December 17, 2014
December 17, 2014
A mom-and-pop bank in a tiny Kansas town plans to reshape banking, reports Nathaniel Popper in The New York Times (12/16/14). Suresh Ramamurthi and his wife, Suchitra Padmanabhan bought Citizens Bank of Weir — now known as CBW — "largely with their savings in 2009, just after the financial crisis." The bank plans to offer "instant payments to any bank in the United States, direct remittance transfers abroad and specialized debit cards," which are "not available at even the nation’s largest banks."
Weir, Kansas (population 686) is a long way from Silicon Valley, where Suresh worked on Google Checkout and observed "that even a tech colossus … was leashed" and "unable to try new things because it was not a bank, and did not have direct access to the basic networks for transferring money." Having grown up in India, Suresh was equally sensitive to cash flow issues. "You may be poor today, but when the harvest comes you will be richer in a few months," he says, noting that a bank "has the ability to alleviate and smooth those inequities."
Key to accelerating money transfers is "software that can judge the risk involved in any transaction in real time." CBW also plans to "make it possible send wire payments and create customized debit cards online." The cards can be "contextual" — set for "specific stores or at specific times. A parent, for example, could create a debit card for a child that could be used during lunch hours only in the ZIP code near the child’s school." Very cool, but CBW’s most popular innovation to date appears to be its "free cookies and cider on Friday afternoons."
December 16, 2014
Frustrated by the lack of a local bank, Bill Greiner plans to open his own, reports Saabira Chaudhuri in The Wall Street Journal (12/16/14). Bill is a real-estate developer and restaurant owner whose application for a new bank is the first that the FDIC has received in 2014. If approved, "it would be only the second new bank the FDIC has cleared in the US since 2010." Bill "has raised $3 million" to open Primary Bank near Manchester, New Hampshire, which he expects will "fill a void for smaller banks in his region."
Bill’s "dissatisfaction with larger banks has roots in the financial crisis, when he was trying to close a deal but couldn’t get suitable loan terms from Providence RI-based Citizens Financial Group Inc., with which he had done business for years. He started dealing more with locally owned banks that he found more receptive," but then those were sold to larger banks and they weren’t as responsive. "People here like going to see the bank president at his house on Saturday morning," says Bill. "They like to know things are going to be locally owned."
Glenn Perlow, a New Hampshire official who would have to approve the new bank agrees: "Banks have merged to the size where they may not be as interested in small-business lending," he says. "It’s important for us to have banks that are right sized for that." Bill has already started building the first of three planned branches in the area. "We’re not going to have the cheapest rates or offer every product," he says, "but we will offer local control, local decisions and a quick turnaround."
December 16, 2014
The promise of inexpensive books seems to be drowning in Amazon’s expansion plans, reports David Streitfeld in The New York Times (12/15/14). Back in 2001, Amazon made a splash by discounting "by 30 percent books selling for $20 or more." CEO Jeff Bezos offered a simple rationale: "It’s Adam Smith economics that volume will go up when prices go down." By 2002, Amazon lowered the 30 percent threshold to books costing $15. Today, however, that 30 percent discount on books "seems a thing of the past."
Instead, Amazon apparently determines its book discounts based on a book’s popularity, but not necessarily the way you might expect: "the more obscure the books are, the more the discount seems to disappear." As Shmuli Goldberg of Feedvisor explains: "The promise of the Internet was never that you can get everything available for cheap … Anything that has a limited supply and a limited distribution is going to be more expensive than something that could be bought anywhere."
Discounts on certain scarce books reportedly are as low as one percent. So, one way "to receive higher value on Amazon is to buy what Amazon wants to sell instead of what you thought you wanted." Amazon’s strategy evidently is designed to help fund expansion of benefits of joining Amazon Prime, which now includes free access to original programming, movies, music streaming and "an e-book lending library." The theory, it seems, is that Amazon Prime customers will be more likely to purchase other items from the retailer.
December 15, 2014
The economics of American films has triggered a decline in memorable movie quotes, reports Teddy Wayne in The New York Times (12/14/14). "Some of it is just bad writing," says Wesley Morris, a film critic. But, according to Radio Times, which "compiled the 50 greatest film quotations in September (link), only two from this millennium made the list." One possible explanation is the way "production and distribution of films, at least in America, have radically shifted in recent years."
