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photo credit: getty images

Dear Ekaterina,

With 2019 fast approaching, economists are releasing predictions for the year ahead. It's not a rosy picture for fashion or luxury retail, whose key markets are forecasting softer growth:
  • The US and China are expecting a slowdown. Following recent trade measures, the International Monetary Fund predicts that US GDP growth will decline from 2.9 per cent in 2018 to 2.5 per cent in 2019, and from 6.6 to 6.2 per cent in China.
  • Europe’s growth will continue to soften, slowing from a 10-year high of 2.4 per cent in 2017 to 1.9 per cent in 2019 and 1.7 per cent in 2020, according to the European Commission. The UK will become the slowest-growing economy in the region, with an expected increase of 1.2 per cent following Brexit.
  • Global growth will remain steady at 3.7 per cent next year, according to both the IMF and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, boosted by positive forecasts for oil exporters in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In fashion news, Victoria's Secret CEO Jan Singer has resigned following ongoing sales declines and backlash over L Brands CMO Ed Razek's comments about transgender models. In Paris, Lucas Ossendrijver is exiting Lanvin after 13 years as its men's designer. The storied fashion house was acquired by Chinese conglomerate Fosun International in February and has been without a women's designer since March.

Further along in today's newsletter, contributor Fawnia Soo Hoo reports on Vans's meteoric success with American teens. Although still a niche player in the US footwear category, the brand is now more popular with upper-income teen girls than Nike, according to a recent survey of teen shopping preferences by Piper Jaffray. She outlines the reasons for its success below. 

lauren indvik

Teen Dream

How Vans is winning with gen z

twenty-eight per cent of upper-income american teen girls rank vans as their favourite footwear brand, surpassing nike. data source: piper jaffray. photo credit: getty images

It’s tempting to date the start of Vans’s rise to 15 February 2016, when Josh Holz tweeted a soon-to-be viral video of his friend Daniel Lara. The clip was a compilation of Snapchat stories of the Californian high schooler and his outfit choices, ending with Josh saying, "Damn Daniel, back at it again with the white Vans." The inexplicably funny video earned the pair tens of millions of views, a spot on Ellen and a lifetime supply of Vans, which Daniel donated to his local children’s hospital.

Two years later, American teenage girls are the engine behind Vans’s growth. In the most recent quarter, year-on-year revenue was up 36 per cent in the US (and 27 per cent globally). Vans is now the fastest-rising brand in the history of Piper Jaffray’s biannual Taking Stock With Teens survey, unseating Nike as the most popular footwear maker among upper-income females. Here, three things that are making the slip-on sneaker maker resonate. — Fawnia Soo Hoo

Authenticity over brand

American teens today are less brand loyal than previous generations, valuing comfort, quality and value over a name, according to Ayako Homma, senior analyst at Euromonitor International. While generally logo-adverse, if they do wear logos, they prefer Fila, Tommy Hilfiger, Champion and other 1990s-era streetwear labels, she explains. Vans’s roots in 1990s skater culture, emphasis on comfort and $50 entry point compliment these trends perfectly. 

data source: vf corp fiscal q2 2019 results. photo credit: getty images

Unexpected collaborations

Vans has chosen collaboration partners that resonate with Gen Z. Instead of high-end fashion designers, they work with unexpected brands like Nintendo, Disney, Marvel and Nasa that hit "the sweet spot of nostalgia and passion that Generation Z lives for", observes Jacob Chang, the 19-year-old director of trends at Jüv Consulting, a Gen Z consulting outfit run by teenagers across the US.

Girl-friendly marketing

Vans’s marketing speaks directly to Gen Z’s skater girls. "Some of the stories we’re putting out are a little bit more geared to women," says Nick Street, Vans's vice president of global integrated marketing. In the long-form "Girls Skate India" video, released to coincide with International Women’s Day, two teenage skaters run a workshop for girls at the Holystoked skatepark in Bangalore. The campaign was accompanied by the opening of more than 100 skate clinics around the world to encourage women of all ages to learn the sport.

What's next

Vans remains a niche entity in the US footwear market, with a 0.8 per cent share versus Nike's 19.7 per cent, per Euromonitor International. Its underdog status is one of the reasons for its present success. "Vans is like the grassroots brand that everyone loves," says Chang. As it scales, maintaining that "grassroots" sense is key. Vans knows it, and is continuing to invest in live music events and communal skateparks.

The Edit


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