Episode 136
December 4, 2019

"The High and Low Can Exist Together"

Highsnobiety's next great investment is commerce and it's bringing their readers closer than ever before.

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Zine culture in the 90s bred the digital-first content brands of the 2000s, which have led to thriving online marketplaces where content begets commerce today. The best example we can think of is a digital property called Highsnobiety, which tracks the intersection between urban culture, streetwear, and luxury. In this episode Jeff Carvalho, co-founder of Highsnobiety, joins us to talk about how commerce is their next great investment and how it's bringing their readers closer than ever before.

Brian: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:05] I'm Phillip. And Brian, we have one of my favorite interviews of the year. I know I say that every week, but I actually mean it this time.

Brian: [00:00:12] You do. You kind of do. And I'm not even on this one. But I said it's really good.

Phillip: [00:00:16] It's good.

Brian: [00:00:16] It's really good.

Phillip: [00:00:18] Yeah. I promise. It's really good. Jeff Carvalho, who's a co-founder of Highsnobiety, one of my favorite online magazines, is joining us. And he's telling us how they're wading into digital commerce and how they're creating products and how they're helping bring products to life through collaborations with brands that you know and love already. So pretty excited to have him on the show today. So that's going be really cool. And we've got... This is like... This is crazy week. This is the week where, you know, boys become men. Girls become women. I have no idea what I'm talking about. This is Black Friday/Cyber Monday week.

Brian: [00:00:57] {laughter} This is the big show. Right? Like, this is the moment at which you determine if your year was a good year or your year was a bad year. This is all you've been waiting for the whole time.

Phillip: [00:01:09] I think astute listeners of the show would say to themselves, "But seriously, Phillip, Brian, I've been killing it all year. So, you know, I'm less dependent on Black Friday/Cyber Monday than I used to be."

Brian: [00:01:23] That's great.

Phillip: [00:01:24] And I would commend you for that.

Brian: [00:01:26] Yes. If you've done a good job throughout the year, more power to you.

Phillip: [00:01:30] Yes.

Brian: [00:01:30] I think you're probably still going to have a big day the day after Thanksgiving.

Phillip: [00:01:37] I would hope. Also, what's interesting about Black Friday/Cyber Monday this year is that Black Friday falls in November and Cyber Monday is in December.

Brian: [00:01:46] Which is weird.

Phillip: [00:01:47] Yeah. So that like changes the way that your months get broken down. So if you're like trying to make goal month on month, that weekend is actually spread across two different months. Depending on how you do PNL, depending on the way that you've broken down your budget, that might change the way that you implement your Black Friday/Cyber Monday strategy.

Brian: [00:02:07] That's a really good point. What if your financial year ends at the end of November? I mean, there are businesses out there. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:02:15] {cough} Adobe. {laughter} Anyway, so without getting deep into it, I think it's going to be a good Black Friday/Cyber Monday week for all of us. Some other random little interesting tidbits... I was listening to a podcast from Buffer who have been doing a deep dive insight, a multi-part series on the foundation of Pattern Brands, which I'm really excited to hear more about. And so I've been looking into that. It's called Breaking Brand, and you can get it at...

Brian: [00:02:48] Very clever. Very clever. Very, very catchy.

Phillip: [00:02:54] Cool multipart series that they have. And if you're looking for something to listen to over the break in the next... As if we get a break in retail...

Brian: [00:03:04] Then listen to Future Commerce. {laughter}.

Phillip: [00:03:05] Then listen to Future Commerce. When you've run out of that, check out Breaking Brand. I actually really, really appreciated it. I thought it was a really good deep dive into the creation of Pattern Brands. But... I think we're announcing for the first time we have our own mini series launching in two weeks time.

Brian: [00:03:22] Pay attention.

Phillip: [00:03:24] Okay.

Brian: [00:03:24] Second week of December.

Phillip: [00:03:26] K, but we're going to tell you what it is after the interview.

Brian: [00:03:32] Ohhhh.

Phillip: [00:03:32] So that's your teaser.

Brian: [00:03:33] Ohhhh.

Phillip: [00:03:34] OK. So.

Brian: [00:03:34] Listen in. I'm so excited to hear from Jeff and learn all about his insights that he has for us, so without further ado...

Phillip: [00:03:43] Yeah. Let's get into the interview with Jeff Carvalho, who is one of the founders at Highsnobiety.

Phillip: [00:03:49] Today we have one of my favorite online zines, a digital property that tracks the world of...

Jeff: [00:03:58] {phone ringing} Sorry about that, man.

Phillip: [00:03:59] That's okay. {laughter} No, we'll keep it because I love it. This guy's so busy getting calls at the moment. Mr. Jeff Carvalho, who's co-founder over at Highsnobiety. Welcome to Future Commerce.

