The COO of RueLaLa, founders of Caudalie, the Head of Retail & commerce at Facebook, keynote speakers William McComb the CEO of Fifth & Pacific, Julie Bornstein the CMO & CDO of Sephora and Donna Karan together in one building at the 10th annual Retail & Luxury Goods Conference put on by the Retail & Luxury Goods student club at Harvard Business School.
Donna Karan captivated the audience with her talk on life, health, living and breathing fashion as well as discovering the need to integrate philanthropy into everything we do. She founded Urban Zen as a space to help create, collaborate, communicate & change the world. She shared that we are responsible for the change we want to see in the world and we can manage with philanthropy by harmoniously balancing philanthropy and commerce, it has to be a conscious decision.
Her new line Urban Zen, creates clothing that supports and builds on the artisan community in Haiti. We asked Donna Karan what she thought would encourage start ups and established businesses to integrate philanthropy into their business model and she said, “Considering how beautiful the world we live in today is and thanks to technology, we have access to so much. Find that thing which touches you and go for it! That is the best thing I can possibly say. I am not going to tell you that it is an easy thing to do, but find something you connect with and create it”.
The atmosphere was incredible & undoubtedly the most stylist & trendy gathering of women in the entire city of Boston. The panels offered invigorating discussions on fashion business trends, disrupting luxury, customer engagement & brand loyalty, intelligent growth, Omni channel experience and founders & how they built their brands.
There was so much to learn and experience during the conference and few of the points shared by panelists were:
“Luxury is anything that has a perceived value; what does the brand say about you?” Leslie Rubisch, Consultant and former Global Image and Communications
“There are a lot of ways to sell to your audience, find channels that elevate your brand and at the same time create broad appeal” Jonathan Waggoner, Chief Operating Officer, RueLaLa
“You might have a great product but you need a brand. Part of building your brand is being really creative and leveraging your social market through stories and creating marketing events which can lead to press coverage.” Robert Cantwell, Head of Finance, Everlane
“Brand loyalty starts with creating a great product and it would be followed with these three things. Status: this brand says something about me. 2nd, I am willing to share this brand with everyone. And 3rd, I am willing to be a part of this brands success”. Lisa Sun, Founder & CEO, Project Gravitas
“Brand loyalty means a lot of different things. You have to talk about your product. Talk about who you are and talk about what your brand stands for.” Nicolas Franchet, Global Head Global Head of Retail and e-Commerce Strategy, Facebook
“Decipher who the right customer is for your brand and invest in them.” Melissa Studzinski, VP, Customer Relationship Management, CVS Caremark
“More than anything else, you need to believe in yourself and believe in your product.” Mathilde Thomas, Caudalie
“Taking money from VC’s means you will lose a lot of control.” Aslaug Magnusdottir, Moda Operandi
“Whatever you want to do, go for it! Start now. The ball is in your court”. Bertrand Thomas, Caudalie
To sum it up, we asked two of the co-presidents of the Retail & Luxury Goods Club what their biggest takeaway was and Emily Wang said “the way people are thinking about retail & luxury is really expanding in nature. 10 years ago it was just about fashion, art & creativity but across different panels we can really see how it’s integrating with technology and we really get to see how it touches everything from real estate to capital structures and philanthropy. Approach retail & luxury with an open mind and you will find there is a home for everyone.” And Sonia Tsao’s big take away was, “There is a tremendous growth in this industry at HBS and this is a self made world and the world has become so free. Bill said, a generation ago, the ability to do something on your own was near impossible and now there is so much access and resources so we should really think of the opportunities we have and utilize them”. Well Said.