Entertainment x Shopping
How to turn live-streaming from an e-commerce tactic into the brand-building strategy
Welcome to the Sociology of Business. If you are not subscribed, join the community by subscribing below and joining the Sociology of Business Discord. You find my book, The Business of Aspiration on Amazon and you can find me on Instagram and Twitter. For those new here, in my last analysis, De-Commercialization, I explored different ways of transforming standardized production of commodities into considered creation of non-tradable objects.
If there ever was a brand that seamlessly and organically mixed entertainment with community with commerce, that would be TELFAR. TELFAR’s website, Instagram account and TELFAR TV deliver a world that, at a first glance, seems to exist purely for its own enjoyment purposes. This is true; it is also true that it exists for enjoyment of the vast TELFAR community, members of which regularly find themselves on the giant screens at the TV studio and on TELFAR’s Instagram feed. The brand fans are at the main source of entertainment and its main audience.
In turn, entertainment is the main source of product communication. TELFAR TV is described as a “black-owned AKA un-owned AKA unknown, 24 hour live-linear public access tellyvision network: submit videos, watch LIVE shows and get exclusive drops from the NYC based non-gendered fashion brand.” Anyone can submit their video. The brand’s products - most notably its vegan Shopping Bags - signal the TELFAR fandom’s identity (imagined and literal, as reflected in the name Corned Beef, released on February 11th).
In a “consumers-as-investors” model, TELFAR’s Bag Security Program ensures that everyone can get a bag (waiting only makes it more desirable, and owning it more rewarding), without resale markups. Bag Security Program also ensures that TELFAR can manage its production in a profitable way, giving the brand independence: “Last year we messed up the fashion industry and the bots with the BAG SECURITY PROGRAM - letting you get what you want, without the stress - and keeping TELFAR Black Owned and 100% independent. You are our investors - and together we are making history again.” Restocks and shipments are regularly announced to the community on TELFAR’s Instagram account and TELFAR TV. It’s a DAO before DAOs existed.
TELFAR is built a drip business model, where it combines just-in-time production with episodic live entertainment that is as accessible and public as its Bag Security Program. TELFAR’s drip strategy works for two reasons:
There’s one core customer for TELFAR products and TELFAR entertainment. To this core customer, both engagement methods - products and entertainment - are increasingly rewarding through community participation. Owning a TELFAR bag feels more socially and culturally exciting with live television that accompanies it.
Product scarcity is offset with continuous flow of entertainment, which is used to announce and showcase new products, announce restocks and shipments, and feature the community of fans and cultural creators. The show never stops, and entertainment is used as the widest product distribution channel possible, removing the need for the physical stores.
TELFAR’s mission, which refers to the the business the company is in and how it makes money, is notoriously “NOT FOR YOU – FOR EVERYONE.” It hits on the core sources of TELFAR’s competitiveness: the reverse relationship between price of TELFAR’s items and their desirability. In a twist to the every known luxury and status signaling logic, TELFAR’s bags are now both more accessible and more desirable than ever.
TELFAR’s vision is to create iconic pieces at the fraction of its competitors pieces: “I based the price off of .. . how much someone in nightlife makes in one night … I want this to be something that goes around and something that people have.”
TELFAR is pursuing the reverse pyramid model of its growth. The Reverse Pyramid model refers to the revolutionary switch of the relationship between availability of something and its aspirational value. The model breaks from the established business and brand logic as it generates access to desirable products, taste, knowledge, and community in order to create economic value. In contrast to the traditional luxury pyramid, the reverse pyramid is energized by accessibility of its base. Base products are the same as the products at the top (example is the Shopping Bag a.k.a the Bushwick Birkin). Layers of the reverse pyramid are TELFAR products (bags, collaborations, accessories), TELFAR Industry (TV entertainment, conversations, shows, community showcasing), TELFAR brand (non-gender, vegan, accessible, inclusive) and, finally, culture (community of fans and culture-makers, TELFAR TV)
Based on one’s engagement with TELFAR’s fans and the brand’s entertainment and social channels, they move towards becoming a brand insider. The reverse pyramid direction is from crowd to the community and from mass to the deep cut.
“We want our work to feel like a world — because we need a world that feels like us.” - TELFAR.
I recently took part in the Copenhagen’s Fashion Week Talks program. At the panel “The role of talent in strengthening the fashion ecosystem,” Michelle Li, stylist and Teen Vogue writer, Amalie Røge Hove, Founder and Creative Director of A. Roege Hove brand and myself talked about the new wave of talent in the fashion industry, how to manage it, how to organize it and how to transform the fashion system to nurture and support it. Listen to our conversation below: