An overzealous girl with tight curls and an infectious smile lights up as she recalls the moment she realized she was on the right path. Sitting at a quiet table in Blue State Café, she stands out amongst the neutrally dressed droids studying for mid-term examinations. “I built my outfit around this leather tie this morning,” she beams. “It’s from a vintage shop in Paris.” A less-than-subtle cape a la Sherlock Holmes tops off a vintage Ungaro skirt and a tweed vest. Wearing head to toe consignment, this fresh-faced girl with caramel skin and not a pore in sight looks impeccable, receiving jealous glances for neighboring café goers and drive by compliments from Comm. Ave cars. While Shanelle Russell may not be a household name yet, I have no doubt we’ll be hearing a lot from this Boston University senior. With a style all her own and a first name that echoes the ingenuity of the most highly regarded fashion house in Paris, nay, of the world, she fits in the industry like a square peg in a round hole, allowing herself to stand out. With the determination of Anna Wintour and the kindred-spirit of Grace Coddington pumping through her veins, Shanelle sees herself living and breathing in only one space; the fashion world. In truth, her approach to this “alternate universe” is far more Tavi Gevinson than Olivia Palermo. Through hard work and without common connection, this fashion rogue is taking on the industry in her own way, pooh-poohing the slave-driving fashion closets of New York’s haute publications. At first glance, it’s clear that Shanelle possesses a sense of style all her own; with the budget of a college student preparing for post-graduate life, she chooses thrift stores over the high street and Buffalo Exchange over Bergdorf’s. Her debut into the fashion world started at a young age when Shanelle worked as a child model, walking the catwalk in Vera Wang shows and gracing the cover of Time Magazine and Martha Stewart Living. “When I realized that I could afford to pay for things myself,” Shanelle says that she was popping into vintage stores and using her piggy bank allowance to buy vintage pillbox hats from the 40s, “before it was trendy.” “I love things that tell a story, something that keeps you constantly entranced,” she says. Recalling her favorite piece in her closet, she bursts into breathy laughter and delves into a thespian scene a few years back in Newbury Street’s Second Time Around consignment shop. Locking eyes with a vintage Chanel tailored tea jacket and high-waisted pencil skirt from across the room, she knew it was love at first sight. “I didn’t want to try it on because I knew the price tag would just depress me,” she continues. “My friend, who clearly thought I was insane, pushed me to and of course it fit immaculately. I hung it back up, ran out of the store and burst into tears. I’d never been so happy and so incredibly gutted at the same time.” Luckily her mother came to the rescue and rather non-chalantly agreed that Shanelle had never been this dramatic about anything fashion related and offered to pay for half of the suit. Her purchase now sits in her closet, gently worn (read, twice) but the thought of the shopping success still brings a smile to its owner’s face. How Shanelle felt that day in that cream Chanel suit is exactly what she wants to inspire in other people through fashion. Holding onto her lifelong dream of becoming a stylist she enjoys styling on both a personal and creative level. “You see people light up when they look and feel good. The light; it’s like sharing a grain of your passion with them.” After combing through the lack luster opportunities for fashion-lovers on Boston University’s campus, Shanelle looked to the streets where she found the city’s overlooked and under-appreciated fashion scene. Landing a job with the styling company TESstylist confirmed her fit in that part of the fashion world. A shift in interest from editorial work to styling, Shanelle says, is the result of working with her boss Lydia Santangelo, and feeding off of Lydia’s fervor for what she does. “She loves the industry for all its flaws and all of its grandeurs. She creates her visions but not at the expense of others. That’s what I aspire to.” Reflecting on her modeling career, Shanelle notes that she loved watching the stylists work backstage, dressing the models and making last minute changes. This has translated to her work under Lydia’s team as she runs around Boston pulling outfit ideas and pieces for Improper Bostonian shoots. Working with Lydia, Shanelle aspires to her creative level and her grace in what she does. “She’s passionate, and she’s humble. That’s intoxicating.” It’s