Interview Spotlight: The State of Fashion 2018
Nick Blunden, Chief Commercial Officer, The Business of Fashion
Speaker at TREND: Luxury Fashion Digital Innovators, 28.03.18
Nick Blunden is the Chief Commercial Officer of The Business of Fashion, the definitive source of information, analysis and insight for the fast-changing $2.5 trillion global fashion industry. In this role, he has responsibility for growing BoF’s audience and its membership, events, careers, education and partnerships around the world.
Nick’s vast experience in media includes Global Managing Director and Global Digital Publisher of The Economist.
His mantra ‘the future is unwritten’, is borrowed from Joe Strummer of The Clash who perfectly captures the idea that each of us has a personal responsibility for shaping the future. After all, nothing in life is preordained or predetermined.
Tell us a bit about how you got into your role at BoF, one of the most recognised fashion business publications?
Before joining The Business of Fashion I spent five years at The Economist Group where I was Global Digital Publisher of The Economist and Global Publisher of its luxury and lifestyle titles Intelligent Life and 1843. This experience gave me incredible insight into how to build and sustain a global media business rooted in a commitment to creating world-class content that consistently enables people to lead more successful lives. Now at The Business of Fashion, I have the opportunity to apply these learnings to help build a digital-first global media business that is helping to open, inform and connect the global fashion community.
According to The State of Fashion 2018 report by BOF and McKinsey, more than half of apparel and footwear sales will originate outside of Europe and North America, focusing on emerging markets and China mainly. What do you think is the main reason for this shift?
The global fashion industry’s centre of gravity has long been shifting East driven by strong economic growth in Asia in contrast to Europe and the US. Accompanying this growth Asian consumers’ fashion expenditures have risen alongside GDP. Indeed, the Asia-Pacific region already accounts for about 38 percent of the world’s apparel and footwear sales, the largest share of any region, and this is expected to grow to 40 percent by the end of 2018. However, Asia’s growing influence on the fashion industry isn’t simply being driven by this growth in demand. The region also boosts a compelling combination of supply chain leadership, tech innovation and Asian-led international investments. It is also home to two-thirds of the world’s e-commerce unicorns.
The revenue from online platforms is predicted to grow 2 to 3 times more in 2018 vs 2015. Do you think the luxury sector is falling behind in digital advancements?
Online platforms undoubtedly offer consumers a compelling technology-driven mix of convenience, relevance and breadth and as a result, it is becoming harder and harder for fashion brands regardless of their market position to ignore them entirely. That said at the luxury end of the fashion market there are still plenty of opportunities for fashion brands to use digital innovation to create highly differentiated direct customer experiences that provide a powerful alternative to the platforms. The challenge for the luxury sector as a whole is to make smart use of the digital technologies that best play to its strengths. As it stands there are too few examples of luxury brands who are doing this successfully.
What role do you think influencer marketing will play in 2018?
The growing power and reach of platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat will ensure that influencer marketing continues to grow in importance in 2018. However, for fashion and luxury brands, the emphasis will shift away from focusing on a relatively small group of mega influencers to instead embracing a much more targeted set of authentic micro influencers.
Everyone is talking about how cryptocurrencies and Blockchain can potentially affect luxury. What is your view on that?
Although I think that cryptocurrencies as a form of payment will have a limited impact on the luxury industry in the short-term, the underlying blockchain technology they use does have other interesting applications for luxury brands. In particular, microchips utilising blockchain can tell a customer with complete certainty whether a luxury item is genuine or an imitation; whether it was stolen, where it was made and the product’s general history. All this information can be made accessible via a smartphone, and could thus help prevent counterfeiting and theft.
From your point of view, who do you think will be the luxury fashion digital innovators this year and why?
Amongst the established luxury fashion brands, Gucci will continue to lead the way in 2018 in showing how digital innovation can be used to drive growth from the all-important millennial generation. On the platform side, Farfetch’s rollout of its store of the future concept will highlight how digital innovation will start to shape the future of luxury retail this year. And amongst fashion start-ups Rent The Runway will continue to showcase how digital innovation is fundamentally and irrevocably changing consumer behaviour.
Don’t miss Nick Blunden speaking at #TRENDbyVERB discussing Luxury Fashion Digital Innovators on 28th of March at the Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design. Reserve your place here.