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What Fashion’s E-Commerce and Tech Professionals Need to Know Today

BoF Careers provides essential sector insights for fashion’s e-commerce and technology professionals this month, to help you decode fashion’s creative and commercial landscape.
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Discover the most relevant industry news and insights for fashion’s e-commerce and technology professionals, updated each month to enable you to excel in job interviews, promotion conversations or perform better in the workplace by increasing your market awareness and emulating market leaders.

BoF Careers distils business intelligence from across the breadth of our content — editorial briefings, newsletters, case studies, podcasts and events — to deliver key takeaways and learnings tailored to your job function, listed alongside a selection of the most exciting live jobs advertised by BoF Careers partners.

Key articles and need-to-know insights for e-commerce and technology professionals today:

1. Fashion Execs Can’t Stop Talking About AI

A billboard featuring an AI-generated image of a model amid giant mushrooms stands alongside a highway in California.

A BoF analysis of transcripts from more than 30 public fashion, activewear and retail companies — mostly listed in the US but also including names such as Adidas, H&M and Kering listed on European exchanges — found mentions of AI, artificial intelligence and machine learning hit a new high in 2022. So far, 2023 is on track to surpass that figure, driven in part by the excitement around generative AI.

In the past, references to AI typically focused on its use for narrow business tasks like forecasting demand and optimising prices, along with marketing-related purposes like targeting high-potential customers. Now, on top of these capabilities, executives are talking about how they can use AI for design, hyper-personalised online shopping and more. In May, for example, Revolve’s co-founder and co-chief executive, Michael Mente, said an area where he expects generative AI will have the most immediate impact is fashion design, calling it an opportunity “to create a more powerful, innovative and streamlined” process.

Related Jobs:

Project Manager, Burberry — London, United Kingdom

Principal Engineer, Digital Content, Neiman Marcus — Irving, United States

Senior Manager, Omni Solutions, Tapestry — Shanghai, China

2. How Fashion NFTs Fizzled

A blue-furred cartoon ape wears heart-shaped sunglasses and a neon yellow Adidas track jacket.

The frenzy around fashion NFTs has all but fizzled, at least as measured in trading of the assets on secondary marketplaces. Data compiled for BoF by Nansen, an NFT analytics provider, show even collections from major brands like Adidas, Nike and Gucci have seen fewer purchases and falling values. The broader crypto market is in a prolonged downturn, and the marketing firepower of fashion’s biggest names hasn’t been enough to prop up their NFTs, which don’t carry the same cachet as their products in the physical world. Even so, fashion isn’t abandoning the concept.

Despite the crypto slowdown, many companies are still putting time and effort into web3. In May, Gucci announced a multi-year deal with Yuga Labs, the company behind popular NFT collections including Bored Ape Yacht Club and CryptoPunks. Nike recently sold more than 97,000 sneaker NFTs — each costing roughly $20 — in its first sale of the tokens under its own name rather than through RTFKT, the NFT label it acquired in 2021. In June, Louis Vuitton introduced €39,000 Travel Trunk NFTs, which give owners access to exclusive products and experiences, in a sense making good on Bernard Arnault’s promise that LVMH brands would never be caught selling virtual sneakers for €10. Notably, neither Nike nor Louis Vuitton marketed their digital goods as NFTs.

Related Jobs:

Digital Product Manager, Me + Em — London, United Kingdom

Software Development & Operations, On — Berlin, Germany

Techno-Functional Senior Analyst, Kering — Wayne, United States

3. How Luxury Finally Cracked TikTok

Higher-end fashion labels have become more prolific on the short-form video app in 2023. BoF unpacks how brands are growing buzz on TikTok.

High-end brands like Gucci and Dior have operated on the short-form video platform since 2020, if not earlier. But the fashion discourse on TikTok was still dominated by fast-fashion hauls and dupe talk. When luxury brands made waves it wasn’t always in the ways they wanted. For every viral success like Prada’s bucket hat challenge, there was a fiasco like the widely mocked Chanel advent calendars in 2021.

The answer is still to work with influencers, whose content makes up nearly 70 percent of media impact value for top brands. Dior, for example, scored its biggest TikTok hit with content from Jaadiee, a grandfather who does unboxing videos and styles his streetwear to Drake and Gunna tracks. He attended Dior’s Spring/Summer 2024 show in July. Strategies are evolving though: MIV generated on brands’ own pages grew 4.5 percent year over year, while the share attributed to influencers dropped 8 percent. Louis Vuitton generated a similar amount of MIV across owned and influencer channels, successfully turning big events like Pharrell Williams’ debut men’s show into major TikTok moments.

Related Jobs:

Project Manager, Technology, Next — Doncaster, United Kingdom

Omnichannel Excellence & Operations Internship, Moncler — Milan, Italy

IT Business Analyst, Tiffany & Co. — Seoul, South Korea

4. Will AI Finally Bring Visibility to Fashion’s Supply Chain?

One company using artificial intelligence to help fashion businesses identify their links to China’s Xinjiang region received a public vote of confidence last week when it struck a multi-year deal with US Customs and Border Protection.

For brands and retailers, it can already be a struggle to determine the origins and impacts of the materials they use for their products. Those operating in the US and Europe face regulations covering forced labour to greenwashing, with more likely to come. The solution, Altana believes, a tech-centric supply chain mapping company, is artificial intelligence. It compiles billions of data points on how goods move through global supply chains and applies AI to make sense of it all. The result, according to Evan Smith, co-founder and chief executive of Altana, is “a shared source of truth that is used by manufacturers, retailers, brands, logistics providers and government agencies as a common operating picture.” Like Google Maps for supply chains, he said.