Jeff: [00:04:10] Thanks. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Phillip: [00:04:13] Yeah. Jeff, I... This is kind of a monumental one for me as a reader for many years. But I know that in our audience not everybody tracks this industry as closely as maybe I do. And I'm a fan of the content that you put out and the brand. Maybe tell a little bit about yourself and what Highsnobiety is for those who may not track it as closely.

Jeff: [00:04:36] Sure. And by the way, I appreciate you calling it a zine, because I think a lot of the reason that I'm doing what I do today was because I came out of that early 90s culture. You know for me, growing up, zines and we're really like a platform that is really not that dissimilar from, you know, digital magazines today. And I've really always been obsessed with platforms in the way, in the sense that how does somebody get a message out there to one or more people? Right? What is the channel that you can use? And, you know, it sounds like for you, as well, but like zines, for me, were that channel. It was how you discovered sort of the unknown that wasn't found in a traditional magazine. And Highsnobiety in many ways is about finding things that you may not find in your mall stores either. So there's a kind of connection to that. But I grew up in East Hartford, Connecticut, a small town. I was lucky enough to go to university up in Boston. And it was at a time when the Internet was really taking off, specifically the worldwide web. I was a second year student in a pharmacy program at Northeastern when somebody introduced me to Netscape, which was an early web browser. Not that dissimilar from Chrome, but much more primitive. And it opened the door to me, and I became very much not obsessed with the Internet, as much as obsessed with what you could use it for as a platform. Yeah, it's been really exciting. So, you know, through the years, basically dropped out, failed out of pharmacy school because of my desire to do something else. And really early on, I started an early music streaming property well before broadband was in everyone's household and certainly before the Googles of the world. It was too bleeding edge. And what's amazing today is that a lot of the ideas and things that I was thinking about, be it through zines or music, it's all very approachable now. And with Highsnobiety, it actually offers me a place where, you know, I can share a lot of those ideas. And more importantly, our team here is able to share with, you know, like minded young men and women who are more discerning and looking for something else. And it's not just Gen Z and Millennials, you know?

Phillip: [00:07:04] Right.

Jeff: [00:07:05] It's a wide breadth of generations here.

Phillip: [00:07:08] Well, especially, I mean, it's been around for at least 10 years, as far as I know. Right?

Jeff: [00:07:13] Yeah. David Fisher, my co-founder, launched it in 2015. Excuse me. He launched it in 2005. And I think that's... What... It'll be fifteen years next year that Highsnobiety has been around?

Phillip: [00:07:26] Wow.

Jeff: [00:07:26] And what's interesting is that you can still today actually go and pull up the original Highsnobiety Blogspot page, which is where Highsnobiety really started. It gets back to that technology and sort of the platforms. Blogspot and tools of that time really allowed for people to self-publish and share their ideas. And, you know, like the early tech gadget blogs that understood that you could use this platform for news sharing, it's been absolutely, you know, the fundamental base of what storytelling is today.

Phillip: [00:08:05] I come up also in sort of the the early '90s and that first world wide web like tech culture boom. And I remember a bunch of local zines, even in like central Florida area, where people would just self-publish what's going on locally on the BBS.

Jeff: [00:08:25] Right.

Phillip: [00:08:25] And they like to Kinko's and, you know, run off a thousand copies of it and saddle stitch it themselves and like hand it out to people. But that culture has always been about trying to get a message in  a subculture, or like a small pocket of interest out to their audience quickly. And obviously, digital is the quickest path to your audience today. How has that changed in the past 10 or 15 years? You're in print now. I mean, you've been print for almost a decade. How has it changed? I'm sure it's gotten more complex over the years. But what does that look like today versus when you first started?

Jeff: [00:09:06] Yeah. You know, when the Highsnobiety launched, the majority of conversation was happening indeed on forums. You know, there's some pretty classic, especially within the sneaker world, forums that, you know, there's actually an amazing prose on there. Crooked Tongues is a property of the UK that was covering the sneaker scene and their Nike Talk was a forum based BBS that was a global landing page for anybody that wanted to have a conversation around sneakers. So the conversation, and again, this is not just true of this of the sneaker community, but a variety of communities... Things went from forums over to blogs and furthermore into commenting. So I think that, in using your example around people that are printing out what's online and saddle stitching or saddle stapling... And I actually still have a saddle stapler, which I love. It was about, to your point about sharing it, and there is still something quite ephemeral about digital to some extent. Meaning, it's always there, and you can certainly always go back in reference. The joke, of course, is that everything lives forever on the Internet.

Phillip: [00:10:24] Yeah,.

