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Political messages dominated NYFW’s social media trends

Prabal Gurung's feminist statement t-shirts at New York Fashion Week - NYFW political messages
Prabal Gurung’s feminist statement t-shirts at NYFW

Fashion week might be a means to showcase new collections, but this season’s New York shows have also proved a key platform for political messages.

According to social data intelligence company Talkwalker, the big conversations across both social media and broader internet platforms tied to New York Fashion Week, have surrounded causes close to the issues currently dominating broader US headlines thanks to President Donald Trump’s incoming policies.

The CFDA’s Planned Parenthood campaign, which encouraged the industry to wear “Fashion Stands with Planned Parenthood” pins in protest of moves to defund the organisation, saw more than 34,000 mentions over the week for instance. In doing so it beat out individual leading brands like Calvin Klein (11,000 mentions thanks to Raf Simons’ debut), Alexander Wang (8,300 mentions) and even model Gigi Hadid (4,300 mentions).

Those stats specifically relate to the use of the name tied to NYFW (e.g. Gigi Hadid references at large are likely higher at any given moment in time given her fanbase). These are also direct mentions, not impressions, which will clock in significantly higher also. Talkwalker compiled the data from 150 million global websites, including access to 850,000 news sites and more than 10 social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Weibo, and YouTube.

Olivia Wilde wearing the CFDA "Fashion Stands with Planned Parenthood" pin - NYFW political messages
Olivia Wilde wearing the CFDA “Fashion Stands with Planned Parenthood” pin

Celebrities helped push the Planned Parenthood campaign further, with actress Olivia Wilde’s Instagram post about it garnering 64,000 likes alone, and Chelsea Clinton’s Tweet on the eve of fashion week similarly drawing significant attention. Key hashtags attached to the campaign, including #IstandwithPP and #PP, peaked at noon on February 11.

Further focus on such social causes followed suit throughout the week. Christian Siriano’s People are People runway show, which celebrated diversity, body positivity and self-acceptance, was mentioned over 3,700 times, for instance. Top references alongside included “Planned Parenthood”, #representationmatters and #voiceofthecurves. His “People are People” t-shirts saw all proceeds going to the ACLU.

Christian Siriano's People are People campaign at NYFW - NYFW political messages
Christian Siriano’s People are People campaign at NYFW

Mentions of Prabal Gurung’s initiative, meanwhile, which saw models in the finale wearing t-shirts with slogans including “The future is female”, “I am an immigrant” and “Break down walls”, hit close to 2,500.

Beyond “t-shirt” as a key word alongside, the top hashtag referred to in this instance was #tiedtogether, which links to The Business of Fashion’s campaign encouraging those at fashion week to wear a white bandana as a form of unity. The models in Prabal’s finale were all wearing one.

In fact, the #TiedTogether campaign has been mentioned over 12,700 times since the start of NYFW in total, with an Instagram post from Tommy Hilfiger (at its LA show) leading engagement with 35,600 likes. Talkwalker was also able to reference the top emojis people are using tied to this term, which included hearts, hands and cameras.

Prabal Gurung's feminist statement t-shirts at New York Fashion Week - NYFW political messages
Prabal Gurung’s feminist statement t-shirts at NYFW

Further politically-charged shows this season included Mara Hoffman, who invited the organisers of the Women’s March on Washington to participate in an opening discussion; Public School, who also showed t-shirts, this time with statements like “Make America New York”; and Jonathan Simkhai, who gave out “Feminist AF” tees.

Said Talkwalker CEO Todd Grossman: “All of the above shows us that these campaigns are all truly tied together. In conversations about Siriano, you find people also mentioning Gurung’s t-shirts. In conversations about Gurung, you find mentions of #TiedTogether. In conversations about #TiedTogether, you find mentions of Planned Parenthood. Each politically driven campaign on the runway does not stand alone during NYFW, rather each individual statement becomes part of a much larger dialogue – each a piece of fabric making up an (oh so stylish) quilt stitched with freedom of speech.”

Better yet, out of the 708,200 total mentions of NYFW, the hashtag #hope proved a main theme, with 19,300 references.

Tommy Hilfiger models in LA wearing the #tiedtogether bandanas - NYFW political messages
Tommy Hilfiger models in LA wearing the #tiedtogether bandanas
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data technology

Looking back at SXSW: wearables, privacy and avoiding bandwagons

This article first appeared on The Business of Fashion 

Rachel Arthur recaps the highlights of this year’s SXSW Interactive conference and identifies key takeaways for the fashion industry.

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AUSTIN, United States — The marketing and tech crowd hit Austin, Texas, once again this week for the annual SXSW Interactive conference, bringing with them more members of the fashion industry than ever before. There were representatives from long-time attendees like Burberry and Bergdorf Goodman, alongside a flurry of first timers from Parisian fashion houses and UK department stores alike, a sure sign of technology’s increasingly pervasive impact on fashion retail.Thought of as an incubator for tech-enabled creativity which aims to provide a “view on the future,” the annual event is overloaded with keynotes, panel discussions and pop-up events, not to mention a trade show floor. But, as usual, much of the action also happened off-piste, in spontaneous conversations at hundreds of events and parties.

