Odile Roujol
Jan 11 · 12 min read

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF LUXURY? CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION!

MIAMI. I joined the second FaB Fashion & BeautyTech Meeting hosted by Frank Bitoun Frank bitoun, Founder of Gleammee, a fashion app helping customers to find their style and inclusive by DNA.

What does Miami evoke to me? To be honest – context: I was raised in Paris (and proud Parisian), have been a New-Yorker a few years ago, and about to move from San Francisco to LA – Miami was for me a place for jet-setters and over-consuming tourists. Savvy yet spoiled, not really obsessed by their carbon footprint or caring about the impact of their habits.

I am grateful to have met amazing founders and guest speakers at the event, also wandering. in the fast evolving Miami’s Design District, and new districts , and guess what, I’ve learnt things that so called Fashion capitals could be inspired with.

Let’s share some take-aways from conversations with founders, and a visit into the amazing Pivot, a sustainable market located in The Citadelle (also a top food court!). As Valeria Valeria Savino founder of the concept store and serial entrepreneur with Nomad Tribe, it’s an. “immersive retail experience housing sustainable brands, atelier-service, bio-fabrication station, recycling center, clothes swap parties for a more sustainable future.”

Sounds like a plan.

Here is my perspective from various angles: customers, global luxury brands, and bold entrepreneurs trying to shape the future.

“Luxury is a state of mind” (Francesca Belluomini)

Fashion is a complicated business involving a long a varied supply chain that needs natural ressources used in farming, extracting, processing, manufacturing and shipping.

If you think about it, as consumers we have a responsibility and we can all make a difference as we use to say in our FaB community.

No wonder I had the feeling to be in the paradise of ethical clothing and jewelry, and the temple of sustainable fashion.

Locally-made , eco-conscious and philanthropic. “A sustainable brand that commits to human, environmental and economic concerns.”

“Using sustainability sourced materials and plant-based natural dyes. Giving back to the community by planting a tremor every item sold and donating a percentage to local homeless shelters.”

“A community that inspires and motivates women to follow their dreams.”

But first and foremost, what fascinated me, was the intention to inform the customer and help them to be wise. I read books, listened to podcasts, but it’s the first time I saw, in a multi-brands store, an attempt to communicate a new way to look at our clothes and accessories. Not judging, just questioning and making us think about what we do. Beauty and fashion is about finding our place in the world, it’s about self-esteem, confidence, connecting with others.

It begins by educating the customer.

That is our challenge as founders, investors, global brands and retailers. No shift can happen without a consumer awareness.

Let’s try to open our mind to new thinking. Here are some elements if you want to be a conscious decision maker. We are all part of the change, by being cautious when shopping we can facilitate the shift from linear to circular fashion.

Fast and slow…

We want clothes at different times for different reasons , for different amount of time. Some of this need can be catered for by beautiful, good quality , clothes that we look after for a long time. “Slow fashion”, could be defined as a loved piece of clothes that should be worn, kept and cared for. Yes, we can believe in timeless style, season-less designs.

But we also have impulse purchase, “coup de coeur” as we say in French, in a life where we share our outfit of the day on social media, and it’s part of our identity. A fast approach might entail an ultra-short life compostable or easily recyclable product which is designed with only a few or even a single use in mind.

Read your labels to check what will happen with the clothes you purchase!

Chemicals.

More than half a trillion gallons of freshwater are used in textiles dyeing each year. The dye wastewater is discharged into nearby rivers, where it reaches the sea, eventually spreading around the globe. New technologies such as waterless dye technologies have been developed but have not been deployed at most manufacturing sites. Traditional and safe dyeing techniques such as ‘natural dyes” are reviving especially among small and local brands. (Source Veronica Buitron)

In the 1990’s, several countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, ans Sweden began to prohibit the use for chemical dyes in response to environmental damage and consumer health concerns, sparking a renewed interest in natural dyeing.

Again read your labels, be informed.

Circular design brands. Landfill. Biodegradable.

It means using the planet’s finite ressources in a more sustainable way. In circular design, anything material is considered to be part of a loop, where future use is anticipated and enabled. Ressources are extracted from waste stream to retain their value in use.

The ultimate goal is to eradicate waste. We had in Berlin Silfir, taking your uniform from the purchase to the end of life of the clothes. Interesting approach.

