Innovation: A Commitment to Bold New Ideas
At VF, we define innovation as something new that creates value. Our goal: to shape the future of apparel. Over the next five years, innovation will play an increasingly large role in our plan to drive organic growth and higher gross margins.
In early 2011, we adopted "Lead in Innovation" as one of our Growth Drivers.
We're working to foster a new culture of innovation within VF, supported by new processes and collaborative networks. We're exploring new platforms for future growth, and building the talent and skills needed to exploit them.
We're also working with experts from outside the apparel industry to provide VF's leaders and teams with new perspectives that can help them solve problems and discover new opportunities. For example, VF is the only apparel company sponsor of the MIT Media Lab, a collaboration of more than 100 academics and corporate lab sponsors that uses unorthodox research methods to envision the impact of future technologies on everyday life. Our sponsorship will give our brands access to a successful and proven source of innovation.
Below are just a few examples of innovation at work.
Wrangler: Collaborating to Create the Next Great Jeans
Throughout its long history, the Wrangler® brand has relied on the insights and ideas of its consumers - beginning in 1947, when tailors worked with rodeo stars to develop products for a cowboy's lifestyle. Decades later, the brand continues its consumer collaboration with Next Blue, a project to design a limited-edition collection of jeans. This spring, Wrangler invited fans across the U.S. to create a short video explaining their unique jeans idea and encouraged consumers to go online to view and vote for their favorites. Five finalists had the chance to visit Wrangler's headquarters to work alongside design, merchandising and marketing teams, while the grand prize winner earned the opportunity to have her design produced, marketed and sold by Wrangler this fall as the first style in the Next Blue collection.
The North Face: Building Outdoor Enthusiasm in China
In China, there is no strong tradition of outdoor participation, so The North Face® brand is creating one. During 2010, a majority of the brand's marketing budget here was invested in events that encouraged consumers to get outside and experience the spirit of the brand firsthand. Among these events was an online contest to recruit for an expedition to climb China's legendary Haba Mountain, a feat accomplished by only 500 people in history. From nearly 2,000 entries, an online vote allowed consumers to help choose three winners to join a team of the brand's sponsored Chinese athletes as well as famous bloggers, who documented the entire trip. In addition to the 18 expedition members who summited the mountain, millions more experienced the trip through print, TV, and social media.
Horace Small: Blending Fit and Function for Female Frames
Through market research, the Horace Small® brand identified an unmet need for uniform trousers specifically tailored to the needs of female police officers and first responders. The brand's new Function FitTM Female Pant meets this need with a contoured front rise and modest back rise, fitting women's bodies while enabling the full range of motion needed for their jobs. Designed by women and tested by female officers, the pants also feature a Comfort Cool-Flex® waistband that can extend up to three inches while preventing gapping and supporting the weight of an officer's duty belt. This spring, the pant received a "Top Innovator" award from Apparel magazine, marking the third consecutive year that a VF Imagewear brand's product has won the award.
Vans: Staying on the Cutting Edge of Youth Culture
The Vans® brand has always stood for self-expression. Its iconic checkerboard design was inspired by kids who drew the pattern on their shoes. Today, the brand reaches new audiences by allowing external collaborators to use Vans® shoes as a blank canvas for their creativity, giving the brand an entrée into new youth audiences. Examples of recent collaborations include TV series and pop culture phenomenon "Yo Gabba Gabba!"; global icon Hello Kitty®; up-and-coming singer and designer Jesse Jo; and Seattle-spawned rock legends Pearl Jam.
VF: Accelerating Supply Chain Innovation
Through our Asia Innovation Centers, VF is bringing designers and manufacturers together to get better products to market faster. VF currently operates three centers in Asia, two for Jeanswear and one for the JanSport® brand. The North Face® brand is currently working to create a fourth innovation center. The goal of these centers is to shorten lead times required to get new products to market by bringing product designers and supply chain experts together. The team seeks to create a new kind of manufacturing and logistics model based on face-to-face collaboration, a shared spirit of experimentation and new communications tools that make it easier for everyone to "speak the same language."