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Digital highlights from BoF’s reddit AMA

1 May

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Imran Amed, founder and editor-in-chief of The Business of Fashion, hosted an AMA on reddit today. Unsurprisingly, the majority of questions surrounded how to break into the industry or how BoF itself became so successful – ideal promotion for the site’s new Careers marketplace of course.

Lots of safe play from Amed for more in-depth thoughts on the current state of affairs in fashion business otherwise (and by that I mean non-speculative), but a few top line points focused on digital worth highlighting nonetheless. Note the shout out particularly to UK-based companies in the first one:

Question: If you have to name three amazing e-commerce projects concerning selling fashion online (luxury, premium and mass), which one [sic] will you choose?

Amed’s answer: 1. Farfetch – omnichannel commerce for boutiques enabling them to reach a global market in a tough economy. 2. Lyst – a social curation site with one of the largest databases of fashion products. 3. Net a Porter – still a leader in the commerce and content space, and always innovating.

Question: My question is about your advice for building awareness for a startup brand – have you seen any really smart examples of how a designer / brand has generated the requisite “buzz” without investing thousands in a PR agency? 

Amed’s answer: Social media can do amazing things for a young brand, as you can build a direct relationship with the people who are interested in your brand. You don’t need millions of followers for this to be effective. It is more about the quality of your followers and fans, than the quantity.

Question: I would like to know your point of view about crowdfunding related to fashion. Do you think that big fashion label will use it one day? I think that could be a tool to have a more conscious production, and a way to cut off market research’s costs.

Amed’s answer: I have seen a lot of crowdfunding fashion startups come and go, and have yet to see a really great, workable model, apart from Threadless, which is great. Perhaps at some point the model will gain traction, but thus far, I have not been terribly impressed.

On another related note to Amed’s AMA, Rohit Thawani, director of digital strategy at TBWA\Chiat\Day, recently wrote this great piece outlining five things brands should NOT do on reddit. Do check it out.

The ugliest wearable technology is arguably that with the worst functionality

30 Apr

Wearable tech

“Why is wearable technology so damn ugly?” I asked in a piece I wrote for The Telegraph post-CES in January.

Now I’m speaking about it on air for CBC Radio’s Spark show. In a six-minute segment, we discuss everything from smart watches to heads-up displays, as well as the big name brands involved including Google and Apple.

Exploring the focus that has been placed on design versus functionality, I argue that some of the ugliest devices out there are due to the fact such little thought has been placed into what we as consumers not only want to wear, but even use.

Check the show out here

 

Forget Instagram: what has happened to fashion week commentary on Twitter?

28 Feb

This post first appeared on Fashionista.com

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Is it just me or has Twitter become much less inspiring during fashion week season? I say that as an avid user – both personally and profesionally. I peruse posts day to day, and particularly once the shows hit London, Milan and Paris, when I’m watching via livestream from New York. I scroll through my own feed, I consume via social dashboards attached to designers’ websites, and I go back and search using hashtags and brand names afterwards, too.

What I’ve always enjoyed is the live commentary that you gather from those in the front row, but there seems to have been very little of it for the past couple of seasons, and I for one really miss it. Not the tweets that tell me what show they’re waiting for, the fact the first model has appeared/the last model has walked out, or even what color they’re seeing. Those still exist, and I can gather all that from home.

No, what I really want back, is actual commentary. I want to hear from the editors –- the experts no less — about the 1930s theme emerging at Prada and the influence Miuccia drew from film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, or the details of the new Bloomsbury-inspired, hand-painted florals at Burberry Prorsum. I want to know what is sashaying down that runway that, from my own 13-inch screen, I can’t quite see.

The images that are posted can be nice, of course, and on occasion insightful (if not blurry, but that’s another issue). But what happened to a wonderfully descriptive annotation along with it? Or better yet a real-time opinion, a review-on-the-spot even? Here are some of the highlights from the Lanvin show Thursday:

Lots of pictures naturally, but did you gather much about the line really? Navy, white and feathers. It’s a start.

Now it’s not that everyone has put their smartphones back in their handbags to focus on the clothes as they come out of course. So what’s going on?

First up, quite obviously: Instagram. During London Fashion Week there were a total of 266,767 mentions on Twitter, and 316,359 posts on Instagram, according to Bell Pottinger, a British public relations and marketing firm. So arguably, much more time is being spent there.

