Macy’s Holds Open Call for New Designers

Discussion
Jan 25, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

At least somewhat established designers are being
invited to introduce their work to Macy’s fashion directors, buyers and merchants
at "Macy’s Open Call," a program created to find resources in existence who are
not current Macy’s vendors.

Designers must be at least 18, use electronic
data interchange [EDI] compliant manufacturing facilities, and apply online from
Jan. 15 to Jan. 31 at macysinc.com/opencall. If the online submission is accepted,
designers will get an opportunity to showcase their lines to Macy’s fashion directors
at Macy’s Fashion Office at Herald Square on Feb. 25 and 26 for possible placement
on Macy’s selling floors.

Each accepted designer is being promised a "private
review" from Macy’s fashion directors of the designer’s work as well as the chance
in an "exciting, casting call environment" with other Macy’s executives and participating
designers.

“Macy’s is continuing to invest in new endeavors
that focus on inspiring our customer,” said Nicole Fischelis, Macy’s GVP fashion
director, in a press release. “The Macy’s Open Call program confirms our commitment
to featuring the latest trends by finding up-and-coming talent who can offer
us product and design perspectives that are fresh and original.”

The program’s focus on established designers and
the selection process are a different take on sister-company Bloomingdale’s
casting event held last February. At the B-Seen event, Bloomingdale’s buyers
saw aspiring women’s ready-to-wear and accessories designers on a first come,
first serve basis from 12-to-4 pm at its 59th Street store.

Henri Bendel is perhaps best known for its casting
calls. For more than 40 years, the upscale department store in New York City,
owned by Limited Brands, has held "Open See" calls on a first-come, first-serve
basis to enable designers to show their product to the store’s buyers. Henri
Bendel’s website said these calls have launched "countless young creators," including
Todd Oldham, Anna Sui, James Purcell, Pamela Dennis and Colette Malouf.

Discussion
Questions: What’s the likelihood that such casting calls will help Macy’s uncover
new talent and resources? Do you see application for this idea in non-apparel
channels?

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17 Comments on "Macy’s Holds Open Call for New Designers"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Whether Macy’s uncovers the next Tommy Hilfiger or a viable new vendor through this process, it’s good to see that they are looking outside the box of their existing resource structure and roster of private brands. For all the attention paid to “My Macy’s” over the past year, the best game-changer is great merchandise content. And the PR associated with the “search for the next great designer” won’t hurt, either…reality show, anyone?

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

To me, the Open Call concept is more relevant as a way to draw young people to the store. If Macy’s main goal was to add newness to the store and support up-and-coming designers, a designer casting call would not be necessary. After all, these days, there are the big conglomerates (LVMH, Gucci) and everyone else. In the everyone else category, many are in need of funding and the logistical support that will take them to the next level of distribution. Independent hold-outs such as Rodarte and Kawakubo are the (to-be-admired) exception.

Anne Howe
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

This is good news for Macy’s and more importantly, its shoppers. After months and months of recession-weary bargain hunting, many shoppers have expressed the latent desire for new and innovative merchandise to tease them back into a few impulse shopping trips. Macy’s is wise to seek new lines, especially if it hopes to attract younger women as core customers for the future. Even though I am one, department stores will not survive by staying relevant only to boomer shoppers!

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
11 years 3 months ago

Great idea and could be a real differentiator. It’s “out-of-the-box thinking” that will propel companies in this new economy and time. The world is changing…you can’t continue to do what you have always done and expect a different result.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Can you imagine two friends talking and one saying to the other, “Did you see the new so-and-so line at Macy’s?” If they can do that with these open calls, they win. Other than more variety and a larger selection, there is no compelling reason to go to a department store. If Macy’s were to be able to offer something truly unique, somebody might say “Let’s go to Macy’s!”

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Great idea that certainly increases the opportunity to uncover new, interesting styles. More and more companies are working to find ways to widen the net for uncovering and collecting new ideas and material. The critical variable will be how well the people evaluating the new ideas really understand what their consumers want.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 3 months ago
It’s refreshing to see Macy’s begin to focus on something that hasn’t been a priority in the recent past–the product. Fresh, new products are something that can drive incremental, profitable sales and signal a recognition at Macy’s that trying to compete and win on price promotion has lost its effectiveness. It can also play a critical role in the My Macy’s localization efforts. While a great idea, it will be interesting to see the execution. Putting a requirement on the vendors to have EDI in place limits the range of new vendors that they will see. Many’s will also have to overcome a reputation (well-earned) of playing a zero sum profit game with the vendor community with chargebacks, ad money, margin guarantees, and markdown money which is not necessarily been applied to the vendor’s products. These games are one of the reasons that there are so few small, fashion-forward vendors in the first place. They simply couldn’t make enough money to stay in business. Like I said, a fabulous idea. I hope they are able… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Let’s see… American Idol turned up Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, and Kris Allen–just for starters. All previous unknowns. So what a great, “original” idea Macy’s has here! Maybe there’s talent out there in the masses! Duh!

