1 Product Innovation: Core to Continued Success 1
Byoungho Jin and Elena Cedrola
2 Stone Island: Product Innovation and Market
Positioning as Drivers of Value Creation 35
3 The Geox: The Shoe that Breathes 57
Francesca Checchinato and Tiziano Vescovi
4 Nike: An Innovation Journey 79
Michelle Childs and Byoungho Jin
5 Repetto, a Paris-Based Craft Enterprise Growing into
a Global Brand: Design-Driven Innovation and
Meaning Strategy 113
Stefania Masè and Geneviève Cohen-Cheminet
The history of fashion and its evolution is closely linked to the history of civilization—it has been and still is conditioned not only by customs, traditions and cultures but also by scientific discoveries and international trade. From the skin of wild animals and the bark of trees used for clothing, the subsequent discovery of vegetable fibers, wool and synthetic fibers to smart clothing, technological innovation has a tremendous impact on how we dress. At the same time, symbolic meanings of clothing within a society have evolved continually throughout the years. The underlying reason behind these constant changes was conforming to the social stratum to which one desires to belong and differentiating oneself from strata with which one desires to disassociate. The essence of the fashion evolution has been constant innovation, which is the utilization of new ideas to produce new products, processes, services or business practices.
In mature industries, design or style often serves as the source of innovation. As seen in the success of Apple’s iPhone, it was not a result of inferior technology that Nokia lost its market share but, rather, aesthetics. Combining technologies to create aesthetically and symbolically appealing products—thus creating something drastically different from previous products in the market—is the key to success even in sectors that are traditionally driven by technological standards. In many industries—from automobiles to hotels, not to mention creative industries such as fashion and design—a growing portion of innovation is linked with aesthetic and symbolic elements of products or services (i.e., style) (Cappetta, Cillo, & Ponti, 2006).1 While not systematically addressed, innovations in style or design are a critical agent of change in mature industries.
The global fashion industry is a mature industry, characterized with constant change in styles and designs. Indeed, innovations in the global fashion industry are inclusively interpreted as an experimentation and adoption of designs, styles and organizational and management behaviors, as well as materials and technical solutions. Just like other firms, innovation in this industry is increasingly at the center of strategy and is a key factor in entrepreneurial growth and competitive advantage. Innovation is undoubtedly key without which the success of a fashion brand or company cannot be adequately explained. Nonetheless, limited efforts have been directed toward the understanding of innovation in the global fashion industry.
As an initial attempt to understand innovation in the fashion sector, this volume focuses on product innovations, followed by process innovations in the next volume in the global fashion brand management series. This volume seeks to explain product innovation happening in the global fashion industry, realizing that this industry is truly an innovative sector in which diverse technologies, science, art and tradition have been merged, synthesized and utilized to solve the needs and concerns of the end users.
In doing so, this book categorizes product innovation in the industry into three levels—materials, style and product development—and aims to present the broader scope of innovation in the global fashion industry with the hope that other sectors can learn from these developments and be inspired.
This volume consists of five chapters combining theory with practice. The first chapter comprehensively discusses product innovation in the global fashion industry at three levels—materials, style and product development— with examples and specific references to global fashion brands. Emphasizing that innovations in materials driven largely by technological standard may not tell the whole story of the industry, it maintains that innovation in style may serve as core competitive advantages for fashion brands and other mature industries where functionality or technology is less critical.
Subsequently, this book presents four case studies on global fashion brands that are carefully selected to reflect the diverse aspects and trends of product innovation. Each case is written by author(s) from the brand’s country of origin and based on original documents and interviews with key informants, some of which have previously been unavailable in English.
Stone Island (Chap. 2) is an Italian menswear brand in the premium outdoor apparel sector and has been growing in revenue and profitability by leveraging a unique set of capabilities in research and development, manufacturing and product innovation. This case study focuses on the brand’s product innovation strategies and subsequent distinctive market positioning. Chapter 3 is about Geox, an Italian shoe company with net sales of 874 million euros and market presence in 101 countries. Recognized by consumers for its patented innovation, the “shoe that breathes,” Geox has the largest number of patents in the industry. The Geox case shows how new technology and continuous innovation can be implemented in a market in which fashion and design typically dominate. Describing and analyzing the company’s marketing activities in recent years, the case demonstrates that Geox’s success rests in its ability to innovate, define and communicate a strategic position in the footwear industry.
In Chap. 4, a case study on Nike is presented. Since its inception in 1964, Nike has been an innovative leader in product development, marketing and retail sales. Due to its dedication to continuous innovation, Nike has been able to sustain a competitive advantage within the athletic apparel and footwear marketplace. This case highlights key points in Nike’s journey of innovation and examines how Nike has successfully emerged and pioneered the athletic wear industry.
Product innovation is not limited to technology-push and market-pull strategies but includes design-driven innovations as well. With a case study on the French, Paris-based upscale shoe brand Repetto, Chap. 5 explores how a small company focused on dance shoes and equipment production has evolved to a global brand with high-end everyday dance-inspired products. The chapter presents analyses of the brand’s design-driven innovation and meaning strategy that are well incorporated into its business. With these discussions, we hope that this book is accessible and appreciated by larger audiences who seek innovative ideas and inspiration. In particular, this book is relevant for undergraduate as well as graduate students with an interest in the innovation, fashion industry, entrepreneurship, retailing, branding and international business. It will also be an excellent resource for scholars researching innovation and business practitioners who strive on innovation.
There are many individuals whose assistance was invaluable in bringing this book to fruition. Our first and deepest gratitude goes to executives at Stone Island, Geox, Freitag and Sinterama, who were willing to share their passion for innovation with current and future leaders. Designers Amy Winters and Orsola de Castro gladly shared their creative works for the readers of this book. With great respect, we send heartfelt thanks to those who pioneered the industry with creative solutions. Special thanks go to the authors of each chapter for providing insightful case studies, incorporating information and sources not readily available to many readers.
The information is of particular value because of their unique perspective on the history of each brand and their own experiences as consumers, given that the brands are from their home country. We were fortunate to be supported by many former and current research assistants. Particular thanks go to a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Ms. Naeun Lauren Kim, who has been diligent in finding support materials, editing, formatting and checking references. We also thank Annalisa Borgoglio for finding information on product innovations in fashion and supporting bibliometric analysis, useful in writing Chap. 1.