This year, the fashion and beauty industries were turned on their heads: The physical landscape shifted as pop-ups and retail platforms replaced longstanding stores, marketing strategies were transformed as brands shifted focus to channels resonating with young audiences, and company values were reassessed to put transparency, inclusivity and sustainably at the center. At the same time, age-old conglomerates brought young, digitally native brands into their folds and businesses across categories hopped on the CBD bandwagon.
In our third annual Glossy 50 list, rolling out all week, we’re honoring the industry insiders responsible for driving these important changes. Below is the first batch of honorees, all chosen for their impact on fashion.
Layla Amjadi, Product lead for Instagram Shopping, Instagram
This year, Instagram established itself as a shopping destination, and Instagram Shopping project lead Layla Amjadi said her team is just getting started.
NYC-based Amjadi, who’s worked for Facebook since 2013, led Instagram’s Explore tab before signing on to tackle Instagram Shopping in 2017. The feature was driven by the number of users reporting that they go to Instagram to shop, she said. She spent 2018 answering how Instagram could facilitate that, making it easier for shoppers to shop and sellers to sell, before laying down the vision, communicating the vision internally and rallying teams around it, and hiring the team needed to carry it out. 2019 was then focused on launching two of the big pieces of the puzzle: Checkout and Shopping from Creators.
Amjadi said she has taken a “slow and thoughtful” approach to rolling out the tools, with a plan to get them right before scaling them. Both are still in beta mode, offered to a limited number of brands. She said, typically, the Instagram community uses tools in ways Instagram hadn’t anticipated, which works to steer the company’s next moves and subsequent builds.
The first phase of Instagram Shopping was based on solving for discovery — to show users where they could find a featured dress, for example, by allowing the brand to tag it like users tag people,. But users became vocal about not wanting to leave the app to make a purchase, she said, and brands wanted to do right by the customer by making it easier for them to shop. And thus in-app Checkout was born.
“We’re building and supporting an ecosystem of shoppers, businesses and creators,” said Amjadi. “And we’ve had the chance to co-create commerce with our brands and businesses.”
For users, Amjadi’s goal is for Instagram to be the leading mobile e-commerce destination and a personalized mall, allowing them to shop their interests, whether or not shopping is their interest. She said influencers play a key role in that, as they curate options relevant to users. She used the example of Will Smith’s followers shopping his “Fresh Prince” merch, announced on the platform.
“We want to exceed the expectations of a shopping experience in a way you’d expect Instagram to, which is highly-personalized, very visual and, frankly, entertaining,” she said, calling “window shopping categories” of fashion, beauty and home decor big opportunities for the company.
As for influencers, she wants Instagram to be the ultimate incubator, providing a clear path and set of tools that allow them to graduate from curators to business owners.
Amjadi is basing the future of Instagram Shopping on three themes: One, she said, is culture in real time: “Instagram is a real-time conversation about what’s happening more broadly in the world within your interest community. Shopping will do well when it shows up in that cultural moment and conversation,” she said. Second is products that are by and for interest communities, where people see themselves reflected in the products because, for example, they had a hand in their development through polling. As a result, they feel invested. Third is authentic conversations. Subtlety doesn’t work when it comes to selling through Instagram, she said. “Shoppers want a genuine commerce conversation, where businesses give it to them straight.”
She said the perfect storm of those themes was Instagram’s launch of the product drop reminder feature in late September.
Where subtlety is preferred is when brands serve up shopping opportunities in-feed, when shopping is often not a user’s intention. To meet user expectations, while also offering brands with a range of follower counts access to shoppers, Amjadi said Instagram has been greatly investing in shopping destinations within the app. In addition to a multi-brand destination within Explore, Instagram has opened up for brands the opportunity to feature a shopping tab on their business page — it’s the first product-first experience Instagram is offering.
“We want shopping to be successful, but first and foremost, we want to make sure that Instagram is a success,” she said.
Derek Blasberg, Head of fashion and beauty partnerships, YouTube
As head of fashion and beauty partnerships, Derek Blasberg knows that creating content for YouTube is not easy. Filming quality videos that any number of the platform’s 2 billion unique monthly users actively want to watch requires time and planning. But a key part of his job over the last year has been getting big names like Louis Vuitton, Naomi Campbell and Alexander Wang to feel comfortable enough to create content for YouTube on a weekly basis. Many of those big names on YouTube come from Blasberg’s previous life in the fashion space. He was the host of CNN Style, editor at large for InStyle.com and Harper’s Bazaar, and host to a Vanity Fair web series called “Conversations in the Backseat.”
In September, Blasberg and his team officially launched YouTube.com/fashion, a vertical dedicated to all things fashion, style and beauty. In September alone, the channel saw 110 million unique visitors. By Nov. 1, that number was up to over 200 million.
“It has been incredibly compelling to see that the eyeballs are here, and they’re excited to see this fashion and beauty content,” Blasberg said.
The channel is a place for brands, publishers and fashion professionals, like models and hair stylists, to post everything from their latest runway show experiences to makeup tutorials.
A large part of Blasberg’s job in the last year has been informing the fashion world what kind of content performs well on YouTube. Prior to joining YouTube, Blasberg said he noticed most brands simply reposted ad campaigns or branded videos to their channels.
“The biggest discovery I’ve made since I came to YouTube is that the real YouTubers, the viewers, are a super savvy group of people who are not coming just to see heavily-branded content,” said Blasberg. “The sort of stuff I’m looking for on YouTube is a little bit longer than most social media platforms. It’s more in-depth. It’s revealing more secrets — and by secrets, I mean services, like how to tie a bow tie or the secrets to [a] perfect red lip,” he said.
Those insights have led to the launch of LVMH TV with Blasberg’s help. In February, Louis Vuitton created a video featuring Emma Stone getting ready for the Oscars. It was less than one minute long and had no dialogue, but it showed up-close details of the dress Stone wore and got nearly 81,000 views. Next, Louis Vuitton posted a video of Sophie Turner getting ready for the Met Gala. That one saw 1.6 million views.
“The reason it did better is because it was longer, about four minutes, and Sophie is speaking directly to the camera. When you sit down with Vuitton and say, ‘Let’s look at why the Sophie Turner video did better,’ it becomes apparent to them,” he said.
Louis Vuitton now has over 360,000 subscribers and regularly works with endemic YouTube creators like Emma Chamberlain, who has 8.51 million subscribers. A video of Chamberlain getting ready for the Louis Vuitton Cruise 2020 show, posted five months ago, has over 2 million views.
Q&A with Julie Channing, CMO, Allbirds
Direct-to-consumer darling Allbirds is on the move. The company, which launched in 2014, now has 14 retail locations, with plans to open 20 more in the next year — and not just in the U.S. With the brand’s ongoing global growth, CMO Julie Channing has a big job. Not only is she working to introduce the brand to new markets, but she’s also strategizing to unite the Allbirds community worldwide. In 2018, the company was valued at $1.4 billion, and its raised $77 million in funding.
What’s been your greatest challenges in the last year?
It’s one thing to sell your products internationally, but it’s an entirely different thing to build your brand and actually stand for something meaningful and unite people around the world. We are now selling in 18 countries, and that means we’ve really had to adapt the way we work and start building a marketing infrastructure that can support that global storytelling.
What marketing channels are you relying on?
Word-of-mouth has been a major driver of our brand since day one. We’ve continued to interact with our fans in our social communities and nurture those relationships. Beyond that, we’re continuing to put a lot of effort into PR and podcast ads, where other, credible voices that we have come to know and love can do that talking for us. And finally, we’re focused on channels that allow us to story-tell in a highly visual way. Instagram and YouTube continue to grow in importance for us, especially as we start to scale up our spending.