these kinds of people who Shanelle believes need to play a bigger role in the members-only club that is, sadly, today’s world of fashion. Her love-hate relationship is swayed by the generally negative and egotistical disposition of the industry. “People think they’re a lot cooler than they are and use clothing and accessories to amplify that.” What’s important to Shanelle, in contrast, is not about being up-to-the-minute or luxurious; it’s about telling the story. With just as much enthusiasm and zeal, she’s different from the other slaves to the fashion world. On the contrary, she turns up her nose to Paris, isn’t too impressed by New York and doesn’t think she’d fit in in Tokyo. Shanelle’s sunny disposition vastly counters those of the bitchy laborers (as she deems them) in Miu Miu dresses and Celine Phantom Bags in Zac Posen’s fashion house where she worked last summer. While many of “her kind” (or perhaps, not her kind at all) appreciate fashion for its labels and as a buffer for social status, Shanelle can see beyond a trendy outfit to a bigger and more poignant vision. “She is very passionate about that world,” says close friend Sarah Chaparro. “But she thinks of it as an art form, and doesn’t think it’s all about labels, but about the artists that are designers.” This clearly sets her aside as a different breed of fashionista. Purposefully ignoring the easiest and most obvious road that leads to New York City’s fashion hub, she says she sees opportunities elsewhere. Born and bred by her German mother and Jamaican father, she believes travel to be the most obvious channel to expose herself to other people’s stories and provide her with “a lot to work with.” “Life, travel and new experiences are a way to add to my breadth of vision and knowledge by learning people’s stories,” she says. “What people care about and emote is important, and you can translate human values and cares into fashion; Just not many people see it that way.” At the moment, her post-graduation plan is to return to New Zealand where she met her boyfriend during a BU Study Abroad program last year, and then explore Thailand. “I decided New Zealand and Thailand half a year ago; Life changes depending on what opportunities arise,” she says. “I’m expecting to claw my way through life, especially in fashion.” She would love to try to work in London, but right now her eye is set on New Zealand’s next-door neighbor, Australia. “They [the Aussies] have such a distinct fashion sense and the scene is very present but not in an extreme or in your face way like at other fashion hubs. It’s more understated and quirky. You have the passion but not the crazy.” Her first instinct to go running in the opposite direction of Vogue Mecca—New York—speaks worlds to the kind of person Shanelle is. As her boyfriend James Anderson puts his home country, “New Zealand isn’t the most fashionable of places, I mean hell, I’m not a fashionable guy at all. I guess our laid back culture is reflected in the fashion, but there really isn’t a great interest or opportunity in the fashion world here compared to the United States, by sheer under population.” Anderson describes Shanelle as fiercely committed and hardworking, so as she moves to New Zealand to be with him [James], she says she hopes to conjure something up in their fashion world. She goes with her gut and tries different things, even if they don’t see the most natural fit. In the end, isn’t that exactly how fashion works? Clearly a free spirit, Shanelle is influenced by the chaos and culture around her, appreciating the weaving of stories and memories. It is with this approach that she interprets the fashion world, whose future she hopes to influence. “Fashion should be more of a collaboration of visions,” she says. “It’s about telling so many stories at once. You pick things up as you go. The memories that go with a piece, be it a Moroccan rug from a market in Seaside, New York City or that vintage pill box hat, what inspires you in it and the feelings you get should be what it is about.” As atypical as she is from the maniacal fashion cult that she sees running New York, London, Paris and Tokyo today, Shanelle offers hope that someone like her might someday change the world of fashion, relieving it from its often dark, dank and exclusive grotto. You cannot ignore the honesty that rings in her voice when she says that as much as people piss her off in fashion, whenever someone asks her to pull an outfit for a shoot or pick out a dress for an event, she is in her happy place. “I care most about how I can make other’s feel in clothing, not necessarily how they look. And I hope that outfit can inspire their story too.”
