The fashion show is dead. Long live the interactive, digital brand experience now taking place during New York and London fashion weeks, where consumers, influencers and their collective social media clout are the preferred global audience.
It’s no coincidence that several brands are using these respective (outdated) fashion week events as digital springboards to launch democratic, social-commerce driven campaigns for buy-it-now capsule collections. And for a few digital innovators without an insta-commerce agenda, the runway show has evolved beyond live-streaming, to become an interactive and highly sharable event that puts consumer participation front of mind and at the fingertips of many.
New York’s multi-media memo
In New York, over the last week we’ve seen the traditional runway show outgrow its true purpose, with a raft of designers going all out with immersive, tech-rich and experiential happenings.
With a social reach agenda as priority, Tommy Hilfiger engaged a number of non-fashion experts from the worlds of travel, architecture and photography, to document their personal reviews of his runway show, live and direct through a dedicated social campaign dubbed First Timers. The reviewers posted to their own social media platforms and the results were aggregated on a section of the brand’s website called The Conversation. Building on the brand’s democratic approach to sharing its show assets with online fans, this latest campaign adds another layer of expertise and engagement.
Amping up the digital quotient to huge scale proportions, Ralph Lauren put on a 4D light show in New York’s Central Park, calling it a logical next step in the brand’s progressive techno-savvy marketing strategy. Utilising a four-story high water screen as the backdrop for the newly launched Polo Women runway show, virtual models walked among New York’s famous landmarks such as Brooklyn Bridge and the High Line (CGI meets hologram – so very tech!). All this digi-tainment is of course ideal Instagram-bait for the Techanista fashion crowd, who duly shared the Polo4D hashtag and show video: generously.
A more intimate, but equally mesmerisming multi-media show came from Gareth Pugh, who decamped to New York this season for a theatrical presentation in collaboration with Lexus’s Design Disrupted platform. The designer told Dazed Digital he wanted to push the boundaries of an ‘interactive presentation’. So contained within three separate, dark chambers at Pier 36, he mixed gesture-responsive video, writhing dance moves and a tornado like finale that fused folkore inspiration somewhere (lost?) between the physical and digital worlds only Pugh truly knows.
Wearables have quickly become the buzz of NYFW. One of the key players in this nascent fash-tech space is Rebecca Minkoff, who launched a new collection of wearables intelligent jewellery during her show. ‘We wanted to go after wearables in a different way,’ Uri Minkoff, CEO told WWD. As the brand looks at this fashion-function mix, it’s really where their customer is living, he says.
Less successful but still firmly in the interactive show bracket, was Minkoff’s experiment with a capsule range of dresses using bio-tech fabrics, highlighted on the runway by the use of 3D glasses.
One noteable exception to the exponential growth of digital fashion week presentations this season, is Opening Ceremony. The OC designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim took a digital detox approach this season and chose what the LA Times referred to as a ‘playsentation’ called 100% Lost Cotton – a play re-enacting the life of a fashion show co-written by Jonah Hill and Spike Jonze.
The 45 min play was in fact a parady of a fashion show (from first casting sessions to closing runway), that explored contributing relationships and the highs and lows involved in creating one. Smartphones and cameras were banned and in the suitably theatrical surroundings of the Metropolitan Opera House, the cast (including Elle Fanning as well as models to actually present the collection) walked and talked their way through a script that the designers say was inspired by their carefree, youthful days of the 90s when they first met, gatecrashing the swimming pool parties in suburban LA. Actually the entire idea, execution and irreverent brand statement resonated well. And in a season awash with digital firsts, this backward glance made you stop to think for a touch longer than usual. We’ll gloss over the nod to future-facing tech with OC’s debut collection of wearables, a collaboration with Intel, that made an appearance during the play.
London does Insta-commerce:
As the fash pack moves to London, there is more of a click-to-buy mood about the social-media led catwalk events planned for LFW.
Ever the democratiser, Topshop is hosting its ‘most socially accessible fashion show to date’ on Sunday. Via partnerships with Facebook and Instagram, the Topshop online community can instantly shop exclusive pieces from the new SS15 collection, as well as curate their own content from the show experience along with five influential Instagrammers who will populate the Topshop feed. All this social content will be visible, live and direct through a specially commissioned ‘digital mosaic’ triple-screen window installation at the Oxford Circus store, created by one of my favourite set design duos Hellicar & Lewis. It goes without saying that not only is the phygital window display interactive to passersby, this clever 360 degree social content campaign will influence how Topshop’s growing global stores merchandise their stores during LFW.
In only its second outing at LFW, Hunter Original is dipping its rubber boot toe into the world of geo-locative video clips via a live catwalk collaboration with tech start-up Grabyo. During the show on Saturday, Grabyo will offer ten clips of real-time video content via Twitter, that can be curated, depending on where the brand’s followers are located. By following #Beahunteroriginal, someone in Los Angeles might see a short clip featuring festival gear, while a London viewer will probably be targeted with outdoor or rainwear more in keeping with the British climate. The Grabyo content is optimised for mobile viewing and immediately offers something more engaging and relevant to Hunter Original’s live-streaming global show audience.
Lastly, Henry Holland is pushing the boundaries of how physical and digital meet this season, with another click-to-buy initiative, this time via the virtual e-commerce fit specialist Metail. The designer’s House of Holland show will be live-streamed on a dedicated site: where his online fan base can literally try before they buy, utilizing the Metail technology that allows anyone to create a digital MeModel of themselves after inputting simple height, weight and bra size measurements. This digital collaboration is functional over fluffy and has the power to educate Holland’s customers – a useful tool, especially when amplified by the designer’s huge social following.
Finally, it wouldn’t be LFW without talking about what Burberry‘s digital plans are this season. To coincide with the launch of its new fragrance MyBurberry, the luxury brand is going all out to offer fans their own personalised bottle, featuring a suite of digital customisation elements across both social and retail platforms.
By logging on to MyBurberry.com, smartphone users can ‘order’ a virtual bottle with their initials engraved, and see it beamed across giant digital billboards in London’s Piccadilly Circus and New York’s Meatpacking District. There’s also a personalised retail campaign at Sephora and Selfridges, that allows customers to purchase their initialised bottles ,while online, interactive advertising banners encourage fans to create virtual bottles that are instantly shared across social media.
For the show on Monday, Burberry is one of only a few early adopters of Twitter’s beta ‘buy it’ button, that launched last week. Now Burberry’s global Twitter audience can instantly buy the nail colours featured on the runway (sneak peek below). Twitter-commerce has truly arrived.
Ask Alison: what does it all mean?
This fashion week season, digital has truly come to the fore. The concept of live-streaming is evolving and changing with our always-on visual-language culture. Brands are increasingly preferring to democratize the show experience where Insta-commerce is woven into the execution. In an age where ubiquitous selfies know no bounds, social is the fastest moving media that is even recasting how retail operates.