As DTC evolves, where will Allbirds fit into that equation?
What’s so exciting about this DTC industry growing is that it has really emphasized a renewed commitment on customer experience above all else. That’s incredibly empowering for brands and marketers. It also comes with great responsibility to do something useful with that information, so you’re ultimately enhancing the experience people have with your brand. The brands that take this responsibility seriously and are always trying to improve based on what they are hearing are the ones that are ultimately going to thrive.
Selene Cruz, Founder and CEO, Re:store
Multi-brand retail spaces for direct-to-consumer companies aren’t anything groundbreaking these days; since 2015, they’ve popped up all along the coasts to help digital brands break into physical retail. But Re:store is taking a unique approach. Founded by Selene Cruz, the San Francisco-based store combines the idea of a trendy, Instagram-perfect pop-up shop and a millennial-focused co-working space like The Wing. It’s intended to serve as a place where DTC brands sold in-store can meet offline and learn from one another about the challenges they’ve faced and business successes they’ve had.
“When a brand gets started on Shopify, on day one, they get analytics. Shopping in physical retail should be no different,” she said. Brands selling in Re:store get customer data, including email addresses and names, what product they bought, whether they returned it, and if they engaged with it but didn’t complete the purchase in-store.
When the space opened in August with 70 brands on-board (from luxury cashmere brand Frances Austin to french clothing company Sézane), it had more than 2,000 additional companies on a waitlist. Brands inside pay a monthly fee, as little as $350 a month, and Re:store takes a 20% commission on all sales. In 2020, Cruz plans to open at least two more locations — another in San Francisco and one in Los Angeles.
Outside of opening Re:store this year, Cruz became the first Latina to secure over $1 million in pre-seed funding, with an investment from Female Founder Office Hours, backed by Sequoia Capital’s Jess Lee.
Scott Cutler, CEO, StockX
Two days after the launch of StockX in 2015, Scott Cutler sent co-founder Josh Luber a LinkedIn message offering to lend guidance based on his own experience leading a company. At the time, Cutler was the CEO of StubHub and was on the executive board of eBay, plus he had years of experience under his belt as an evp at the New York Stock Exchange. Each of Cutler’s three former employers has been mentioned by Luber as a point of inspiration for StockX, and out of the gate, Cutler was intrigued by StockX’s business model.
Over the next four years, Cutler served as an “informal advisor” to StockX, connecting with company leaders every few months and offering advice on decision-making as the company grew. This culminated in Cutler’s appointment as CEO of StockX in June of this year, just before it was announced that StockX was valued at more than a billion dollars.
“I gave them guidance and insight on particular product changes and user experience changes they were contemplating,” said Cutler. “It’s not often that founders bring in a CEO when they’re executing so well and growing so much, but there was a unique combination of my skill set and my existing relationship with them that made it work.”
Going forward, maintaining StockX’s momentum will be a top priority, Cutler said.
“There are few e-commerce companies that are growing as fast as StockX,” he said. “And there are few that have the global scale that StockX already has. This year, we will do more than $1 billion in transactions around the world. We’re expecting to do that again in another year. But how we did the first billion is not the same way we’ll do the second. As we grow, we’ll have to think about our infrastructure and how it scales globally. Things like authentication take work, but they’re important to the promise we’ve made our customers.”
International expansion will also be a main focus. Currently, StockX has buyers in 170 markets, but only U.S. sellers are accepted. Ideally, Cutler said, that will soon change, starting with opening the seller side up to sellers in Europe.
“My goal right now is global,” he said. “Expanding internationally is about reaching customers around the world, and we have to do that in a way that scales effectively. We’re one of the few platforms with buyers from mainland China. Listening to those customers about what they need and how they buy product, and delivering on what they need is just as important for us as understanding customers in Brooklyn.”