It goes without saying there’s huge benefit in that space of course. But when someone is at at home watching a livestream, or has access to high-res images in near real-time — not to mention backstage ones from the brand themselves — Instagram shots from the front row don’t necessarily offer all that much. They’re a nice-to-have, and for a feel of fashion week in general, a fantastic stream to follow. But for those really wanting to know about the collections themselves, there’s still a gap — an information gap.

The skill of an editor who has worked in the industry for 10 or more years is to be able to quickly deduce what a collection is about, to analyze its importance for trends, to bring contextual knowledge of its applicability to the commercial market and to offer a clear understanding of the technical side (i.e., garment construction and fabrications).

Portraying that over Twitter is no mean feat. I attempted it as a guest Tweeter on behalf of my employer, WGSN, for the @mbfashionweek account during New York at a number of shows and it’s entirely consuming.

But I don’t think the fact few editors or publications seem to be offering anything like this anymore comes down to just not having the time. With social media now reaching maturity, there’s inevitably becoming a greater push in terms of strategy for organizations and individuals alike on what to do and what not to do to achieve audience engagement.

So here’s my question: Is this lack of Twitter commentary as simple as editors just becoming more obsessed with Instagram? Or is there actually a direct decision being made not to give away too much there and then? (The knowledge of these men and women is a valuable commodity — why hand it out on a free platform, when you can rather store it up and post it on your own site for traffic generation later?)

Then again, maybe it’s just as simple as the fact we’re also all just a little bit over it. Or overwhelmed. Or lazy. Still, I’d like it back.

2013: a designer meets digital year in review

23 Dec

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What a busy year it’s been…

From 3D printing taking its first trip down the New York Fashion Week catwalk, to the launch of Vine and Instagram videos, not to mention the continuing debate about the role of bloggers as influencers, the increased focus on the potential market size of wearables, and Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year as ‘selfie’one thing after another has rapidly impacted the role of innovation in this niche fashion x digital space.

Below then, are 10 of the posts you loved the most on F&M this year. It’s an interesting collection, nodding to familiar ideas like storytelling and crowdsourcing, as well as higher quality content, and a general reassessment of what it is that actually works in this space. Video content does of course also have its place, as does the continuing power of celebrity.

Thank you for reading and see you in 2014!

Press may have pushed “tech” angle of new H&M store, but less than a week since launch, nothing seems to be working

20 Nov
H&M tech store, Times Square

H&M’s deserted digital catwalk in its new Times Square store

I’ve been looking forward to visiting the new H&M store in Times Square since it opened last Thursday off the back of the tech innovation it’s supposed to house. As per the headlines that ran:

I finally got there last night, but unfortunately was sorely disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, from the moment you walk in the space feels fantastic; it’s high energy and it looks beautiful. Three floors and 42,000 square feet of great design, only enhanced by the huge volume of fluorescent signage throughout. But the technology story that’s dominated the press, well… none of it was working.

In the first instance, there are mannequins with screens in front of their faces supposed to play videos, display photos and showcase special deals. Screens that on a busy Tuesday night the week before Thanksgiving in the US, were switched off (as pictured below). All of them.

Then there’s the fitting room checkouts. Not a high tech initiative, but certainly a forward thinking one to help bust queues in a store that’s on one of the most trafficked corners of New York City – 42nd Street and Broadway. Again, closed. And the store was busy.

H&M tech store, Times Square

The blank digital screens in H&M’s new Times Square store

It was the mezzanine level with its dedicated DJ booth supposed to “spin music continuously”, and digitally-enabled runway, that I was most looking forward to. There, shoppers should be able to pose for a series of photos in pieces from the H&M line, and then see themselves displayed on one of the other LED screens around the store (there are 7,000 square feet of LED screens in total, including two 30-by-20-foot ones on the outside of the building).

As per WWD: “Shoppers choose an outfit in the nearby dressing rooms, enter their e-mail address into a computer and await the signal: ‘Walk’ on a red flashing sign. Each ‘model’ is told what time his/her image will be on view on the screens inside and out. Images sent to shoppers’ e-mail accounts can be used on social media.”

When I arrived on that level at about 5.30pm last night, there was no one to be found, not even the DJ (as the top picture shows). A lone sales associate clearing up behind the desk said she hadn’t seen anyone on the catwalk all day so she presumed they weren’t using it. I asked another on the ground floor who said she wasn’t sure but assumed they just had it turned off for the day, and another who said it was broken so she thought they weren’t able to use it. None of them were 100% confident about what was going on.

