Last week, Team Spring flew west to spend some time with our LA-based brand partners. Over breakfast at Rachel Zoe’s stunning West Hollywood HQ, Spring’s Chief Brand Officer April Uchitel chatted with Rachel herself. (Did you catch us on Facebook live?) Their chat was followed by a panel moderated by Spring’s Chief of Creative & Brand Partner Operations Gill Gorman Round, featuring Clare Vivier of Clare V., TOM’s VP of Business Development Jordan Glassberg, and Buck Mason co-founders Sasha Koehn and Erik Allen Schnakenberg. The conversations covered new and different ways these founders and executives are working to engage their audiences in an ever-changing retail environment.

While each of our featured speakers had their own expertise and products, one perspective rang true for all: It’s all about staying true to yourself and your brand, now more than ever as a brand’s story and authenticity is truly its point of difference in today’s crowded marketplace. Below, a few key takeaways from these LA #SpringSessions, that no fan of fashion and entrepreneurship should leave home without.

Rachel Zoe + Spring's April Uchitel

Rachel Zoe + Spring’s April Uchitel

Rachel Zoe, on why she brought her fashion week presentation back to LA, and advice to fellow designers:

The label has always been “Rachel Zoe – New York Los Angeles,” and she’s always been bicoastal, growing up on the east coast, but spending the majority of her career in LA. New York was feeling very crowded in recent seasons, and two seasons ago she turned to her team and told them she wanted to do something different, that felt true to RZ as a brand. The goal was not to make a fashion ‘carnival’, but rather create something intimate, special, and sexy.

According to Rachel, you can’t please everybody. As a designer it’s very easy to get tangled up in what buyers want. Buyers all want something different, and if you’re making decisions for all the buyers, you end up with a collection that is not only inauthentic to your aesthetic, but all over the place and won’t make sense to the end customer.

Erik Allen Schnakenberg, co-founder of Buck Mason, on the quest to be ‘different’ and set yourself apart in the market:

It’s not so much important to be different, but rather it’s important to be truthful. Today, consumers have so much more knowledge about how garments are made. The co-founders have found that their audience understands way more about the supply chain than they expected, and they have found that truth is more interesting than fiction. It’s way more than having a handsome guy in an ad — authenticity is what elicits the greatest response.

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Jordan Glassberg, VP of Business Development at TOMS, on evolving as a brand and what engaging customers in a ‘new’ way means to TOMS:

In TOMS’ 11th year of business, they found the consumer was saying, “okay, what else you got?” They needed to take the initial story behind TOMS give-back ethos, and find a way to remain compelling. They’ve started a program where customers get to choose the country where their shoes are donated, creating a unique interaction between sales associates and customers in store. While personalization is a big trend out there, putting a monogram on shoes wasn’t the right answer for TOMS. Their current kind of ‘personalization’ is what’s authentic to them as a brand.

Clare Vivier, founder & designer of Clare V., on why customers keep coming back to her brand:

The story to tell behind, and of, great products is the only story that designers have to tell. The most interesting thing about a brand is the WHY vs. the WHAT. In an age when fast-fashion brands can easily copy a design and get it to market faster and cheaper, you have to give consumers a reason to buy beyond just the product, and the authentic brand story is at the heart of it.

Watch the conversation with Rachel Zoe from her Facebook Live video!

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