Alice Delahunt, Chief digital officer, Ralph Lauren
As Ralph Lauren’s chief digital officer, Alice Delahunt’s mission since joining the company in 2017 has been to win over the younger shoppers and drive them to Ralph Lauren’s e-commerce site. Part of that is showing up to where younger customers are spending their time, including TikTok, WeChat and KaKao. Ralph Lauren is now advertising on all three, thanks to Delahunt’s direction.
“The consumer landscape is continuously shifting, and digital has to be integrated into everything we do,” said Delahunt. Prior to joining Ralph Lauren, she spent nearly seven years at Burberry in roles such as global director of digital and social.
Under Delahunt, Ralph Lauren became the first luxury brand to run a sponsored hashtag challenge on TikTok, where users post videos of themselves using the hashtag for the chance to win prizes from brands. For Ralph Lauren, the prizes included U.S. Open-branded swag timed to its participation in the tennis event.
The campaign outperformed expectations, generating millions of views on TikTok and driving traffic back to the company’s e-commerce site. (Ralph Lauren declined to share specific figures.) In the company’s most recent earnings for the second quarter of 2019, it reported revenue was up 1% year-over-year, to $1.7 billion from the previous year.
Q&A with Cathy Edwards, Director of engineering (Image Search), Google
For the Versace show in Milan this September, Donatella Versace recreated the iconic green dress Jennifer Lopez wore to the 2000 Grammys, which inspired the creation of Google Images. Now, under the direction of Cathy Edwards, head of engineering and product for Google Images, Google is focused on making Google Images both the premier discovery tool for fashion and a shoppable platform in itself, putting it in direct competition with other platforms that merge discovery and commerce like Instagram.
What value are you trying to offer fashion consumers with Google Images?
Style, by definition, is visual. One of the things that’s amazing about Google Images is how many people go there for personal style inquiries. Fashion is one of our top use cases. So we’ve done a lot of work to educate people and help them refine their searches. You might not know a specific fashion term, but if you’re searching for something specific, we can offer related queries, we can show you similar images. We take [the type of] web page into account, so we’ll highlight fashion blogs or retail sites. If it’s a product image, we show you the price and whether it’s in stock. All these things that make it easier to find and get what you want.
In the last 12 months, we launched a complete overhaul of our user interface. The image you select comes up on the right and stays there while you scroll so you can compare an outfit or piece with others. It adds all this other metadata, too, so we can keep making the search process easier. When you have a product that’s seen by as many people as ours, making even small changes is really hard. So this has been in the works for close to two years.
What are your main priorities for Google Images going forward?
We really want to continue down the path we’ve been on for a couple of years now: making Google Images more actionable, helping users find inspiration and giving them assistance in finding whatever it is they need. Fashion, more than other categories, is visual, and visual search works better than anything else for that category.
Q&A with Don Ghermezian, CEO, American Dream; president, Triple Five Group
In October, Triple Five Group, the developer behind North America’s largest malls, introduced to the public select attractions within its latest retail project: the long-awaited, wildly ambitious American Dream, located in the New Jersey Meadowlands. Called “chapter one” internally, the rollout included the opening of an NHL-regulation ice skating rink and Nickelodeon Universe, now the largest indoor theme park in North America. In the weeks since, the two have attracted thousands of families, said Don Ghermezian, president of Triple Five Group, who signed on as project’s ringmaster when his company took it over in 2011. If all goes as planned, the early interest is a hint of what’s to come; Triple Five Group projects American Dream will see 40 million visitors annually.
Through March 2020, the 3.3 million-square-foot space will open in phases, until its planned 100 eateries, 350 retailers, from Zara to Saint Laurent, and 17 entertainment attractions, including a 1.5-acre wave pool and 16-story ski slope, are revealed. “American Dream is the center of the future,” said Ghermezian, pointing to the project’s unprecedented focus on experiences.
How does American Dream compare to your past projects?
American Dream is a completely new tenant mix for us; it’s 55% entertainment and 45% retail. We’ve taken the best experiences from Mall of America and West Edmonton Mall [both 20% entertainment] and adjusted them for the New York metro area, plus we’ve introduced new concepts and entertainment that have never been done before.
