, April 13, 2016

The golden thread of Brand in fashion

After attending the Westminster Media Forum seminar “The UK fashion industry – digital strategies, IP, international competitiveness and policy priorities,” I had the opportunity to contribute an article for the delegates and policymakers in Westminster, Whitehall and Brussels.

“Brand is the number one driver (or barrier) to purchase in the fashion industry.”Richard Danks, Head of Strategy, Portas Agency, at the seminar.

The golden thread of Brand ties together the diverse and fascinating topics covered in the UK Fashion Industry seminar.

When Burberry was founded 160 years ago in 1856, nobody was worrying about Instagram or turning the fashion industry on its head with direct to consumer shows. Through the decades, Burberry has had its ups and downs but the core value of remaining a leading British luxury brand has stayed constant.

The fashion sector is unique in that a brand’s products (the label’s collection) and communication (website, look books and ad campaigns) can look radically different from one season to the next. And the products themselves are personally representing the customers like in no other industry. The people in the world actively consuming fashion are making a conscious decision about what they are wearing: how they are presenting themselves to the world.

All the more important to have a brand strategy that defines and differentiates the fashion brand. Of course the brand will evolve over time – as seen with Burberry which is now the world’s leading fashion brand on social media and is changing the whole face of fashion production.

You can think of fashion branding as the core around which the seasons and innovation revolve. Trends like personalisation and integrating technology – within garments or as part of the purchasing experience – need this solid brand foundation. A fashion brand could have technology at its core, or sustainability, or personalisation, but the bigger picture of brand strategy is essential for the company to grow and develop over time.

A good brand strategy will overlap with the business plan, focusing on the competitive landscape, the brand’s personality, what makes it different, its brand attributes in imagery and words, and routes to market.

On the topic of IP and trademarks, most companies do not appreciate the importance of trademarking their name. A suitable domain and company name registered with Companies House is not enough. Many designers use their own name, but from Jil Sander to Halston, there are many tales of designers who have lost the rights to their own name (see this article for more).

Trademarking is not a game that you can opt out of. In simple terms, if a name is not trademarked then anybody can apply to trademark it. Domain ownership and Companies House are separate matters.

It must be said that a strong brand would struggle to cover up for a bad product, though it has been done. You can think of Brand as the essence of a company – not just its personality, but its what, who, why, how, where and when. A well thought-out brand guides everything from brand experience to new production strategies, and it is an enormous help for a label to be successful and keep its edge over the competition.

Photo: Our client Petit Tribe with Anna Wintour of Vogue

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