OctWith the September release of Era Extraña, Neon Indian translates the 20° winters of Finland into a cool-colored, dreamy album. The band’s sophomore effort, produced by Mom + Pop Records, takes the hot and sticky summer sounds of Psychic Chasms and adds intricate and thoughtful synth patterns, resulting in a more mature and meaningful sound. Era Extraña appeals to fans of chillwave as well as listeners who’ve never heard of it. “Polish Girl” is an upbeat, danceable single with a singalong chorus, something which is either inconspicuous or absent in the album’s other tracks. Alan Palomo, the band’s young composer, often lets his beats and instrumental arrangements do the talking. The record launches with “Heart: Attack,” a scratchy climb into an explosion of sound, which is just a taste of the band’s newly mastered synthesizing techniques. The title song, “Era Extraña,” acts as the album’s heartbeat, with an outstanding bass line layered under an intentional cacophony of synth patterns. Its powerful riffs are a lot angrier than anything on the band’s first CD, demonstrating Neon Indian’s growth out of a younger sound in their formative electro-pop years. While Era Extraña isn’t nearly as bubbly as the band’s debut album, it still has a catchy vibe, even with its heavily instrumental focus. Neon Indian is clearly becoming more seasoned in their sound. But for those dying for a duet with Palomo, concertgoers can still rock out to the old school electro-pop “Arcade Blues,” proving that Neon Indian will always remain true to their original voice. Written by Eden White, The BU Quad
Octo“To be honest, most people do this dress, but I think ours is the best,” chuckles the 5’8″ Alexa Chung in a recent Refinery29 blog video. While 5’8″ may seem fun-sized for the catwalk, the jill-of-all-trades has added another role to her TV presenter/model repertoire: designer. Last week, Chung premiered her second line for the J.Crew-owned Madewell clothing company. With tartan wraps that echo the designer’s British roots, long-sleeved lacy dresses (to which she’s referring above), slouchy boyfriend sweaters, and a “self-portrait” sketch tee, the former MTV presenter hit a high note with her latest Madewell collaboration, so much so that the company’s website temporarily crashed from the number of online shoppers. While Alexa Chung’s partnership with Madewell has proven popular with the masses and demonstrated the young Brit’s talent for design, it highlights the inadequacy of many tried (and failed) clothing and accessory lines that celebrities launch, believing that their names alone will sell clothing. Sienna Miller, here’s to you for your Twenty8Twelve work (granted, you may have had sister Savannah’s help). And Mary-Kate, for someone who epitomizes “dumpster-chic,” you and Ashley got it right with Elizabeth and James. It’s the attempts made by “not-quite-sure-why-you’re-famous” reality stars and teeny-boppers that just don’t hit the mark. I’m looking at you, Miley Cyrus and Kardashian sisters. To say that I don’t occasionally bask in the mindlessness that is Keeping Up with the Kardashians would be unfair. The girls, mother Kris, former Olympian Bruce Jenner, and a handful of half-siblings do make for an entertaining bunch. While I’m not quite sure what the Kardashian sisters actually do, they have checked “designing a clothing line” off their list twice in the past year. With closets that most fashion enthusiasts could only dream of and years of retail experience in the clothing store DASH, you’d expect Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, and Kris to produce a chic and innovative collection. While last year’s K-Dash for QVC.com revealed a glimpse of a creative eye in the girls (think embellished shoulder pads and classic, double-breasted blazers), their latest line for Sears, Kardashian Kollection, offers little more than attire appropriate only for Tao nightclub in Las Vegas – and I don’t mean that in a good way. It’s curious how celebrities assume that just because someone can dress them, they too have the keen eye to dress others. At the end of the day, having a unique sense of style and the confidence to wear it is worth more than having a movie star’s name associated with it. The ability to know your audience and cater to the individual styles within it that Alexa Chung and the Olsen twins possess is not easily acquired. For the rest of you – stick to your day jobs, whatever they may be. Written by Eden White, The BU Quad
