It's a wrap for the #MustHave16 Fashion Design Competition

That's a wrap for this year's #MustHave16 Design Competition, hosted by Art of Fashion.
The competition is demanding of the emerging fashion designers who participate. They are required to submit a sketch and a sample. In addition, they must go through the 5 phases of starting a brand: including building a social following and marketing strategy, working with retailers to ensure their design meet customer's needs, and selling their design in-store.

"It is a challenging competition, but it is a challenging market for emerging designers", says Jennifer Pilkington, Managing Director of Retail Assembly, who is a competition sponsor. "The hard work pays off, as the designers have a real world toolbox at the end of the competition."

This year the competition offered mentorship and feedback from a variety of industry experts including Laura-Jean Bernhardson, CEO of multi-store retailer Fresh Collective, Elle Bulger of Pinch Social, Jennifer Powell of Hart and Galla, and Donna Bishop, founder of Green Beauty and FGI Board Member.

Browse the video playlist below and congratulate our winner Bulgun Puteeva of Bulia

H&M in Bangladesh

Addressing how they are supporting Bangladesh development, H&M produced a fairly well-rounded video. With all of the coverage on the much needed improvements to working conditions, the economic and developmental impact is often left untouched. It is this development and international investment in the country which is why organizations should continue to push for improvement in the lives of their workers. 

It is a one-sided perspective, but it includes a variety of initiatives: 

  • Wage growth
  • Skills training and upgrades
  • Improved employee - management relations


What is missing, but perhaps not within the context of this video, is the environmental working conditions - exposure to toxic materials, chronic pain and ergonomic initiatives, etc. But overall, it was nice to see an organization addressing specific measures in a fuller way - not simply speaking about the cheque they cut in light of the tragedies. 

Boku is taking carrier billing to new places

The mobile payments market has had big news in the last month – the release of Apple Pay, and PayPal’s announced split from eBay. Yesterday Boku announced that customers are able to pay for real world goods by adding the payment to their mobile phone bill. Internet access required, NFC (near field communication) technology not. 


This method of payment is called carrier billing. Previously carrier billing has been limited to digital wallpapers and ringtones, but with new deals with Vodafone, O2, and EE, Boku is expanding its role of e-Money issuer in the UK and EU.


Boku will negotiate limits with individual phone carriers (and merchants). They are operating using industry standard limits for now. £30/transaction £200/month will not facilitate an auto purchase, but does allow for magazine and convenience purchases, including movie tickets, parking, takeout, and public transportation.


“It may not yet revolutionize mainstream retail payments, but it could well see people using mobile to pay for cans of pop, newspapers and magazines and making other ‘micropayments’ in small retailers and the like, while the mainstream high street stores are still grappling with finding budget for beacons and other tech” commented Paul Skeldon at


Who would have thought that it would be corner shops and kiosks that got the first taste of mobile payments in retail?


Merchants will need to sign on, thereby allowing customers to use this method of payment. Consumers will not need to register. In most instances it will take only confirmation via text to process the transaction. No credit card information exchange, in fact, no credit card required.


The global m commerce market is set to grow from $116 billion in 2014 to $467 billion in 2019. The focus in North America has been on wallets and beacons, but carrier billing is likely to have a larger global impact in the end – serving regions where merchants and consumers have cell-phones but not NFC technology. “Suddenly, mobile payment has become simple to implement” summarized Skeldon.


ADDITIONAL | Has mobile payment hit its tipping point?

ADDITIONAL | VIDEO The 5 big benefits of ‘charge to bill’

Google site search: Hurdle for retailers or consumer service?

Google is in constant evolution, and it remains the number one search engine. It is important for retailers to follow the company’s updates, difficult to decipher as they may be.

In a move to keep users on their search page for longer, Google launched search within a site. The clumsy name simply indicates that below the header for a particular retailer, is another Google search box. Instead of immediately clicking on the retailer’s website, the user may enter a secondary search on the same Google page.

Search within a site searches are treated like other search result pages. Which means, relevant advertising is also returned. The organic results are from the specific retailer. The ads are from any company that has purchased advertising – including the direct competition. We searched ‘marc jacobs’ at Revolve Clothing (above), and Shopbop – another ecommerce retailer was the top return (below). The rest of the results were all from Revolve Clothing.