The computer next to the runway also displayed an error message regarding potential damage to its battery life if left plugged in (as pictured below). I was in the store for about an hour and nothing changed, though I didn’t overly expect it to as the story was the same on Monday night when a colleague of mine also visited.

The disappointment of all this for me is nothing to do with the fact a few glitches mean things aren’t working right now, but more that it’s such a sign of what retailers are achieving at present across the board – aiming too high and delivering too low. No wonder there’s constant push back from senior management about ROI.

There’s a huge amount happening with in-store technology, and a lot of it really exciting stuff that garners an enormous amount of press coverage, but does it really mean anything at all if it doesn’t work merely a few days after the big launch party when most of the journalists have walked away? A classic tale of smoke and mirrors.

I’ve had other experiences recently where I know something is working in a department store but it’s supposed to be a guided experience and without a sales associate on hand to demonstrate it to me I can’t participate in it. That’s essentially the same issue; an attempt at tech integration failed at the first hurdle, that being enabling the consumer to even use it.

There are a lot of arguments about the pros and cons of retail technology these days – from making it feel seamless to the shopper rather than gimmicky and unrelated to the persona of the brand, to ensuring staff are rightly trained to use and demo it – but I would argue the most important thing of all, and I think you’ll agree, is that there needs to be a commitment toward it working for longer than just on opening night.

H&M tech store, Times Square

The empty mezzanine level of H&M’s new Times Square store

H&M tech store, Times Square

H&M’s empty DJ booth in its new Times Square store

H&M tech store, Times Square

An error message on the digital runway screens of H&M’s new Times Square store

H&M tech store, Times Square

An error message on the digital runway screens of H&M’s new Times Square store

H&M tech store, Times Square

A blank digital screen in H&M’s new Times Square store

H&M tech store, Times Square

H&M’s new Times Square store

Key fashion week trend: social media quality

16 Oct

There’s a lot to be said for the level of quality our industry is producing over social media these days, and rightly so for a world that prides itself on luxury. Whatever it is – better cameras, bigger teams, more budget – it’s working.

Take a look at some of the content highlights from the most recent round of fashion weeks:

Burberry_SS14ToryBurch_SS14Chloe_SS14Prada_SS14DolceGabbana_SS14

In order: Burberry, Tory Burch, Chloé, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana (as highlighted individually last season), all with beautiful executions across multiple platforms.

In terms of cameras, partnerships with tech companies for Burberry and Tory Burch have undoubtedly helped. The former, as reported at the time, teamed up with Apple (ahead of the news this week of CEO Angela Ahrendt’s move to become Apple’s senior vice president of retail and online stores) to exclusively capture its social media content using the new iPhone 5S iSight camera. This meant incredibly high res images, not to mention benefits including auto image stabilisation, a new ‘burst’ mode that allows users to shoot 10 photos per second, as well as an option for slow-motion.

Tory Burch on the other hand partnered with Sony to shoot its show using the F55 professional 4K camera, resulting in content with four times the resolution of standard high definition video. A detailed view of each and every look was hosted at runway.toryburch.com.

Meanwhile, we’re also seeing those in attendance at the shows sharing higher quality imagery too. Yes there are still blurry runway shots, but better smartphone cameras are of course at the root of this improving. That said, there are two other factors helping this along too:

The first is down to designers increasingly creating scenes for the crowd to want to capture. As Elizabeth Holmes of the WSJ reported: “Designers have a few tricks – falling under the heading ‘Instabait’ – to create moments that even hard-to-impress fashion week veterans can’t help but click and post.” These vary from elaborate set designs and props, to celebrity showcases.

The BoF covered this during the menswear shows in July too, writing: “In recent seasons, it’s become increasingly common for fashion shows to end with a tableau of models, perfectly positioned to be snapped and shared on social media. But at the most recent round of Paris menswear and couture shows, the staging of these instantly sharable moments rose to a whole new level of sophistication.”

A second factor that might begin shaping this lean towards quality all that much further, was hinted at by Tommy Hilfiger this season. As previously covered, it offered up a service that delivered assets – pictures through to collection information – upon request to showgoers over email in real-time. The aim was to “allow the industry to curate and share a new layer of exclusive, customised content on their own digital platforms for their followers during the show”. Doing so however cleverly put Tommy Hilfiger back in charge of the look and feel of its brand in the social space, ensuring its quality was as on-brand as possible throughout.