Here, we’ve compiled some key takeaways, on themes ranging from wearable technology to consumer privacy.

The State of Wearables

It was clear wearables — an emerging category of personal accessories with embedded sensors, displays and other digital technology (such as Nike’s FuelBand, Google Glass and Apple’s rumoured iWatch) — were going to be a key topic even before SXSW began. They’d dominated the scene at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas each January and over 60 sessions addressed the topic, up from a mere handful last year.

Speakers unanimously agreed that the category is advancing rapidly. American basketball star Shaquille O’Neal even made an appearance to discuss his new interest in wearable technology with Rick Valencia of Qualcomm. Yet despite predictions that the market for wearables could reach $30-$50 billion over the next 3 to 5 years, the growing consensus was that mass adoption was still a ways off. On Google Glass, Robert Scoble (author and startup liason officer of Rackspace) said: “This is one of those products you know is the future, but it’s so unfinished at this point that it’s frustrating. It’s three to five years away before it’s really useful.”

And indeed, it was the word ‘useful,’ more than design or aesthetics — which the current crop of wearables are widely thought to lack — that came up the most. Jennifer Darmour, user experience design director at Artefact, said she has a drawer full of wearables that she had worn for just a week or two each before abandoning them. There was too much focus on novelty, she said, rather than on creating real functional value. “We’ve been taking a technology and trying to find a problem for that technology, instead of the other way round,” she added. “We need a more human-centric approach.”

Q Manning, chief executive of app design company Rocksauce Studios, agreed: “We need to solve problems. Just because we can build it, doesn’t mean we should. We need to pinpoint will this actually be useful? Is it beneficial? Will it help me live my life better?”

Jay Morgan, digital creative director of Havas Worldwide, added: “When wearable tech becomes [part of our] normal clothes and we don’t have to [actively] interact with it, it’s not then going to be about whether people care about it, it’s just going to be a part of your life. That’s what brands need to think about it now.”

Managing Privacy

Privacy was another key topic at SXSW this year, perhaps unsurprisingly as whistleblower Edward Snowden gave one of the headline talks. Appearing via Google Hangout from an undisclosed location in Russia, Snowden called on the technology community to help protect privacy rights by building them into technical standards. “There is a policy response that needs to occur, but there is also a technical response that needs to occur,” he said. “It is the development community that can really craft the solutions and make sure we are safe.”

Christopher Soghoian, principle technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, added: “I really think that consumers need to rethink their relationship with many of the companies to whom they entrust their private data. I really think what this comes down to is if you are getting the service for free, the company isn’t going to be optimising your experience with your best interests in mind.”

While Soghoian was referring to Internet services like Facebook, the issue of consumer privacy should be of concern to retailers as well, as they increasingly collect and leverage personal data.

“The bottom line is data should not be collected without people’s knowledge and consent,” said Snowden. “If data is being clandestinely acquired and the public doesn’t have any way to review it and it is not legislatively authorised, it is not reviewed by courts, it is not consonant with our constitution — that is a problem.”

For others, the issue of privacy and personal data was seen in the context of a value exchange, with consumers increasingly willing to reveal information in return for benefit. “The more utility you get, the more you’re going to have to give away your privacy,” said Scoble, adding he’d happily do so himself in return for more useful and personalised experiences. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, agreed: “I’m excited about data being about me. The marketer gets a certain amount of value in the stats on my demographic, but the real value is for me.”

Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT, said the way forward was giving consumers control of their data. “We are now developing technologies to give people control over who manages their data and how. We are ensuring privacy, so it will be very easy and very comfortable for them to give their data over and get something out of it.”

Avoiding Bandwagons

Elsewhere at SXSW, conversation swirled around everything from “embeddables” (technology emebedded in the world around us, such that “virtually any human activity we can think of is going to be modified and amplified with an invisible mesh of data and processing that we will drift through obliviously,” according to one panel) to bioengineering. But ultimately, “good technology is no excuse for a bad idea,” said Paul Kemp-Robertson, co-founder and editorial director of marketing consultancy and magazine, Contagious. “It’s easy to jump onto bandwagons just because a new technology looks cool. Everyone enjoys feeling like that little kid chasing after the bright, shiny tool in the distance. But in this age of service design and living data, if a marketing idea is not useful, relevant or entertaining, then really there’s very little point in letting it loose on the world.”

Kristina Simmons, a partner at leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, agreed. Wearable technology, for example, should not be a priority just because everyone is talking about it. “It needs to be something that makes sense for your business. It’s about thinking about your top five priorities, versus saying I want to do something with wearables.”

“Innovation isn’t just giant leaps and bounds and the sexy stuff — it’s also about the basics and thinking about how we do things better. Incremental changes can make a big difference too,” said Will Young, director of Zappos Labs.

“Being first has always been a big thing,” said Ben Malbon, Google’s head of creative partnerships. “But the future is here already. We should use the existing tools we have on the table. Innovation doesn’t need invention.”