How long does it take to decompose in the landfill.

What biodegradable means.

Ask questions. Look for precise answers.

What can I do ? Edit your wardrobe. Vintage. Second Hand. Swapping. Renting.

A few advice that I read on the wall at Pivot reminded me of the “Hacker”culture at Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest offices a few years ago.

“By supporting small shops, you support community shifters.”

“Borrow from friends”

“Re-imagining clothes, more creativity equals less waste”

Eco Dry Clean Only. Clothes worth wearing are worth repairing.

Second hand clothes. It’s great to be a consignor, it’s even better to be a purchaser.

I’m a big fan of the Real Real, I love when they come to take your clothes and put everything on their iPad simulating what could be your gains, and it works. There is also Threadup in San Francisco. I was also very impressed by the founder of Thrillist in Los Angeles.

Just be aware of our cognitive biases if you are an investor or decision maker in a big company: Millennials are more than 65% to have purchase second-hand clothes even if my generation is more the one to sell. And you guys, you have a love relationship with you clothes, keeping them a long time. But yes, there is a huge market, and behavior change! And no, it’s not disgusting as I heard the other day. It’s clean and may help to save our planet if we all keep in mind that fashion is one of the most polluting industry.

Clothing libraries. Such as Silk Roll in San Francisco (speaker a few months ago at a FaB meeting). By becoming a member you own a card that keeps track of the number of points you use instead of cash. Each item is assigned a certain number of points, and according to your subscription, you can borrow specific pieces if you really love something, you can also buy it eventually., and you can also lend some of your items, not in use, for a temporary time.

Rent a look. Rent the Runaway in New-York for sure. Or use The Wardrobe. And be aware of plenty of new players.

Clothing on Subscriptions. Le Tote. Stichfix. (Speakers at FaB meetings in San Francisco). I subscribed. You save time for sure, and. space for Le Tote (renting them), and if you don’t like some of the clothes, you just put them back in the mailbox (not the Post Office) which is easy. And guess what Le Tote at the end sell the used clothes, extending even longer their life time.

And what about Beauty? Local. Simple. Non toxic ingredients. Recycle packaging.

Some of the brands in Pivot are local, which becomes an interesting concept in an era of globalization.

Recycle packaging to limit our environmental impact “ to keep the planet as healthy and beautiful as your skin”.

Handmade products. Supporting a more sustainable lifestyle. Using ingredients and materials from companies that are committed to the environment. Plant Based with no artificial ingredients or preservatives.

“Made with simplicity, with nutrients for the skin and aromatherapy for the body and soul”.

Are the startups disrupting Global Brands and Retailers, becoming the new platforms ? A few thoughts.

Let’s take examples in the Beauty Industry in the US, to show that it’s not that simple.

Brands have huge means in Research and innovation, and they carefully look at what they put in the products.

Yes, we can argue they have preservatives and complicated formulas, but they carefully measure efficiency and safety. And believe me as an ex C-suite level executive, if the FDA scrutinizes brands, it will be the ones of corporations, not the tiny emerging ones in a super fragmented market.

On the other side, startups disrupt the industry, proving you can have excellent products while limiting the number of ingredients. You can also improve your products by carefully listening to your customers in an iterating loop, having a deep knowledge of their needs and feedback.

Still, I believe we should be careful.

Some of us, including startup founders, talk about the “green washing”.

Personally, I’m very ill at ease as an Investor (Fab Ventures, seed stage, D2C, Fashion and Beauty) and Founder of Fab community. when I see “bad marketing”. Claiming to be transparent and … not really being fair with the customers and stakeholders if trusting them.

As a founder, always sincere, you can criticize big brands and corporations claiming they are evils and you are the good guys. But then you’d better be excellent at what you do.

When asking questions about ingredients. or products, I discover a startup just use old OTC products developed by the corporations they criticize, a formula they on their side have used many years ago and outdated by new developments initiated by their Research . I’m surprised that not any journalist or blogger puts that forward, especially when the founders have raised a huge amount of dollars in just a few months.

Same when founders claim to be “clean beauty” and happen to use ingredients forbidden by European legislation, far more strict than the FDA.

Lastly, “organic” doesn’t mean you use less water, if a customer you should be aware. Aroma doesn’t mean no allergy, the other day I did a huge one with peppermint added to the CBD by a founder wanting a “tingling effect”. I was red as a tomato for half an hour.