It might be a week for talking about technology, innovation and where the two cross with fashion thanks to that news from Burberry and Apple, but it’s important to ensure nailing content and quality likewise gets the attention it deserves. Overall the result is undoubtedly a better experience for the consumer so long may it continue. And for once, long may other industries be inspired by just how well (and by that we mean beautifully) ours can do digital.

Why street style ‘peacocks’ are critical to the fashion industry

11 Sep

This article first appeared on Mashable

AnnaDelloRusso

The streets of New York City can frequently be considered a runway in their own right, a veritable feast of people-watching — but never more so than when fashion week rolls around. Twice a year, the world’s leading editors are pitted against an ever-increasing crowd of style bloggers, each surveyed by a mob of photographers outside Lincoln Center and at various other venues along the city’s west side.

Last season fashion critic Suzy Menkes, writing for T Magazine, referred to the scene outside fashion week venues as a “circus,” a “cattle market of showoff people waiting to be chosen or rejected by the photographer.” She called out offending peacocks, including Filipino blogger Bryanboy and Vogue Japan’s Anna Dello Russo (pictured above). The piece elicited swift rebukes from the likes of Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and Susanna Lau of Style Bubble, both frequently photographed themselves for their outfits in such settings.

Menkes’ message last season was not forgotten. Leading into this fashion week, Oscar de la Renta announced in WWD that he would be cutting his invite list in half in order to better facilitate those attending his show with a legitimate professional purpose. He’s trying to help his guests avoid the dozens of people who attend a show to photograph or be photographed, those without any connection to the collection shown.

Amid all of this pushback, there has been little mention of the value of street style imagery for the industry itself. Notions that trends “trickle down” from the runway or “bubble up” from the street are certainly not new. But the explosion of digital and social media has truly helped magnify the latter. 

Now, a shot of someone on the street wearing Alexander Wang is just as likely to gain online traction as his runway image might — if not, more so. Smart brands, particularly in the mainstream market, are taking note. Look at the current obsession with baseball tees or football jerseys in retail outlets like Forever21 and Asos — those started, of course, on the street.

Identifying tastemakers and trends

Tracking such movements plays a more integral role to designers, product developers and buyers in their business process than ever. So says Jami Krampel, who researches what’s happening on the street for the Vince Camuto design team.

“We use it as inspiration,” Krampel said. “Whether it’s details or silhouettes, even color trends, it helps us have a view on what seems to be the new hot items.”

Rachel Zeilic, owner and designer of directional juniors’ line, Style Stalker, agreed.

“For us, street style is really important; it just shows how people adopt the trends into real life,” she said. “You can’t draw inspiration from runway; it’s not how you’d actually wear it. So it’s interesting to see how girls appropriate it and make it work in real life, it gives you a lot of ideas. As a designer you get so caught up in colors, fabrics, trims, the little details, but at the end of the day it’s a look you want to create. It goes out on the street and gets worn by real girls.”

By providing a global view into both the here and now and the future of trends, street style can serve designers with both inspiration and confirmation. Trend services like WGSN (full disclosure: my employer) accordingly forecast two years ahead so brands can plan their products and assortments well in advance. But those same trend services also report on what people are wearing now for the same reason. That means shots not only from New York Fashion Week, but also key events like Coachella or SXSW, as well as major sporting events, fashion schools and daily life in urban centers like London, Tokyo, Rio and Melbourne.

Street style chroniclers can’t just supply an endless amount of images to be useful to designers and retailers — they must also identify key trends. Stephanie Solomon, former fashion director of Bloomingdale’s, says

the best street style photographers don’t just shoot anything, but have their finger on the pulse of what’s new.

“It’s not about what’s out there and making that the trend, it’s about analyzing what’s new, and that’s where it’s important an authoritative voice comes in,” Solomon said. “The cool girls for instance aren’t wearing denim anymore, they’re wearing sportswear. They’re not seen in torn and ripped denim jeans or shorts, but in Alexander Wang’s knit drawstring track pants. That’s the bottom, that’s the new jean. It’s a strong diversion from what people expect.”