Because "a $7.99 monthly Netflix subscription" makes "nearly every film made … available at the click of a button" fewer people are perhaps buying, re-watching, and "committing various lines to memory." Then there’s "the-tent-pole-movie mentality that has driven Hollywood the last 15 years. The movie industry has long embraced broadly appealing spectacles, but now they must also appeal in translation to foreign markets." The result is "sequel-ready franchises with less reliance on nuanced English dialogue and more on eye candy."
"There are more movies to see, and there’s less of a confluence of the right movie with the biggest audience and the right line," says Wesley. For example, critically acclaimed, Oscar-winning movies, like Lincoln, didn’t even crack the box-office top 10. Finally, people "are also defecting to other media, namely TV and Internet video, along with the creative talent." Shows like Seinfeld "have swallowed up cultural bandwidth" and "sometimes seem written specifically for future quotability, not that there’s anything wrong with that."
December 15, 2014
Fitness and darkness are converging in unlikely ways, reports Meirav Devash in The New York Times (12/11/14). It all started in 2013, when three friends — Mike Grabarek, Jeremy Scott and Chris Cantino — began posting "images on the web of athletic brand logos altered in a gothic style as well as photographs that could be described as metal-punk-meets-Pilates." Encouraged by the response, they set up a Health Goth page on Facebook featuring "arty photographs of people dressed in gothic-leaning, athletic-conjuring attire."
A Chicago DJ named Johnny Love picked up on the idea, "posting grainy fitness videos and pictures on Tumblr and Instagram and hashtagging them #healthgoth." He also has a Facebook page, and a website, healthgoth.com, "emblazoned with jimmied logos of sportswear brands," and sells items including a $25 sports bra with a modified, upside-down Nike swoosh and the words, "I Just Can’t." Also cashing in on the #healthgoth trend is the goth-infused Monster Cycle exercise studio in SoHo.
Monster Cycle is all about blackness, pentagrams and leather harnesses, with a Nine Inch Nails soundtrack and "the heavily tattooed master of ceremonies, Michael Macneal," leading an indoor cycling class to chants of "Hell, yeah!" Personal trainer Ammo O’Day, 42, also makes a case for goth fitness. "Many goths have spent years drinking, staying out all night and smoking cloves," she says. "At our age, with our lifestyles, we’re not going to make it unless we take care of our bodies."
December 15, 2014
Black-leather harnesses and collars are making their way into fashion’s mainstream, reports William Van Meter in The New York Times (12/12/14). Leading the trend is Zana Bayne, a 26-year-old former art student who also worked in "high-fashion retail and became a night-life fixture," where she "discovered her passion for leather." "There is something about the material that says something about the wearer," says Zana, adding that, like abstract artwork, it’s all about perception. Some simply see a nice belt while others see something else again.
"It brings something out not just in the wearer but in those around her," says Zana. Either way, Zana’s black-leather goods have made their way into "the holiday Pop-in@Nordstrom shop," along with the "snowflake sweaters and penguin beanies." Nordstrom creative director Olivia Kim seems to see mostly normality in the concept. "I wear mine with a boring white oxford shirt, but they also look great over dresses," says Olivia. "It’s the perfect example of what an accessory does: accentuates clothing."
Zana agrees that her belts and harnesses are essentially "layering pieces." She says that "the physical aspect of having something cinch you in makes you hold yourself higher, and adds: "Wearing a collar can make you feel like the most powerful warrior in the world … I’ve never aimed to shock," she says. "My design comes from a naive place, and I think, ‘Of course someone will wear this,’ and then it comes out … I don’t want to say harder, but maybe not as innocent."
December 12, 2014
Are your brands ready for the complex moment-of-truth? A Hub White Paper by Xan McNelly of The Integer Group. We all know about Procter & Gamble’s First Moment of Truth (FMOT) — that point when shoppers interact with a brand at retail. Then there’s Google’s ‘Zero Moment of Truth’ (ZMOT) — when they first interact online. However, there is also a third hotspot of interaction in the shopping experience: the Complex Moment of Truth (CMOT).
CMOT hotspots are particular to big-ticket, highly considered purchases, and they happen when the three things that come together to make a sale — brand, shopper and retailer — intersect, creating an opportunity for connected or disconnected interaction. Despite all the work to attract their attention, shoppers can fall through the cracks if the way they shop doesn’t sync with the way brands and retailers sell. Read The Rest of The White Paper.
