The ones to watch

Rihanna_horizontalOver the past year, there have seen some stellar examples of businesses – from e-commerce startups to influencer-led concepts – taking their brand game to the next level. Here are some interesting brands in retail and business to keep an eye on right now.

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1.    Fenty Beauty

What: Rihanna’s beauty line.

Why: Bringing diversity and power to beauty.

The proof: Within just four months, Fenty has had complete sellout products and is set to overtake the Kardashians’ market share in beauty.

Fenty Beauty has shaken up the beauty industry for being the first brand to carry a wide range of foundation tones for women of colour. It seems like a simple aim, yet if fills a long-standing gap in market. Other beauty brands are on high alert and have swiftly moved to extend their own ranges.

The brand has been delivered with so much grit, boldness and prowess, you immediately feel part of its power girl gang. A best-in-class example of a brand owning who they are, from their personality and voice, whilst simultaneously changing the conversation around beauty on a broader level.

2.   Nyden

What: An affordable luxury line aimed at millennials, H&M’s younger sister.

Why: True co-creation.

The proof: More than 11,000 followers on Instagram (pre-launch, minimal content).

The best way to create a brand that people love is to build the shopper into your DNA. Nyden is collaborating with select artists and cultural figures – also known as “tribe leaders” of the millennial generation – to co-create fashion pieces right from concept to delivery.

Unlike other brands, Nyden is set to overlook the traditional retail seasons, instead playing by its own rules to launch collections when, where, and how they want.

3.   Bumble

What: A dating, friendship, and networking app.

Why: Empowering women to make the first move.

The proof: 22 million users and a $1 billion valuation, 70 per cent year-on-year growth.

From day one, Bumble has had a crystal clear vision to encourage women to start the conversation. Previously limited to relationships via Bumble, CEO Whitney Wolfe has now launched Bumble Bizz, empowering women to make the first move in business. Taking a direct shot at LinkedIn, it’s key differences are the tech, outreach process and geo-targeting.

They have cleverly taken ownership of the symbolic yellow hive, and the brand’s purpose is evident throughout all content, marketing and experiential activations. It’s early days, but based on this company’s track record, they are set to go where others haven’t.

4. Patos

What: Handcrafted Peruvian sneakers.

Why: Proof that social missions can build cool brands, quickly.

The proof: It’s been named as the number one brand by Buzzfeed and “one of America’s coolest college startups” by Inc. magazine.

Every brand wants to have a social conscience, yet many tack it onto a campaign or event activation as an afterthought. From day one, Patos’ social mission has sat at the heart of everything they do. Striving to make a positive impact, it makes sneakers to provide jobs for struggling Latin American artisans.

Combining purpose with cool, Patos is on the way to rivalling the Stan Smiths of the sneaker world. The brand has amassed a large following of millenials who want more than sneakers – they want cool products with purpose.

5. Away

What: Luggage for the modern traveller.

Why: Matching experience and product.

The proof:  $31 million in funding, 100,000 suitcases sold.

What started out as an office survey to find out what people wanted from their luggage, has now turned into a high-growth global travel brand. Although not as new on the scene, Away continues to flip the luggage category on its head. Unlike competitors, it’s a direct-to-consumer business model that offers “first class luggage at coach prices”.

More than product, the brand also sells the inimitable beauty of travel. Crafted storytelling, its own travel magazine, a cafe and swimwear in their store, travel kits with city guides, and smart luggage that comes with USB charging ports. The brand is aimed at at the busy modern traveller who wants to enjoy the journey, literally and metaphorically.

6. Lemonade

What: An AI driven insurance app.

Why: Nailing customer relevance.

The proof:  $180 million in funding, 65 per cent customer growth month to month.

Disrupting a 3000-year old market, Lemonade brings transparency, social value and simplicity to insurance.

Powered by bots, Lemonade pays claims in seconds, takes a flat fee, uses colloquial policy language, and gives back to a number of charities. Doesn’t sound insurance like, does it?

A brand that has been built off relevance, Lemonade delivers directly on what their millennial customer wants – with a refreshing aesthetic and fun approach.

7. A.bch

What: Sustainable and ethical fashion.

Why: For full disclosure and transparency.

The proof:  A thought leader in the sustainability space and media darling with a strong community base.

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, and has been notorious for keeping manufacturing processes under wraps. This is changing, but with many brands announcing they are ‘green’ and sustainable, it’s still difficult to know who to trust.

A.BCH is an Australian brand that comes with full disclosure and ‘nothing to hide’. Driven by extreme openness, behind each beautifully-made product sits a story shedding insights on the global supply chain.

8. Brandless

What: High-quality, unbranded, essential products.

Why: A fresh approach to commerce.

The proof:  $US50 million in funding.

Dubbed the “Procter and Gamble for millennials”, Brandless is a company built without brand names, only an ultra-strong identity. Every single touchpoint and interaction has been pared right back, and has a functional purpose only.

Targeted at those who want to spend less on private labels, the retailer sells about 200 household products and food items. Every product is priced at $3 to keep things simple.

9. PE Nation

What: Street-meets-sportswear.

Why: Tri-colour athleisure fame.

The proof: Its original collection sold out in hours and there have been countless global collaborations ever since.

When a creative director sits at the helm of a brand, magic happens. Gucci, Fendi, Alexander Wang, and our very own PE Nation understand the power of heavily-curated content, cultural relevance, and risk-taking.

PE Nation has one of the strongest brand identities going round. It’s instantly recognisable – every item, image and campaign is adorned with bright blue, yellow or red, an aesthetic completely adopted by founders Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning.

Originally anchored in luxe activewear, the brand has quickly evolved to street and lifestyle, accessories, menswear, with an off-duty tri-colour edge that simply cannot be replicated.

They are also spearheading the collaboration game and recently announced an exclusive collection launch with, and partnerships with Reebok, New Era and The Woolmark Company.

10. Bear

What: Daily vitamins.

Why: For bringing beauty to health.

The proof:  A favourite of influencers, available from Mecca to NYFW with quick global expansion.

This Australian brand was founded in 2017 by Saasha Burns and Sam Leetham. A beautified vitamin brand, the stylish duo have brought their effortless form and function to an industry previously lacking in style and differentiation. Designed to change the perception of supplements, the range caters to four types lifestyles and sticks to a beautiful, minimal aesthetic across all channels. They also give back to animal welfare and conservation projects via the sale of every product.

Emma Sharley is an award-winning brand and marketing consultant, co-founder of fashion tech start-up, Shop You, lecturer at General Assembly and Advisory Board Member for IFAB:


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