The issue has been of particular interest to fashion since Xinjiang is the epicentre of cotton production in China, the world’s biggest producer of textiles and clothing. CBP has proved it’s willing to block goods under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Official statistics show it has denied 812 shipments of apparel, footwear and textiles totalling nearly $34 million in value from entering the US since June 2022.

Related Jobs:

Quality Assurance Analyst, Fashion Nova — Vernon, United States

Senior Director, Project Management, Figs — Santa Monica, United States

Chief Technology Officer, Chalhoub Group — Dubai, United Arab Emirates

5. How to Tap China’s Luxury Market As Recovery Falters

Hainan, home to the world’s biggest duty-free mall, has exploded in importance for luxury brands.

As soon as pandemic travel restrictions were lifted, top luxury executives including Bernard Arnault, François-Henri Pinault and John Idol flocked to China on whistle stop tours combining store visits with high-level meetings with politicians and business owners, underscoring the strategic significance of the market. After a disastrous 2022, during which lockdowns contributed to a 10 to 15 percent decrease in luxury spending, Chinese consumers flocked back to the shops. The results were double-digit sales growth in the region for most luxury brands, offsetting sluggish to declining performance in North America.

Targeting the Chinese consumer at home has become increasingly important. Since 2020, domestic luxury consumption has significantly outstripped luxury spending by Chinese tourists, mainly as a result of the pandemic but also because of a number of measures introduced by the government to increase spending at home, such as tax cuts and increased duty free allowances on e-commerce purchases, cracking down on “Daigou” grey market sales and diverting their business to cross-border e-commerce sites operating under Chinese law, and providing financial incentives to foreign brands for opening their first stores in Mainland China.

Related Jobs:

E-Commerce Director, Dr. Barbara Sturm — London, United Kingdom

Sales Distribution Specialist, Ermenegildo Zegna Group — Stabio, Switzerland

Assistant Manager, E-Commerce Operations, Tory Burch — Shanghai, China

6. Is Fashion’s Buy-Now, Pay-Later Boom Over?

Boxes move down a conveyor belt in a warehouse.

Buy Now Pay Later as a payment option, which lets even shoppers with poor credit finance their purchases via interest-free instalment plans, has helped boost conversion rates and order values at retailers ranging from fast fashion’s Shein and H&M to luxury labels. Buttons for BNPL firms such as Klarna, Affirm and Afterpay are ubiquitous at online checkout pages, and both tech and financial firms are piling into the sector, including Apple. But worrying signs are appearing in the system.

Inflation and rising interest rates are squeezing consumers, who appear to be scaling down their use of BNPL to smaller purchases and relying on it to manage their everyday expenses. [...] Low-income and credit-challenged shoppers, especially younger ones, are the most likely to use BNPL services. They may turn to it for their regular purchases but also as a way to shop at higher price points since they can break up their payments. That’s theoretically great for luxury brands, but as the US economy hits turbulence and luxury spending slows, aspirational shoppers look to be challenged.

Related Jobs:

IT Coordinator, Maison Margiela — Paris, France

E-Commerce Customer Service and Operations Assistant, Sister Jane — Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Site Merchandising Assistant, Bloomingdale’s — New York, United States

7. Why Mushroom Leather (and Other New Materials) Are Struggling to Scale

A model holds a black square of Mylo, a mushroom-based leather alternative made by Bolt Threads alongside images of samples of the material.

Biofabricated spider silk, fermented seaweed fibres and fruit, vegetable and fungi-based leather alternatives are but a few of the inventions pitched as game-changing eco-solutions by big brands and big investors. There are reasons to be excited; fashion will need lower-impact materials to meet growing demands from consumers, regulators and investors to cut the industry’s environmental impact. But while credit is due to the creative and courageous innovators and investors leading efforts to develop alternatives, attempts to scale far-out concepts into market-ready solutions have struggled.

Last week, prominent start-up Bolt Threads announced a pause in production of its much-hyped mushroom-based leather alternative Mylo, the result of difficulties raising new funds. Bolt Threads blamed the pause in Mylo production on a challenging macroeconomic climate that “has made it increasingly difficult to secure necessary capital to support the scale up of emerging technologies.” Given Bolt’s compelling partner brands and the over $450 million of capital invested in next-gen materials in 2022 alone, it is likely this was not the only reason. Indeed, the sudden news points to broader challenges that also face other material innovators seeking to up-end the dominance of leather, polyester, and nylon.

Related Jobs:

Production Coordinator, Vetements — Zurich, Switzerland

Email Creative Manager, Calvin Klein — New York, United States

Senior Technology Operations & Support Analyst, Ralph Lauren — Bangalore, India

8. Why the Shein Lawsuit Is Going After Its Algorithms

Why the Shein lawsuit is going after its algorithms.

Last week, three artists filed a complaint in a California federal district court accusing Shein of such rampant intellectual property theft it amounts to racketeering. In their view, Shein is liable under the civil portion of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, established to fight organised crime. The lawsuit suggests Shein’s algorithm not only spots trends online but identifies designs “with the greatest commercial potential” and generates its own versions — often exact replicas. It claims Shein passes these to its factories with little additional information and even speculates that the algorithm might attempt to alter the designs but sometimes just reproduces them “as a matter of business necessity.”

If the lawsuit’s version of affairs is accurate, it creates a new complication in fending off infringement. Brand protection teams would have to keep pace with algorithms that could begin cloning products with little human interference, The issue is not just speed, however, but the challenge of proving that a secret algorithm’s infringing actions were “willful” and attributable to its proprietor.

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