SxSW: Reinvisioning Fashion

Posted on by Melanie Bender

SxSW is a breeding ground for new thinking - some pragmatic, some far out, but always interesting.  Among the things being reinvisioned this week is the future of fashion and retail.  Social media has turned the brand-consumer relationship upside-down: who imagined shopping via tweetchatting with Diane, or real-time virtual attendance at pretty much any show at Fashion Week.  The consumer-brand relationship is fundamentally different now than it was even 2 years ago, and those jumps will happen several times over before we see a new decade, or even a new Creative Director at Dior.  

At SxSW, two themes in fashion consumer experience innovation emerged:

(1) Changing the shopping experience, catering to consumers in new ways possible through tech advancements.  Think: mirrors that transform into interactive screens (which Burberry's London flagship unveiled last year) and product recommendations for the perfect nail polish shade to match that fab dress you just bought.  For customers, it means a more personalized, more interactive and easier shopping experience.  For retailers, it means more and better connected data for improved understanding and attribution of the complex cycle of consumer acquisition and engagement.  

Burberry's London Flagship

Burberry's London Flagship

(2) Changing the paradigm of influence and access within the fashion industry through non-traditional channels.  A decade ago the power to define trends and participate in the fashion process was limited to a select few, namely designers, editors and buyers.  Today's dynamic grants veritable authority (even the ability to decide what styles go into production, and ) through emerging social-based channels.  These new funnels of influence include socia media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and about 13 others), influencers (bloggers and vloggers du jour), and user communities (Nasty Gal's The Click), which clever brands are leveraging to great success.  (Note measurement here is far from perfect, but declaring they have no value is akin to denying global warming.) There is an inherent tension between fashion, which gets value from exclusivity, and social media, a democratizing force.  But as consumers evolve to view themselves as their own brands - thinking about where and what they share about themselves - they will expect more and more access and involvement within the brands that are marketing to them.

Nasty Gal's The Click

Nasty Gal's The Click

Of the themes shared, it's important to note that there are no hard and fast lines between the two - both are blurred, and in fact are most successful when blurred, providing a connected, omni-channel experience which has advantages for consumer and retailer, alike.

In the coming weeks I will dig into these SxSW trends in more detail and what the next 5 years in fashion may look like.  For instant gratification, check out some live tweets from SxSW's fashion-centric panels.

What I'm Reading This Week: March 8, 2013

Posted on by Melanie Bender

The 5 Most Innovative Things at Fashion Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

With livestreams now the standard, here are the top ways brands are continuing to push innovation via Fashion Week. 

1. Topshop and Google+ find interactive bliss (London)

The most hotly anticipated show this season was anything but couture.  Topshop partnered with Google+ to shatter whatever remained of the fashion show-public divide, unveiling interactive experiences at every step of the way.  Building on last season's Customize the Catwalk initiative with Facebook (engaging over 2 million online viewers), Topshop's show included 3-D Google Map technology giving access to the Tate Modern show space, a "Be The Model" photo booth in the flagship Oxford Street store allowing customers to try on Topshop outfits and create share-able animated GIFs, Google Hangouts between fashion bloggers, Topshop fans, and celebrities like Kate Bosworth and Pixie Geldof, live-broadcasts of model’s-eye video via tiny camera fitted to the models, and a "Be The Buyer" custom Google+ Hangout app allowing fans to 'swipe' runway outfits into a wishlist, in the process providing telling data for determining what styles actually should go to retail.

Topshop's show has garnered more than 4 million viewers, and raised a startling bar for retail giants looking to make a splash with runway (Victoria's Secret, we mean you).

2. Fashion hosts hackers (New York)

Dueling publishing houses Hearst and Conde Nast both debuted fashion-centric hackathons at NYFW this season.  Hearst's Fashion Hack (in which Post+Beam competed in) granted devs access to the Hearst API in a quest for innovative new uses of the behemoth data.  Conde Nast's Fashion Hackathon sought app solutions to specific issues facing designers, as defined by industry guiding body the CFDA.

The innovation here is on two levels: firstly, the prototype apps themselves, with standouts mixing fashion choices with musical taste via Spotify, pulling data from social networks such as Twitter and Instagram, and bringing the magazine format to user-curated online platforms.  The second and perhaps more telling innovation, is that of the publishing houses themselves.  Amid the unclear future of print media and under-monetized online sites, Hearst and Conde Nast are making a clear effort to adapt to changes in the industry.  They have the content, but need to look outside the traditional business model to remain relevant and profitable.  Here, that means seeking novel ideas for tapping into the quick-growing mobile market and redefining reader-media interaction. 

Hearst Fashion Hackathon winner, Drobe.

Hearst Fashion Hackathon winner, Drobe.

3. Vine gives a front-row seat (Everywhere)

With a continual focus on live reporting, it was no surprise Twitter's new video sharing app Vine emerged as a platform du jour at Fashion Week this season. Vine seems uniquely suited to Fashion Week coverage, as the looping rotation allows capture of multiple looks while giving viewers a sense of movement of the clothes.  Vine use during the week included fashion press offering a real life runway experience, as well as designers giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the week's action.  Despite the added value of efficiency and movement, some may still prefer experiencing Fashion Week from afar via imagery - coverage even offers multiple shots and angles in a single frame - rather than the jumpy snippets of Vine.  As many a fashion vet will attest, runway shows are often more impressive in pictures then in person (hello: lines, 60 minute delays, awkward viewing angles, and, oh yeah, more lines).

4. Alexander Wang crowdsources with Samsung (New York)

In recent months, all eyes have been on Alexander Wang as the design wunderkind embarks on his first season as dual head of his own label and creative director for Balenciaga.  Amidst that mayhem, Wang also unveiled a new project with Samsung delivering a crowsourced handbag.  Using the GALAXY Note II's Create & Share function, Wang collated a print from doodles shared by his fashion insider friends, which will be turned into a limited-edition bag in stores this summer.  Crowdsourced design is nothing new, but remains rare among prestige brands - a mass-designed prestige good is inherently oxymoronic.  However using an elite technology (the GALAXY Note II), an even more elite 'crowd' (including supermodel Coco Rocha), and limited distribution elevates this item above the fray.  Or perhaps Wang was just low on creative juices running his dual posts and needed a little design help from his friends. 


5. Kenneth Cole goes super-social (New York)

The message was clear: Kenneth Cole loves social media.  But loving social media and leveraging it successfully are of course two separate things.  After a seven year hiatus from the runway, Kenneth Cole returned to Fashion Week keen to show that he hadn't missed a beat, embracing and even incorporating the connected consumer.  The concept was perhaps best illustrated by an opening video delivering the message: 

During the @kennethcole runway show, out of respect for other members of the audience please make sure your phones and tablets are switched ON. This show will embrace the intrusive nature of social media.

Like many, Kenneth Cole's show was livestreamed and allowed virtual viewers to snap a photo of the runway and tweet it with a custom message and the right hashtag (technology provided by Bume Box).  The livestream also appeared on a wall in their SoHo store, with participation bolstered by the added incentive of $1 for every tweet donated to charity and the chance to win $500 shopping session.  Lest you needed one last reminder, models walked the finale with smartphones in hand.

Kenneth Cole NYFW

What I'm Reading This Week: February 22, 2013

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week: February 8, 2013

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week: February 1, 2013

Posted on by Melanie Bender