Krampel says that even if a street style look might seem incredibly wacky, it can still have an impact on design teams. “We’ll also compare it back to what we’re seeing elsewhere, in store reports for instance. By doing so, even if it’s totally crazy we’ll be able to work out the aspects of it that will trickle down to the mass market,” she said.

Yes, fashion influencers and early adopters might be “peacocking” this week (to use Menkes’ phrase) — but so too are they providing creative inspiration for teams around the world planning their next collections. Interpreting which of those peacocks are true tastemakers is the real skill.

Live streaming fashion week: what’s the point?

4 Sep

This article first appeared on Mashable

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When the late designer Alexander McQueen live streamed his spring/summer 2010 show in late 2009, his aim was to transform fashion week, an invite-only industry event, into “global entertainment.” He said at the time, “I wanted to create a sense of inclusion for all those in the world who are interested in my work and the world of fashion. This is just the first step towards revolutionizing the ‘show system’ as we know it.”

That show garnered 3.5 million views on YouTube, and though McQueen never did another live-streamed show — the Spring/Summer 2010 collection was his last — the concept rapidly spread. Four years later, live streaming is the norm across fashion weeks around the world. But the experience hasn’t perhaps come to fulfill McQueen’s original vision. In most cases, live streams are mundane, and watched by very few people.

IMG, which runs New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, is kicking off a new season this Thursday, and has lined up live streams for 59 — approximately two-thirds — of its shows. The degree of designer participation may seem surprising, given the levels of consumer engagement last season. According to Jarrad Clark, global creative director at IMG Fashion, the 60 shows live streamed at New York Fashion Week in February amassed 840,000 plays in total, an average of just 14,000 views per show.

Likewise in London, the British Fashion Council’s most-viewed show last September sat somewhere in the region of 6,000 views, according to an industry source. Even Marc Jacobs only attracted 20,000 viewers to its live stream, the company said. Burberry is one of a few brands with a substantial viewership, amassing 240,000 on-demand views for its most recent show on YouTube.

Rosanna Falconer, head of digital for designer Matthew Williamson, formerly BFC, says: “When [live streaming] first worked, it felt like magic, it felt more digitally innovative than anything we’ve seen in recent years. But that novelty has worn off a bit, everyone is now doing it.” NYFW alone has over 250 shows and presentations in eight days, a significant proportion of which are live streamed. That’s a lot of content to expect the public to tune into. So is it even worth it?

Seeking ROI

Understanding the ROI of live streams is a bit of a grey area. Many designers record videos of their shows regardless of whether they’re streaming it, so the greater part of the financial investment live streaming requires is already there. Likewise, many showing with IMG in Lincoln Center or Made Fashion Week at Milk Studios get the live stream as a part of their show package. Even if the content delivery isn’t vastly creative — two or three cameras are standard — it’s an easy add-on to accept.

A bespoke live stream inevitably increases the price. I was quoted in the region of $20,000 to $50,000 for the full video package, depending on the production requirements. To make a live stream more interesting, designers often invest in other extras — a more elaborate set, for example, or a musical performance — which can up the price even further. Streaming itself costs only around $12,000, and that’s for those hosting off-site from the main venues and in need of a satellite hook-up, a source says.

If you line up those costs against total viewership (i.e., cost per view), live streaming shows doesn’t make for a great return on investment. Yet a number of people in the industry stand by the fact it’s valuable even if not quantifiably (by reach). “We looked at it [when we first launched it three years ago] as the next step in cultivating fans, giving them an inside look into something that was otherwise very private or hard to get into.” Daniel Plenge, director of digital at Marc Jacobs, says. “We never looked at it as needing to show a return on the investment. It’s more about a branding and brand DNA extension for us.”

Quynh Mai, founder of agency Moving Image & Content, who helped produce Nicola Formichetti’s live-streamed shows while at Mugler, agrees it’s all about the super fan. “They’re the ones who share it with their friends and become brand ambassadors in their own social circles.” In other words, even if the quantity of viewers is low, the quality in terms of brand advocacy has potential to be high.

Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder and director of fashion at Rightster, the video network powering live streams for the likes of IMG and the BFC, says the figures for minutes watched, rather than number of viewers, can back this up. NYFW viewers watch between 12 and 24 minutes on average, she says, demonstrating significant engagement in a world where the average online video is just 5.2 minutes long, according to comScore.

