A Summit And A Retail Mission…


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Light Speed conducted its winter summit in Dumbo recently. Peter Verkooijen of Social Retail Forum hosted the event.

Some of the twenty-two panelists included: Julia Kastner, founder of Eva & Paul, Bayard Winthrop, founder and CEO of American Giant, Jill Sherman, cofounder and CEO of Modalyst, Dax Dasilva, founder and CEO of Light Speed Retail, and Olivier van Themsche, founder of The Cools.

The topics: sourcing, merchandising, and perception.  A tag that states it is made in NYC or anywhere in America can translate to productivity, boost workmanship and build a reputation.

The ecommerce engine is a great equalizer for consumers who want to buy in the US.  Many of the business platforms of the panelists offer endless incentives: virtual shopping tools, custom designed outfits, pricing alerts, selection of sizes/seasonal styles, forums for feedback, and exclusive sale events without leaving the comfort of one’s home, with of course, technology at the helm.

Julia Kastner, founder of Eva & Paul, a denim fashion start up based in Brooklyn, offered advice when forging a business partnership with an apparel line, “Fashion is capital intensive,” she said.  “You must be one step ahead, especially e-commerce.”

Which means sustaining both a business and a social media presence.

One area discussed was how an educated consumer can know more about the merchandise than does a company’s employee.  This consumer is savvy about when/how to purchase and has done his or her homework. Consumers might also be aware of how materials are sourced.  Hiring staff who are as well informed is the challenge – and can prove a critical factor in a brand’s success.

Chantel Waterbury, founder of Chloe + Isabel offered her view.  “Apple is a great model of how the employee is trained to answer anything.  In today’s market, customers demand truth.”

Grooming such a staff that is held accountable to perform to high standards, willing to discuss durability, features, mission, pricing points, and history will increase revenue, and drive word of the mouth.  Bayard Winthrop, CEO of American Giant, was adamant about this, “The store has to be a destination.”

Winthrop’s mission has been reinforcing the manufacturing of American based garments.  The integrity of his brand appeals to the male demographic who believes in buying clothing that supports our economy and produces employment opportunities for those who make your tee shirts, underwear and jeans—items that are not sourced from countries like China, one of the global leaders of international manufacturing.

One thing resonated: pride and spirit.  Each panelist spoke highly of his or her flagship brand and contributed useful advice for launching one’s own fashion startup.  Some were direct, highlighting how distribution channels, advertising, inventory, and marketing will determine if one can go far.  Some were subtle, approaching the business engine as a learning tool, where corporate values, the service platform and the visibility of a product could be considered equally as important.

The convergence of both perspectives was an over arching theme in why creating a name takes more than just talent, design and luck. It also requires a steadfast vision and unflinching drive in a fiscally challenged culture, by leveraging sales and predicting the need of your base. As always, know your audience.

About the author: Mark Michael Stephens

Mark Michael Stephens is a professional writer specializing in pop culture, technology, human rights, and trends.  Mark has contributed to numerous publications and is honing a novel on growing up in Nevada.  He has a BA with Honors from The New School and lives in Manhattan.

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