As I pulled up in my black hackney cab to a nondescript bar-restaurant in the heart of “the city of London,” I was unsure of what evening would hold; A first meeting over drinks; Business casual or fancy dress? This city within a city marks the heart of the financial district in the bustling capital, and I quickly found myself in a sea of Armani suits and pencil skirts; the sexy brains and sapient beauties of downtown London. I suddenly felt out of place and underdressed in my ankle booties and leather pants. After presenting my ID to the equally well dressed bouncer (we were certainly not in Allston anymore), I pushed past the over-populated beer hall style wooden tables and made my way to the bar, eagerly awaiting his imminent presence through the front doors. What sounds like a blind date was in fact my second meeting with my new boss at Blue Tomato, an independent food magazine. My text message instructions were simply to meet him and the drinks editor at a bar downtown, bring a few friends, who were inopportunely running late, and prepare for a wild night. I hadn’t even seen the inside of an office space, yet my first assignment was a gin and tonic followed by flutes of champagne and tequila shots with the boss? This didn’t seem particularly normal but Darren and Gary, my new superiors, weren’t fazed in the slightest. After all this was the UK, not her naïve and underage little sister, Miss America. I’d like to think I’ve a particularly well-cushioned resume. With what will be ten internships by the time I finish my undergraduate degree, I’ve found myself in many different office spaces, culturally speaking; some more lenient and, let’s say, rowdy, than others. Perhaps this is the nature of the communications world; creative meets constructive over craft beers on Friday, more often than not. But has the shift in office culture, by way of alcohol consumption, affected our work ethic and relationships with colleagues, and more importantly our superiors? My two and a half month internship at a startup magazine would act as a case study into this. “Another round of shots ladies? Come on now,” my Editor-in-Chief bellowed from atop the leather couch in our private karaoke room. We were several rounds in and my soprano line was starting to fail me, with my three girlfriends harmonizing on alto and the men taking the bass and tenor lines. Fleetwood Mac’s karaoke classic “You Can Go Your Own Way,” was quickly becoming what sounded like a chorus of warthogs with bellyaches. Riddled with nausea and an unrivaled headache the next morning, I awoke to an e-mail from my similarly hung over boss with a deadline for an article. A virgin in the light of drinking on the job, my 3pm story deadline seemed like a far and distant impossibility. I was still trying to digest what had happened the night before. Awkward wasn’t the right word to describe it, but watching my boss throw back shots with deadly aim seemed a little inappropriate. Was my confusion and slight discomfort warranted, or was this the norm in the British working world? Apparently it was. “I felt the same way when I studied abroad in London,” says Georgia Locke, an account executive at the Cambridge-based advertising agency Toth + Co. “At the time, even in my more creative internships in the US, drinking on the job and anything past one or two drinks at happy hour was a no-no and means for a serious conversation at work the next day. I think that culture is shifting, and slowly catching up with the more laid back mindset you see in the UK.” As it turns out, Friday’s at Toth + Co. are a TGIF event with employees cracking bottles of Stella Artois at 3pm. The text message that followed my article submission at deadline confirmed my over-analyzing of last night’s activities. “You up for a little hair of the dog?” the message read. It was going to be a long two and a half months and I wasn’t sure my liver, or conscience, could handle it. Even outside the office, boozing in the United Kingdom is heavily engrained in the people’s culture. A catch-up over coffee in America, translates to a pint at the neighborhood pub in England, without question. “Here in London we see the pub as a friendly meeting place, and the pint as a catalyst for conversation,” says Darren Hassall, Editor-in-Chief of Blue Tomato. “When you apply that to the work place, in moderation, I think it helps for an open and equal environment and for a closer connection between co-workers. We’re all adults here, work should be something we enjoy coming to, and if a few drinks between colleagues helps that, then so be it.” In a 2011 article in Bloomberg Businessweek, contributor Ryan Flinn discusses the comeback of booze in the workplace. With the rise in startup tech companies and the like, your typical 9 to 5 is out the window. Long hours and near 24/7 work weeks often find employees treating the office as their second home. Executives are hoping to make it feel that way too. The article points out that, “the work culture of small companies and entrepreneurial setups often prescribes a recipe of long hours and flexible days–and then tries to accommodate