b8ta has recently announced our launch into the fashion + lifestyle sector through Forum, a concept built for the modern day shopper as well as modern day brands. We’re already catching the attention of the apparel retail industry and have reached nearly 20 million media impressions from the headlines garnered by our press release. This buzz highlights the heart of the Forum concept—storytelling. With that in mind, paired with our doors officially opening on 11/15, I’d like to share the story behind the Forum concept itself.
A little over a year ago b8ta’s bold and beautifully contrarian CEO, Vibhu Norby, pulled me into a conference room. Also in the room was John Kennelly, the first person b8ta ever hired. During this meeting the two of them asked me if I’d be willing to lead b8ta’s foray into fashion. I was honored to say yes. Mind you, this was only two weeks into my role at b8ta, so I wondered about the depth of the project I was taking on. But over the last year I’ve learned firsthand that b8ta already had the tools and teams in place to disrupt the fashion industry. They just needed someone to lead the charge.
Our team spent the months following that meeting developing an entirely new store concept. We’re b8ta of course, so with this new apparel and fashion-focused concept there was no way we were getting away with a space that was simply product on shelves. We needed it to be special and create unique experiences to bring brands—both new and old—to life in ways that have never been done before.
Throughout the planning and execution of the Forum concept, I fielded constant questions from Phillip Raub, b8ta’s President. He asked pointed things such as, “What makes us different from other retailers in fashion?” and “Why should people care?” These questions were challenging, but they served to guide the ship as we worked to create something truly “new”.
I took retail tours in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to see what the most interesting stores were like firsthand. Interestingly enough, out of all the in-store technology, visual merchandising, and product, the thing that stood out most was engaged staff. I met a few staff members able to hurdle that often awkward “employee and customer” dynamic. They interacted with me like I was a human they genuinely cared about. This meaningful engagement gave me memorable experiences, and I knew this would be a critical element within Forum.
Our goal for Forum is similar to the goal of a b8ta store in that while providing an unforgettable experience to shoppers, we aim to make retail easy and beneficial for our partnering brands. I held meetings with scores of brands in order to hear firsthand what major obstacles a company tends to see when working with retailers. Along with this I asked a simple question—”What could a store do to best help your brand?”. Through the answers to this question I gained valuable insight that directly impacted the final Forum concept, but I got something else out of these meetings as well. I discovered that these brands all had fascinating stories. These stories ranged from interesting anecdotes about their creation to moving narratives about charity programs they were involved with. Others impressed me by sharing the ways they source only sustainable fabrics, or ethically produce their goods from start to finish. These brands taught me that leading with a story forges emotional connections and deep brand advocacy from prospective customers.
Thus, the Forum concept was born.
We set out to create a space that promoted human experiences, emotion, and understanding by building relationships with brands that matter. We wanted to create a space for our guests, our brands, our staff and the surrounding community as well. Because of this, we chose the name Forum, highlighting engagement and conversation.
Forum pulls together a community of unique and expressive brands, accentuating their stories and ethos. We’ve created a fully modular store allowing these brands to have a strong voice in regards to how they’re visually represented. Through merchandising with backdrops, display fixtures, and props our partner brands are able to tell their story down to the intricate visual details. Using RFID technology our adaptive dressing rooms automatically adjust to the brand atmosphere the moment a product is brought in. This is the stage for brand stories to be told accurately by those who know them best. Through all of my meetings with these special brands, I learned how difficult it can be to trust that a retailer will promote a brand accurately. At Forum, our partners work alongside us from start to finish.
While building our wonderful list of Forum partners, we sought out the most interesting, purpose-driven brands there are. These brands are the lead characters of the Forum story, and I am so very proud to share that story with the world.
-Joshua Brueckner, Partnerships Manager at Forum