On Tuesday, The Collective by Lewis Silkin was delighted to welcome our guests to the TCLS LIVE event (in person, at long last). It was great to see so many of you and connect with friends old and new. We hope you enjoyed the evening as much as we did and that you walked away brimming with fresh ideas and new perspectives. For those who were unable to attend, highlight recordings will shortly be made available. In the meantime, we have pulled together six of our experts’ key takeaways:

1. New dawn of brand protection

The pandemic-induced deluge of digital content has emboldened counterfeiters online. Consumers now mainly rely on e-commerce and social media to connect with brands. It is therefore no surprise that counterfeiters are increasingly using social media to target consumers. Several important counterfeiting trends, such as “fakefluencing”, have accelerated during the pandemic. Brand protection teams around the world are scrambling to adapt to this new dawn of counterfeiting and implement new KYC (“Know Your Counterfeiter”) processes. Collaboration between brands to tackle counterfeiting syndicates, and patience and persistence with online enforcement, are now key to online brand protection. (Alastair Gray, Tommy Hilfiger)

2. Purpose is everything

The past two years have seen a rapid sequence of world-changing events. This has placed a renewed importance on the idea of purpose. Who employees work for, and how employers position themselves on world events (from Black Lives Matter and climate change to Ukraine) really matters. Employees are increasingly expecting their employers to have an external voice. Employees want to work for employers that are perceived to have values, and who proactively use their soft power. Consumers are also re-evaluating their relationship with brands, looking at whether they align with their own purpose and how they treat their employees. In the current market, employees can act like consumers. There is no question that having an articulated purpose is critical for both consumer engagement and talent retention. (Lucy Lewis, Lewis Silkin)

3. Power of storytelling

Until recently, little attention was paid to the impact of the fashion industry on climate change. Consumers were conditioned to not ask questions, and brands were unaware of where their raw materials were sourced from. There needs to be a complete mindset change with both brands and consumers. This can be enabled through technology, but also through storytelling. Brands must build in transparency throughout their supply chains and optimise the sustainability of every step, starting not with manufacturers (as traditional supply chains dictate), but from the top-down with suppliers of carbon-neutral raw materials. Brands must then harness the power of storytelling to emotionally engage consumers with their supply chains. By finding ways to translate the emotional stories that sit behind them, consumers will start to question where their clothes come from, and real behaviour change can be brought about. (Edzard van der Wyck, Sheep Inc.)

4. Luxury redefined

The pandemic dramatically changed consumer expectations of brands: sustainability is now an expectation and not a luxury. Extraordinary goods and extraordinary experiences are no longer synonymous with luxury. The word has come to conjure extraordinary actions, taken to make a difference in the world. Indeed, the past two years affected the luxury space in a very particular way. Things that were not luxury in the past suddenly became exclusive and scarce: meeting with friends, going for walks and buying non-essential items. Traditional luxury goods were no longer a top priority for consumers. Luxury is now everywhere, every time, and every place. Brands, finding their feet in this new world, are experimenting with e-commerce and livestreamed retail. We have entered an era of elasticity. Brands now need to be able to adapt at speed and engage with world events. (Holly Friend, The Future Laboratory)

5. Banning the “S” word

Sustainability is something of a hollow word. There are few truly sustainable brands (clothes made from plants are not to everyone’s taste). Many brands waive around the green flag but continue to manufacture non-biodegradable clothes that pile up in landfills and use manufacturing methods that damage the environment. How to square the circle? Brands must go right back, and right forward at the same time. By looking back at how our ancestors made, consumed and disposed of clothes, brands can discover overlooked methods of manufacturing truly sustainable clothes. By using today’s technology, these ancient methods can be perfected and scaled. The technology to empower sustainable change is already here. Brands should not wait until the alarm bells go off and the regulators come knocking – they should take action now. (Mary Fellowes, GreenWith Studio)

6. Ready to play?

For the metaverse, the pandemic has been an accelerant rather than a catalyst. While many sectors have jumped into the metaverse with both feet, brands are so far yet to take the plunge. Brands must understand that the metaverse is a confluence of social, gaming and crypto, built on playfulness and community. Consumers are now creators and curators of the very experiences that brands offer them. The metaverse provides brands with opportunities to create more sustainably, and in defiance of the laws of physics. The metaverse is not coming – it is already here, and brands must rethink their business models from the ground up. Going forward, brands need to focus on brand-aligned authentic engagement with consumers and keep a watchful eye on brand protection in the metaverse. The real question for brands is this: are you ready to play? If not, you just might miss out. (Cliff Fluet, Lewis Silkin)

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