Jeff: [00:10:24] But, having something printed out and on your table is quite important. That's why we are 100% committed to print and have been publishing our own magazine since 2010. It's because people still want something physical. So for as much as the digital age has ushered in a pace of news and certainly consumption... We can talk about the commerce stuff, of course. People still want to hold things, and that plays a lot into why we got into commerce, as well. Customers... Excuse me, readers were coming to us to discover products that were available, and for the longest time they were aspirational, meaning it was quite difficult to obtain these goods. You had to either go to a local store. But at least, a site like Highsnobiety gave you the purview into it, right? What happened then, of course, was that the online online marketplaces, online shops, and online shopping in general really grew. And you saw a lot of brands enter that space and not only with streetwear brands or sneaker companies, but even the luxury space is now online. I was on the IWC watch site today looking at a Pilot watch and was actually quite surprised to see that I could buy it direct from IWC online. Now, that kind of commerce wasn't the case 10 years ago. You couldn't buy, or at least through an authority, buy an IWC watch online that way. And today that's changed. I think what's also changed is this idea that content, excuse me, storytelling or editorial is solely editorial today, and that's really changed. And affiliate sites, an affiliate linking sort of an early example of how you begin to monetize.

Phillip: [00:12:26] Yeah.

Jeff: [00:12:27] I look at a little differently. We're just offering the consumer a faster way to get what they wanted, right? So where a lot of the culture, as we say, of Highsnobiety was built on the hunt. If you wanted to know what was happening in Japan, you'd have to buy Japanese magazines or you have to go to Japan. The Internet made it really accessible for everyone. And when it comes to storytelling and commerce, more than ever, we believe a consumer is lacking that experience at a high level. And what I mean by that is, you know, there's plenty of online shops that try to enter the content sphere, but they're not necessarily credible sources for telling those stories. And for the consumer set that we speak with, and certainly the readership that we have, we believe we're in authority to not only share what we believe is happening within trend and where they can buy things, but more than ever, actually offer them our own goods that they can purchase. And that's been a... It's been a quite interesting part of our commerce model that's been exciting to watch. The fact that we've had quite some success and in doing private label goods as one example, you know, our Stranger Things collection... It's a co-branded product, and it did exceptionally well.

Phillip: [00:13:48] If you're scanning the landscape now... I listen to a lot of podcasts and I heard someone recently say, you know, they do a video game podcast, they do a Dungeons and Dragons podcast, they do a movie podcast, and a comics podcast... And he realized that the nerds won. Popular culture is the nerd subculture of 30 years ago. I'm seeing a similar trend happening in sneakers and street wear, and it's sort of being co-opted across the board by all kinds of things. You mentioned luxury, but it's becoming very mainstream. And I'm wondering if that's the kind of thing that takes, you know, a niche property of 15 years ago and gives you an audience that you could possibly monetize. Would you be in retail? I guess I'm asking this in a roundabout way. Would you be doing retail with the audience that you had 15 years ago, or is that something that you uniquely can do today because of the acceptance and the broad appeal that streetwear and luxury have right now?

Jeff: [00:14:57] Yeah. So I'll unpack that a little bit. I think why doing commerce made sense to us was because I think we understand product very well. We understand product that has heat. And when I say heat, that's a product that has energy around it. We see products that get preheat. That's when they're either shared or leaked online early. And you can just watch the energy that that sort of wraps itself around that product. And when I say energy, you know, I'm talking about conversation. Less so likes, but more around conversation and how people are sharing, which I think is quite important. But at the heart of it, you know, we've been in editorial property for the last 14 years. An editorial property that's always been committed to emerging artists, emerging talent, while understanding very well that what's happening in the mainstream is still important in that a collision would eventually happen. Meaning that, you know, what was happening at the ground level, what was happening with young creatives, would lead to a shift in big business where, you know, people like you and I that love this culture and live it, would eventually get roles within large organizations. The other thing that's quite interesting is that you have a consumer set that to some extent is maybe aging out. And while Highsnobiety is certainly focused on young readers, we have a breath of generations that come to us every day. So I think it's the credibility of having been here for 14 years that's really put us in this position. And I don't believe... We certainly would have tried things. We tend to try things when we believe it's the right time. And I believe that this past year and a half has been the right time for us to really put our foot down in a commerce space.

Phillip: [00:17:08] You mentioned something, and I didn't actually prepare you for this, so...

Jeff: [00:17:13] Go ahead.

Phillip: [00:17:13] But you mentioned something that I found really interesting is the acceptance or the audience that you have spans a number of generations. It made me think about some of the more popular culture touchpoints that we have recently in this world. I think of like David Letterman, you know, dressed in Yeezy in his Netflix special.

Jeff: [00:17:38] Yeah.

Phillip: [00:17:38] I think of ALD in there and their recent campaign with some older folks. It's an interesting shift. And I'm wondering if that's again, you know, is that just because it's part of the cultural zeitgeist or are we at a moment where there's something truly sort of special happening and those who have been talking about it and part of the hype, part of this culture, for 15 years now can sort of enjoy the world that they've effectively created. And you see part of that, right?