December 12, 2014
Online price transparency is a myth, reports Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times (12/11/14). "There was this period when people were saying that the Internet was going to usher in a golden age for consumers, where everyone would start comparison shopping and no one would pay a penny more than they should," says William Poundstone, author of Priceless. "But we are all busy, distracted, and we have limited time and attention to devote to research, so we all fall victim to these tricks."
The tricks to which William refers usually involve the promotion of a vast discount on a "suggested retail price" that nobody ever actually pays. Everyone is aware of this game but the surprise is how prevalent it is. Jacqui Cheng, editor of a pair of product review sites — The Wirecutter and The Sweethome — says getting an actual deal is extremely rare. She and her team "researched 54,000 holiday deals" and "found that a bit more than 300 of them — less than one percent — are worth your time."
Rutgers professor Robert Schindler says we fall for the come-ons because we are so emotionally juiced by the prospect of a bargain that we usually click the "buy" button without verifying that the price is actually any good. If the price is any good, it’s probably because the product is bad, adds Brian Lam, founder of The Wirecutter and Sweethome. Jacqui Cheng meanwhile recommends a site called Camel Camel Camel, which offers price-tracking information on Amazon and other online retailers, to separate the real deals from the rest.
December 11, 2014
A UK theatre "is letting audiences choose what to pay after seeing the show," reports Lyn Gardner in The Guardian (12/10/14). Pay-what-you-want is not a new idea, of course, but the twist at ARC theatre in Stockton-on-Tees is that the audience decides what the show was worth after they’ve seen it. This is similar to the street-artist model, but it’s at a theater with overhead and the offer will be in place for the first six months of the new year. The hope is that the model will encourage those who might not otherwise go to the theatre to try it.
The concept "is less about simply removing the financial barrier than removing the financial risk, which are two quite different things. After all, if people know they want to see something, they will often find the money. It’s when they are uncertain about a show that they are less willing to take a risk, and what ARC is doing should help encourage that risk-taking." Price actually isn’t the only barrier, especially among young people, for whom going to a theatre can be intimidating, and a risk in itself.
Performers will not "take the brunt of the risk; that will rest with the venue. Artists will be given a minimum guarantee worked out on agreed figures of what the box-office split was likely to be, and if audiences turn out to be generous, then artists will benefit. In any case, those with local connections will be able to invite everyone they know, without having to ask them to shell out for a ticket in advance. What’s more, because the tickets are not being sold, any payments made count as donations, which means they qualify for gift aid."
December 11, 2014
LL Bean’s homely duck boots have become "a totem of agrarian-chic trendiness" reports Claire Suddath in Bloomberg Businessweek (12/10/14). The style is 102 years old, and Bean traditionally has sold about 100,000 pair a year, primarily to "loggers and farmers," according to LL Bean spokesman Mac McKeever. However, sales of the "leather and rubber" boots "have quadrupled over the past three years and are on track to hit more than 450,000 in 2014." They are currently "on backorder until at least February."
It’s a trend Bean has seen building for the past two years, "specifically in urban areas filled with college students, who were embracing understated, even bland styles that highlighted their authentic ordinariness," sometimes known as Normcore. "I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they’re still handmade. People really value that stuff right now," says Mac. This homespun appeal is exactly what makes it so hard for Bean to keep pace with demand, as duck books are made on "old fashioned stitching machines … still run by hand."
The duck-boot boom recalls the Hush Puppies phenomenon of the 1990s, as documented by Malcolm Gladwell in a New Yorker article called The Coolhunt. At the time, those buying the shoes associated them with their grandparents and the buying spree began in SoHo thrift shops. Birkenstocks, the hippie sandals, made a comeback this year, as well. How long the duck boots bender will last is anybody’s guess, but Mac McKeever says Bean is already noticing the next big thing — "a spike in sales of wool coats."
December 10, 2014
Coca-cola and other sugary pops are the surprising drink of elite athletes, reports Rachel Bachman in The Wall Street Journal (12/10/14). Among the devotees is Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who habitually chugs a bottle orange or grape Crush — "right after the game, when you’ve got to get those nutrients back into you," he says. Among athletes, there are nutrients and there are nutrients, apparently. "There’s something about the quick caffeine and simple sugar that helps fuel the final bit of a race," explains cyclist Ted King.
