In a sure sign of the dethroning of oligarchic fashion, the British Fashion Council (BFC), yielding to its ruling “chic” progeny, moved this season’s London Fashion Week (LFW) from the stately Somerset House to an active Brewster Street car park in Soho.
In stark contrast to Somerset House, a palatial Neoclassical structure once home to the future Queen Elizabeth I, Soho, with an erstwhile reputation of ill-repute for most of the 20th century, is now a diverse, vibrant creative hub, seat to a new fashion and media elite.
With a £26 billion (US$39.6 billion) UK annual fashion market at stake, the BFC weighed the risks in favor of a dramatic venue shift more reflective of the creative hub that feeds the burgeoning apex of high street (US: mass market retail) fashion. LFW itself is considered a major economic engine driving the momentum.
That tech has locked step with the new Soho “catwalkers” underscores the impact of the LFW quantum shift, foreshadowing the fashion industry’s need to bridge its commercial disconnects in more ways than one. To wit, Intel has partnered with the British Fashion Council, as it has with NYFW, pledging to work with fashion and accessories designers to weave the latest smart products into garments, designs, accessories and retail environments.
Increasingly, designers, too, are independently striking creative alliances with tech partners during Fashion Week and beyond to lift social media exposure (endearing editors), captivate the public (you and me potential customers), and entice buyers (in attendance in droves).
That the “Insta-everything fashion” revolution is rapidly maturing is an understatement. Not to be confused with the fast-fashion knockoff industry, runway designers globally are being pressured to close the expectation gap-traditionally six months between seasonal collections-and, instead, and make their apparel “runway shoppable.”
An early entrant into the “see now buy now” direct from runway fashion trend was Versus Versace, which offers the ready-to-wear seasonal collection on its website the day after the catwalk show. Driven in part by a palpable and growing trend in “seasonless fashion”-there was a lot of faux fur at the Spring ’16 shows-more designers are weighing strategies to skirt the hide-bound traditional protocol in favor of the shoppable catwalk.
However, at LFW, Henry Holland took the shoppable runway concept further, experimenting with a new mobile payment system, in collaboration with Visa Europe Collab. At his runway show, Henry Holland demonstrated how VE Collab’s payment system could be seamlessly designed into a smart NFC-enabled (near field communication) “insect” ring designed by Holland), then swiped over a smart broach worn on a runway garment to complete a purchase transaction.
British heritage brand Burberry has been on the leading edge of fashion tech innovation for several years, pursuing creative social media content marketing and e-commerce initiatives. Burberry was one of the first labels to embrace Twitter and Instagram. By all measures, it bested itself at the LFW Spring ’16 show, revealing its ongoing embrace of tech in the pursuit of innovative storytelling.
The day before its show, Burberry released a Snapchat preview of its entire runway collection, including last minute behind-the-scenes coverage. Following its LFW show, Burberry released additional crowd-sourced footage, curated by Snapchat, including broader day-of coverage, media, audience and backstage outtakes.
As a vehicle for driving social media traction and exposure, Snapchat offers a platform that creates visual anticipation, albeit fleeting, as it disappears. And it seems to have paid off for Burberry during LFW, with Burberry netting 10.5% of all LFW mentions, as the NetBase domain analysis chart below shows. Potential impression stats were equally impressive, with Burberry reaping 1.1 billion of an overall 7.55 billion, a significant reflection of Burberry’s social media influence. And it isn’t easy to stand out from the crowd, considering LFW staged 240 collections.
LFW Burberry Domain Analysis – NetBase Application
While Burberry’s innovative leveraging of tech is vanguard, earning the label top LFW social media exposure, it is still too early to tell how long visual story-telling alone will satisfy limited consumer attention span in the absence of a shoppable runway strategy. The seething Insta-everything mindset of today’s consumers demands that the industry’s disconnects in delivering the shoppable catwalk be addressed sooner than later.
Another platform gaining ground in fashion is Twitter’s Periscope. Following the NYFW Periscope streaming of the Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs Spring ’16 runway shows on Piccadilly Circus billboards in London, another UK heritage brand, Hunter Boots, partnered with Twitter’s Periscope at LFW. Vivienne Westwood also joined the LFW Periscope bandwagon to Tweet-cast her show (complete with her anti-fracking runway protest).
Finally, Topshop Unique, the second largest social media engaged label after Burberry, teamed up with Pinterest for LFW to create a shoppable color palette to engage consumers. It’s a new form of “see now buy now” storytelling, which, according to Topshop, is driving purchases.
Ironically, it’s the public’s embrace of the democratization of “fashion,” as we know it that is unequivocally driving tech and crowd-sourced innovation into the once archaic atelier system. If fashion is aspirational, who’s to say that co-creation won’t be the inspiration of the future.
This article previously appeared here.