Jeff: [00:18:13] I think we've definitely been covering it. Right? I think they may be difficult for people to maybe put together on Highsnobiety is that we are a media platform. And, you know, we certainly have launched commerce, as well. But when you look at that audience, we're not necessarily trying to reach every single young men and women out there. We're really thinking... And to your point earlier about podcasts being very categorized or niche, we believe we're living in, for the first time, where the niche has become part of the mainstream, as you say. And really, I think there were some pivotal points, at least in the world that we cover, to validate that. The first I always referred, you know, when your aunts and uncles and grandmother are asking you about Yeezy, you know something's bigger, right?

Phillip: [00:19:03] Yeah.

Jeff: [00:19:03] Certainly, Kanye West was has quite an impact.

Phillip: [00:19:07] Yup.

Jeff: [00:19:09] You know, he's a... And that's important. And then I think the second point is that we're aging up now. And to that generational gap, I always use music as an example. My parents listen to music from the late 60s and 70s, and I love that music. But, you know, when I was growing up in the 90s, I wanted my own sound. And today, if you look at music, it's generationally squash. You know, I have a four year old son, and we're into the same music today. So that differentiation is really kind of going away. You have a class of consumers. If we want to talk in clinical terms, we have class of consumers that's getting older that now is exposed to what we think are some of the very best creative and unique products out there. And before you used to have to hunt for them by going local. You still do to some extent. And then, you know, the world of Highsnobiety is giving you sort of a lens into it. And if you're visiting us, but more than ever, you know, we have a consumer set that lives on other platforms that may not necessarily even come back to our dot com. Instagram is one of the best examples of that. You know, I would say that there's a good number of our followers on Instagram that never actually come to our web site.

Phillip: [00:20:30] Right.

Jeff: [00:20:31] But they are embracing the conversations that we're having there. They're exposed to the products that we're sharing. And again, these are products and services that we believe are best of class. And that's the flattening a little bit. And that's great. The one thing that we refer to often here, and we wrote a White Paper at the beginning of the end of last year called The New Luxury. It was a research project and us trying to define who the new young luxury consumer is, what they're purchasing, what they're thinking about. And there's a lot of learnings from that. And one of the big ones was this idea of accessibility. You know, at the end of the day, everyone just wants access to everything. Nobody wants a closed door. And digital media, social platforms like Instagram have really allowed and made it Democratic for everyone. That doesn't necessarily mean that you're gonna be the guy to get in there and actually land that sneaker. Sometimes you miss out. I was actually bidding on.. No, bidding is not the right word, but I put my credit card in for a pre-sale on a Nike shoe. Unfortunately, didn't get through on that. Just like everyone else. But it's all available to everyone now. And I think what's also a trickle of maybe the world of street fashion or street wear is this idea that products can be unique. And there's always been special makeups of shoes. But more than ever, you have a consumer that's looking for something that's individual to them. It's great to be part of a mass. And we think that's cool. And everyone wants to be part of it. But it's really interesting when you have products that are dropped, and we use the word "drop" simply to refer to a mechanism of delivering a good through an online store, through a retailer, or through some event that allows a consumer to really narrow in on a product and purchase it. You know, we hear about sneaker drops a lot where a special colorway is released in one location or another. More than ever people understand that these things exist. So Letterman wearing Yeezys is certainly one effect, but what comes to mind for me is, you know, Louis Vuitton working with Supreme.

Phillip: [00:22:56] Right.

Jeff: [00:22:56] They had actually Louis Vuitton had sued Supreme 10 years earlier, rather, they sent them a cease and desist to stop using their pattern. And we've really come full circle because that pattern is now official. And that's where... That was a tipping point, I think, in some sense. You asked me earlier, is it us kind of smiling and telling the world, "Hey, now you're seeing what we've been talking about." It's a little bit of that. But more than more than anything, it's our desire to continue to share with our readers the very best things that we find and things that we find to be special in many cases. And I don't think that's really changed.

Phillip: [00:23:40] So you mentioned the White Paper, which is sort of the new quintessential touch point or cultural touchstone, at least in our corner of the retail world around why we're redefining... You know, we keep talking about luxury redefined in the way that I think of Supreme as defining like drop culture. Then I would think of Highsnobiety as defining this term, the new luxury.

Jeff: [00:24:06] Thank you. I appreciate that.

Phillip: [00:24:07] And I really appreciate the pillars that you lay out in that report around what old luxury is defined as. And it's all the things that you just sort of mentioned in the litany there, which was, you know, having ownership of something, exclusivity of something, it being customer one offer, artisanal... It being aspirational, having high price point... It's the Birkin bag. You had to know someone who knows someone who know someone.

Jeff: [00:24:35] Right.