What works in retail now, and how are you answering that?
Retail today cannot exist without entertainment. It’s all about creating unparalleled experiences and a sense of community for guests — and consumers still want that brick-and-mortar experience. We’re bringing guests in and providing them with a selection of world-class experiences, and wrapping those with the best retail and dining destinations in the world. Everyone shops on Amazon, but you can’t ride a rollercoaster or go skiing on an iPad. We have entertainment components that go far beyond traditional “mall” attractions, and with those venues, we can guarantee traffic to our tenants. And all leases at American Dream require that tenants bring an experiential component to their store, or something else that will make their location with us completely unique and different.
What’s been key to ensuring the project’s longevity?
Each partner, tenant and hire — all have been strategic and purposeful. We’ve brought on several executive hires that bring unique specialties and experiences to the project, like [former Neiman Marcus fashion director] Ken Downing as chief creative officer, and we’ve signed a number of exciting tenants, many of which we have yet to announce. And earlier this year, we announced a 10-year, multimillion-dollar partnership with Coca-Cola, which fully integrates the brand through all facets of the American Dream experience.
Q&A with Caroline Gogolak, Vp of retail, SoulCycle
In February, SoulCycle launched its own apparel brand, Soul by SoulCycle, under the leadership of Caroline Gogolak, vp of retail for the company. The move further cemented the transformation of SoulCycle from boutique spinning studio with a cult-following to a retail powerhouse. Now, the company is aiming for major expansion tied to a revamped e-commerce site and a new partnership with Instagram’s checkout feature.
How are you approaching the company’s own brand?
We set up a product development team and launched this activewear brand. It really grew from our community of riders and instructors. Year-over-year, our whole retail business is up about 20% across e-commerce and brick-and-mortar. E-commerce alone is up 90%. It’s really through growing our own brand that we can gauge rider feedback and understand what they like and dislike in terms of product and design.
Where the biggest opportunity for SoulCycle to grow within retail?
What we’ve learned in the last year is we perform really well on our own channels. Our influencers are our instructors, and our customer is buying more through our app. In the next year, we are going to focus very much on our e-commerce strategy, and growing e-commerce through our instructor community and a partnership with Instagram. We have a new partnership with Instagram, where we’re among the first brands to use its checkout and product-drop features.
How important are the instructors to driving sales and informing product?
We are building a marketing strategy around that, where our instructors are the creators. What is going to be really compelling is what happens on Instagram — it’s going to allow us to build a nimble supply chain. We can show our engaged community a product that is in development, and it will let us get a read on it before we actually produce it. So far, we’ve only done small tests through surveys and on-the-ground, in-person feedback; conducting tests through Instagram and our creators is new. It’s going to help us predict more accurately what will sell in the future.
Dave Hayne, Chief digital officer, URBN; president, Nuuly
In July, two months before Rent the Runway answered its latest scaling struggle by pausing new memberships, URBN hit the clothing rental market running with Nuuly. Helmed by Dave Hayne, an 18-year URBN veteran, Nuuly offers members six styles a month from a slew of brands, including its own Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People.
According to Hayne, the company’s year of prep pre-launch, not to mention its solid foundation of URBN, set it up for a strong start. “We have a cash balance and a portfolio of brands that are profitable that allow us to invest in new concepts,” he said.
Hayne’s approach to setting up Nuuly was centered on ensuring longevity. Along with building out in-house teams including merchants, marketers and customer service, he made a significant investment in the company’s technology and logistics infrastructure. “We’re able to make adjustments as we grow and can react to customer feedback,” he said. “That’s what’s needed for us to be a viable, operating business well into the future.”
Currently, Nuuly is on pace to hit 50,000 subscribers in the first 12 months. According to Hayne, his assumptions about the progression of the business, including customer adoption and operational requirements, have been spot on.