Data collection

Though relatively small in reach, the size of live-stream audiences do provide some valuable data to brands. Most are able to view the demographics of their audiences, including age, gender, income bracket and geography. Marc Jacobs is also using its live stream to capture e-mail addresses, inviting fans to RSVP for the live stream in advance and for a chance to win tickets to attend the show in person, Plenge says.

Belstaff analyzes the social sentiment of its live stream to determine which pieces in the collection are most favorable with viewers. Such data informed the buying team for the current season, The New York Times reported in February, and is even helping the brand merchandise its regional e-commerce sites accordingly. Interestingly, Belstaff has chosen not to live stream its show this season, implying the initiative wasn’t perhaps as successful as made out previously. The company was unable to comment further for this piece.

Topshop, under the direction of Chief Marketing Officer Justin Cooke, has likewise used its live experience to gather data from its consumers over the past two seasons, capturing not only which items, but which colors they most engage with. The high street retailer said 4 million viewers tuned in to its February 2013 show, which was live streamed and then available immediately on-demand. A “Shoot the Show” tool, which let viewers capture and share screenshots from the video, upped engagement, triggering 200,000 shares across social media.

The future points to more of this. Rightster is set to introduce an in-player feature next season that will help brands measure social sentiment on different looks. As with Topshop, viewers will be able to grab specific tops and bottoms from the streamed show and share them over social, Goldstaub explains.

The Engagement Challenge

Developing social strategies around live-streaming experiences is the strongest way to ensure their success, says Dan Clifford, a former VP of marketing at Victoria’s Secret. “We need to be as careful with the content as we are with the product. That’s what reaching the individual that doesn’t have the luxury of being there is about,” he said. “Too many brands isolate the runway as a moment in time and don’t consider the pre and post opportunities that they could be harnessing and leveraging across the whole season.”

There’s reportedly a significant drop off in terms of viewers when shows don’t start on time — a standard occurrence in the fashion industry — making the pre-show roll particularly important to help establish and maintain engagement with fans.

Plenge agrees: “We’re trying to be creative to incentivize people to come and watch and pay attention for more than 10 minutes, which nowadays is really hard.” The Marc Jacobs show has had blogger Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and then model Jessica Stam play host on its pre-show broadcasts for the past two seasons. It also has a social stream built into its player where viewers can see tweets and Instagram pictures, as well as an accessories-cam that shows close-ups of the shoes and bags as they come down the runway.

Plenge says there will be an “improved version” this season with cameras placed in such a way to “really benefit the viewing experience for fans,” but he hastens to add it’s not about bells and whistles. “If we do that we lose the integrity of the show and the collection. We don’t want to be known for our digital initiatives but for Marc’s vision and his clothes.”

Jarrad Clark, global creative director of IMG, says content strategy results in deeper engagement. The organization introduced pre-produced segments, as well as interviews with designers post-show, to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia this year. “It increased radically the amount of time spent with the shows,” he says. In Australia, shows averaged between 23 and 50 minutes of engagement among viewers last season, nearly double the amount of time averaged in New York.

The Future

Fashion Week live streaming might not live up to McQueen’s vision across the board, but the future of live streaming, if approached strategically, is set to only get more interesting, says Clark. “As more technological advancements come our way, and the industry continues to experiment, we’re going to see live streaming very differently. [Designers] will begin taking more risks with it all, so it’s not as cookie-cutter as it is now.”

A key area for evolution is making the experience shoppable, something pioneered by Burberry and replicated by numerous other brands since including Topshop and Ralph Lauren. From a data perspective this is especially important opportunity, but it points to the fundamental problem of fashion weeks generally. How can consumers engage wholeheartedly with product they can’t buy for six months? And even if they can buy it, as is the case with some of Burberry’s collection, why would they want to buy something off-season, i.e. a coat at the beginning of spring?

“The problem with live streaming is it’s put a focus on how bizarre the timeline of fashion is,” says Lou Stoppard, fashion editor of SHOWstudio. “Being able to buy and get the pieces immediately is an exciting next step, but it opens up so much around the seasonality and pace of fashion. We’re going to see that completely upturn very shortly. Younger designers particularly are showing they’re very disgruntled by the fact they’re making stuff that people want and can’t yet get.”

Ultimately, fashion weeks still need to be about business before entertainment.

