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Comment Editor's pick

Comment counts: Human insights should drive both fashion trends and brand communications

Understanding changing human behaviour is the surest way to create a trend in fashion today, but such attitudes need to be reflected in our communications and not just products, argues Frances Docx of 18 Feet & Rising.

beyonce-ivy-park
Ivy Park

In the past, the fashion trend trajectory was simple: from fashion houses to magazines, consumers copying celebrities. Everyone knew their rightful place in the fashion food chain, and the clothes would remain on the high street until those in power decided a new season was ready to launch.

Cut to the internet and this online world has hastened and devolved the traditional fashion process entirely. Now trends can emerge from anywhere at any time – the high street, teens on Instagram… a Wikihow page with a seven-step illustrated guide to starting your own.

In a world of microwave-minute attention spans and a ‘buy now’ impulse control disorder, fashion brands have to look beyond short-lived trend sources towards something that endures and evolves as their brand does.

So where should they turn for inspiration to create fresh and enduring work? Where we’ve always looked: to people. The surest way to predict a trend is to create one. And the most effective way to create a trend is to study and predict human behaviour and attitudes.

A topline example: UK gym membership spending is up by 44%. What’s the consequence for fashion? You can’t move for box-fresh Adidas Stan Smiths, endless versions of the ‘athleisure’ trend and the likes of Beyoncé’s newly launched fitness line, Ivy Park, crashing the Topshop website.

Looking good has become so synonymous with physical fitness that by a series of cognitive leaps everyone is wearing tennis shoes – with no intention of playing tennis. And we don’t care either, by the way. We only care if the white on our kicks stays bright.

And what else? We only wear 20% of our wardrobe on a regular basis and we throw away over one million tonnes of clothing and other textiles in the UK each year. It’s not because we don’t like the rejected 80%; generally we do, but maybe the fit isn’t quite right, the neckline is a bit low and we’d rather wear one of our old favourites.

Meanwhile, instead of the buy-it-cheap-pile-it-high Primark mentality, we also see disrupters such as Tom Cridland entering the mass market with his 30-year sweatshirt. Or designers such as Vivienne Westwood that encourage shoppers to choose well so they only choose once.

Everyday people are changing the face of retail. Brands must realise, respect and pay attention to this. And the impact must be reflected not only in the product on their shelves but in the way they communicate to consumers.

Insights (the behaviour and perceptual mapping of trends) have long been the bread and butter of brand communications. But up until now they have retreated behind the “Advertising Idea” like a hungover mollusk.

Communications today are firmly driven by the “we understand you” mantra; capitalising on emotionally charged purchasing. We see this in the UK with personalised discounting like the MyWaitrose scheme, through to the advent of Memevertising such as with House of Fraser’s “My Face When…” 2015 campaign (as above, by 18 Feet & Rising).

To those in fashion scratching their heads over the latest trend reports working out how to make SS17 and beyond fresh – put down that colour palette, stop looking at what your fashion forefathers have done and consider applying these rules of thumb:

  • Be more human
  • Listen more
  • Watch more
  • Copy

Don’t predict fashion trends, predict behaviour change.

Frances Docx is a planner at creative agency 18 Feet & Rising. Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via info@fashionandmash.com.

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Editor's pick film mobile

Miu Miu partners with Miranda July on alternative messaging app, short film

somebody_miumiu

Miu Miu is continuing its Women’s Tales series with not just another short film, but an accompanying app.

This time in partnership with artist and filmmaker Miranda July, the ‘Somebody’ project is based on the idea of a “new way to communicate”.

“Texting is tacky. Calling is awkward. Email is old,” declares a statement from July. The app accordingly offers something different altogether – the opportunity for a third person to go and deliver your message for you. Users write what they want to say to a friend into the app as per normal, then using GPS to locate said individual, pick a stranger that is physically nearby (and also has the app) to verbally present it on their behalf.

Each stranger comes with photos and performance ratings to help in the selection process. The message also always starts with the sentence: “[Recipient’s name]? It’s me, [Sender’s Name]” — reminding the messenger to take on the identity of the sender. Essentially it’s like sending someone a script with performance directions included – you can even add emotions for the stranger to consider in their delivery, like [crying] or [longingly].

