I have a hunch that if Yuli Ziv were ever to take The Clifton StrengthsFinder, a test that unearths one's top natural talents, the Futuristic talent would be in her top three. Defined as those who are "inspired by the future and what could be. They inspire others with their visions of the future," this aptitude is what makes Yuli's latest book in her Fashion 2.0 series, Season of Change: A Forecast of Digital Trends Set to Disrupt the Fashion Industry, such a valuable text for those for whom innovation is a dirty word.
A fascinating peek into how one fashion marketing expert and theorist is marking industry change; both present and near-future, Season of Change is a rallying cry for brands to re-examine and rethink every aspect of the fashion business with a visionary hand and an eye toward innovation. And while I found few of Yuli's ideas particularly divisive or dramatic, that is likely because we are both comfortable with near-constant change, and are enlivened as entrepreneurs with what we can create. I might not go so far as to say that "social media is the blessing that's going to save us from being aggressively attacked by advertising," (p. 60), mostly because I worry about an over-saturation point and inevitable reactionary actions that come from the codification of any trend or movement by the masses, yet Yuli reminds me that "most fashion designers still live in fear of their designs being copied online, or the aura of exclusivity being diminished once they join the conversation (p. 21). She rightly urges designers to understand that this is not only unfortunate but bad for business, as it is those "brands that come down off their pedestals [and are] open and inclusive with their consumers," who will "see a huge return" (p. 43).
The question that people will be asking themselves won't be "How can I protect my knowledge in order to create the most value for myself," but "How can I effectively share my knowledge in order to contribute to the collective intelligence and create more value for myself and others" - Yuli Ziv, Seasons of Change, p. 68
In terms of how this future world will affect fashion PR and marketing professionals, Yuli posits the end of heritage as a brand sticking point for luxury brands, noting that consumers born in the digital age "care about how cool a product is among their peers, how innovative it is, and how it solves their daily style challenges" (p. 62). I'm not sure I entirely agree, knowing how strongly the role of nostalgia and history factors into my own relationship to clothing, but it is hard to argue with the fact that brands who place their primary value and exclusivity on the fact that they've simply been around a long time are at a disadvantage in an increasingly digital world and expectations of immediacy, access and ease. I would say it all depends on the approach, appealing to emotion, memory and again, nostalgia (even for those moments in history we weren't even alive to experience) can be powerful pillars, but of but brands who allow the past to keep them from becoming relevant in the future, shying away from ecommerce, investing in product R&D, etc, will find themselves hidden in the dust of a modern ghost-town.
Media as effective third-party endorser or arbiter of "cool," and "must-have," is also gone as direct to consumer purchases, blogs, ge0-location and mobile interruptions serve up news and specials on the go, and the original role of fashion week no longer serves it's original purpose. Yuli asks, "why are designers...so caught up in the endless cycle of sketching, producing, styling, bowing on the runway, pleasing buyers, gifting celebs, spoiling press, praying for it all to pay off, and then repeating over and over again every season?" (p. 94). Her solution? Investing in creating one item so incredible, everyone wants is - in effect aiming to create the next iPad frenzy, over a garment. And this of course, makes a lot of sense. Who doesn't want to buy one dress and have the option to digitally turn it into whatever color you wish!
In addition to how technology has changed communication, funding, privacy concerns, between brands and audiences, my favorite moments in the book come through Yuli's exasperation at fashion's slow-moving evolution writhes on the page, "the industry is so caught up in it's own bubble, its own fast-paced production cycle, that no one has time to stop and think" (p. 68), and "it's not efficient to start every season from scratch, creating basics and staple pieces" (p. 90). Her mandate again and again is for brands to innovate their processes, their technology and their approach to consumer relationship building, saying plainly, "it's time for an overall system upgrade" (p. 124). Charge!
The future as Yuli envisions it will require some painful growth, but a land where "high fashion will always exist as a form of art and will continue to inspire us just like a beautiful painting (p. 39)," and where "the world will revolve around our desires and preferences, serving us our favorite things instead of us hunting for them," (p. 134). Some might worry about such a self-focused, highly curated world, Yuli instead sees this level of personalization as the gateway to "allow all of us as a society to focus on things that matter" (p. 134). To the future!
Instagram Contest: Win a Copy of Seasons of Change
I created 3 images using a few of my favorite lines from the book. Simply Follow PR Couture's Instagram account, and gram or regram your favorite with the hashtag #seasonsofchange and tag PR Couture. Then check on Monday to see if I've left you a comment that you have won! I have 5 copies to give away.
Photo Credit: Kenneth Arcara/Style Coalition