Knowing The Lead
The Lead’s Timo Weiland gives an insider’s look into his role as Chief Community Officer — the link between brand & retail leaders and the wider fashion-retail-commerce community.
BY: Timo Weiland
When Noah and I co-founded The Lead in 2017, we saw firsthand that there existed a community of decision-makers across fashion & retail that were in need of guidance – their companies ripe for reinvention in the new data-driven era. Digital centricity for brands did not just mean e-commerce or flashy wearable tech gadgets. And much of what was being covered in fashion business media didn’t move the needle industry-wide because of the surface-level nature of the insights. We set out to build the go-to platform for this group of executives to dive deep — to have the right conversations with the right people in order to drive the ongoing evolution of the fashion & retail industry. Our mission is to continue to be an integral facilitator of actionable dialogue and corporate development through our events, research, and publication.
On May 21st, we held our quarterly Executive Salon with a wonderful group and an insightful presentation from Amazon Alexa’s Voice Commerce team. Attendees from iconic brands and retailers at the forefront of the industry’s evolution, including Hatch Collection, Rent The Runway, Walmart e-commerce, Macy’s and Barneys New York joined us for the breakfast held at Lafayette.
When we went deep into the Connected Commerce presentation and gathered some unexpected insights, what struck me was the comparison of today’s voice consumerism to that of e-commerce in the late 1990s & early 2000s (pre-Google). If we go way back, the initial reactions to e-commerce were skeptical at best, with talk that the channel would never become a meaningful one. Amazon is allocating tremendous resources to voice following their mantra that big bets are needed in order to achieve outsized returns. Voice Commerce, in their opinion, is the future.
Fashion executives Tracy Heller of David Yurman, Tyler Rutstein of Adidas, and Paula Knight of Intermix connected with tech visionaries including Pano Anthos of XRC Labs, Brian Long of Attentive and Rick Barber of SAP. It was great to discuss brick & mortar expansion with Ariane Goldman & Lindsay Bressler of Hatch Collection (retail is not dead!), while my conversation with Robin Kurkhill of Citizen Watch Co. focused on growing omnichannel business overseas. And it was great to catch up, Julian Counihan of Schematic Ventures — his fund is focused on supply chain and logistics.
The exclusive nature of The Lead Salon requires an even higher level of audience curation than our larger scale events, an integral factor that allows for sharing ideas, insights, and challenges through authentic connections with tablemates and fellow attendees. How do you get onto the list for the next Salon? The answer — through subscribing to The Lead online & becoming a part of our community. We always start with our friends when curating invitations, selecting the leaders we feel would add the most value to (or gain the most from) the conversation. The next Executive Salon will be held in September 2019.
As Chief Community Officer, I not only co-host The Lead’s events but extend The Lead and my brand (Timo Weiland) at other forums. It’s a chance for me to strengthen my own business while continuing to keep my finger on the pulse. Most recently, I had the pleasure of attending The Glossy Summit in Miami May 20-22. Day one kicked off with a collaborative Town Hall where brands & retailers were tasked with contributing business concerns to a live ‘Challenge Board’, including how to successfully flip the ratio of wholesale to DTC and the need for diversification of customer acquisition channels. Moving to the mainstage, Patrick Herning, Founder of 11 Honoré, detailed his success by seizing the white space in designer apparel for the plus-size market, proving that sizeism in fashion is not the way of the future. Finally, Aaron Luo co-founder of Caraa Bags shared his thesis that the pendulum is swinging away from data-only-driven brands towards designer-led products. The common thread is that the closer the brand is to the customer, or community of consumers, the more traction and conversion can be achieved.
The Lead Innovation Summit 2019 stands to be the largest gathering of our community members to date with over 1000 fashion, retail and technology executives registered to attend. The evolution of our events has been driven largely by the caliber of leaders that have joined the community since the inaugural Salon Breakfast. And as we continue growing The Lead, we are committed to maintaining the elevated experience and exclusive inclusivity.