From London to New York, runway schedules have been awash again this season with ground-breaking digital initiatives, sending out the clearest signal yet that fashion shows are now global entertainment and ecommerce platforms.
While social media news feeds and timelines continue to fill with images and videos, to stay relevant brands and designers need to consider how to turn engagement into awareness, trust and sales both on the physical runways and beyond.
With each season, brands and designers are becoming increasingly experimental with technology. Many are setting an example for retailers up and down the country when it comes to combining the physical with the digital.
For this reason Intel was named a patron of the British Fashion Council ahead of this week’s spring 16 London Fashion Week, a role that will see the tech firm encourage fashion designers to weave the latest smart products into garments and retail environments.
“It is important for the British fashion community to drive forward sales and increase their profiles on the global stage,” said Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council. “Innovating with wearable technology and smart garments is a fine way to achieve this.”
Drapers assesses which of the fashion firsts were tech triumphs and which were mere digital distractions.
HUNTER: creating a Twitter storm
Social media has now been fully integrated into catwalk shows, as has once trailblazing ideas such as live streaming, which now seems omnipresent. This season almost every show was available to watch live, whether online or in public areas such as London Fashion Week’s official outdoor cinema in central London.
But this season marked the first in which brands could use Twitter’s six-month-old live-streaming app, Periscope.
British lifestyle brand Hunter launched its #BeaHeadliner mobile sessions campaign on the platform on Saturday September 19, showcasing three up-and-coming musicians performing en route to the show as well as answering fan questions before filming the runway show.
Hunter creative director Alasdhair Willis said: “We saw this as a huge opportunity to speak to new audiences at such a key time on the fashion industry calendar and for the brand, in particular extending our reach to a broader audience that might not traditionally engage with London Fashion Week.
“Using Periscope, we are able to present Hunter Original and our relationship with festivals in a new and innovative way that reflects who we are as a brand.”
BURBERRY: a Snapchat first
Burberry also scored a first, becoming the only luxury brand to reveal its collection ahead of its official Fashion Week scheduled slot in a preview to Snapchat’s 100 million users. The British brand’s spring 16 collection premiered on Snapchat on the evening of September 20, the night before the brand’s runway show in London’s Kensington Gardens.
The preview remained on Burberry’s Snapchat story for 24 hours. It was followed up by a ‘Burberry Live Story’ that combined crowd-sourced Burberry show-related video and images into a single stream on Snapchat.
The runway show featured a live performance from singer-songwriter Alison Moyet and a 32-piece orchestra. The performance was filmed and uploaded to Burberry’s Apple Music channel, a partnership with Apple announced earlier in September, for fans to stream.
While not instantly shoppable, research by content marketing platform Stackla shows that user-generated content is 35% more memorable than branded content and can generate a 39% uplift in sales.
TOPSHOP: piquing shoppers’ Pinterest
In the run-up to the launch of fashion week, high street retailer Topshop partnered with social media site Pinterest to offer personalised fashion recommendations based on colour preferences.
The project allowed shoppers on Topshop.co.uk to log in using a Pinterest account and receive clothing suggestions based on colours of outfits they most frequently ‘pin’ on their account. The partnership also extended to Topshop’s retail stores, with in-store shoppers able to login to their Pinterest accounts on iPads to view and print their suggested products.
Pinterest says its users save more than 24 million fashion ideas and looks every day, while Topshop claims 83% of its shoppers cite colour as the primary reason for buying a product.
It builds on the involvement Topshop has had with London Fashion Week since 2001, when it first sponsored the Newgen support scheme for emerging designers. This year it continued to host installations and show screenings in the windows of its London flagship on Oxford Street.
HOUSE OF HOLLAND: Visa credit where it’s due
In a bid to merge the worlds of fashion and commerce, British designer Henry Holland partnered with Visa Europe to bring wearable payment technology on to the catwalk for the first time.
Celebrity guests at the House of Holland spring 16 showcase at London Fashion Week including Alexa Chung and Daisy Lowe were able to use Holland’s bespoke rings enabled with near-field communication (NFC) technology to purchase items worn by the models.
Pieces from the collection contained a tag linked via Bluetooth to Visa’s payment network. Each ring was pre-loaded with £500 and when they made contact with a corresponding item worn by a model, the transaction was made. Items purchased were bagged up backstage and handed to the buyer as they left the show.
Holland was confident this could have wider uses in retail in the future: “Imagine the store you could build if you didn’t need rails and a cash desk. It could be like a fashion show, where the music is curated and you choose what you want to purchase and move to a different area [to collect it].”
TOMMY HILFIGER: Twitter Halo effect
Across the pond, Tommy Hilfiger offered a glimpse into the backstage frenzy of a fashion show by using Twitter Halo, a multi-camera device to capture 360-degree video with real-time sharing capability.
The brand said the aim was to open the show to a global audience, and use digital technology to improve its retail offer.
Chief brand and marketing officer Avery Baker said it was a small step towards the future reflecting the business’s goal of sharing collections through “innovative, original and exciting channels”, as the retail landscape shifts and consumer expectations evolve.
By watching the stream on Twitter, viewers also received a backstage sneak peak at a limited-edition bomber jacket that would be made available for purchase online immediately after the show before it hit the runway.