that requirement to make work life more bearable.” A romanticized Mad Men-esque workplace of cigarettes, stiff drinks and incestuous office fraternizing isn’t necessarily in the cards, but a modified version of it certainly is. “The PR firm I worked for treated its employees like adults, and expected us to act accordingly,” says Shelby Hickox, a Boston University student who studied abroad in London last fall. “If that meant having a drink or two on the job, there was still a great expectation by us to meet deadlines and represent our company.” Hickox, though, had a bit of a hiccup after attending a very “wet” work event, leaving her impossibly intoxicated and sent home in a cab by her co-workers. Perhaps a bit more Don Draper than she, or the boss, would have liked. It’s situations like these that question the sense in providing and consuming alcohol on the job. But internal organizational behavior and psychology graduate Sophie Cox says that there may be more pros than cons to drinks with the boss. “It seems to be a generational trend coming back in full swing. From 1950s Mad Men, which is what many people associate office drinking with, increased on-the-job socializing emphasizes a workplace culture that promotes freedom, but not necessarily over regimentation.” She continues, “executives that allow alcohol in the office are trusting their employees to act accordingly or suffer the consequences, in hopes that they will feel at home and comfortable in the workplace. It’s the casual, new-age version of the office retreat and team building.” Though happy hour isn’t a new trend by any means, kegerators and fully stocked fridges in the office kitchen might be. But this intoxicating change may be the result of greater demand for working hours by employees, so what are a few beers per several extra hours in the workweek? As I reflect back on my first encounter with Mr. Hassall (or Darren as he demanded I call him), though I felt a bit out of my element with a karaoke microphone in one hand and a tequila shot in another, I suppose I respect Darren that much more for wanting to get to know me outside of the office and trusting me to hold my own and the Blue Tomato name. In the months following, spotted with catch-ups and editing sessions, I learned to trust my boss’ edits as he did my writing skills. And all this was over a pint down at the local. Written by Eden White
http://www.bluetomatoreviews.com/eat/restaurant-reviews/the-grove/A haven from the hustle and bustle of central London and the surrounding high streets, The Grove on Oldridge Road plays a quaint but substantial little part in the foodie backdrop of Balham. Standing out from her surrounding pubby counterparts, this is not your typical English public house. A quirky Victorian haunt with a menu to match, The Grove makes for a great dinner date spot or a casual round of drinks with the mates. Last week, a friend and I ventured out of South Kensington and across the river to test the waters on this one. Escaping from the bitter cold that’s now upon us, we rushed into the decadently designed hub. With old oak kitchen tables, plush leather couches and draped curtains, the atmosphere was cozy and casual but with an air of scandalous grandeur. Seduced by the aroma of mulled wine and skin-on chips, we were lead to our little table by the bar, by the host. A gastronomic masterpiece with a menu not to fault, The Grove this season lets you drink in the stunning brasserie dining room while enjoying dishes inspired by the team’s travels up and down the East coast of the America, cooked with a British twist. A food lover’s haven, we surveyed the menu with wide eyes and watering mouths. With season starters such as clam chowder and goat’s cheese, walnut and fennel quiche, to bourbon sticky ribs, ale battered haddock and a 21-day aged rib eye steak with parmesan fries; we weren’t quite sure where to start. With full knowledge of the belly bomber dinner ahead of us, we dove right in starting with the smoked rainbow trout and roasted chilli fish cakes and the rope grown mussels with smoked bacon drenched in Meantime Pale Ale. For my pescatarian dining partner and I, the fish cakes were cooked to crispy perfection with a spicy kick, and the moules offered a sweet and savoury opener for our mains. The accompanying pale ale, too, made a perfect dipping sauce for the sourdough bread provided. Following in quick pursuit, perfectly timed with our next glass of Pinot Grigio, our waiter swept in with the main courses. Shelby decided on the three bean vegetable chilli with goats cheese dumplings; a delightfully flavourful stomach-coating for the big night out to follow. The goats cheese dumplings melted in your mouth and the accompanying chilli went down with a kick of cinnamon and chilli; a perfectly hot bowl of