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Freestyle Fashion Conference Rocks New York


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Open Source Fashion (OSF) held its semi-annual Freestyle Fashion Conference late March in Maxwell Hall at Lim College.  It was hosted by Pavan Bahl.

The day comprised of forty-five minute sessions over a span of several hours and was facilitated by a panel of experts who highlighted emerging trends in their respective fields.  Merchandising, social media, technology, public relations, and branding were the topics.  CEO’s, professionals and specialists attended various classes suited to their interests and goals.

Two classes in particular stood out.

The first was Top Ten Mobile Trends taught by Amy Chen, Director of Strategy at Snapette, a trending mobile platform for discovering retail and fashion items.  The Harvard graduate offered insights into brick-and-mortar vs. online business and the future of retail.

Chen said that shoppers are discerning, expecting quality, testimonials about products, detailed information, and comparative pricing.  “The presence of brick-and-mortar stores is a concern for store owners.  They are facing fierce competition with the online realm.”

Whether it is the virtual convenience or the old school approach to purchasing in person, attitudes are shifting.  Accruing revenue is about more than just holding a semi-annual sale. It must also include an interactive experience accompanied by a physical interface, whereby a consumer is compelled to return.

Snapette has created a user-friendly platform that increases foot traffic through a mobile app.  It is also a digital resource providing access to and feedback about nearby shops and boutiques, exclusive sales, specific products, and a browsing library of photos, many of which are taken by fellow users.

What did I learn?  More consumers are making a majority of purchases with their smartphones now than a year ago, leaving competitors to scramble for fresh ideas in order to remain relevance and build even stronger relationships with their clientele.  

Pop Up Retail was taught by Melissa Gonzalez, CEO and founder of Lion’esque Group. Gonzalez founded her company in 2009 and produced over 60 pop-up retail experiences in New York City, Los Angeles and the Hamptons.  The costs associated with arranging a temporary outpost are staggering.  Most of Lion’esque’s events reduce costs by 70% and help participants to test out the proverbial waters of retail.

While there is certainly craftsmanship from designers and innovators, Gonzalez introduced the notions of launching your own temporary store before signing your name on a lease.

“Know who your consumer is.  Where do you want to do business?  Why?” Gonzalez said.  While it might seem simple to choose where and how to set up, there is a psychology to how it all falls into place.

A decision is based on several factors: what time of year, what part of town, product management, leasing, legality, sharing with fellow retailers (which can bring with it its own set of internal issues) hours, security, safety, visibility, marketing, promotion, fees, and the inevitable waiting period will be before anyone accepts you as a vendor.  Many have to submit applications twelve months in advance to be considered.  But, don’t fret or lose hope. The Lion’esque group outlines and aids in the entire process of forming your own pop up without the burden of having to broach many of these challenges yourself.  They also provide leverage through their social media channels.

What did I learn?  It’s all about whom you know.  Aside from having the skills, mindset and revenue to subsist while your venture takes off, it is quite useful, depending on your brand, to hire someone like Gonzalez who can reduce stress and help to put you on the right path.

Once again, OSF proved to be a brilliant opportunity to raise awareness about branding a vision, taking collateral risks, making new contacts, and having a few cocktails while listening to a DJ.  Not bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Image credit: Spencer Kohn

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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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