Boundaries Are Made for Pushing

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Addison Mumm, Special to Advertising Week

Within the fashion and advertising industries, the rebels are remembered, a comfort zone is really more of a suggestion and boundaries are never concrete. During Advertising Week 2016, industry leaders including Time Inc.’s Christine Wu, TELFAR’s Babak Radboy, Chromat’s Becca McCharen, Vogue’s Lynn Yaeger, LaForce’s James LaForce, and John Barker, founder of Barker, joined together to discuss how jumping in headfirst and breaking through their comfort zones have led to creating stand-out businesses and influencing other industries to follow.

This incredible panel, presented by BARKER, were each the embodiment of “rule breakers” as they made their way onto the Advertising Week stage. Purple hair, bejeweled shoes and bold makeup choices were just a few of the counterculture looks that drew immediate attention. Attention getting is vital in business; so breaking boundaries is the necessary move. According to the panelists, advertisers frequently look to the other industries, such as the fashion industry, for inspiration and a glimpse into what the latest broken boundaries may provide us with.

McCharen spoke about her less conventional portrayal of her fashion line. She originally began in architecture, but quickly found her way into fashion-design. Using her past to build a successful future, McCharen has blended her two passions to put the Chromat clothing line on the map. The combination of the two art forms, architecture and fashion, has made the company stand out. Recently, Chromat sought to tackle another frontier by pairing up with Intel to create “smart clothes” - clothing which can monitor when your body needs more air, triggering a series of pores/ducts in the fabric to open and allow for better ventilation.

“We are able to explore the future, but also remain functional,” McCharen said. “One boundary for us that we are exploring is the comfort and stretch-ability, like with battery packs.”

Some risks fall flat, while others propel businesses in the right direction. Speaking to such an idea, Christine Wu discussed the importance of having faith in one’s research and developing an understanding for the present industry and its trajectory. But doing so often takes courage. How do we know what will work? When do we know if the risk is going to be too much? How do you make the unthinkable happen?

But even when you’re worried about failing or that you’re reaching too far, that isn’t always true for the brand. The panel discussed “inauthenticity” and the backlash it may cause. Most cases of backlash, as Wu said, are based on trying to please the masses rather than remaining authentic to the brand. Yaeger spoke about false image and how it doesn’t always resonate with others. This is directly relevant to the market and a company’s image. The desperate reach to stand out isn’t true to a company’s brand and it will create an opposite reaction than desired.

“It is important to stay ahead of the trend, but also to find the solution that fits the brand specifically,” Wu explained.

Radboy and TELFAR played on this idea of finding solutions for the brand specifically. TELFAR stuck with its roots of an “anti-luxury” feel and had an after-party in a White Castle restaurant. Radboy explained how the label’s gender-fluid clothing didn’t necessarily follow typical rules, and that the location for the reception wasn’t conventional to the industry, but both fit the company’s personality.

“The way you tell things can become a marketing [tactic], but it takes those people being used for some kind of benefit. It’s the idea that clothes are just clothes - they don’t have gender. Sometimes you have something that seems transgressive [sic], but the process wasn’t meant for thrills,” Radboy stated.

A takeaway from the whole experience was to remain confident in your beliefs, with a full understanding for who your brand is, where you want it to go and what unusual steps could help to get you there. There is a saying, “Good girls don’t make the history books, and bad girls get remembered.” In the advertising world, it could be rephrased: “Good companies fall short or remain the same, risk-taking companies grab the future by the collar, demand success and reap remembrance.”