comfort food to combat the negative temperatures outside. I went with the pan-fried market fish of the day, which happened to be Sea Bass. Presented in its entirety on a bed of on the vine and juicy roasted tomatoes and pearl onions, the fish was cooked wonderfully; very tender with just the right amount of salt and sweet from the vegetables. Very true to my fashion, I demanded a side order of the courgette fries that proved a masterpiece in their own right with a garlic aioli for dipping; sinfully naughty yet nice. My only regret with this meal was that I didn’t try the famed Balham Burger. A juicy tower of prime beef, cooked in dripping bacon served with American cheese, mustard mayo and, the special ingredient; peanut butter. The colonial yet contemporary laid back spot transports its diners to a bygone period with its simply majestic interior, but lends itself as the unpretentious spot for a chat over a pint with friends. Truly a jack-of-all-trades, I highly recommend it! Written By Eden White
Long-loved brands can easily find themselves held back by a sell-by date. A brand once popular in its youth can just as quickly lose steam as it matures, getting stuck in a grey zone that can negatively affect sales. When brands face this challenging time, often the easy way out is to come up with short-term solutions to alleviate the toll; price cuts to boost immediate sales for example. While this may help in the short-term, in the long run your brand is looking ahead at more deep-rooted issues such as consumer and investor trust and brand following. Brands that grow out of a temporary trend or a very specific product line put themselves at a greater risk of losing their following. We, as consumers, are a fickle breed and once the “next hot thing” is in and our product is, in the words of Heidi Klum, “out,” the demand of customers gradually slows and leads to static sales. Strength lies in the resilience of a brand and in its sustainability over time; this goes far beyond slap-dash efforts to boost immediate sales. Brands known for one specific look or trendy product may quickly suffer the consequences of becoming irrelevant and old, fast. At one point in the early 2000s, velour tracksuits and suede, sheepskin boots were all the rage from teeny-boppers to their mothers. Juicy Couture and UGG are now perfect and unfortunate examples of brands that are struggling in the fadeout of a time-sensitive, trendy product.
When a small Californian company UGG was acquired by Decker Outdoor Corporation in 1998, the brand made a strategic move and positioned itself as a maker of high-end luxury footwear. Within three years, the line was regularly featured in high fashion magazines and photo shoots.(1) When the company made a strategic alliance with Nordstrom, the brand really took off. At one point, Oprah purchased 350 pairs of UGGs for her staff, and there was time when everyone wanted a pair of UGGs. After penetrating the international market, demand for UGGs started to slow down, and now, UGG is paying for it. Decker Outdoor Corp’s stock price is down 47% from a year ago. UGG is known for selling signature classic sheepskin boots, but the fad has come and gone and consumers no longer find UGG boots as stylish as they did before. Juicy Couture has also fallen on hard times since the early 2000s, when the brand was at its peak. It’s velour tracksuits were worn by celebrities from Jennifer Lopez to Jennifer Aniston. (2) According to Business Insider, “the reason for Juicy’s problems is simple: its fashions haven’t chanced that much since its heyday eight years ago. Since then the trends have changed new casual apparel brands have taken over.” Trends constantly evolve, but if a company can’t keep up, then they’ll be left in the dust.
However, it’s not entirely impossible for a brand’s success to continue, even if it is known for a specific trend or product. Preppy Queen Tory Burch is a perfect example. Only a few years after Tory Burch launched her brand, the obsession with the its signature “Reva” ballet flat remains in full force.
With a clear vision in mind, Tory Burch grew her business into a sustainable lifestyle brand targeting preppy women with a quirky, bohemian twist. Tory’s company was one of the first to invest in branded content, social media, and e-commerce, growing the business into an accessible luxury brand.
Brands like Tory Burch constantly expand product lines, work around the ebb and flow of the market, focus on successful international operations, and adapt to new trends with a strategic vision. Many other successful American companies like Michael Kors, Coach and J.Crew have proven that with a clear vision and innovative mind, brands can overcome the challenge of falling into a grey zone and become a fashionable, innovative and sustainable brand.
