KNOWING THE LEAD
BY Timo Weiland | Co-Founder & Chief Community Officer | The Lead
Through the signature iron & glass doors of Cadillac House, attendees of The Lead Assembly entered into an environment they had never experienced before – a safe space for transformation. The invitation-only event brought together 160 fashion brand and retail leaders, digital native founders, rapid growth tech start-ups, investors, and technology leaders. Several attendees approached me prior to the assembly with questions about what they would be learning, and by the end of the day, consensus among this same group of individuals (and others) was that they aren’t even sure of what they ‘don’t know’.
The highlight for many who had come for the half-day event, was that they were able to get to know the thought-leaders on the forefront of digital transformation in an intimate & luxurious setting with unrecorded conversations about the challenges impacting their businesses and the potential solutions. Noah & I are thrilled to have the latest evolution of The Lead be a trajectory-defining paradigm shift for our community, a community of once separate silos converging to share ideas and perspectives. This is The Lead.
An eye-opening keynote from Macy’s Marc Mastronardi (EVP Business Development, Innovation) kicked off the day’s programming, providing an insider’s look at the company’s strategy for innovation including the most recent acquisition of concept store Story. Following that, four of today’s most exciting venture-backed companies servicing the fashion, beauty, & retail sector took the stage. These ‘Problem Talks’ gave the audience a look into some specific challenges and opportunities for fashion & retail in mobile commerce (Attentive), payments (Sezzle), cross-channel retail marketing (Bluecore) and people based marketing (BounceX).
I haven’t seen jaws drop quite so collectively as when Zenni Optical’s Chief Product Officer, Bai Gan walked the audience through the trajectory of their Bay Area based business. The presentation included detailed numbers and data and exclusive tips & insights from the privately held, female-founded brand. It was a truely intimate look at how a $200 Million per year digital native brand built its business without any outside investment. I have been a creative partner of Zenni’s for almost 5 years, yet I remain impressed by the magnitude of their success—and growing brand-awareness—as the leader in premium eyewear with accessible pricing. Zenni stands by their motto of ‘Eyewear for Everyone’.
Next up, we addressed the timely and relevant question at hand — how do digital native vertical brands scale beyond the digital channel? In a panel led by Cassie Rosenthal (SVP, Rosenthal & Rosenthal), Aaron Sanandres (Co-Founder & CEO, UNTUCKit), Daniella Yacobovsky (Co-Founder, BAUBLEBAR), and Mariah Chase (CEO, ELOQUII) — each shared their thoughts on expanding beyond digital into brick-and-mortar retail, wholesale partnerships, geographical focus and next steps for growth.
The off-the-record roundtables were quite possibly the most distinct segment of The Assembly, which were hosted by industry experts from organizations including Store No. 8 / Walmart, Glossier, NBCUniversal, Facebook, Google, eBay Fashion, IBM Watson Commerce, and Cadillac. The intimate circles created a ‘safe space’ for decision-makers from each layer of the fashion-beauty-retail value chain as the focused groups of executives came together to openly discuss the dynamic topics impacting their businesses everyday.
Capping off the day (on-time!), Cosabella’s CEO & Creative Director, Guido Campello offered realistic and inspiring insight into how he continues to transform his family’s generational business, providing a blueprint to evolution for brands large and small.
Babe Rosé was a perfect segue into celebration of the new relationships forged and information gained from the day’s programming. With pink bubbly flowing and disco funk tracks by Midnight Magic mixed with Cardi B playing over the loudspeakers, it was clear the crowd was now an integrated and authentically united community of leaders with a shared mission to know what’s next. Cheers!