Tennis pro Gael Monfils has been spotted drinking Coke during a recent match, and participants in the Ironman triathlon are served "flat cola and Red Bull." Camille Herron, an elite marathoner "says she drinks three to four cans of Coke a week to help provide calories for her 100-mile training regimen." "There’s definitely a place for drinking soda and it being beneficial to your performance," she says. Steve Hess, a Denver Nuggets assistant coach, disagrees: "I don’t want anything to take up space that doesn’t have nutrient density," he says.
Julie Burns, a dietician, says coconut water is a better choice, but understands soda’s allure: "I do think you’ve got to meet people where they’re at, and athletes do have these rituals," she says. Some "studies have shown" that caffeine can "improve endurance and cognitive ability during and after exercise and decrease perceptions of fatigue." Then there’s the monotony of energy bars and sports drinks: "Your palate can only take so many sports-specific things," says Ted King, noting the simple pleasure of a "really cold soda on a hot day."
December 10, 2014
A sporting goods retailer plans to turn an American pyramid into a shopper’s mecca, reports Richard Fausset in The New York Times (12/4/14). The pyramid, in Memphis, Tennessee, is "an empty 32-story glass-and-steel monument" originally envisioned as a "game-changing international monument" rivalling the Eiffel Tower. Instead it was a failure that proved ill suited to its intended use for sports events and concerts. Missouri-based Bass Pro Shops now plans to turn the edifice into "one of the most dynamic, immersive retail experiences in the world."
The 535,000 square-foot space "will feature shooting and archery ranges, a bowling alley built to seem as though it is underwater, a 100-room hotel with lodging designed to look like cabins in a cypress swamp, and an observation deck patterned after the Grand Canyon skywalk. There will be aquariums stocked with 1,800 fish, a conservation-themed ‘waterfowling heritage center’ and pools slithering with live alligators." (link) The retailer expects "the store to draw tourists over a region where hunting and fishing are near-sacred rituals."
Scheduled to open in the Spring of 2015, Martin MacDonald of Bass Pro says the store will create some 600 jobs. "Some people say we’re the candy store of the great outdoors," says Martin. "This is going to be an example of a true public-private partnership that changes the landscape of Memphis." Or, as Memphis mayor AC Wharton Jr. puts it: "Quite frankly, what revenue-producing, tax-producing activities would be well suited to be located in a pyramid?" Options included a megachurch and a Smithsonian outpost, but the answer came back: retail.
December 9, 2014
Small toy shops outfox big-boxes with everything but prices, reports Adam Janofsky in The Wall Street Journal (12/4/14). "We don’t worry about competition — we worry about reputation," says Dan Weiss of Fantastic Kids Toys, the "chief toyologist" of neighborhood toy stores in New York City and Long Island. "The only thing you care about is customer service." Dan’s idea of customer service is storing purchases in his garage to help customers keep the gifts a secret from their kids. He then delivers the gifts himself.
Mary Tague of Toy Town, in Florida, attracts shoppers by offering "free coffee in the morning and wine in the afternoon — during December." She also throws a party at her store, "complete with Santa and elves," that typically "rakes in about $15,000 in sales, with nearly 100 elf dolls flying off shelves at $35 each." Steven Aarons of Barstons Child’s Play, "a chain of four specialty toy shops in the Washington DC area," uses a "three-month training program" to steep employees "on child development and learning the features of the products they sell."
This holiday season, Steven "invited 10 local children’s book authors to his stores" on Black Friday weekend, when most shoppers "are going crazy looking for specials." He says the event created a sales uptick versus previous years. "Three quarters of the estimated $22 billion in US toy sales come from four big retail chains (Walmart, Toys R Us, Target, Sears) and Amazon. Toys are also now sold "in a lot of different places, like bookstores, gift shops and educational supply stores," notes Kathleen McHugh of ASTRA.
December 9, 2014
Bartow J. Elmore, author of Citizen Coke, puts an environmental slant on the legend of Coca-Cola, reports Marc Levinson in a Wall Street Journal review (11/22/14). "What he finds is that Coca-Cola’s long-run success owes much to governments that — sometimes with great cajoling — granted privileged access to natural resources." An early example concerns the most basic commodity — water. Coke’s franchising model offloaded its main ingredient to franchised bottlers, who "lobbied for the creation of municipal water systems," and access to clean water, for free.