Back in 2009, Burberry launched a fresh, innovative initiative in its online digital space. The Art of the Trench is an external site where customers can share photos of themselves wearing their Burberry trench coats, allowing other customers to admire their sense of style. Not only did the site appeal to Burberry product owners, but also to “aspirational” future consumers who had the ability to comment on and “like” their favorite style shots. To kick off the site, Burberry hosted pictures by acclaimed fashion blogger and photographer Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist, setting the tone for the site. “Rather than explicitly market the Trench, Burberry opted to rely largely on public relations and word of mouth generated through The Sartorialist and users sharing their submissions on Facebook and Twitter”. (1) The past few years have come with a significant shift in the kind of content that is being produced in the fashion industry. Brand content is not only being created by the brand itself, but also by its fans. The most savvy of fashion brands are calling upon their customers to do the talking for them. Through user-generated content (UGC), retailers are creating spaces for consumers to post their own related content in hopes of drawing in a greater audience by word of mouth. This new form of digital creative content has proven tremendously popular and profitable for brands such as Free People, ASOS and Levi’s. Each of these brands has an e-commerce site that provides a space for consumers to post photos of themselves wearing the products. When it comes to fashion, UGC is a win-win situation for both the consumer and the brand. In the golden age of social media and blogging, consumers no longer need to look to celebrities for new trends, but can instead turn to fashion bloggers, “street stylists,” and their peers. When customers are given a platform to post what inspires them and what they love on a brand’s website, the retailer is also better informed of the kind of products and styles that it should be producing. Brands are able to automatically widen their audience through consumer sharing; and interaction with the customer presents the brand in an approachable light, even at the “luxury” level. In a Digital Relevance article, blogger Sharmin Kent writes that UGC can “serve as the glue that holds a brand’s community together because it necessitates a give-and-take: By participating in a brand’s community and creating content, a user gives a brand permission to advertise.” (2) Fear not though; handing over the reigns to the consumer does not rid a brand entirely of its power. Without context, UGC lacks direction and loses the Brand DNA. Thus, it is up to the retailer to carefully curate content for the customer to play with and be inspired by, so that the brand guides the initial conversation. As the godfather of denim, Levi’s is the most iconic name in the jean industry. Celebrating their 140th anniversary this year, the Levi’s team built a campaign around the original 501 Jean and let their fans go at it. Simply dubbed “Levi’s 501” in honor of the classic product, fans uploaded photos of their personal looks, inspired by the tagline “What’s your Interpretation?”. Boasting the 501 Brand DNA of individuality and personal style, Levi’s is searching the globe for the best interpretations of the original blue jean. The visually stimulating site is the perfect example of a brand incorporating user-generated content into a campaign. Levi’s fans can look to the site for personal inspiration while the brand can simultaneously look to the consumer’s for trends and style choices to aid in future brand strategy. Free People and ASOS incorporate UGC through pages on their websites dedicated to consumer submitted content. FP Me hosts a photo gallery of consumers styling their own Free People looks, which are then attached to the sales page for that specific product. Browsing customers are able to see products styled on real people as opposed to fit models. ASOS is another brand that relies heavily on user-generated content. Through their Instagram, the company has asked consumers to upload their ASOS looks with the hashtag #ASOSLoves for a chance to be featured on their blog. Through these two different strategies, UGC incorporation allows potential buyers to see how products fit and be inspired by a peer’s style. User generated content is becoming a trusted voice within the fashion industry, specifically through e-commerce channels. This kind of content is a valuable resource for both consumers and fashion brands. It shows how products are styled by real people, acts as a resource for style inspiration, and provides information for brands to understand how customers are responding to trends. Retailers should most certainly consider gathering UGC and implementing it into future campaign messaging and brand strategy. See more at: http://blog.toth.com/post/52788745169/consumers-have-the-first-say#sthash.m2YLX9cP.dpuf