra, full-blown fan of Lululemon Athletica. I was one of the sharks in the holiday feeding frenzy for all things Lulu. On a visit last week after Christmas, I could hardly move around the 60 or so people I counted in the little store lusting after Lulu. They were spending gift cards, making exchanges and if they expected markdowns, they were sorely disappointed. This fashionable Canadian purveyor of athletic clothing has risen to cult status at full-price. This is a true fairy-tale ending to a lackluster holiday season for most retailers.

There are always sexy and functional sports bras and tops.

There are always sexy and functional sports bras and tops.

In a highly competitive apparel market Lululemon has proven that there is always still room for fresh design and a compelling brand experience. (I think the stores are bit dark, though). They churn out unique and creative silhouettes that flatter the athletic and not-so-athletic bodies of their adoring masses. They create demand for their feminine and tastefully sexy styles. They tout performance fabrications for real yoga and running aficionados, but the rest of us just love the great quality and are willing to pay for it. They have broken every rule of the old footwear apparel players. They make expensive, feminine, comfortable, durable and sometimes radical styles for women and men. They almost singlehandedly started the trend for yoga wear as everyday wear in and out of the gym.

Certainly upper management from the major athletic companies are sending spy drones in the stores to figure out their secret sauce. They are buying and dissecting garments and creating their own vanilla versions. This is a recipe without all the ingredients. They are missing the point; it is Lululemon’s originality that makes it special. It is getting to the finish line first. Who cares about second place?

The opportunity for growth for Lululemon is still very great, as they are still far from a household name. They could benefit from larger stores and certainly more men’s product. Girls would be a smash hit, too. If I was a Nordstrom or Bloomingdales’s buyer, I would be begging for a wholesale line.

December Lululemon deliveries included signature pink and black jackets and a unique lace print used on tops and bottoms.

December Lululemon deliveries included signature pink and black jackets and a unique lace print used on tops and bottoms.

Dix&Pond is the blog of www.dixandpond.com Creative and strategic consulting for retail and wholesale apparel, shoe and consumer product companies. Follow me to get the latest posts

JCP Report Card – Hope & Change

Visual merchandising is greatly improved.

Visual merchandising is greatly improved.

In my post last February about the transformation of J.C. Penney (JC Penney Ante),  my greatest concern was their ability to turn the product around. I didn’t doubt they could improve the design, housekeeping and experience of the physical stores; or that they could market the new strategy.

Department stores today are far more complex organizations than they were decades ago. They are now multi-channel and in some cases multi-national organizations. They all produce a good percentage of their own private brands and have to have extensive product development teams. Moderate stores such as Penney’s don’t have much of an open market anymore. There are few moderate brands that have the ability to sell these consolidated behemoths. They were squeezed out over time by the retailers consuming selling space with their own products.

A top from JCP's fashion-right Mango line.

A top from JCP’s fashion-right Mango line.

Stores with private brands have to manage traditional merchandising and buying staff and have the ability to run creative design teams. These two functions are polar opposites and have a competitive tension between them. Great design comes from truly gifted and visionary talent. In many companies, it  a considered a common trait. Often unqualified merchants are given creative authority over programs with dreary results. In-house design can become too insular, as well. Unfortunately, for the most part, private label apparel is subject to large committees of leadership, all who put their stamp on the offer. Subsequently, they can water down the soup and create brands with stolen or missing identities.

There is a good assortment of fresh dresses.

There is a good assortment of fresh dresses.

For Penney’s to really transform beyond price selling, they must have the ability to create authentic desirable brands, not generic names with me-too styling. Their true prospects rely on their ability to hire or partner with the best design talent in the industry. This is the Target playbook.

JCP has well represented the active trend.

JCP has well represented the active trend.

On my recent trip to Penney’s, I saw some real green sprouts of change in the environment and merchandising. The stores are less cluttered, brighter and have better housekeeping. In some areas, I felt like I was in Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom, but at Target prices. Kudos to them, the place feels younger, more upscale, and alive! Some of the featured fashion was an exciting value. It is a much more pleasant place to shop.

The store is a tale of two cities now. They still are devoting a large swath of the store to Liz Claiborne and other missy product. The missy area is a dead zone for most companies, as they don’t really understand how to address the multiple lifestyles of an aging population. This is a core customer for Penney’s, so it will require real introspection. I have little faith that the upcoming Liz Claiborne concept shop will move the needle. This brand has been rehashed for years. (Formerly Liz Claiborne, Fifth and Pacific changed their name and sold their ailing namesake.) It will be an enormous challenge to give this line an appealing and authentic personality. They are also banking on Izod, Levi’s, Buffalo and their in-house basics for third quarter apparel introductions. This is hardly an exciting apparel roster, ditto for the upcoming fall Royal Velvet home shop.

Some compelling contemporary separates.

Some compelling contemporary separates.

I am much more intrigued with upcoming home introductions from Jonathan Adler, Terrance Conran, Michael Graves and Bodum in the home area next year. The current home assortment is painfully mainstream.

Sephora is still their ace card. I give them credit for their large department of trending active wear, big selection of dresses and pretty tops. The Mango department is hip and enticing. All important handbags are uninspiring, but shoes hit on most of the trends. The fine jewelry department is very old school. They will be introducing accessories by Betsy Johnson, Vivienne Tam and Lulu Guinness for fall. There are also some very cute kid’s clothes. Young families will be core constituents of the new Penney’s.