Coke’s model generally "maintains its margins by purchasing ingredients, not making them." It avoided investing in kola-nut plantations and instead backed Monsanto, "which spent a fortune to extract ‘natural’ caffeine from cocoa waste and ‘synthetic’ caffeine from coal-derived urea. But when the decaffeinated boom of the 1950s provided ample supplies of cheap caffeine, the Coca-Cola Company simply walked away from its relationship with Monsanto." Coke also broke up the Cuban sugar trust by "parceling out business to smaller competitors."
The switch to non-returnable containers meanwhile cut the fuel costs associated with reclaiming containers by more than half. It also "effectively shifted the cost of dealing with empty containers" by supporting "Keep America Beautiful, which promoted the idea that individuals … were responsible for cleaning up the cans and bottles that littered the landscape." Bottle and can deposits, and taxpayer-funded recycling programs, further shifted "responsibility for the collection and recycling of corporate waste onto the public sector."
December 8, 2014
A beauty brand is embracing the unpopular cause of mental illness, reports Andrew Adam Newman in The New York Times (11/28/14). Philosophy, "the beauty brand owned by Coty, is introducing an effort to raise a projected $10 million over the next five years to combat mental illness." Hope & Grace, as the campaign is called, is named after the brand’s "two most popular products … Hope in a Jar moisturizer and Amazing Grace fragrance." One percent of sales from the two products will be donated to the cause via grants.
"The DNA of the brand is really about inspiring women not only to look their best but to feel their best," says Coty CMO Jill Scalamandre. Jill says the impetus is "how big the issue is, with one in four women struggling with a mental health challenge." The effort is supported via videos on the brand’s website, televised public service announcements, and a forthcoming song called Hope, by Natasha Bedingfield, "with 20 percent of the proceeds from iTunes downloads going to the initiative."
The focus is "on issues that particularly affect women, like postpartum depression and psychological trauma linked to domestic abuse," which have largely been ignored by other companies. "The stigma around mental illness is so entrenched," notes Dr. Belisa Vranich, with issues such as breast cancer and pet causes far more popular. However, Joe Waters of Selfish Giving sees an upside in less popular causes. "Taking on issues that are less popular is disruptive, in a good way, in terms of making people notice what brands are doing," he says.
December 8, 2014
Beer runs are following in tracks of taxicab services, reports Tripp Mickle in The Wall Street Journal (12/5/14). Just as Uber app-ified hitching a ride, "a year-old company called Drizly," along with several competitors, is "reshaping the hidebound business of selling alcohol." This is particularly tricky because of America’s "arcane alcohol-distribution laws," dating back to Prohibition. "Those rules create a three-tier system in which alcohol producers sell to wholesalers, who, in turn, sell to retailers."
The workaround is that Drizly and others leave the actual sale of the alcohol to the local retailers who deliver it, charging a fee for use of its technology, ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per month. To thwart minors, deliverymen are issued "iPhones with software that scans a person’s identification through the phones’ cameras, confirms that it is real, and verifies that it matches the name on the order." MillerCoors is the first major US brewer to use Drizly, starting with a promotion in Boston, New York, Seattle and Washington DC.
So far, some "250,000 users have ordered with Drizly through more than 150 stores," but Dilini Fernando of MillerCoors says the goal is less about selling more beer than "to engage young adults by bringing Miller Lite to their door." Plans are to place "buy now" buttons on sites like Thrillist. Drizly CEO Nick Rellas also envisions adding food-delivery services. "We have all these little distribution centers," he says. "All we’re doing is saying, ‘Hey, let’s connect you with the store and delivery you want.’"
December 8, 2014
A "two-year-old startup" is "making the shaving process easier on men," reports John Koblin in The New York Times (12/4/14). "Confronted with high prices and clunky designs from shaving titans like Gillette and Schick," Harry’s is "trying to do with razors what Warby Parker has done with glasses." It’s no coincidence that a Harry’s co-founder — Andy Katz-Mayfield — is also a Warby Parker co-founder. The idea is that its blades are much cheaper than those of national brands, are delivered to your door, and fit on a sleek, well-designed handle.
