THE NEW FASHION ENTREPRENEUR: What These Companies Are Doing To Buck Fashion Trends

Have you ever wondered how one restaurant is constantly busy, while another one across the street is empty? 2017 has been dubbed The Retail Apocalypse by many media outlets due to companies like Ralph Lauren, BCBG, Michael Kors, Guess, Abercrombie & Fitch, closing stores nationwide. As a commercial real estate advisor and developer of retail properties who’s worked with companies like The Gap, UNIQLO, MUJI, and Luis Vuitton, and long time deal maker in the fashion district, I can tell you first hand we’re seeing a shift in how entrepreneurs in fashion are conducting business and creating revenue.

Pop Up Shops: Pop up shops are truly the epitome of today’s feeling toward long term commitments. Why rent a space for a long period of time in a market that isn’t as low risk as it once was? Pop shops are that way to give the customer a limited amount of time to purchase an item in real time. It makes them feel obligated to buy it now before missing out on it. Companies save big time through this method and it gives them the option to only be in business for seasons and promotions they deem worthy. Kanye West’s Pablo, Kloe Kardashian’s Good American, Adidas,   Check out this article on pop up shops here

Online to Brick & Mortar: Yes, you’ve read that right. Not brick and mortar to online, that’s going the wrong way nowadays. To get your footing off on the right start: test the waters out as an online retailer. Build your loyal fan base, and become such a sensation that your customers are basically demanding you to actually open up shop. It’s working for brands like Everything But Water, Alo Yoga, and Bonobos.

Social Media: This is an obvious one isn't it? Yeah I’m sure you remember contests like the Instagram promotion by Sunny Co Clothing right? Repost and receive a free bathing suit, you just cover the shipping charges. It got thousands of reposts, but couldn’t exactly make due on its promise. This goes to show you, social media can turn you into an internet star in a matter of hours - just make sure you actually have the means when you incur such a high demand.  Read the full story here.

Showroom Spaces: 212 Showroom located in the fashion district neighborhood in NYC. The company decided to create a space for designers to showcase their pieces. They then host at least 65 trade shows a year allowing designers the chance to be seen and give them the opportunity of being picked up by boutiques and retailers. This is a play on the real estate. Although fashion showrooms have been around for decades, this new wave of showrooms specifically choose and curate their designers for a specific audience or a specific group of buyers.  

Collaborations: Supreme X Luis Vuitton, Supreme x Gucci, Fenty x Puma, Gigi Hadid x Tommy Hilfiger, KENZO x H&M etc etc. Brands today are coming together to really make something interesting for their shoppers. This not only allows brands (like Luis Vuitton) to either break into a completely different demographic or expand that fan base. 

In times of transition and chaos, there are always any opportunities once you look past the problems. We’ve seen this in every financial crisis and every shift in consumer behavior. This is what we’re seeing as service providers to the fashion industry. Are you seeing any other trends?

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Real Estate Weekly: Young Gun Okada Has His Eye On Big Invesments

Christopher Okada started his vocation with a handicap. The 36-year-old — now in his 11th year as founder and CEO of real estate investment firm Okada & Co. — had to constantly prove his dealmaking prowess because his looks didn’t inspire confidence.

“I definitely had people tell me: ‘Wow, you look so young,’” he said.

Okada compensated for his baby face with the boundless energy youth provides. He likened his firm’s early years to that of a start-up, with survival depending more on determination rather than business acumen.

“It was a very fun time. (We were) very much like a start-up… I was very nervous and very excited. I was 25-years-old and I felt like I was ready for war,” he said. “When it was go time, I didn’t care if I was young or old. I just wanted to win.”

He has since flipped his youth to have a positive effect. He considers himself to be physically durable, enough to defeat the demands of constant dealmaking and competitors; and he expects everyone else in his company to keep up.

“I have a lot of resilience. I can get back up faster and think quicker… I’m willing to push myself physically. And when I say physically, I mean setting up more meetings and making more phone calls,” he said.

“Today, being young and ambitious is very advantageous. The company feeds off of this energy.”

While many real estate executives cite oblique and poetic reasons for exceling in moving Manhattan real estate, Okada declined to engage in ambiguous ramblings. He’s in it for the payoff, and he competes ferociously to get it. “There’s no feeling in real estate like winning and the payoff,” he said.

Okada, who started in real estate as part of his father’s Manhattan firm, got his first payday 18 months into his career.

“I went to go work for my father and I started doing leasing in the Plaza District. Within 18 months, I sold my first building. The total commission was $76,000. I was 24-years-old and I felt that was a tremendous amount of money. I was very proud to be able to give my father $38,000 in one shot.

“From that point on, I was hooked. I never experienced anything like that. At 24-years-old, making $38,000 in a single check, it’s a lot. That closing was really what kept me in real estate,” he said.

He has gone far since then. His firm has closed $150 million in acquisitions over the past four years. This includes partial interest in 432 West 52nd Street, a former St. Vincent’s Hospital facility that has been converted into luxury condos, and a $9.5 million deal for the retail space at 135 West 52nd Street, which used to be a location for a Flatotel hotel.

He attributes a fraction of his achievements to a tribal division in business. He said that as an Asian company, his firm has directly benefitted from the migration of Asian firms into Manhattan.

“We’re Asian. I gotta throw it out there. In New York City right now, it’s very hot to be Asian. Every single year, we somehow make money bringing Asian companies. We capitalize off of that,” he said.

Nonetheless, he refuses to credit his ethnicity for his firm’s trajectory. “There are many Asian companies that only work with other Asians. That’s not us at all. We work with everyone,” he said.

“People come to us because we have the best deals and the best strategy. They come to Okada because they want good deals. Period. And we work like hell to find them.”