Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The BoF and Bill Amberg Project

Today, Bill Amberg Accessories Ltd. and The Business of Fashion announce the launch of the Calgary, a co-designed, co-conceived design project and crowdsourcing experiment which will help better understand and spark conversation about how the collective wisdom of crowds could shape fashion businesses, big and small, in years to come.

The BoF's Imran Amed, like us, is a long time fan of Bill Amberg's much coveted leather products and this project is a welcome union of their two areas of expertise. As you should all know, from their studio in North West London, Bill Amberg create stunning bags to travel, work and enjoy for a lifetime. Each and every one of Bill’s bags are unique, practical and most importantly beautiful. Similarly, the Business of Fashion should need no introduction. Since the inception of this indispensable site in 2007, Imran Imran has emerged as one of the leading thinkers on the profound changes that digital media are having on the fashion industry. Rather than a straight forward design collaboration, this project positions itself as an opportunity to learn about the creative and development process of high-end leather goods production and is more an an impromptu experiment with crowdsourcing, which is currently such a hot topic in the fashion business. The landscape of fashion communication and commerce continues to evolve radically and crowdscourcing is just one development (as discussed by the FT last weekend) and this project is keen to explore the potential benefits.

The full Calgary spectrum

Aside from the intriguing crowdsourcing angle, the project of course involves the creation of a heart racingly good accessory. With the Calgary, the world's of Bill Amberg and The Business of Fashion collide and the result is a stunning range of unisex tote style bags, a balance of function. Named after Imran's hometown, the bags were designed and created at The Bill Amberg Studios in London, each one hand made by a Bill Amberg leather craftsman. Stylish and elegant on the outside, functional on the inside. The bag is designed to fit the lifestyle of the busy, modern gentleman or gentlewoman. The bag is entirely padded with neoprene to protect technology, and includes specially designed pockets for iPads, Blackberries, and iPhones. Perfect for fashion week...

The BoF's very own Imran Amed road testing his Calgary in New York. 
Shot by Susie. 

It has been more than a year in the making and Imran has met with Bill several times over the past twelve months to fine tune what was originally intended to be a small project, but has organically grown into something more interesting, substantial, and very BoF. Here we talk to Imran to learn more about the project and take a closer look at the range...

SS: You, like us, have been a huge fan of Bill Amberg leather products but how did your admiration evolve in to a co-designed range?
Imran Amed: I first met Bill at Pitti Uomo one year ago. When a CNN journalist called me later that same day to chat about luxury brands best suited to the post-recessionary environment in 2010, Bill Amberg was top of mind. After I filmed an interview clip in his store, Bill asked if I might like to work on a bag with him. The collaboration grew from there.

SS: Named after your hometown, the Calgary range is is a unisex tote bag that balances fashion and function effortlessly. Could you talk us through the collaborative dynamic of the project, including your working relationship with Bill and his team.
Imran Amed: Bill and I first started discussing ideas for the bag over a year ago. I have met with Bill and his team team regularly over the past twelve months, at first to discuss ideas for the bag, to watch as the first prototype was built, to provide feedback on the prototype and then to discuss the launch strategy. We have learned a lot from each other from out various vantage points and areas of expertise, Bill with design and craftsmanship and BoF with our understanding of digital media.

Calgary Black (limited edition)

SS: The range has the demands and requirements of modern life at it's design heart. What are the key design elements?
Imran Amed: There are special pockets for all sorts of technology and the bag is entirely padded with neoprene for additional protection. There is also a removable shoulder strap, which is functional as well as being a nice design detail.

SS: Now, I spotted you road testing the bag at NYFW, how is it coping with the assault of relentless shows and presentations?
Imran Amed: Really well! I am always carting around so much with me during fashion week, and now everything has its rightful place.

Calgary Tan Nubuck (limited edition)

SS: The launch incorporates an intriguing and exciting experimental element, crowdsourcing. Three other versions will be created based on data provided by the users of BoF over a period of three weeks. Could you talk us through the logistics and mechanics?
Imran Amed: Originally we planned to do only one version of the bag, but Bill really liked the silhouette of the bag and saw potential to do it in several materials and colours. Six of these will be limited edition bags, available for sale right away and for three other bags we are seeking feedback to help us decide which versions to produce, in which quantities. We will share the results and lessons learned with BoF readers.

Calgary Tan Woven (limited edition)

SS: The crowdsourcing element is an experiment that develops the role of the consumer, here they are active participants in production. Despite the relationship between digital media and fashion being in its infancy, you have long been one of the leading thinkers on the profound changes that have already taken place. Is this the future of retail?
Imran Amed: I'm not sure I would say it is the definitive future, and not all consumers want to get involved in providing feedback, preferring instead to take a strong lead from designers, but there are evidently others who enjoy participating in the creative process.

SS: Now, you started the BoF back in 2007 and have since gained a global following as an essential daily resource for fashion creatives, executives and entrepreneurs in over 150 countries. What's next? How would you like to see this indispensable site evolve?
Imran Amed: We'd like to continue sparking and catalysing conversations in fashion boardrooms, classrooms and studios around the world about the opportunities and risks afforded to us by new new digital tools and business models. This little impromptu crowdsourcing experiment is just one example of that.

Calgary Black Ponyskin (limited edition)

The launch of the Calgary is accompanied by an interactive video created by CraneTV, showing how the bag was designed and created. Furthermore, the video employs hotspotting technology enabling consumers to 'click-to-buy'/'click-to-vote'...


As discussed above, for three of the (non limited-edition) bags, the project involves a crowdsourcing survey. The survey will determine which bags are most popular and which ones should be produced, and in what quantities. For those of you who would like to be involved, Imran Amed has created a customised survey link. Use your power wisely.


Fashion Philosopher said...

I am looking right now for a new bag. It is not easy to find a 'man-bag' which I can wear to every occasion and even more important a bag in which everything fits and stays organized since I am one of those guys who has always half of his life in his bag The design is brilliant but I loved to see the inside of the bag too. I love the woven one the most by the way. The Fashion Philospher

Fashion Philosopher said...

Sorry I am always so quick with my comments. I went on their website and they show pictures of the inside of the bag. A dream and with the price tag it stays a dream for me unfortunately. The Fashion Philosopher

Style Salvage Steve said...

Fashion Philosopher: I was just about to point you in that direction. The search for the perfect everyday bag is always a tricky one. However, if you like the Calgary, there is a chance to win one if you take part in the crowdsourcing survey. Just follow the link at the bottom of the post. Good luck!

joy said...

Ahmed is soo ambitious he is becoming a social media hero of mine. I have more to say but I will like it will become to long winded: the design is great, the project sounds amazing (I am going to write about this pronto!), and I am excited about the outcome of the project.

Anonymous said...

Calgary, Alberta? Awesome. I'm from Calgary.

Fashion Philosopher said...

Steve, thanks I took part in the survey maybe I am lucky. I just wonder what is the difference between crowd sourcing and market research which has been around since the 1990's? The Fashion Philospher.

The S.S. Santiago said...

that tan woven bag is like, making. me. die. shades of bottega veneta, anyone? but in a good way.


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