"Before we launched, there was limited choice," says Jeff Raider, Harry’s other co-founder. "There were a couple of brands that dominated the market." Adds Andy: "The speed at which customers are experimenting with new brands and willing to buy product online, that shift is happening so much faster than we ever would have anticipated … If you look at some of the analysts’ reports and information that’s come out that talks about the industry, it’s about how it’s down and hurting. But it’s not hurting, it’s moving … in a direction that’s great for us."
That’s not to say Harry’s is profitable, but the co-founders claim "they would have more than five times the revenue in 2014 than they did in 2013 … To date, they’ve raised $211.5 million in 28 months" from backers. The money has been used to buy a factory in Germany "where they make and manufacture their razors," and on "advertising campaigns, hiring a few new employees, brand awareness … Harry’s has also opened a barbershop in Manhattan," but has no plans "to open more brick-and-mortar shops."
December 5, 2014
It’s time to put marketing and management back together. A Hub White Paper by Carla Hendra of OgilvyRED. Forgive me for referring to Mad Men, but I have a good reason. A few seasons back, the huge hit show ran an ongoing storyline that centered on Don Draper and hotel magnate Conrad Hilton. It showed a complicated, almost brotherly, partnership that saw Hilton consulting Draper at all hours and about all things.
Never mind that Mad Men is fiction. Consider instead that before specialization led them apart, marketing and management had a close relationship. We’ve both — management and marketing — done well during our time apart, but it’s time now for us to get back together.As the originator of much of Ogilvy & Mather’s digital practices, I had a front-row seat for the transformation of business wrought by digital. Read The Rest of the White Paper.
December 5, 2014
A group of designers is applying its skills to solve "social, economic and environmental problems," reports Alice Rawsthorn in The New York Times (12/4/14). Known as the Fixperts, the group is part of an "international network of contemporary designers and makers" committed to the Japanese concept of "Tsukuroi, or the art of repair." They are pursuing their goals "by exchanging ideas on knowledge-sharing platforms, financing projects through crowdsourcing campaigns … and raising awareness via social media."
Some of their work is currently on exhibit called The Fab Mind, at a Tokyo gallery. (‘Fab’ is a play on both ‘fabulous’ and ‘fabrication.’) "Many of the exhibits embrace two important strands of design activism: conserving resources and helping those in need." For example, Alvaro Catalan de Ocon of Spain "developed a series of lamps with colorful shades woven by artisans in Colombia and Chile from shredded plastic bottles and other waste materials." (link) Perhaps the most dramatic design solution addresses "unexploded land mines."
Massoud Hassani, formerly of Afghanistan and now living in the Netherlands, "designed an inexpensive metal and bamboo device, the Mine Kafon, which is blown across the ground by the wind, like a tumbleweed, to set off mines." The Fixperts’ work meanwhile is symbolized by "an exquisite 17th-century Japanese bowl … not because of the finesse with which it was originally made but the skill with which it was repaired." The repaired bowl arguably is more beautiful than it was before it was broken.
Hong Kong hopes to build a culture of "innovation, branding and design," reports Danielle Belopotosky in The New York Times (11/24/14). This is quite an ambition, given the territory’s reputation for "its cargo ports and financial sector than for a vibrant cultural or creative scene." However, Stanley Chu of the Adsale Group, a trade show organizer, envisions an industry of creativity as "the next economic locomotive of Hong Kong." The government is on board with the idea, having established an office called CreateHK in 2009.
CreateHK is "dedicated to developing creative industries, which broadly include advertising, architecture, design, cultural heritage, the performing arts and film. The office has also worked with the local educational system … to develop curriculums for teaching film, animation and architecture." As a result, creative industries contributed 4.9 percent "to the territory’s gross domestic product" as of 2012, up from 3.9 percent in 2007. Private investors have also converted former police barracks into studios for "entrepreneurs in the creative industries."
American interior designer Candace Campos finds a ready market for Western design aesthetics in Hong Kong. Others, like Lindsey Hermes, founder of Unison Creative, a marketing company, finds that local businesses are more interested in quick fixes than long-term brand strategies. The Savannah (Georgia) College of Art and Design meanwhile now has an outpost in Hong Kong, and is turning out graduates. The goal, says the school’s vice president, is for the Hong Kong designer to be valued "as much as a banker."