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Ahead of the Curve

Courtesy of Interbrand

Interbrand’s top fashion and beauty brands of 2020

A number of fashion and beauty brands appeared on Interbrand’s 2020 Breakthrough Brands list, indicating some of the characteristics of the next generation of fashion companies.

Milk Makeup (Milk Beauty), ThirdLove, StockX and The RealReal were all listed by the report as industry disruptors. Mirror, the home gym company recently purchased by Lululemon, and The Citizenry, a home goods retailer, were also on the list.

Interbrand said that the three main criteria for judging were human understanding (the ability to read and meet the needs of consumers), creating exceptional brand experiences and delivering outstanding business results. This year’s rankings also took brands’ ability to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic into account.

“We’re delighted to celebrate the 30 brands awarded Breakthrough status in North America,” said Daniel Binns, CEO of Interbrand New York. “These brands are at a critical point in their journey: the stakes are high but the opportunities even greater. We’re eager to see how these brands adapt to today’s challenges and the emerging trends of tomorrow — turning just surviving into wildly thriving.”

The report praised The RealReal, the online market for reselling luxury handbags and other accessories, for tapping into personalized, effortless shopping experiences at exactly the right time.

“The trend towards more socially-conscious, sustainable shopping has taken hold in the luxury sector, and vintage pieces have become status symbols in their own right,” the report said. “By making consignment buying (and selling) easy — hunting for new pieces is now just a few clicks away — quality-minded consumers can enjoy an ever-rotating closet, taking more fashion risks while feeling good about their environmental footprint.”

It also noted that the company’s Achilles’ heel was authentication credibility. Both Chanel and Prada have taken legal action against The RealReal in recent years after it mistakenly identified counterfeit items as authentic.

ThirdLove, the lingerie brand that has gained popularity for its inclusive sizing, was also praised by the report for creating an alternative to (the now-bankrupt) Victoria’s Secret.

“ThirdLove’s brand expression is about inclusivity, comfort and celebration,” the report said. “Their first pop-up shop in SoHo looked more like a living room than a retail store, with warm, nude tones, cozy seating and cheerful lights (in the shape of breasts, of course) above the dressing rooms.”

Though there have been some reports that the company’s internal culture is dissonant with its outward messaging, the body-positive brand has been able to raise $68.6 million since its inception in 2013.

StockX, another brand on the list, is a Detroit, Michigan-based intermediary that tracks resale prices on sneakers, handbags, streetwear and watches, among other collectable items. The report compared the company to Wall Street in its tracking and presentation of information.

“Overall, the company’s consolidation of sales figures has helped regulate a high-priced and often lawless niche market,” the report said.

As for cosmetics, Milk Beauty, the cult beauty brand born out of a production studio, was praised for its gender inclusivity and appeal to Generation Zers.

“By championing easy, self-expressive makeup for everyone, while marketing products that are completely vegan, cruelty-free and paraben-free, this brand has become a favorite among young, bold, socially-conscious consumers,” the report said.

Based on consumer surveys, the average “trust” rating for all brands was 14%, and the average “love” rating was 12%. Mirror and Milk Beauty exceeded the “trust” average at 33% and 26%, respectively. Milk Beauty stomped the “love” rating, clocking in at a whopping 82%. ThirdLove and The RealReal also came in with respectable “love” scores at 32% and 26%, respectively.

Overall, the report noted, the list has shifted away from the Silicon Valley-based tech companies that used to dominate the rankings. Brands on this year’s list were more likely to be playful, community-driven, powerfully symbolic and sustainable, indicating the qualities in which consumers are most interested.

Additionally, Interbrand reported a notable shift in leadership demographics within breakout brands. Of the 30 brands on the 2020 list, 27% have a CEO who is a person of color and 30% have a female CEO, giving both demographics three times more representation than Fortune 500 brands (which measure at about 10% for both).

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