In the Age of Ambiguity, Fearless Fashion Retailers Define What’s Next

July 22, 2019

Today’s fashion retailers have been on a journey, to say the least. In millennial shoppers, they face a dominant clientele who are just not that into ‘stuff.

The choices are clear: fashion retailers can give up and go out in a flash of glory, combining forces to create the warehouse sale to end all warehouse sales, an epic event of legendary proportions future generations will whisper about nostalgically as drones deliver their jeans. Or, they can embrace innovation. Reinvent themselves in the grand tradition of fashion throughout history, and reframe the challenge as a creative opportunity to make way for something new.

 With the opening of their new Hudson Yards and Champs-Elysées stores (respectively), Neiman Marcus, Forty Five Ten, and Galeries Lafayette have planted themselves firmly–and admirably– as the retailers reimaging what in-store shopping looks like.

 By 2020, millennials will make up more than 50% of the global workforce.  And these earners, many of whom suffered through the great recession in their teen and college years, cherish experience over possessions. They would rather own a memory than a new pair of shoes. To captivate this audience, retailers need to elevate shopping to the level of an event. And not just in promotional copy–they have to do it for real. Shoppers will come for a cultural/educational/futuristic/philanthropic adventure.  And may still leave with this season’s Gucci sneaker. But those will, in turn, become a beautiful souvenir.

 Neiman Marcus makes the perfect NYC entrance to deliver beyond expectation in these circumstances.  Their new Hudson Yards store, opening March 15, does ‘experience’ in just about every sense possible. Highly curated items with NYC in mind–often in a rotating, pop up shop context–bring discovery to each visit with emerging brands and a constant taste of something new. Dressing rooms of the future leverage the edge of digital possibility, and expert consultants tailor shopping to individual needs. Fashion gets the artistic context it deserves, with original Lichtenstein’s and Calders on display–as well as interactive exhibitions to channel viewers’ own expression. Arcade games, basketball, shuffleboard, and more give grownups their own chance to play. And food offerings go way beyond avocado toast–with celebrity chefs at visitors’ service, a gourmet Chocolate Bar, and famous Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies offered on traveling cookie carts.

 Another key entry point to the millennial heart–and wallet?  Personalization. The current generation has, to their credit, a healthy sense of self-esteem.  They firmly believe that they deserve platforms and channels to help them express and discover themselves, and have a right to customization and preference. This inherent value of self informs how they conduct their professional and personal lives–and how they prefer to shop.

 Dallas-born Forty Five Ten is a luxury boutique experience built on individualization, and they bring their jam in all its highly curated glory to the new Hudson Yards location in NYC. In a space informed by emerging art and architecture, their new flagship (also opening March 15)–caters to an audience that values curiosity, discovery, and self-expression. Their masterful edit selectively showcases both emerging and iconic designers and supports this with one-on-one personal, personalized attention. So discerning visitors can find a unique look, that is also uniquely their own.

 Millennials additionally quest for authenticity.  They pledge allegiance to communities and brands they perceive as purposeful and unabashedly real–and historic icon Galeries Lafayette seamlessly fits that bill. Throughout its 125 year history, the Parisian pioneer has always stood for democracy and innovation, and brought it to the fashion world. They created ‘mass high fashion’– selling looks based on the latest couture, but accessible to all. Intertwined art, architecture and merchandising for a museum-like appeal. They served up shopping as a multi-faceted, ‘destination’ activity–offering tea rooms, reading rooms, special events, and celebrity experiences together with fashion–way before ‘shopping experience’ was fashionable. With the March 28 launch of their new flagship on the unabashedly democratic Champs-Elysées, Galeries Lafayette continues this tradition. Opening in a historic art-deco location the company’s founder had initially considered over 90 years ago, yet incorporating a highly curated and experiential approach, they once again integrate the best of the past as they pave the way forward: wrapping the future of fashion inside history and technology, experience and art.

 So, here’s to expanding horizons and nurturing the soul in some of the most traditionally unexpected places.

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