This week I interviewed two companies who are using PR to fuel the combination of technology and fashion. Not only are ADAY clothing and Dropel Fabrics succeeding in a seemingly esoteric space — the combination of high technology with clothing and fabrics — but are using innovative PR to achieve record-setting growth and revenue along with marketing cool.
First up is athleisure company ADAY, founded by Nina Faulhaber and Meg He (named to Forbes 2016 30 Under 30 list for Retail & Ecommerce a year ago at age 28 each). As colleagues in the M&A division of Goldman Sachs, the two also connected over active lifestyles and a love of fashion.
Why not create clothing that is work appropriate but can also “make sense” for varied activities and climates? They began doing research and asking questions. They visited Paris and examined fabrics. Then they discovered an “amazing factory” in Portugal that had worked with Nike, Lululemon and other sports brands as well as high end designers.
Together they set out to recreate the traditional concepts of wool, cashmere and silk to create fabrics and designs that are moisture wicking, breathable and comfortable, most important of all, sustainable. They worked these discoveries into designs they believed would appeal to their target market — professionals and others who value simplicity and quality over quantity and experiences over possessions. Their initial offering, the Throw and Roll Leggings, procured a waiting list of 2,000 before the product was even ready to ship.
Storytelling has been a key aspect of the PR strategy for ADAY. “Journalists talk about our ‘Star Wars-level clothing’,” says He. Technical, breathable and simple staples, couple with design that is truly original. “One outfit can do all of these things for you. Three-to-five other outfits have been replaced by just one. Whether you’re on a plane, in a Starbucks or at the office — the same apparel choice works for all.”
The company has secured press attention from a myriad of outlets including Forbes, BusinessInsider, Huffington Post, Observer and even the Today team, who wanted a closer look at the leggings that inspired so many orders, sight unseen, in advance. Partnerships have been a key part of ADAY’s public relations as well. A partnership with online magazine and marketer PureWow included a full ADAY campaign that was shot in the PureWow office, coupled with a special landing page and an 11-page email campaign that pushed viewers to the full experience of ADAY.
Most recently, ADAY has opened up a pop-up on June 27 in the “NoLita”(North of Little Italy) area of Manhattan on 268 Elizabeth Street. In addition to marketing the ADAY clothing line will serve as an offline community “wellness mecca,” offering activities such as a Friday morning breakfast club with Daily Harvest, and a shadowboxing class on Saturday mornings (you can find more information about the activities here). Having not come from a PR background, the two have worked with agencies to make introductions and manage the process of PR.
“It’s a lot of work,” Faulhaber remarks, “Sending out pieces; making sure the writers are having a good experience.” PR has contributed to their choice of location as well. After launching in London, the two have realized that New York is an ideal locale for their business, as the European location made it more difficult to manage and speak to the U.S. media early on. From here the efforts are accelerating, they say, as they take their story and products on tour to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Chicago and to London and Stockholm.
In contrast, Simardev (“Sim”) Gulati, the founder of Dropel Fabrics, has grown up in New York City in a family that owns textile factories all over the world.
“’Intutive innovation’ doesn’t come with a manual,” he observes. “I learned the business very early through osmosis — went to school at Oxford to learn national relations and economics — then went afterwards to India to learn more about the business itself.” In India, Gulati discovered the factories being utilized by his family for cutting, dying, sewing and knitting all taking place from these vertical sites. He told his family, “I think the industry is going a different way. I bet you could scale quicker than this.” And he determined that if they weren’t going to take the steps necessary to expand, he would.
The traditional factories produced clothing for the buyers for Macy’s, Armani, H&M and others. But Gulati wanted, instead, to base decisions on consumer interaction, and to learn how consumers were making their choices. He began a Kickstarter campaign, asking backers his most poignant questions about style, aesthetics and preference. “So much of retail is branding and storytelling,” he said. “So I took a step back.”
What Gulati discovered: many innovations were occurring in polyester and synthetics, but for natural fabrics, there was no innovation. Therein lay the magic that comprises Dropel — that it is possible to enhance natural fabrics, to retain the softness and breathability consumers love to give them functionality like never before.
Through fortunate association with “great investors and advisors” such as Alex Moore, Operating Partner at 8VC, Fashion Tech Lab Ventures and the Oxford Angel Fund, Gulati has gained great advantages in growing his business. His first step in PR was to work through incubators NYFTLab and recently Plug and Play’s Fashion For Good to participate in demo days where the company’s news was picked up by Time Magazine, Bloomberg, the New York Times and Forbes.
The company created a live-in shirt that is certifiably “champagne-proof” and a variety of natural shirts that remain dry. In 2016, Dropel Fabrics was named one of the 100 most exciting startups in New York. The result of his combination of tech with fashion has broadened Gulati’s audience substantially to include coverage in Mashable, BusinessInsider, Hemisphere’s and TechCrunch, in addition to fashion publications like Vogue.
His ultimate goal is ambitious — “to be ubiquitous.” As an admitted science nerd he maintains that in the next 5–10 years all of our clothing has the potential to be additionally functionalized in some way. With an R&D lab in New York and infrastructure in China/Shanghai he has 60 clients in the pipeline and 250 in the waiting list.
Do the fabrics really work? To help me find out, Gulati sent me a test kit. The box included cotton jersey, fleece, denim, twill — all the varieties of cotton we’d consider our regulars. So I bravely spilled soy sauce on the whitest fabric. The sauce beaded up and immediately ran off of the fabric (and onto my phone — perhaps impermeable phone covers are next?)
Regardless, these two companies have achieved a tremendous feat through proactive and straightforward PR, using storytelling, first-hand experience and direct communication to bring technology and fashion together in the production of products that thousands of people will love.
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Author: Cheryl Snapp Conner
Cheryl Snapp Conner is founder and CEO of SnappConner PR and creator of Content University™. She is a popular speaker, author and columnist.