Phillip: [00:24:36] And that's not what it is anymore. In fact, it's so very democratized. Every one of those points are that is not what luxury is anymore, and everything is available. I mean, I could go on StockX and buy Birkin bag. That's just where we are. And so, yeah, could you unpack that a little bit? Because I think that that's an important point to make, too, for people who aren't, again, sort of paying attention. I think you segmented in the report in an interesting way of, you know, this is sort of being generationally redefined or maybe psychographically redefined.

Jeff: [00:25:09] Yes.

Phillip: [00:25:09] As the more consumers that we have that are younger, that don't have that, you know, the baggage of what traditional luxury is come in, the more it's being redefined and in the culture.

Jeff: [00:25:21] Yeah. So there was a time. This is true if you're collecting stamps or baseball cards. You know, there's always a limited quantity of a specific card or a good. And in the world of footwear, you could go into any independent sneaker store, any of the major sneaker chains out there and have walls and walls of shoes and these products were, they use to be very regionalized. So the wall of sneakers that you would have at a store in London would not be the same wall of sneakers you would have in New York or even Tokyo. And what started to happen early on within that space is that you had people essentially buying goods as proxies. I remember a time when I was much younger going to a Nike outlet and discovering a run or size run. That's a every shoe size saved from size 4 all the way to 13, seeing full size runs of shoes that were being, you know, that essentially didn't sell in one region coming to our region and buying those goods and trading them with other sneaker heads who had a shoe that I needed. And it became sort of this trading culture and also a little bit of resale culture. You know, you could take a product here, likely had value somewhere else. And value, of course, is what someone's willing to pay for it. And for the longest time, again, these things happened on sneaker forums and to some extent, eBay. Today, the re commerce model is quite important in the conversation. You mentioned the Birkin bag and how, you know, you have to know somebody gets off on a waiting list, or now you can go to StockX. Consumers to some extent see these goods as a commodity. But more than anything, like the world of tickets, people again just want the access. And I don't necessarily think it's about re commerce for the sake of making profit, which I think it very much is for some. It's more the fact that the re commerce model allows for consumers to have access to sneakers anytime they want, or excuse me, goods anytime they want. So I'll give you an example with Highsnobiety. You know, we have tens of thousands of sneakers that we've covered in over the given years. These are stories that remain within our archive, of course. And, you know, when somebody wants to buy an Air Jordan that came out a few years ago, we can't necessarily send them to an official online Jordan store because they're just not available there. Right? But where they are available are on these third party platforms. And I think that's really, in my opinion, what makes commerce part of this conversation. Second part of it is that you have young consumers that understand this, and they're figuring out how to get their hands on these goods themselves. They understand that they may be able to buy a good, wear it for some time, Instagram themselves in it, and actually turn it over for a percentage of what they paid to buy the next thing. And I think that that's quite interesting. And again, I think the ticketing world, it was always been that example, you know, Ticketmaster and StubHub really changed the landscape of the availability of tickets. I think the same thing is happening within the world of the StockX, of the Stadium Goods, the Real Real, and a variety of these other re commerce platforms.

Phillip: [00:29:07] I feel like I could spend just an hour talking about that.

Jeff: [00:29:10] Yeah totally.

Phillip: [00:29:11] There's definitely some other boxes I want to check. I find that just so fascinating. You mentioned some big names, and we had talked in the past about this concept of audience first, right? So now we have celebrities who are bringing their audience to retail, that's effectively what you and others are doing, like Complex, Monocle, and some others. If you're activating an audience into engaging in commerce with you, do you think that that sort of displaces the ability for up and comers to find their voice and to be able to get traction in this world? And like, how do you balance that? Do you take some ownership, like controlling the media and having a bit of the ability to expose others? Like how do you sort of balance coverage of, you know, Virgil and Kanye and the ones that we know, or maybe even Gwyneth and goop? How do we balance those and their audience versus the people that are looking for the stuff that's under the radar?

Jeff: [00:30:21] So let me unpack that a little bit. Our editorial is a completely different business unit that our commerce unit. Now we certainly use our editorial channels to do storytelling around commerce. And that's actually at the heart of why we believe we can get into commerce because we know storytelling better than most for this audience. So what we take is a lot of the learnings from editorial and figure out, hmmm, what are the best ways for us to bring this product to market. And again, more than ever we're using... We, of course, use all of our platforms to present that. That's why it works. But that doesn't mean that we stop covering everything else.

Phillip: [00:31:06] Right.

Jeff: [00:31:07] It's a very small portion today of the storytelling that we do. In fact, at this point, we've only done 15 drops. Now on any given day on Highsnobiety, you're reading quite a number of stories. So the it's still quite important for us to support emerging acts and artists. Now within commerce, we've done that in the U.K., excuse me, in Germany, we aligned and set up a partnership between Carhartt and a local German talent. One of the biggest names there. And we really integrated music in his emerging talent in working with Carhartt to develop a collection that made a lot of sense for our audience. And in fact, we sold thousands of products in a few hours there. We want to do more of that. And I think commerce offers us a place to actually support a lot of the emerging talent, be it a musician or designer or an artist within our platform by working on these kind of partnerships. So that's one example, with Carhartt in Germany, that worked exceptionally well. And it shows us that there is a demand not only for young talent like this. And it allows us to support them, quite honestly.

