Take My Breath Away

Thursday, 3 November 2005 - New York, USA

Breath Fashion Kevin Roberts

Presentation Summary

A presentation held at the Fairchild Summits Apparel CEO Summit: Ideas fuel dreams and inspiration. Fashion is an idea driven industry, and pursues the same aims. In the midst of a consumer revolution, here’s five ideas for getting fashion closer to consumers’ hearts. Love is the key, and the theatre of dreams is the new place to play. Winner takes all.

We’re all in the same business. I started out in fashion with Mary Quant in the sixties, and I’m in the same business now. The ideas business.

That’s why I love fashion, because it’s about dreams, inspiration and feeling fabulous…a constant challenge for some of us.

Great fashion is ahead of the pack. Be fast, and be first. Don’t give consumers what they want, give them what they never dreamed possible.

Target got it right as the only advertiser in the August 22nd issue of The New Yorker.

Getting to the future first is important. And consumers are moving fast. Revolution is in the Air!

  • The Speed Revolution. Just-in-time manufacturers like Zara as well as self-styled insiders blogging what’s on the runway in seconds. Lift the pace or get left behind.
  • The China Revolution. Extraordinary manufacturing capability and price being boosted by creativity and design. You won’t beat them, so join them as partners, mentors, inspirers.
  • The sisomo Revolution. Sight, Sound and Motion. On screen consumers find sisomo irresistible. It’s what my latest book is about. “sisomo: the future on screen.” TV was the greatest selling medium ever. Now watch out for new screens. Get over Fashion TV. Experiment with video downloads and podcasts. sisomo is a new creative canvas. Use it.
  • The Consumer Revolution. When power shifted from manufacturers to retailers in the 1990s, fashion got it fast. Boutiques in department stores and flagship brand stores. But power has shifted again. From the brands, from the retailers, to the consumer. The confident woman with power and determination.

No one dictates to consumers any more.

She decides which trends will live and die. She keeps alive the love for vintage and cowboy boots.

Women have changed the game, but the fashion industry haven’t learned the rules yet.

  • You announce what’s hot. She checks it out on the internet.
  • You create advertising that locks down a look. She puts it together from the pages of “Lucky”.
  • You are obsessed by the detail of each season. She has lost focus. Fashion is everywhere. Which iPod are you listening to today?
  • You claim to be gurus. She gets the inside-story from reality TV. “America’s Next Top Model” lays it out.

The reality? She knows more about you, than you know about her.

Five Ideas to Get Close to Consumers:

Idea #1: Leap Beyond Reason

Humans are powered by emotion, not by reason. People are 80 percent emotional and 20 percent rational.

If you can’t get emotional about fashion, why will your customers?

In the fashion industry today, reason is in the driving seat. Time to lock it in the trunk!

  • While reason focuses you on the competition, emotion opens the world of the consumer.
  • While reason evaluates the collections, emotion plays the soundtracks.
  • While reason makes all advertising the same, emotion creates differences no one dreamed of. Dreamers like Luciano touching the emotions with Colors and Fabrica for Benetton.

“Reason leads to conclusion, emotion leads to action.” – Donald Calne, Neurologist

Idea #2: Face the Truth

The fashion industry has a Respect problem.

You know the criticisms: trivial and irrelevant, overly sexualized, manipulative, on the margins of acceptability with youthful models. Blaming Kate Moss won’t work.

Look through her eyes and map the fashion industry on the Love / Respect Axis:

Love Respect Axis


  • Low Respect, Low Love. A dead end. You’ve seen the signs in the stagnant apparel market. Take heart. If Wal-Mart can launch Metro 7 on the runway and advertise in Vogue, Nothing is Impossible.
  • Low Respect, High Love. The fad zone is great for short profit cycles and even shorter attention spans. Fashion spends a lot of time in this zone but too often it plays to a single emotion: infatuation. This is where Tommy Hilfiger tripped up. So will Paris Hilton.
  • High Respect, Low Love. Respect without Love tips into distance and arrogance. I’d put most fashion advertising here. Advertising that doesn’t love women or understand their aspirations. The photography may be beautiful but readers just keep flipping pages.
  • High Respect, High Love. The zone where it all comes together. Lovemarks. Like Yamamoto and Armani. Relevant, creative, emotional, stimulating, inspiring and, best of all, loved.

Idea #3: Live for Love

You know a Lovemark instantly.

Fill the world with Lovemarks.

  • Lovemarks inspire Loyalty beyond Reason.
  • Lovemarks are built on Respect and Love.
  • Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them. Consumers not companies.
  • Lovemarks can be everything that people care deeply about. Visit lovemarks.com for thousands of examples. You’ll be overwhelmed by the ease with which consumers use the “L” word.

Idea #4: Revive the Three Secrets

Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy are the essence of Lovemarks. Your challenge is to transform your fantastic heritage in all three.

Mystery. Mystery is not remote and intimidating. It is inclusive, compelling and creative. Icons that connect. Stories that matter. Dreams to inspire. Issey Miyake’s APOC range [APOC = A Piece Of Cloth] extends the definition of clothing. Campers wrap every shoe in an authentic story.

Sensuality. The five senses are fundamental to fashion. Don’t just indulge in them at your catwalk shows. sisomo gives a new take on sight and sound on screens everywhere. Go wild with tastes and smells beyond coffee and champagne. How about spices and burning leaves. Think Jo Malone – today’s sensuality leader.

Intimacy is where you have lost most ground but there are signs of life. One quarter of all consumers hate neck tags. Printed stamps or embroidered labels are a smart response to what really matters.

Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy take you past Irreplaceable to Irresistible.

  • Banana Republic, Soho is Irreplaceable. Chanel on the Ginza with a 10-storey video wall is Irresistible.
  • The classic T-shirt is Irreplaceable. In black – Irresistible.
  • Your mobile phone is Irreplaceable. To photograph a child, Irresistible.

Idea #5: Create a Theater of Dreams

Many of you do retail, but are your stores theaters of dreams? Nothing less will do. The store is the place to pour on the love so that shoppers become buyers.

Lovemarks are moving in store and taking Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy with them.

Mystery to create intriguing spectacle on the street and an eclectic mix of seductions on the floor. Colette wrote the textbook on this one.

Sensuality embraces the spectacle of Niketown as well as the unexpected treat of pop-up stores everywhere.

And Intimacy is the heart of service. Your mission? No one walks out the door empty-handed because of sloppy service or indifference.

Wind Up:

People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. For long-term commitment, they have to love what you do.

Commit to a bigger purpose for fashion.

Fashion must find inspiration for a better world. Fashion for people who are emotional, truthful and inclusive. For people who want to make a difference.

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