July came up with the concept based on memories of singing telegrams and the way romantic messages used to be delivered by friends at school. “I see this as far-reaching public art project, inciting performance and conversation about the value of inefficiency and risk,” she explained.

The write-up continues: “Half-app / half-human, Somebody twists our love of avatars and outsourcing —every relationship becomes a three-way. The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us.”

The film (as below), which premiered at the Venice Film Festival this week, ties the concept of the app together, showcasing it in action with various groups of people. There’s a break-up, a marriage proposal, an argument and a particularly intriguing end-scene with a plant.

The app was developed with designer Thea Lorentzen and developers from Stinkdigital. Its launch comes with some official hotspots to encourage ‘critical mass’, including Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The New Museum (NY), Yerba Buena Center for The Arts (SF), Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and Museo Jumex (Mexico City).

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business Editor's pick social media

Calvin Klein CCO outlines ‘brand truths’ at Cannes Lions festival

Calvin Klein Melisa Goldie, Cannes Lions

Creating consumer engagement today depends on the passion and courage put in by the brand, said Melisa Goldie, CCO of Calvin Klein at the 61st annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this past week.

“Talent and truth, and craftsmanship and creativity, are all really important, but they’re only important if you’re passionate about your beliefs… and then brave enough to say it,” she explained.

That thought followed a presentation outlining the four ‘brand truths’ of Calvin Klein – principles she referred to as the underpinning of its marketing messaging for nearly four decades, and the very focus that enables it to be both passionate and accordingly brave. They include seeking simplicity, dancing with controversy, leveraging tension and embracing culture.

Simplicity is a straightforward one, she said. “Think simply, but with rigorous attention.” She referenced Michelangelo’s statue of David – when asked how he carved it from a single piece of rock, he said it was simple: he just removed everything that wasn’t David.

“Calvin and controversy have long been friends,” she quipped for the next truth, highlighting such campaigns as it’s 1982 men’s underwear ad in Times Square starring Olympic pole vaulter Tom Hintnaus that literally stopped traffic. “It ushered in a new era of objectifying men,” she said. “It led to the acceptance of the male form in mainstream American advertising.”

Importantly, controversy can mean relevancy, making a brand seem modern and interesting, she highlighted. “From a business perspective, [that] then means very high ROI.”

Leveraging tension – the next brand truth – does of course sit very neatly hand-in-hand with this at times. For Calvin Klein it’s often been about leveraging visual or sexual tension, such as between Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss with their iconic shoot in 1992.

katemoss_markwahlberg_CalvinKlein

But Goldie also suggested examples of other brands who dutifully play off different tensions. Nike leverages the idea of who a consumer wants to be and their couch: Dove sits between self doubt and a truer definition of beauty; and Apple has always looked to self actualisation and conforming, between the individual and the organisation, and between us and them. The latter’s now infamous 1984 ad is “one of the best examples of leveraging tension the industry has ever created”, Goldie said.

The brand’s final truth is about embracing culture, something Goldie said Calvin Klein has both been shaped by and has helped shape. “We have always been willing to get into bed with popular culture. It has allowed us to create deeper and more committed relationships with our consumers.”

That idea is ever more relevant today, she said, as we evolve into a world where culture happens ‘digital first’. “The dawn of the digital age means culture is more relevant [for brands] than ever before. You have to look at culture through a digital lens, then decide which changes are meaningful for you and which ones can help you shape and grow.”

Importantly, digital enables a brand to see relationships and communities being formed at far greater speed, she emphasised. “It’s now on their terms,” she said with regards to how consumers engage with your brand and the value of allowing them to feel increasingly involved in it. The #mycalvins campaign, which crowdsources selfies of fans in their Calvin Klein underwear, is her team’s efforts to respond to that.

“Today [consumers] have a personal role to play in the Calvin Klein story. We don’t want to be their parents, we want to be their partners.”

Stay tuned for a full round-up of the fashion campaigns that won at this year’s Cannes Lions festival later this week.

Photo credit: Getty Images 

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social media Uncategorized

Warby Parker runs Google Hangouts on site at Social Media Week

It might have been all about Topshop’s big partnership with Google during London Fashion Week, but at Social Media Week (SMW), it’s Warby Parker we’re talking about.

The eyewear brand, a long-time social media enthusiast, has set up an installation at SMW’s New York HQ that allows visitors to gain feedback on which frames to choose via a Google Hangout.