Why narrative needs to beat product showcasing in fashion films

12 Aug

 

Prada recently released its new Real Fantasies film for autumn/winter 2013/14. The short spot is an abstract meander through both the men’s and womenswear collections – a showcase of a “distorted normality”, as the brand refers to it, which sees a series of domestic moments randomly assembled together.

The majority of coverage off the back of it has highlighted exactly that. But certain titles have knocked the spot’s “disconnect with the product”. Despite the fact the models are fully decked out in items throughout, one particular article suggests the user is “conflicted with understanding the story instead of noticing the collection”.

It then refers to the idea of the film being distracting through being too heavily focused on narrative. Wow.

Actually, the one thing fashion DOES do, and as I’ve written about substantially before, is push out ads based on selling product rather than campaigns built around selling ideas. The seasonal focus of such work means more often than not they’re tied heavily to the aesthetic of the collection, rather than the core concept of the brand. To fit with the pace of consumption in today’s digital world, it’s this that needs to change.

In other sectors the opposite is the aim. Nike strives to convince us we’re all athletes; its campaigns accordingly about personal performance over buying product for instance. Meanwhile Dove shares the idea of real women and their beauty rather than the fact it sells soap. Beer, electronics, automotive… they all do their own version of the same.

Storytelling, though not a new phrase for advertisers by any means, is THE key buzzword in marketing today. With the volume of content out there, it’s about connecting with consumers in a way that goes beyond pushing individual items in order to even get their attention – we’re all savvy enough to know we’re being sold to, so offer us something extra to make us love you. Fashion has a phenomenal ability to achieve that with the tied in emotion, or aspirational appeal we all feel for such brands, yet it’s not really explored it so far.

Of them all, Prada should be given credit for attempting to do this. In fact I’d argue the Real Fantasties spot in question, being as abstract as it is, doesn’t push as much of a narrative as it could (though this is undoubtedly the point). Its main autumn/winter 2013/14 womenswear campaign does a far better job in comparison, focusing on nine hopeful young actresses auditioning in front of a ruthless casting director.

In the past it’s done even more so – its three-minute short, A Therapy, starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ben Kingsley, directed by Roman Polanski in 2012, is a particularly strong example. In that instance, it’s the story that is the focus – it draws the viewer in, engages them as true entertainment should, yet through a subtle twist places the jacket as the thing everyone walks away remembering.

A lot more fashion films could do the same.

Why Instagram video uploads are great for fashion

7 Aug

Instagram_videouploads

Instagram introduced an update today that enables its 130m users to import video from their media library. Such a move instantly points to an opportunity for significantly higher quality posts, as pre-recorded, refined and even archive footage becomes feasible.

What could be more appealing than that for the fashion industry? The previous option only allowed users to record in-app, as remains the case with Vine, meaning the end results were often quite raw and less on par with what luxury brands particularly wish to put out.

Of course that’s not been the case with all posts, as I’ve previously commented with regards to Vine. Numerous brands have used the platforms incredibly well since their respective launches in February 2013 (Vine) and June 2013 (Instagram) by teaming up with specific artists, demonstrating how clever, experimental and creative it’s possible to be in spite of restricted functionality. Some of the stop motion work on Vine is especially astounding.

Yet let’s not forget that the reason Instagram became so suited to the fashion industry in the first place – and rapidly saw brands growing enormous followings as a result – is through the quality that could instantly be achieved with still images. Being able to add a filter on top of any candid behind-the-scenes photograph is an immediate way to give it a more luxurious spin.

When video launched therefore, the inability to be able to do the same thing from the phone’s gallery, having to record directly instead, meant most of the conversation that quickly followed was around how to hack that fact. Several achieved it, from a trailer for the new Ashton Kutcher film, Jobs, based on Steve Jobs’ life, to a post from adidas by Stella McCartney to promote its surf line.

Having the ability to now do that officially, changes the game. Importantly it’s a win for marketers in terms of better controlling the assets that are released, ensuring they are more on-brand, which remains the chief concern for luxe design houses.

Logistically it also makes the whole process much simpler. The downside of that of course might be that we lose the real-time access to the shows such short form video brought if it first has to go through an edit and sign-off process. It’ll be interesting to see how this is handled.

It’ll also be interesting to see how Vine is impacted off the back. I would suggest it might still remain a hub for creativity (I hope), not to mention great for those with a particularly strong Twitter following, but either way expect a lot more content to flow through Instagram from now on in this capacity, especially as the fashion week season looms…

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