Phillip: [00:32:31] Yeah, I find this sort of interesting. I saw Kith is sort of co-located in in Beverly Hills right next to a Wrangler collab, which I found really interesting. And I find that I want to hear more stories there. When I see something unexpected, it makes me want to dig into more of the why. Rather than sort of just cocking my head and saying, oh, that's interesting. I kind of wanna hear more about that and more about the why, and I find that's where brands that are more centered on doing storytelling, editorial, and unpacking of a lot larger why they're used to telling the why. They have a more authentic approach to engaging the content next to commerce model. Where usually, what we're seeing now, it's sort of a fad, right? Everybody wants content next to their commerce. So everybody's publishing. Every brand has a podcast right now, but the ones that are excelling are the ones who are content first, commerce second, in my opinion, because they're used to telling the story, and they know how to weave the two together. The ones that, you know, are sort of cheapening the experience are the ones who it's very much commerce first and storytelling second.

Jeff: [00:33:49] Absolutely.

Phillip: [00:33:49] What's your take on that? And you know, who do you think is doing it really well in the space right now if you had to pick out a couple of winners?

Jeff: [00:33:59] Yeah. Like a really high level example of where... You know, I agree with you, I think storytelling really does have to come first. It's not storytelling in the sense of editorial, but what actually is the cultural context of what you're putting to market? And that's something that we also think a lot about, too, is, you know, what is it in your product that is the conversation that's going to be genuine to the product, or good, or the brand? Or more importantly, connect with this young consumer who is more discerning than ever, as you mentioned, certainly more considered. So story is important. And I think one of the interesting examples is Apple, quite honestly. And if you go to the Apple web site, there's no shop link on the front page.

Phillip: [00:34:48] Right.

Jeff: [00:34:49] You know, you have to go into the products and scroll through it and experience the story of what they're trying to tell you about their product before you can purchase it. And that's quite a shift. How you tell that story doesn't necessarily have to be flat digitally either. So as an example, you know, we launched our Bauhaus collection. It was the 100th anniversary of Bauhaus.

Phillip: [00:35:19] Yeah.

Jeff: [00:35:19] We were quite honored and lucky enough to work on an exclusive collection. That was one thing to add about what we do here within our commerce model is that we're actually producing all these goods. We have a team that's working with pattern makers to actually develop these goods. We're not using off the shelf blanks for a lot of the stuff, including our Stranger Things collection.

Phillip: [00:35:40] Wow.

Jeff: [00:35:40] So with the Bauhaus collection, we developed some T-shirts and sweaters that have aplique on them that really speak to the design icons of our Bauhaus. But, you know, that's only a part of the story. One of the things that we like to do, and I mentioned this word earlier, is preheat these collections by promoting them with a good. So for Bauhaus, we actually worked with Rubik's Cube to build and develop a small Bauhaus exclusive Rubik's Cube for the collection that we used for seeding. And we seeded that out to, you know, friends and people of influence that we think are quite important. And that helps tell the story. We used the sort of same dynamic with Prada, which was our first collection, our first commerce drop rather, for their Linea Rossa collection. And Prada was... It took some work, but we got them to allow us to make some red tape, and basically it's a roll of Prada tape with a Prada logo, and if you know the Linea Rossa collection, you know it's sort of this line of red that sort of marks it for the sportswear collection that it is. And, you know, for a brand like Prada to allow for a consumer to take tape and apply however they want is quite profound. But it worked. In fact, it's probably the one item that we've made this year that was the most asked for. I mean, everyone came out asking for this roll of tape. Everyone wanted it. In fact, Burberry, I think, even sells now rolls of their logo tape in their stores.

Phillip: [00:37:18] Wow.

Jeff: [00:37:18] And it's these little things that allow us within the physical realm to put something into the hands of people that we value their opinion to say, "Hey, look, we're working on this here's an item that's kind of fun. And what are you going to do with it?" In a lot of the changes within the consumer today is 50% of it really is about them wanting to buy something. But the other 50% is, again, them just wanting the access to be part of it themselves, almost like creators with it. So in the case of Prada, you know, having that roll the tape, we had quite a number... We had an exceptional number of engagements where people have just literally taken that tape and put on their laptop or, you know, they're hitting the corner of a wall, and those things work. But at the end of the day, you're right. The story is the most important one. The context of how you wrap that story and things like the Prada tape, like the Bauhaus Rubik's Cube allow for people to engage with the collection in a way that doesn't necessarily mean they have to put it on. And there's a lot of... These are sort of just examples of fun things that we're thinking about and how we extend the story beyond simply us telling you that this good is great, here's why, and now go by it. It's more important to be able to say, "Look, here's the context of it. This is why we think that this is a part of the conversation today." And, you know, we leave it to the consumers to make the decision.

