The fashion industry has to get rid of digital as a silo and integrate it throughout its organisations, said Ian Rogers, chief digital officer at LVMH, during the Business of Fashion’s Voices conference this weekend.
“When you make sure [digital] is a part of communications, a part of retail… that’s when companies do well,” he explained. But more than that, he urged for everyone to actually stop calling it digital.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” he continued. Hailing from the music world where he was senior director at Apple Music and before that CEO of Beats Music, he added: “We didn’t talk about digital when we were at Apple, that’s like talking about oxygen; it’s everywhere.”
Instead, he suggested we use the word “internet” instead. “A lot of what’s happening right now… there’s a technological part that people are really scared of. This is not a technological revolution, it’s a cultural one. It’s about the internet, which is much more specific.”
The internet, he explained, has fundamentally changed culture, and changed humans in the process. “If you replace digital with the word internet, then you start talking about this thing that connects people. So you’re contextualising it properly. Or use the word innovation where you would have used digital. So how is the internet changing culture and how do we innovate to get to the next place?”
What’s great about that, is that fashion is, at its core, also a culture business, he noted. “We sell culture as a prerequisite to selling product. If you don’t buy into the culture of a brand, you’re not going to buy a €3,000 handbag.”
Since arriving at LVMH, Rogers said the main bulk of his work has been around “untangling knots” – presumably tied to the silos the group works in across its brands including Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Marc Jacobs, Loewe, Céline, Givenchy and others. But he also spoke positively about the future of the industry based on this idea of digital or the internet, as a shift in culture. “The great thing for me, is that underneath [the knots at LVMH], there are still the same lessons that we learnt in music about how culture has changed.”
The positive side for the luxury business, he added, is that the disruption music felt when consumers shifted to digital, will be less impactful.
“[Luxury] doesn’t suffer from the same fundamental value loss as music, because you can’t put that product on a thumb drive and hand it to a friend. You have these products that are made traditionally and I think there is more value to handmade and craftsmanship than ever in a digital world.”
His shift to working for a luxury business lies in the fact he believes the industry is in a great position in terms of the way the world is going. “This is a super smart industry that understands culture better than any other,” he added.