Joseph Ferrara of Resonance Discusses Full-Stack Fashion and Valuing Creativity
While popular fashion often mirrors cultural trends of the moment, at its core, the industry has always been rooted in iteration and innovation. With the onset of new technologies and platforms, the business as a whole has endured a revolution of sorts that considers the rapidly-changing (and often complex landscape) that many emerging brand builders must endure. As a result, select individuals have identified the opportunities to help promising fashion talent reach their full potential. That's why we're thrilled to introduce Joseph Ferrara, co-founder of Resonance.
In the heart of Manhattan, Joseph and his team share a singular vision of creating a one-stop-shop for brands to create, connect, amplify, multiply and sustain — and as they candidly put it: "Do something really fucking big." Fortunately, Joseph's heart (and passion) for creators continues to beat as loudly as this ambitious message. Today, we share our visit with Joseph who chatted more about the concept of Resonance, “full-stack” fashion, sustainability, and his tips for finding success as a creator-driven brand in this day and age.
Thanks so much for having us by Resonance. Tell us a little more about your background.
I'm the co-founder of Resonance which is a technology company that is building the new operating system for the fashion industry (more on that later). Early in my career, I was the CEO of the largest high-end private label manufacturer in the western hemisphere. I am an investor in several brands and technology start-ups and have been very active on the faculty of NYU teaching an MBA course at the Stern School of Business. I have always been close to product and manufacturing so when Resonance set out to reimagine an operating system for the industry we did so with a strong orientation towards fixing a broken supply chain and isolated business silos. Resonance was built thinking about how brands operate and what makes them special. We support the true source of value creation: creativity.
Give us an overview of Resonance and its ability to create full-stack fashion. How do you think this approach will enable today's emerging designers to build more sustainable brands?
Full-stack is an approach to building systems, processes, and workflows by taking into consideration the entirety of all activity within a business. Full-stack looks at operations and systems holistically not a part at a time. For Resonance, full-stack fashion takes ALL activity from creation to consumption and has built systems to enable creativity to thrive. What does this mean? Designers can design, sell, and make new products at the speed of how they create, and consumers can stay connected to these creators with a continuous flow of communication and products. Full-stack fashion encompasses what was previously known as product development, merchandising, commerce, and manufacturing into digitally-integrated workflows around what we call "ONEs." Design ONE, Sell ONE, and Make ONE without all of the overhead and siloed infrastructure associated with fashion as it exists today.
Resonance has asked: What would happen if creators could design new products every day and customers could buy something new every day or buy something that was made just for them? Is that the natural state of creation and consumption? Why does creation take so long as it stands today? Do customers really want to see something new today and then buy it four to six months later when it becomes available? And does it all need to happen a season at a time or could the calendar be continuous?
Full-stack fashion has built technology that digitizes all of the functions and workflows involved in designing, selling, and making clothes so that products can be created and consumed in a cycle as short as ten days. This means brands can test new products with little risk, they can operate with no inventory, they can create continuously, and they can do all of this in the most sustainable way imagined. The number one reason why fashion is such a polluter is because of the inherent waste built into the current system. To be sustainable, brands need to figure out how to make ONLY what is required to avoid land-filling all of the mistakes. How do we eliminate 20% of clothes that should have never been made? Resonance's full-stack answer is DON'T MAKE THEM!
It seems that so much of Resonance's value comes in its ability to create timely and efficient systems for creator-driven brands. But we're also seeing a rise in "slow" fashion and designers moving away from the traditional fashion production calendars. How would you say Resonance caters to this approach?
We share many of the slow fashion ideals here at Resonance, especially when it comes to no waste, renewable materials, and creating products of high value. But we ask: How do you embrace these ideals AND be faster than fast fashion? Let's provide the technology and tools for creator-driven brands to Design, Sell, Make — in that order — what they want and where there is customer demand. Resonance believes each brand should have the freedom to choose the speed and cadence of what they Design, Sell, Make and should produce products with high design content. But to compromise speed we think is unnecessary to achieve many of the slow fashion goals, and many brands will suffer at the wrong speed.
Slow fashion also accepts the broken supply chain constraints; Resonance does not and has changed the rules so brands can succeed at their speed. Brands need to think about serving the next generation of consumers who will demand EVERYTHING. They will demand speed, value, newness, sustainability, transparency, customization, and personalization. We believe brands can choose their speed, whether slow or instantaneous and do so on their own terms to beat fast fashion and be successful.
Aside from Resonance's innovative mission, we also love the company's candid branding. How did you find your voice and what would you say you've learned the most when it comes to creative branding as a result of working with so many designers?
I like your use of "CANDID" branding to describe our excessive use of profanity. We know what we are doing is unconventional and radical, and so our voice reflects this, and we have also seen designers succeed when they are unafraid to try something new, to test, to put themselves out there to the world as something different, as something special. At Resonance, we tell our story as we see it and we are not trying to follow someone else's script. Creators are expert at discontinuous thinking and original thought, and I guess that inspires us for our business.
Tell us more about how you first connected with Brand Assembly. Why do you value collaboration with not only designers but with like-minded companies that complement the Resonance mission?
Like-minded is a good way to describe a common mission. I met Hillary France through creator-driven brands that want to join our platform and it is clear we both believe in supporting creator-driven brands. Resonance's mission is to put the creator and creativity at the center of the universe, arm them and enable them to succeed in an industry dominated currently by a broken system that is rigged for failure. Brand Assembly provides tremendous support services, and the shows are an excellent way for brands to build awareness through wholesale channels. As Resonance opens its platform to new brands later this year, we can see more complementary ways to support creator-driven brands together.
Since Resonance is based in NYC, what is your advice for designers who may not be in major fashion hubs but still want to create brands that will resonate?
One of the big learnings for us and what has been imbued into the Resonance platform is that the operational needs of brands are so similar and that there is a tremendous opportunity to share resources and learn from others. Let's take 90% of what composes a business and give brands options to move part or all of the 90% to platforms so brands can focus on the 10% that defines them: their creativity and connection to customers. If brands could spend 100% of their time on the defining 10%, they would have a high chance of success. With this in mind, the top pieces of advice would be:
Learn and share — You are not alone, find your community and develop resources to help you take care of the 90% so you can focus on the 10%.
Be close to your tribe — Listen to your customers; measure what you do by what they do. Who are they? Where are they? What do they buy? Why do they love you?
Test, test, test — If you finish a week without testing something new, you failed. Test new ideas, new products, new messaging, new promotions, new colors. If you don't test, you don't learn. If you don't learn, you die.
The brands that I admire are Tommy John, Reformation, and Tucker. They all embrace sustainability, rapid learning, and focus on their customers. These are brands that will be around for a long time because they learn from others, they stay close to their customer and "listen" really well, and they test aspects of their business all the time.
What would you say to authorities in the fashion industry when it comes to aiding the next wave of sustainable designers and fashion professionals?
To all brands, the next generation of customers will demand it all. They are the "everything" generation and sustainability is a requirement, not as a slogan, but as a verifiable thing. Creativity is the true source of value. Big brands are not exempt from this rule and size does not provide cover from failure to harness this asset. Watch out for a "David and Goliath" battle and understand it might be thousands of "Davids." For the "Davids" make sure you focus on the 10%.
For the next generation of leaders, the "everything" customer probably needs "everything" leaders. Don't think of silos and areas of isolated expertise, think holistically about the business you are building and interconnect the aspects of the business to create great brands.