Phillip: [00:38:56] Again, I feel like I could go on forever on this one particular topic. It's really fascinating. I really appreciate all your time.

Jeff: [00:39:03] Sure.

Phillip: [00:39:05] This has been so worthwhile for me. If there's something that we had to leave people with... Where do you think the next five years is going? Are we sort of reaching a saturation point in the number of brands trying to tell stories? Are there more and more brands that are already engaged in media and editorial that are trying to sell to consumers? Does that affect, you know, repeat purchase? Does that affect brand loyalty? Like unpack a little bit about where you think we might be heading and whether we are on the way up or about to see it sort of plateau?

Jeff: [00:39:40] Yeah, I think one big learning is that the high and low can exist together. That's important. So, you know, you can wear a good pair of sneakers with an expensive Margiela sweater. Margiela sweaters are expensive. They're not cheap. But the two can coexist. And within the realm of today's lifestyle, and fashion, it makes total sense. And it's cool to do. I think what you're not going to see is sort of a depression. You're not going to see us tell less stories. In fact, I think what you'll see is just more concise stories and people decide what they want in that sense. For us in commerce, you know, we've only done 15 drops. So next year you're gonna see us really increase the number of products that we put out there. One thing that we've learned is that a customer never wants to see something sold out. And that's tough because a lot of things do sell out. More than anything they just want to be able to see what's next, as well. So we're going to increase the number there. But I think in general, the things we think that we're thinking a lot about is what does that physical experience, how does it manifest itself beyond these cool little merch products that we do to hype up these collections or preheat these collections? And you'll see us do a lot more real world, in the market activation. So that's gonna be quite exciting. And you know, again, the drop model is just a mechanism, and it's a mechanism that, to your point, worked very well for Supreme, and it certainly works for a lot of brands. But that's also still evolving. Well, one thing that I'm really interested to see is, how do big companies begin to better understand products that consumers want? For the longest time the story for consumers was led by the brand. And more than ever, you know, the consumer themselves now are starting to co-opt and create and remix what's on the market. And I think this goes without saying, it's not just about listening to your consumer anymore, but it's really about paying attention. It's about observing what they're up to, knowing when to get to the conversation, knowing when not to get into that conversation. And this is, you know, for the better part of 15 years, this is exactly what we've been looking at. Highsnobiety has been about connecting with a young consumer that wanted something different. And now with commerce, we're able to offer them that, and we're quite excited.

Phillip: [00:42:22] I couldn't have said it better myself. That is the future of commerce. And that's what we talk about here on the show. Jeff Carvalho, who is the co-founder at Highsnobiety. Thank you so much for joining us.

Jeff: [00:42:32] Thank you.

Phillip: [00:42:32] What a pleasure. It's been amazing. And thank you all for listening. Remember, you can get your voice added to this conversation by chiming in over FutureCommerce.fm and join our Insiders where you can get an essay that's about this kind of stuff every single week, Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. and you can sign up for that at the same web site. Also subscribe everywhere where podcasts are found. Apple podcasts, Google Podcast, Stitcher Premium, Spotify, and all the rest. And make sure you leave us five star review. That helps us get this podcast to other people. Thanks again, Jeff. And thank you all for listening.

Phillip: [00:43:06] That's going to be great on Tik Tok. You know we're on Tik Tok now? Did you know that?

Brian: [00:43:12] Yeah I knew we were on Tik Tok.

Phillip: [00:43:13] We're on Tik Tok.

Brian: [00:43:13] I pay attention to what we do. {laughter}

Phillip: [00:43:15] Let me tell you about Tik Tok for a second. I subscribe to a Tik Tok newsletter. This is a complete non-sequitur. It's called For You Page, I think. Tik Tok... Let me search.

Brian: [00:43:27] Tik Tok For You.

Phillip: [00:43:28] The For You page. It's called the For You page. It's by Match Slicked, who has a newsletter on Substack that is all about how to use Tik Tok as a brand. So we waded into Tik Tok this week. It's bonkers. That's a whole separate story that we're not quite ready to tell. But my wife is an artist. So Jaci's an artist, and she creates fluid paintings as one of the techniques that she does. She has a lot of these videos that she's post on Instagram. So she gets on Tik Tok. And she was on Tik Tok for two days and has thousands of likes already and hundreds of followers. And in like 48 hours.

Brian: [00:44:17] Oh my gosh.

Phillip: [00:44:19] It's bonkers. I don't... {laughter}

Brian: [00:44:23] If you're not in the Tik Tok, get into Tik Tok.

Phillip: [00:44:26] I think Tik Tok is what's happening. It's the new future.