A shelf at the stand is filled with glasses, encouraging users to try on different options. Rather than just looking in the mirror, they can log in to a live session where various experts are waiting to share their professional thoughts on which ones to go for.

Those on hand throughout each day include celebrities, influencers, fashion experts and members of the Warby Parker and Google teams, according to a post on SMW’s blog.

Each Hangout is being screened on site, as well as live-streamed on Warby Parker’s G+ and YouTube pages. See a couple of examples from today below.

SMW runs from February 18-22.

 

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Uncategorized

#SXSW Interactive: Fashion’s greatest challenge lies in realigning production with communications

“If I were the CEO of a major fashion brand today, my focus would be on trying to compress the production cycle so it realigned with communications,” Imran Amed, founder and editor of The Business of Fashion, said at SXSW earlier this week.

Speaking on a panel called Who needs a fashion cycle? I’ve got social media, he explained that we’re at the beginning of a seismic change in the way consumers communicate with each other, make decisions, and ultimately purchase.  It’s only by changing the operational side of what we do, he said, that we’re going to be able to catch up.

As we all know, the internet has revolutionised this industry. Where once fashion shows were private trade events, now they’re more consumer facing than ever before, highlighted Michelle Sadlier, global digital communications consultant for Karla Otto International, and moderator of the session.

Designer collections used to only be seen by the public when they hit shop floors six months later – or the pages of the magazines just before. Now they’re viewable in real-time. The likes of Twitter and Instagram, not to mention bloggers and live-streams, mean consumers have the same level of access, at exactly the same time, as those invited to the catwalk presentations.

The issue of course, is that the operational side of the process is still the same. Rather than speeding up alongside, production has remained a lengthy and complicated system. The user is subsequently seeing something online, that isn’t available to buy for a further four to six months.

This gap, said Chris Morton, founder and CEO of fashion discovery site Lyst, means brands are missing out on capturing that “intent to purchase at the point of inspiration”.

He referenced a handful of companies attempting to address this: Burberry’s Runway to Reality initiative – where viewers can shop straight from the catwalk for delivery in just eight weeks – for example, as well as start-up Moda Operandi, which offers a similar solution across a variety of brand names.

Lyst itself launched a Runway Tracking service last September, which at least reminds consumers of the items they liked, by sending them a notification once they’re available to buy.

Amed however, said while each of these ideas is attempting to work around the issues, they’re not actually solving the problem. This is the industry’s biggest challenge, he added, and there’s no easy solution.

One of his suggestions was to create two separate events around the shows. One small and quiet for trade to see the season ahead, and the other a big, all-out affair for consumers, timed so it’s in sync with the actual season. So in other words, shifting the position of the fashion show as we know it today, so it sits at the end of the cycle rather than the beginning.

Of course to do so, would mean skipping a season, something Natalie Massanet, founder of Net-a-Porter, first suggested to Amed in an interview in 2010. No mean feat to pull off…

Which takes us back full circle to the very first line of this post. At the end of the day the company that masters how to realign the production cycle with the communications one, will be the one that finds success. And the likeliest way of achieving that right now, is by focusing first on compressing operations.

Watch this space.

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Uncategorized

Lanvin chief’s email-free Wednesdays

Love this: Lanvin chief Thierry Andretta, has declared Wednesdays email-free.

Having a full day without interruption reportedly helps him concentrate. He implemented the initiative earlier this year after feeling increasingly depressed and frustrated by the  volume of emails he was expected to handle each day, reports Reuters.

“Generally, I think we have become too accessible. We all lose too much time reading and writing emails and they prevent you from thinking clearly,” he said on the fringe of the FT Luxury Summit in Lausanne, Switzerland earlier this week.

He explained how he would frequently clear his inbox before flying from Paris to New York, but have another 250 messages waiting for him by the time he arrived.

Perhaps needless to say, there’s not been a huge amount of uptake from the rest of the employees at the luxury brand.

“I think they are not really interested but it might be also because they get fewer emails than me,” Andretta said.

Jean-Claude Biver, chief executive of luxury watch brand Hublot, however, said Andretta’s idea was nice but unrealistic and impractical. “The one who can allow himself not to read or answer emails during an entire day in a working week indulges in real luxury,” he told Reuters.