Authenticity: How Fashion Brands can Walk the Walk

A Clubhouse discussion with Alice Pfeiffer and Alexandre Blanc


In a new era for brands where values mean everything to young consumers and loyalty means nothing, is authenticity now a business imperative?


Companies are now more trusted than government. And while purpose for consumers is often “a gut feeling,” according to a recent study by Porter Novelli, more than 70 percent of people would prefer to buy from a brand they consider purpose-driven.


But brands walk a fine line in putting purpose into practice. Burberry, H&M, Nike and Adidas are among brands forced to choose between social responsibility and sales after a backlash in China over their decision to refuse cotton from the Xinjiang region, which produces 90 percent of the country’s cotton.


Even when brands have a message that resonates, they may not be perceived as authentic. Just ask Nike. While 73 percent of consumers who were positive about Nike’s social justice ad featuring Colin Kaepernick found it appropriate, only 45 percent felt the brand had a genuine commitment.


At BSPK, we focus on how the brand communicates and extends the brand's messaging by nurturing a direct relationship with customers in a consistent and lasting way. It’s not the marketing strategy we bring to life but the voice and passion of the sales team. It’s their persuasive storytelling that demonstrates the values a brand shares with customers.


BSPK’s Zornitza and Vanessa discussed on Clubhouse with journalist, author and professor at Institut Francais de la Mode Alice Pfeiffer and fashion designer and artist Alexandre Blanc what authenticity means to them. Both are innovative thinkers building communities by speaking directly to their audience. Here are some of the edited takeaways:


Are consumers now consuming authenticity itself?


Wokewashing, greenwashing, pinkwashing.....it's hard not to be cynical when it's something that is so in vogue...." according to Alice. As consumers grow skeptical, she says it's more important to be clear about what you are trying to convey politically, what values you are sharing and what sense of the world you are spreading.


Is social media authentic? Bottega Veneta has switched it off.....


Alice: Brands can't really afford to go completely off social media because "it's just the way the world works today. "Using it in a healthier way is the solution." If you don't "embrace all Insta stories and don't go completely over the top, it can be a good platform for many things. It's community based. It can build bridges between audiences. It can raise awareness."


Does authenticity mean expressing unfiltered opinions?


Alice: Human beings adjust to who is looking at them and to the reflection they are being handed by whoever is listening. As social creatures “we will adjust what is coming from us for the outside world which doesn't mean we lose core values, we just adapt them to make them easier to hear and easier to grasp.”


Authenticity: Emotional Data


Alexandre: “There is so much information you get from a person that you can't define.” He invites people to his atelier to get to know them as they try his collection and takes inspiration from observing how comfortable they feel in his clothes. This helps inform his work.


"As a designer it's my duty to advise and provide the best look I can see on a certain person so the data is important ...and it's something we all need to develop but what is more important is to keep the experience when designer and client are meeting and you have something that is happening and then it is becoming very precious."


Alice: “The word data says more about the firm searching for data than the actual research.” For her, data will miss trends.


Authenticity: Differentiation


Alexandre: Pay attention to what you should not do, for example, in his case, that was choosing not to include T-shirts as an entry point. "When everyone is doing a little bit of the same thing it is difficult to choose one brand over the other one - then it is never ending...so I do think that it is better to stick to your vision and to what you are good at."


Thank you so much to Alice and Alexandre for such an inspiring discussion!