6 Steps to Innovation in the Heart of Fashion
Concept Development for BONOTTO EDITIONS — CLIQUE
Last month, I participated in the Italia Innovation Program. For a month starting mid-June, we visited Italian businesses and factories, met business and design leaders, and worked on innovation challenges using ‘design thinking’ methodologies and frameworks. This post provides a taste of our work from the ‘design thinking’ (concept development) challenge.
A little more than half of our time — outside of training and company visits — was spent on our design challenge. We were split into teams of 3–4 people and each assigned a client. Our client was Bonotto Editions, a new venture spawned from Bonotto, a textile manufacturer known in fashion for its experimentation and fusion between art and business, and Cristiano Seganfreddo, an innovator and entrepreneur.
Our challenge was to “design the new venture, Bonotto Editions.”
A tall order in three weeks, especially given the unbounded challenge, but we set to work.
1. Frame the challenge
We interviewed the father of the brainchild — Cristiano, researched the luxury fashion space (which was new to most of us), and visited the clandestine office in the lower levels of a beautiful apartment in Milan.
Then reframed our challenge:
Develop concepts for iconic products and unique luxury experiences that use BONOTTO fabric
2. Discover & Explore
With our new direction, we set out on field research. We visited high end luxury stores in Milan and Florence, observed shoppers, went shopping, interviewed potential clients and employees of stores, and visited analogous places for luxury experiences — the Bisazza Foundation and a Ferrari showroom. We also created a wide range of personas that matched our potential customers and interviewed candidates that fit our profiles from Italy, China, and the US. We even attended a fashion show to dive deeper into the Italian fashion scene.
What did we learn?
3. Define user needs and research insights
We created a wall of stickies and shared the stories and moments we observed, synthesizing our findings into insights. Here are just a few:
“I look for unique designs that I can keep forever”
Consistently the candidates we interviewed looked for unique statement pieces that fit their personal brand, but functionality and quality was of the utmost importance. One executive carried a bag that she placed, almost subconsciously, for people to see when she sat and had another for work papers, a purely functional use. She told us how she loved her designer bag because it lasts forever and liked her other bag because it served its purpose, but kept that out of sight.
“I spend time mentoring young designers, because I was there”
Repeatedly we heard the high end designer persona speak to the interest and love of mentoring the younger generation. One spoke about her passion for working with young talent in her studio and the other prided himself on finding and grooming the future talent. They loved being apart of creating the future in terms of brands and rising talent.
“It took a year to find the right furniture for my new apartment”
They did not settle for any piece of furniture to fill the void. They kept looking to find the perfect piece. We watched a number of shoppers come into stores, look, and move through quickly. We intercepted some shoppers, interviewed them and asked questions about the pieces they selected. They valued not only how the pieces looked, but wanted to know the designer, their story, and the background behind inspiration for the furniture they were purchasing.
“He wants the brand to be… exclusive… but not flaunting”
This insight — although about the client and not the consumer — hinted at how the founder wanted to reinvent the idea of a ‘luxury brand.’ The current products had no logos or labels, the showroom was hidden behind a garden down two flights of stairs, and even the color of the pieces had no red or yellow — just soothing tones. This was an epiphany that shifted out perspective on what the brand needed to become.
Customer and client needs:
Unique high quality timepieces that represent their personal brand — particularly for their home
Desire to influence the future of the people they interact with in a positive way — mentoring others seemed natural
Ability to purchase not only products, but stories and know the inspiration behind each creation
4 & 5. Ideate and Prototype
After warming up with a few improv exercises, we dived in and came up with a multitude of ideas by persona. Here are a few concepts:
XTREME — Adventure experiences for thrill seekers
Around the World — Experiencing culture and art through travel
BE^2 — Your professional wear, where you are
72 — One-of-a-kind parties and performances
and the one we chose to mock-up…
CLIQUE — Co-create divine furniture pieces
CLIQUE is a community that provides art aficionados access to a network design talent, on and offline. It caters toward, Margot, our ‘creative art collector persona that looks for unique pieces, wants to be involved in creating the future, and seeks an authentic story. Our concept is an elite international network of budding design talent around the globe that members can work with to make designs for and with them. Offline, they meet in private showcases in artist studios and on the go, they can use thier mobile devices to view and comment on sketches, renderings, and early prototypes of furniture pieces. Furniture is made using Bonotto fabric and each piece can unlock the digital story using your mobile device.
CLIQUE keeps Margot on the edge of design and allows her to work with designers to create divine furniture for her home with a unique story.
The first round of video and experience prototypes gave us insight into what elements held promise and which to discard. In the next iteration, we recommended they test with other personas outside of the ‘art world,’ focus on offering ‘an experience’ rather than simply furniture and integrate a way for customers to see the story from the inspiration of the product to the present day.
6. Iterate relentlessly
For those new to the process, this was just the beginning. We tested the concepts we had, but the next steps are to take the learnings and build them into the next concept and repeat testing.
Thank you to my amazing teammates Gulahmed Maqsood, Yasmin Siraj, and Zoe Zhao! It was an unbelievable.
Other posts on my time in the Italia Innovation Program: