The Defiant 25 Post | TLQ 0.1

The Defiant 25

Honoring the visionaries, risk takers and leaders, that leveraged digital technology and innovation to create or transform their businesses.

BY Awais Khan | Head of Research | The LeadThe fashion and retail apocalypse continues to descend on America. Many iconic brands of the last few decades are either no longer in business or are under bankruptcy protection. One of the latest casualties Nine West, which owns and operates brands such as Anne Klein and their namesake brand, recently entered a restructuring agreement and conceded to sell its footwear and handbag business. At the end of last year, The Walking Company in California could not afford rent, and Claire’s stores held $2.1 billion in debt. They both filed for Chapter 11 protection.

The list goes on and the message is clear — Innovate or Die.

Existing brands that were able to foresee the disruptive changes in the market, adopted rapidly, survived the carnage and came out stronger. Digital native brands emerged with no past baggage, threatening the very core of the traditional retail model. And a new breed of venture capital firms beat the returns of many traditional blue chip VCs, leading the effort to support entrepreneurs building direct to consumer brands.

None of these successes, however, would have been possible without the leadership of a few outliers who anticipated the transformation and took bold steps to adapt to the new digital world order. The Defiant 25 honors these visionaries, risk takers and leaders, that leveraged digital technology and innovation to create or transform their businesses.

David Lauren of Ralph Lauren spearheaded the creation of an immersive world for consumers, with initiatives including window-shopping screens, smart polo shirts with built-in biometrics, and holographic fashion shows.

Marc Lore continues to push the envelope at Walmart with Store No. 8, evident by its latest acquisition of a virtual reality content studio.

LVMH’s Ian Rogers is leading projects with several LVMH backed luxury startups, including companies creating new materials using silkworms, counterfeit detection software, and a marketplace for sneakers and apparel.

Katrina Lake of StichFix, continues to leverage data and algorithms to build a highly profitable fashion company, disrupting the entire industry.

As we look ahead to this year and next, new technologies will continue to oust traditional business models. Artificial intelligence, IBM predicts, will manage up to 85% of all B2C interaction by 2020. Blockchain applications and technologies will allow companies to track shipments from source to factory, and enhance intellectual property protection for designers and brands. Virtual and augmented reality experiences will be adopted at a much faster pace, and methane-eating bacteria might create new fabrics and materials. Brands will continue to launch innovative vehicles for technology incubation and partnerships with startup companies, which could even create a new role for ‘Chief Data Officers’.

Of course, any research and analysis would be incomplete without looking into the largest behemoth of all — Amazon. It’s no surprise the company now offers more than seventy private-label brands. And with the launch of Amazon Prime Wardrobe, the company continue to invest heavily in apparel and fashion, as it races to be the first trillion-dollar empire. Adding another nail to the coffin, the research teams at Amazon recently developed an AI algorithm that can design clothing by analyzing images of certain styles. Given their customer reach, the online giant could crush many traditional fashion and retail brands. It will certainly be interesting to watch and see who is able to survive the Amazon plan of world domination.

See the full list here.