A fashionable K.I.S.S.

Two years… It has been two years one of my clients has been “working” on a project, and it is still not resolved. Two years to choose a “simple” shirt as part of the company uniform (and identity). Here I come, and the expectations are high, logically: the project has turned into a nightmare for some. Of course, it is important: it is about the brand, the image, the feel, from both customers who see them and the employees who wear them.

The Beijing Olympic uniforms turned out to be remembered for their psychedelic pattern, often qualified as flamboyant. I wonder how long, and how many people, it took to decide on the fabric, the colours, the cut and the complete outfit, knowing the world would watch, and comment about it. Simple? Certainly not around the motif, more so around the (fashion?) statement, yet, nobody can say it was a success. Now, I have the same question about the Norwegian curlers’ pants during the 2010 Winter Olympics: how did they become such a Facebook/Twitter buzz? Simple design, unlikely; loud one, obviously (thanks to Loudmouth Golf genius). It became a distraction to some of the other teams, and winning a silver medal was a nice extra reward to the Olympic-size attention.

As Tom Corbeth, Director Corporate Development at the Vancouver Fashion Week, pointed out: “Was this something that would make you stand out on the golf course? Probably not. But nor far off. The Olympic environment is surprisingly brand-free except for IOC and IPC themed imagery, so here was an opportunity for a team to stand out, especially on television, with an audience of billions. This was team marketing, and especially in Olympic environments it will be interesting to see how this develops over time.” Understanding uniforms are to create uniformity and unity: look at Holland. “The orange theme has been around since William of Orange, and it has become the Dutch uniform, no matter what the sport, or even cultural event. The colour has become the uniform, and without question it unifies; not only that, but it also has relevance and instant recognition.”

This particular client has no Olympic interest, and belongs to an industry that has little to do with Fashion, if at all. My role in this project consists of finding the best creative supplier who can make snagging and pilling complaints disappear. Simple… One would think. Basic needs = basic solutions, or that is how I see it. As a procurement architect, I can compose around my client’s needs, as long as they are (clearly) defined and laid out. If I send somebody to do my groceries without a list, I doubt I will get the ingredients I need for the recipes I know. I have seen this elementary detail missing throughout some client’s projects, and I sometimes spend more time (re)building some foundations than actually running, and completing, a project for it to be effective and succeed. What I am running into is the uncertainty of what my client really wants: not sure what cut, design or fabric is expected. I would understand why Jean-Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld are demanding for their Haute-Couture creations. Not to lessen the value of brainstorming on a corporate garment, I am just happy my client does not fall under the rhythm of seasonal fashion shows. Not knowing what I need to buy, or how much, makes developing supplier strategy strenuous. My responsibility is now to dedicate more time to some educational reminders of procurement 101: KISS, Keep It Short & Simple.

So far, Leonardo Da Vinci has proven to be pertinent: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Even Tom Corbeth agrees! Keeping a project simple, not simplistic, may require some digging and deep research: the reward shows when the completion runs smoothly. Who said simple could not be effective?