When we envision the future of retail, we often imagine digitally connected storefronts, augmented reality experiences, and ever-present shopping opportunities. Our own Futures Perspective, The Future Shopper, hypothesizes that the retail environment will change dramatically over the next 20 years, driven mainly by the mainstreaming of two technologies: screens and sensors. While we can begin to chart how the shopping experience will change in the near future, Barton Strawn, Creative Director of Lumina Clothing, does not see a future in which brick-and-mortar stores are erased from existence. Instead, they will need to adopt an entirely new role. I sat down with Barton in Raleigh, N.C., to talk.
Nick: In a few sentences, can you please introduce yourself and Lumina clothing?
Barton: My name is Barton Strawn, creative director of Lumina Clothing, an American-made menswear brand based in Raleigh, N.C. The brand was launched after a successful Kickstarter campaign in the beginning of 2012. In November, 2012, we opened our first flagship store in downtown Raleigh. Our goal is to use clothing as a vehicle to show that Southern design and production can become as world class as anything in NYC or abroad.
What need/demand has Lumina clothing identified and how is it positioned to address that need?
There are a few different areas of demand that Lumina is addressing. First, we have made a commitment to producing in the USA, something that the men’s clothing industry has particularly embraced and begun to demand. Currently only 2% of clothing bought in the USA is made here, so we are positioned to grow rapidly. Second, we are trying to provide a good multi-channel attack for sales, leveraging both online and physical outlets to provide a smooth and consistent purchasing process. Finally, we see menswear as an arena for a lot of growth, with few good options and a growing desire for more selection. As we build out our collection, we continue to help solve more of this problem.
How do you believe the way in which people shop for clothing has changed over the past 10 to 20 years? What has stayed the same?
The internet has obviously changed the way people shop for clothing. The biggest impact is people’s access to clothing that they would never have had in the past. For a while, most trends said that physical stores may need to pack it up because everything was being bought online. We have seen a shift back towards physical shopping, but the internet still plays a huge roll. Armed with a cell phone, everyone is an expert of your product these days, so you’d better know your products better than your customer does.
What do you think will impact or influence the way people choose to or need to purchase clothing in the future (the next 10 to 20 years)?
I believe that as more manufacturing becomes automated, you will see things like made-to-measure begin to dominate the market more. The biggest hindrance to adoption is the labor it takes to put each new item together, but as this shifts more to machines, you have an opportunity to change how people think about shopping. They won’t shop for an item that fits well, they will shop for an item and then have it fit to themselves.
Cell phones or any type of mobile device will also continue to evolve the way interaction occurs between customers, sales associates and the clothing itself.
How will the way people acquire clothing evolve over the next 10 to 20 years? Will there still be brick-and-mortar stores, will people still buy clothing, will there be another model, etc.? What does the clothing shop of the future look like?
Brick-and-mortar will always have its place, although it will probably shrink drastically. There was a great experiment done in China where you could “shop” for groceries through a billboard with QR codes and the items were delivered to your house. I think as the urban environment needs to adapt to more people, experiences like that one will become more commonplace. As real-estate prices continue to rise, store owners will find ways to operate with less space as well. The major barrier online is tactile, so if a way to overcome this ever develops, I think online will dominate the industry even more than it does now.
Who do you believe is doing a particularly good job or has created something truly innovative in the fashion retail space (both off and online)?
Hointer is a technology company that is implementing very cool ideas in a denim store they run out in California. They are really trying to push the limits of the digital and physical world, and where they collide. Online, Huckberry is doing a great job of taking the digital environment and creating a very outdoors-oriented tactile lifestyle. Any time you talk about advancing the retail space Bonobos can’t go unmentioned, as they basically pioneered the online menswear market and made it widely accepted.
What are the most important things people should know or think about in terms of how the fashion retail environment will change in the future?
I think that customers have to have a better understanding of how their dollars impact the transitions made in the fashion industry. We hear a lot of complaints about the declining quality of clothing, but then we ask how we can compete with the cheap prices at Target. Every dollar spent is telling the industry what direction it should take. There is a reason why H&M is so large today. “Fast Fashion” might be a taboo phrase now, but every dollar spent there is a vote to increase that industry even more. Words have no impact if they aren’t followed by action and the industry will change according to the action of spending, not just what you say you would like to see happen.
Website // www.luminaclothing.com
Twitter // @luminaclothing
Instagram // @luminaclothing