Target and Kohl’s should be very worried about Penney’s transformation, especially Kohl’s, if Penney’s get the missy area on track.  The new Penney’s has the potential to be a low-end Nordstrom. So far I see hope and change beyond my expectations. Stay tuned.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix&Pond…creative and strategic consulting for retail, wholesale, analysts and investors. Contact us for more information on custom research and reporting.

What holds footwear companies back in apparel?

The active apparel category is more than twice the size of the athletic footwear market, but when it comes to brand extensions into apparel most footwear companies don’t reach their potential. This phenomenon is well documented. Public shoe companies continuously proclaim it a growth opportunity, but somehow continue to come up short. Here are 6 reasons to explain it:

Cultural Mindset  Footwear companies tend to be industrial design driven. Industrial designers focus on design, but place a higher value on engineering and performance. Footwear companies tend to hire like-minded individuals.

Fashion designers come from a fine arts point of view and see the world differently. Apparel firms focus on fashion drivers like trends, color, styling, brand promise and the emotional connection it involves. Performance and construction are secondary. Diversity of thought makes a creative organization stronger.

Lack of Creative Risk Taking  In the past many active footwear companies believed that they could simply print their logo on a basic tee, and it would sell itself. Active apparel, for the most part, was poor quality commodities. The active apparel category was lackluster and the assumption was that this was a budget priced segment. Then fashion risk takers like Under Armour and Lululemon, came along with emotionally charged products and branding and turned the theory on its head. These two companies were born from apparel roots and became the de facto leaders in active apparel. You get paid for great work.

Lululemon has succeeded to make expensive yoga wear into everyday casual wear, way beyond yoga. They take real fashion risks and lead the market, through styling innovation. Their styles are unique, figure flattering, with an eye for thoughtful tiny details. They release fresh, funky items, in short supply and have trained the customer to buy at full-price or miss the fun. Last year they released a sell-out tutu for barre exercise. A woman could live out her inner ballerina fantasy!

Lululemon's barre tutu

Lululemon’s sell-out tutu!

Market Assumptions  Most athletic footwear companies assume the world revolves around sports and the celebrity endorsement. This may be true for men, but not so for women. Men may connect emotionally with their favorite football player. Women buy shoes and apparel based on how the brands fill their emotional needs and they are different.

Women’s apparel is a bigger opportunity, as they buy significantly more apparel than men. Companies often assume performance has greater value over style. The truth is most people who wear athletic shoes aren’t athletes.

Brand Clarity  Every consumer product company needs to understand who they want to sell and deliver compelling product that fills their audience’s wants and needs. Consistency is paramount, the message can’t be muddled. If your brand is “cool” all your products must be equally “cool”. To lead a market, you have to get ahead of it and take some calculated fashion risks. This is more critical than ever in the highly competitive fashion industry.

Analysis Paralysis  Fashion’s greatest leaders have an intuitive sense of what is right for their brands. Do you think Michael Kors, J Crew, Anthropologie and other fashion leaders look to focus groups to decide what to offer? The common denominator is a visionary leader with their head in the details. Lululemon says they don’t use focus groups; they just observe their customer and keep her top-of-mind. It is easy to get too analytical and bureaucratic with the creative process. Large committees water down the soup. Footwear companies like engineers, like can get too hung up in process.

Lead Times  Footwear companies have longer lead times due to the complexities of shoe production. Apparel companies try to develop as close to the season to be as on-trend as possible. This makes it difficult for footwear manufacturers to react to current fashion.

The barrier to entry is much higher to develop new shoes. Mold costs can be prohibitive to experimentation. It can be far less costly to experiment in apparel so it allows for more creativity.

The Dix & Pond Blog is the blog of  Dix & Pond Consulting,  a Boston-based, company that consults on trend and creative direction, brand experience and business strategy, product development, merchandising and provides executive coaching for retail, apparel, footwear & consumer products companies.  CONTACT US TODAY!  or call 617.733.7411

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Minty Fresh

Mint and aquas look especially fresh with off-beat colors such as citrine and pops of bright coral.As a dedicated color hunter, I’m always scouting for colors or color families that are quietly emerging or haven’t been important in a while. The pale to medium greenish aqua family is sneaking up on us, with delicate seafoam, dinner mint green and green-toned turquoise washing up on all levels of the apparel market. They range from super pale, to dusty to white-washed brights. Except for the palest of mint greens, these colors have been omnipresent in home and stationery for a long time, but haven’t been important in women’s apparel.

It is often hard to explain the genesis of a color trend. Designers are influenced by color trend services, social influences and personal and brand preferences. We have been slugging it through tough times and this optimistic, sun-kissed color family is a virtual walk down Worth Avenue. These beachy-keen, retro 50’s, colors pack a sugary wallop. They are all over the market in collections as varied as Rachel Roy, Diane Von Furstenburg, Lululemon, Converse, 7 for All Mankind, Hudson, Free People, , Rag and Bone, St. John and J. Crew, in everything including dresses, tops, jeans, yoga wear, sneakers and sweaters.

The surrounding color players, will keep the palette modern and out of matronly, insipid territory. Pastel seafoam or minty green looks especially fresh paired with off-beat colors or deep pops such as citrine or bright coral. These colors are well anchored with pure white and navy neutrals. Head-to-toe dinner mint or greenish turq can a cause a serious toothache without an unexpected, modern accent such as a nude shoe or coral tote.

This fresh, emotionally charged color family is sure to gain importance in upcoming seasons.

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