As Mark Ballard, director of research at Rimm Kaufman Group LLC articulates, “You’d end up generating ads for your competition on a search that otherwise would have taken place on your site”.

Google argues that the search feature on many commerce sites are plainly not very good, and the company is looking to fill that second query result on its own search pages.


There is a solution for retailers wanting to control the returned results, and eliminate any advertising. Google has allowed for the retailer’s own search results page, as long as it’s formatted correctly and submitted to Google. Amazon and Walmart have already opted-in.




The search within a site feature is one of the newest the company is using to keep retailers on the Google search page longer. Structured and Rich Snippets pull key product and site details (like a camera’s dimensions, resolution, etc.) from brand and retailer websites, displaying them on the search results page. Thus, delaying the click to a retailer / brand’s webpage.


At this point, search within a site doesn’t seem to be altering consumer behavior in a significant way, but Google is actively expanding both the Snippits and Site Search features.

A designer - retailer partnership is the key to success

A week ago we had the pleasure of attending an event hosted by the Art of Fashion and Fresh Collective – aptly titled “The Retailer’s Point of View”. Laura Bernhardson, CEO and founder of Fresh Collective gave an inspiring and passion-packed presentation that armed designers with great information about the business of retail, and the importance of building strong relationships.

Fresh Collective has an interesting model that has been fine-tuned over the years. Truly built in the spirit of growth and collaboration, the retailer has expanded to multiple locations, and all with a consignment model. Typically ‘consignment’ does not elicit a positive reaction from either retailers or suppliers, but Fresh Collection makes it work.



“The bottom line is it allows us to work with emerging designers.”

-Laura Bernhardson

Fresh Collective has a customer who appreciates and wants to support unique, local artists and designers. But any retailer (and designer) will tell you that an emerging designer business is never easy. Despite high-levels of design training, it can take years for a designer to perfect the fit, fabric selection, assortments, marketing, and even sourcing. Most retailers will wait until a brand is more established before jumping into business together – for all of the reasons above and more.

Through a consignment partnership, Fresh Collective is able to protect its profit, and provide their customers with the new, saleable, local designs they desire. The designers walk away with customer and retailer feedback and guidance, continuous cash flow, and the opportunity to develop their business.


Maintaining assortment integrity and merchandising can be difficult for a retailer with a consignment supplier. Often the supplier considers the space in-store to be ‘rented’ instead of part of the retailer’s own. Many large retailers, like Hudson’s Bay prefer this type of agreement. However, in a smaller store, the retailer will still want to maintain control over their environment and product selection.


Ms Bernhardson does this extremely well – not a single product reaches the hanger or shelves in-store without first being chosen. Fresh Collective’s mission really guides each product choice, “to inspire joyful living and self-expression, one relationship at a time”. Colour and print with the practical aspects required (the customer must be able to ride her bike in each day piece, and it must cover her bra straps) are all evident on the sales floor.


Working closely with designers by providing feedback on the design, and clearly articulating what her customer is looking for ensures success for both Ms Bernhardson and the designer.




Consignment has the effect of putting a higher level of ownership back on the designer to ensure sales plan are met. After all, they will only be paid for what they sell. The feedback from the buying team early on in the development process is the first way in which the retailer is able to ensure a high quality product which meets the customers’ wants.


Even more important is the direct interaction with the customer Fresh Collective affords its designers. Events, and even in-store communication is invaluable and often something designers receive primarily post-season, after the next collection is already designed and produced.


Smaller runs and in-season repeats are a lean and effective way to learn what resonates with customers – without huge financial mistakes in inventory buying. And the direct sales feedback means the designer can make quick changes, swapping out merchandise that isn’t selling and correcting any mistakes. This fast action keeps the retailer’s sales floor fresh, and gives the opportunity for the designer to increase his/her sales.




Whereas a retailer like Holt Renfrew will require a cohesive, high quality line with perfected fit and capacity to create monthly collections, an emerging designer with Fresh Collective has a bit of time to work with the retailer to perfect all aspects of their brand. Because their customer is looking for novel ideas, the designer can test and try new things.


The experience, with a growing customer and sales base is ideal for a new designer. And a stable yet unique brand matrix is perfect for Fresh Collective. It’s a model that works for the retailer, their collection, and supplier base – an ideal retailing scenario. 


This event with Fresh Collective was the official launch of the Art of Fashion's Ultimate Holiday Dress competition - applications closing August 1.