This article first appeared on Mashable
New York Fashion Week came to a close Thursday, heralding the return of another fashion week in London. Once again, anticipation for the week is not limited to the collections themselves: The industry and the public are equally interested in what digital innovations the top design houses will introduce during their shows.
When one fashion house introduces a new digital innovation, it doesn’t take long for others to follow — if it’s good. One need only remember that fashion shows weren’t live-streamed five years ago, nor did designers reveal behind-the-scenes snapshots over Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Today, those are a matter of course.
But what’s next? New York saw Tommy Hilfiger introduce Lytro cameras and a “social concierge” service to its show this season, while Rebecca Minkoff experimented with messaging app Snapchat to debut its collection. For London Fashion Week, which runs from Sept. 13 through Sept.17, yet another round of ideas are on their way. Here’s a preview.
Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter and chairman of the British Fashion Council, published an open letter in UK newspaper The Evening Standard ahead of this season’s shows, calling for the whole of London to help raise the profile of British fashion by engaging in the excitement surrounding Fashion Week.
“All eyes will be on you as our international guests will be tweeting, Instagramming and reporting in nearly 50 countries across the world,” Massenet wrote, adding that this “will help grow our brands, stimulate exports, create new jobs and generally make us a must-visit city.” She invited the public to be their most stylish selves for the week to show their support.
Once a trade-only event, London Fashion Week has increasingly become an opportunity to speak directly to consumers. This is especially the case at the event’s headquarters in Somerset House, where an “Instabooth” has been set up to celebrate the best of the capital’s street style. Visitors will be able to print images of themselves as souvenirs as well as share their favorite looks on Facebook. Highlights will also be posted on the official London Fashion Week Instagram.
Meanwhile, a social media wall in the courtyard of Somerset House will provide running commentary on the shows, as pulled from anyone using the #LFW hashtag. Posts will be regulated to keep them appropriate, but the aim is for a visual insight into the experience of Fashion Week, whether that’s through catwalk looks, front row pics or celebrity sightings.
This consumer-facing strategy is being pushed out across the city in a year-long campaign. The British Fashion Council last week announced that every Friday for the next 12 months it will broadcast a fashion news bulletin, dubbed #FashionFridays, on screens situated on the London Underground. Beyond news and other fashion-related content, the BFC will hold competitions to encourage consumers to engage with the broadcasts using the hashtag.
The BFC is not the only one taking to the streets of London this season. Belstaff, which cancelled its New York presentation last weekend to focus on the opening of its London flagship this Sunday, is doing so with a bold statement. Playing on its motorcycle heritage, the British-born brand is closing off part of New Bond Street to welcome a parade of 50 bikers. In lieu traditional models, Belstaff is using “rugged” British guys in the parade, ones who are passionate about the brand, Emilie Hawtin, senior marketing and digital media manager, tells Mashable. “They are already wearing Belstaff; they’re getting it dirty and using it the way it’s supposed to be used,” Hawtin says.
During the parade, the bikers will perform tricks on vintage bikes, which The Sartorialist’s Scott Schuman will be on hand to capture. The well-recognized street style photographer will also shoot a series of intimate portraits of the bikers before and during the ride. The resulting images will be hosted on the Legends section of Belstaff’s website, which is already home to images of its oldest jackets and the icons who have worn them.
Enhancing show experiences
When it comes to the shows themselves this season, the two big moves come from Burberry and Topshop once again. Both are partnering with technology companies, albeit ones at radically opposite ends of the scale.
Burberry is teaming with Apple to capture its Spring/Summer 2014 collection using a set of not-yet-released iPhone 5S devices. Its team will capture both photos and video of the runway looks as well as backstage, which will be shared via social media. It’s a promotional rather than an innovative partnership, a way to leverage the buzz created by Apple’s latest device.
Having partnered with more established technology players in the past, this season Topshop has sought out a young mobile startup called Chirp to create a new experience for its show. Chirp is a mobile app that transmit images, notes or links through “digital birdsong” — users post their content, then hit a yellow button to emit a unique 20-note chirp, which other devices running the app nearby can pick up. The retailer will be using the app to send out images, including prep and backstage shots, to attendees of the show via several “Chirp locations” around the event site. Its Oxford Circus store will also feature a Chirp and Twitter “garden” full of digital content for shoppers to explore.
Other content highlights
Other London designers will be sharing their collections via a variety of digital means. Twenty-nine of 58 shows will be live-streamed throughout the week, including 18 from Somerset House, eight from Topshop’s new Regent’s Park venue, and from off-site locations chosen by Burberry, Mulberry and Paul Smith. The Christopher Raeburn, Sister by Sibling and Simone Rocha shows will also be streamed directly to the BFC’s Twitter feed.
Here’s a round-up of the rest of the social content to look out for:
- The BFC is continuing its live Twitter Q&A sessions with industry insiders, including blogger Susie Lau of Style Bubble, using #AskLFW. This time, all of the responses will be recorded using six-second Vine clips.
- Matthew Williamson is handing out props branded with the hashtag #ohMW (Oh My Williamson), encouraging attendees to tweet and Instagram photos of themselves with the prop. “We wanted a cute prop to make people feel at ease with the camera – we want to show personality and character,” says Williamson’s head of digital Rosanna Falconer.
- Jonathan Saunders will use an app called Slidergram to showcase “slideshow-style videos” of key looks from its show, as well as backstage and close-up shots. All will be accompanied by the show’s soundtrack.
- Paul Smith himself will be taking over the brand’s Instagram for the majority of the week, revealing pictures of Sunday’s show prep as well as the new Mayfair store opening Friday night using the #takenbypaul hashtag.
- eBay UK has teamed up with video blogger Patricia Bright of BritPopPrincess for a series of videos focused on street style at LFW, with looks shoppable straight from eBay’s YouTube channel. eBay will also be revealing a capsule collection by designer Holly Fulton.