Well, there could be bad news in the Beauty and Wellness industry, companies that disappoint their stakeholders, because they didn’t ask the right question to their suppliers, they didn’t test carefully their products. And finally, what makes the long term success of a brand, it’s trust, with consistent messages, and products customers love that makes them repurchase and stay loyal.

Let’s bet the future global champions will be the ones obsessed by their customers, and for real, not just a communication purpose.

Same in the fashion industry. Let’s try not to be judgmental. We have to change as customers.

I heard a lot of criticism of the fast fashion industry. Yes, but if people would be less obsessed by changing their clothes at an affordable price, especially Millennials, there could be the shift we all dream of.

I hear a lot of my luxury friends claiming their customers wants first design, style, and trends. No compromise. Yes, but isn’t it the role of decision makers to educate them again to the impact of their consumer habits, defining standards to make them think (like people aware when they travel for fun or business, with the carbon print). The trend of sneakers and active wear has also a huge impact (therefore the success of All Birds or Outdoor voices).

Let’s dream of fast fashion choosing to be fast for good, and luxury even more obsessed by “slow fashion” & the use of their clothes and accessories.

Same for life style brands, street wear, urban fashion, active wear choosing to be “fast for good”, meaning “biodegradable, with less toxic waste”.

And for luxury brands, even if disturbing in the current business model, may be we could focus on extending the life cycle of products. By the materials and manufacturing (and limiting waste with the supply chain) but also the choice of renting or re-selling clothes. I believe future is bright for solutions helping brands and retailers to better pilot the second life of their clothes, such as Reflaunt (speaker FaB London).

We live a complex world full of uncertainties. In the last two days, the founders in Florida showed a lot of humility, “learning for life”, trying to propose a new way of thinking without. judging others. Just caring to have a positive impact in our lifes. Thinking for the next generations after us, one step at a time.

Founders building communities, aware that it all begins by convincing the customers day after day.

Global brands and retailers have to innovate with the constraints of their quarterly results and short term financial performance. They can seem to be slow compared to the urgency of climate change, and the higher expectations than ever for living longer in a healthy way.

At the same time, they have huge means, teams and ability to invest.

Merger Acquisitions for most … A few unicorns.

I believe that many of the emerging companies, will have their founders and team benefiting from merger acquisition and great exits.

Becoming a unicorn is tough (nearly extraordinary), and we don’t have yet proven by many examples that it will be easier in fashion beauty and wellness. It’s too short as a period to know.

In the last three years, we read many media tittles claiming “the new company worth 1 billion+” for companies that have raised for sure more than one hundred millions, and may generate the same in revenues. Yes, one hundred and being fast growing is amazing, especially if touching a unique community and creating a territory. But being highly profitable, and generating more than 3 billion dollars in revenues for many years is not given to a lot of brands in the beauty, and even in the luxury industry.

Many founders ask me how much they should raise for their ambition. I’m not sure I would frame the question like that. There is no bad scenario (the good one is for sure bootstrapping and fast growing by generating your own revenues!). It’s more what kind of company do you want to build, and what will be your legacy.

Scaling in an era of transparency in real time means to focus on the customers and learn from them.

US companies have the advantage of having their first market being a huge one. Entering new markets is tough, it means new cultures and ecosystems. It’s all about being at the right pace. And it’s a long journey.

Fab, fashion and BeautyTech community. A fast growing movement worldwide.

I’m happy to count in the Fab community now more than 3000+ founders, who have met in 25+ meetings, with more than two hundred inspiring Entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists as guest speakers. We are now in 15 chapters in America, Europe, and Asia, with local chapter leaders well connected in their ecosystem. We create bridges between cities.

We have now an engaged community on social media, and interactions between two meetings. We want to go further in the future building the best platforms for startup founders in fashion and beauty.

Join the conversation: be one of our speakers, local partner, or global sponsor. Let’s shape our future together.

Let’s learn from each other. And the best way is by beginning by some conversations. Join the Movement! https://www.beautytechcommunity.com

Odile Roujol

Written by

Data -CX -Beauty -Women. Advisor, Board member, Business Angel BayAngels @50partners, ex CEO Lancôme @loreal /Chief Strategy&Data Officer @Orange -San Francisco

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