Brian: [00:44:31] You know, Ingrid has had a tremendous level of success on Tik Tok.

Phillip: [00:44:38] I believe it. I see it all over the place. Eyes. Lip. Face. Right?

Brian: [00:44:43] Yes. Yes. e.l.f. e.l.f. has had significant, significant gains on Tik Tok. I actually think, and I could be wrong about this, so we need to double check... Hey, Jordan, or...

Phillip: [00:44:58] Somebody. Somebody check on this.

Brian: [00:45:00] Yeah. Somebody from our team check on this. But I think it was the most, or at least one of the most successful Tik Tok campaigns by a brand in history.

Phillip: [00:45:09] Yeah.

Brian: [00:45:09] Was the e.l.f. cosmetics...

Phillip: [00:45:11] In the very short history that is, Tik Tok. But what a time to be alive. So a lot happening on that front. You can follow us at Future Commerce anywhere on social media, including Tik Tok now @FutureCommerce. Also, Brian, not only was that interview really cool, we've got... Like the rest of 2019 is going to be insane.

Brian: [00:45:34] It's true.

Phillip: [00:45:36] I wasn't planning on talking about this. One of the things that actually is gonna make it the most insane year of all time is I just sat down with a Harvard Business School professor who's doing some research that we're talking about working on some stuff with, which I'm very excited about.

Brian: [00:45:51] I'm super excited about that. We've been doing research on this angle for a while, and they've been doing research on this angle for a little while.

Phillip: [00:46:00] Yeah.

Brian: [00:46:00] And it was a great meeting of the minds. And I am so excited about what is ahead with this.

Phillip: [00:46:07] Yeah. Remember, we got rid of the rocket ship at the beginning of the year as our logo. But ever since we did, it took off like a rocket ship, Future Commerce, so that it's been... What a wild year. So we are actually closing out this year really, really strong. Lot of cool stuff to come in 2020. But we promise that... We teased something. We promised that we would make good on our tease. So Brian, tell us a little bit about what we're launching in two weeks.

Brian: [00:46:32] So in two weeks, get ready for a whole week of Future Commerce episodes every single day of the work week. {laughter} So it's a five part series on retail funding in partnership with Shopify Plus.

Phillip: [00:46:49] Yeah.

Brian: [00:46:50] Let me say that again. It is a five part series on retail funding 101 one with Shopify Plus.

Phillip: [00:46:58] If you've ever thought to yourself that you've heard phrases like private equity or venture capital and you didn't know what that meant, like you had a sense of what it meant, but you didn't really know what went into making private equity work or venture capital work.

Brian: [00:47:13] Or how to work with private equity or venture capital.

Phillip: [00:47:18] Exactly. How does that apply to me and my brand? We've got the answers for you because we got the actual people who are making all of the strides and forward progress in our industry with the CNPE, including Shopify themselves, and how they are helping brands connect to funding. And so if you need funding for your brand, which I'm assuming that you do, because we all could use a little more funding. Right? Let's dive in in two weeks time to that five part series, and let's all learn more about retail funding. And it's a new series that we are kicking off that you're going to see a lot more of around here that we're calling Step by Step.

Brian: [00:47:56] Featuring... Forerunner.

Phillip: [00:48:00] Yep.

Brian: [00:48:00] GGV. Lion Capital.

Phillip: [00:48:03] Yup.

Brian: [00:48:04] And one of the best success stories... Lively. Friend of the show, Michelle Cordeiro Grant, who has one of the best stories that we've seen in this space.

Phillip: [00:48:15] Yeah, and she's been on the show at least once. It was earlier this year. Wow. This has been a packed year. Earlier this year at Shoptalk we sat down with her and we talked about her growth in the brand Lively and how they're creating communities. And that turned into her selling to Wacoal middle of the year. And what better place to learn about private equity, venture capital, and building a business that is meant to scale than from the people who work in it every day? And from the people who have had success in that area? I know VC is getting a lot of flack right now. If you want to hear it directly from the people who are making that work in our industry, you gotta tune in. So make sure you check it out. It'll be everywhere where podcasts are found and directly right here in the Future Commerce feed in just two weeks time, and it'll be every day Monday through Friday. You're gonna get a little dose of Future Commerce. It's going to be awesomes. Stick around for that. And that's it. That's it. This is episode 136. That's a wrap.

Brian: [00:49:17] That's a wrap.

Phillip: [00:49:18] Thanks for listening to Future Commerce. And make sure you like and subscribe everywhere where podcast are found and check it out... We want your feedback. We need your feedback, so that other people can find the podcast. You can do that at FutureCommerce.fm or leave us a five star on iTunes or Apple Podcast, Google Play. Thanks for listening.

Brian: [00:49:38] Thanks for listening.

Phillip: [00:49:39] Remember the future is what you make of it. We want to help you make that future.

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