Ryan Mathews
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

I’m a firm proponent of any kind of open source approach. Of course they’ll find new talent.

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

It couldn’t hurt by expanding their selection and offering or at a minimum, appearing to do so. If nothing else, it fits the ‘Star Search’ mentality of the populist. The problem is the ‘unknown’ factor. Although, the broader base of the consumers available aren’t necessarily attracted to the labels of Jessica Simpson or Donald Trump, what could it hurt? Other than for fragrance selection, they have lost a good many already.

My concern is that the ‘idol’ or ‘search’ approach may a bit late and saturated already. There’s also not a whole lot of value in it.

It seems to me that if they have lost me, they have lost a good many others as well. There actually is nothing wrong with a more traditional, value-based offering, especially in this market. I can’t see how this plays into that mind set. I could be wrong, but it seems quite a distraction of effort without a lot of potential return.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 3 months ago

Macy’s has a big problem and has had it for quite a while. Macy’s is not considered a cool place to shop. Every day nascent designers are “discovered” in small neighborhood boutiques and online by trendsetting fashionistas. For those shoppers the “uniqueness/not every one is wearing this” factor is much of the cachet of finding and sporting a new designer brand.

Macy’s image and their current store brands are the antithesis of that coolness factor and I doubt this promotion will suddenly change the public’s mind. This will not work out too well for either Macy’s or the aspiring designers. But hey; Macy’s PR department managed to get them in the news again, didn’t they?!

Martin Balogh
Guest
Martin Balogh
11 years 3 months ago

Good idea, wrong store. Macy’s designer stars are all rather long in the tooth, such as Martha Stewart, Tommy Hilfiger, and Donald Trump. Few think of Macy’s as innovative or fresh; they are a rather bland, mid-level store. H&M, Zara, Forever 21 and soon AllSaints are continuing to capture the youth market. Macy’s has become sort of Sears without good appliances and tools or Kohl’s with higher prices.

Kim Barrington
Guest
Kim Barrington
11 years 3 months ago
It seems the finding of new ideas and talent is what is really needed for Macy’s product mix. Using an open casting call only plays into the American Idol mindset and won’t necessarily produce what Macy’s needs. Do they know what they need? Do they have the quality trend information to help them focus on what will work to generate excitement within their stores? Do they have the people who can make the kinds of decisions necessary to choose the right product mix? To date, that answer would be no. And to the person who said this may attract more youth that department stores can’t exist on attracting the boomer alone, I would say they are losing boomers right and left as well. I am a boomer and I am put off by the lack of quality in their merchandise…at least their fashion. I looked for things to purchase in their store over the holiday. I wanted to spend my money; hard to do because the merchandise just wasn’t there. And I would say the… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

I could be a cynic and say something like “it’ll be a good idea unless Macy’s sucks the life out of it,” but as ChitownShop already beat me to it–a Macy’s hater in Chicago…imagine that! I’ll just be noncommittal and say it’s, um, “interesting”: Department stores were seldom known as fashion leaders (even in their heyday), so this seems like a stretch…but what do they (or anybody) have to lose?

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 3 months ago

Not to be too cynical, but if Macy’s “launches” a new designer that they “discover,” are they going to turn around and look for markdown money if the merchandise doesn’t sell?

More seriously, Macy’s feels more and more like a retailer trying to appeal to the masses, which is another way of saying their business seems to be pushing them more and more into the middle and away from the edges. I understand their instinct to push back against that, but they are pushing back against a risk-averse business model. They are no longer trend-setters, nor do I suspect they can afford to be.

John Hyman
Guest
11 years 3 months ago

Bendel’s and Bergdorf Goodman have followed this process for many years, with some success. Remember the Designer Collective? This showcased only up-and-coming designers and Joseph Abboud, Kenneth Cole, Jhane Barnes, and many others all started their momentum this way.

My experience is the new up-and-coming talent may not have access to EDI compliant production and/or distribution facilities. They are very design driven, and not always systems driven. They don’t usually have the capital to make full production runs (several I met used sample workrooms for their production because they couldn’t satisfy factory minimums).

So perhaps this is an example of Goliath trying to be like David and their size getting in the way of a good idea.

Mark Johnson
Guest
Mark Johnson
11 years 3 months ago

They could call it Macy’s American Idol. Or Dancing with Macy’s, I think this is better suited for TV.

Could they potentially find talent? Yes they could. Yet the process has to be totally unique to their current process and that change agent may be hard to swallow.

It looks like Macy’s is moving towards the middle and that is going to mean competition on price. So is a small, upstart vanguard going to be able to engage the masses? Maybe Wal-Mart should try this or at least Target.

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