This year’s panel set out to explore how designers create for the global marketplace in a way that is “generational, sustainable and inspirational.” Panelists were Nicole Miller, founder, the Nicole Miller Brand; Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail; Anthony Barzilay Freund, editorial director, 1stdibs; and Sandra Nunnerley, designer, Sandra Nunnerley, Inc.
A few highlights:
Anthony Barzilay Freund, editorial director, 1stdibs, an online global marketplace for vetted luxury goods, spoke about how luxury consumers now feel so confident about online shopping, that they are willing to purchase high-end furniture, paintings, antiques and more—sometimes for hundreds of thousands of dollars—sight unseen. Overwhelming success has led to 1stdibs’ expansion of merchandise to other areas, from jewelry to clothing. Informative editorial content and a print publication play a key role in attracting and educating clients.
American fashion designer Nicole Miller, founder of the eponymous brand launched in 1982, spoke frankly about the many challenges she has faced and continues to navigate as “everything is now about marketing—and even more important than the product.” She reminded the audience that in the ’90s, supermodels were essentially the first real influencers (other than movie stars). With sustainability now “a buzzword for everyone,” Miller said she was already on track, as it’s a personal passion, with items including recycled denim and jeans made from recycled plastic. But with competition so fierce, especially online, change is a constant, and the designer has “stayed alive” by branching out with licenses from jewelry to rosé.
Well known for her shopper insights and strategies, Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, also addressed the “changing scope of the retail world,” and how we have “moved to a dramatic new point in time, with Amazon and online shopping becoming habitual.” How do you design for this new retail normal—when everyone, everywhere has access to everything?
Liebmann said people now want more—something different. She said a new set of values is emerging, a sense of “buying happiness.” Liebmann believes consumers want a totally immersive retail design experience. “With innovation now the norm, in this new shopping culture, everything will be well-designed and personalized.” With consumers looking for happiness, Liebmann postulates that “design is a way to make them happy.”
Internationally renowned interior designer Sandra Nunnerley blends fine architecture and art, with a mix of styles and materials. She emphasized that good design is sustainable, with art and fine furniture being passed down from generation to generation. With competition so strong in today’s marketplace, Nunnerley said, “Retailers are looking to differentiate themselves—creating exclusives from Target to high-end.” While most of her work revolves around private clients and collections and commissions to artisans for one-of-a-kind pieces, Nunnerley has also embraced online shoppers, expanding her global reach by offering a selection of rugs and decorative pieces through collaborations with e-retailers.
Marc Rosen summed up the session, saying, “Our four panelists representing retail, online marketing, fashion and interior design all spoke of the new generational emphasis that they are dealing with today. Their clients and consumers are insisting on unique, sustainable designs that underscore their lifestyle not their parents’. Their new normal is experiential and personal.”