Ralph Lauren celebrated its 50th anniversary at New York Fashion Week on Friday night, with a star-studded affair that kicked off with an immersive installation.
Held at the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain in Central Park, guests were welcomed into the venue with a journey through the brand’s history. Enormous LED screens towering like sculptures played some of the designer’s most memorable collections, while iconic campaign imagery was next projected across the walls of a tunnel. Ralph Lauren himself narrated the tale.
The show that followed saw a diverse cast of over 150 models, followed by a dinner, with guests including Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Kanye West. It was more than just a fashion week show, and rather a slice of Hollywood entertainment.
The company called it “a multi-brand, multi-generational celebration of the World of Ralph Lauren and the next chapter of iconic American style”.
Chief marketing officer Jonathan Bottomley added that it was all about storytelling and the power of a story. He accordingly built the event out online too, with a strategy that spanned IGTV, WeChat, Line and live streaming, as well as via 125 digital influencers and celebrities.
That move was aiming to build on the success of last September’s show in the designer’s classic car garage, which saw over 1 billion social media impressions.
For those who weren’t there in person, the digital strategy now extends in person, with the installation otherwise appearing at the brand’s Madison Avenue flagship in New York, and in additional locations worldwide in the coming weeks.
Building on the brand’s see-now-buy-now strategy, a selection of the 50th-anniversary collection has also been made available to buy immediately following the show, both online and at the brand’s flagship stores, as well as via key partners including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
In a continuing use of technology, Ralph Lauren was also awarded Design Legend of the year award by GQ magazine last week in London, for which he beamed in via hologram.
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The Museum of Modern Art’s first exhibition dedicated to fashion design since 1944 presents garments and accessories that have had a profound impact on global culture over the last century.
In “Items: Is Fashion Modern?”, a total of 111 pieces span everything from the Little Black Dress and Levi’s 501 jeans, to the hoodie, the bikini, the stiletto and the Sari. About 30 of the items are also complemented by a new prototype, however – a commissioned or loaned piece inspired by advancements that signify where the industry is moving next.
These have been created by designers, artists, scientists, engineers, and manufacturers – those able to respond to the idea of these “indispensable items” with pioneering materials, approaches, and design revisions. Included is a t-shirt featuring the first lab-grown leather from bioengineering firm Modern Meadow; a dress woven from artificial spider silk by Bolt Threads marking a new partnership with designer Stella McCartney; and a new take on a customisable Breton shirt by 3D knitting company Unmade.
There’s also a fibre-optic Richard Nicoll dress on loan, created by wearable technology company XO, in partnership with Disney, as well as newly conceived versions of the pencil skirt, the biker jacket, the jumpsuit and more. Meanwhile, a wider zone in the exhibition devoted to new technologies and visions of the future, also features Issey Miyake’s A-POC and Pierre Cardin’s Cosmos Collection along with Gore-Tex, the leotard, and the Moon Boot.
Paola Antonelli, the MOMA’s Senior Curator for the Department of Architecture and Design, and its Director of Research and Development, shared her insights on the forward looking aspect of the exhibition and what it means for the future of fashion. Head over to Forbes to read the full interview.
Burberry has released a cinematic trailer for its holiday campaign – a three-minute film that reimagines key events in its history and leaves us wanting more.
The Tale of Thomas Burberry, as it’s called, taps into the heritage of the brand and its founder, nodding towards the technical capability of the gabardine fabric he develops as well as a fictional love story underpinning the building of his company.
The result: a solid piece of storytelling that does indeed leave the viewer wanting to watch the full-length version of the film. We might know about the resulting success of the brand, but what about the personal life of Burberry himself? Beyond being an inventor, what were his relationships with the explorers and soldiers he outfitted? Did he really fall for another woman after he was married? And what about those thought of his father in his head? It has all the markings of something ready for the big screen.
Written by Matt Charman and directed by Asif Kapadia, the film sees Domhnall Gleeson playing Burberry, with Sienna Miller as his fictional first love. There’s also Dominic West playing Sir Ernest Shackleton, the pioneering polar explorer who wore Burberry gabardine for three Antarctic expeditions. And Lily James as pilot Betty Dawson, a fictionalised character inspired by the real life achievements of Betty Kirby-Green, who broke the world record in 1937 for a return flight from England to Cape Town in an airplane named “The Burberry”, dressed in Burberry.
The real life moments in the film include Burberry’s invention of the weatherproof fabric gabardine, dressing the military, and outfitting polar explorers and pilots.
“This Christmas, as we celebrate our 160th anniversary we wanted to tell the story of Thomas Burberry – pioneer, inventor, innovator, and the man behind the iconic trench coat – in our own words. The film we have made is a brief glimpse inspired by his full and extraordinary life, which threaded its way through the history of the twentieth century in all its tumultuous highs and lows… We feel very proud to be sharing The Tale of Thomas Burberry this Christmas – his spirit and his vision are still at the heart of everything we do at Burberry today,” said Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative and chief executive officer.
Kapadia added: “The aim was to make a trailer for a film that we haven’t actually made. So to bring together all these epic moments of life, death, birth, love and relationships, and to go through time and to have various characters that would appear and reappear – it was about finding these epic movie moments that would then make the trailer.”
The film was shot primarily at Shirburn Castle in Oxfordshire. They team even created replica gabardine tents, made at Burberry’s Castleford factory in Yorkshire, for the exploration scenes.
Shorter edits of the film will appear across Burberry’s social platforms, as well as across digital and cinema advertising. There will also be stills of the cast members and key moments from the film used in print and out-of-home ads.
When we think of wearable technology today, the first thing to spring to mind is smart watches and fitness trackers – the devices we attach to our bodies to count our steps, monitor our health and communicate more readily.
But, strictly speaking, technology on the human form stretches way earlier than that and far more primitively too. In 1286 there was the first pair of eyeglasses for instance – an innovation that transformed lives for centuries to come. In the 1600s and the early days of China’s Qing dynasty, the common abacus was worn as a ring. Then we had air-conditioned hats, TV headsets, wrist PCs and sneaker phones through the 1800-1900s, before the very idea of anything sport related hit with Nike in 2006. Since then there has of course been everything from Google Glass to Fitbits, Apple Watches, Misfits and more, not to mention lots in the way of solar-panelled jackets, connected jewellery and beyond.
Give and Take, a multi-brand online store for timepieces in the UK, has put together an infographic on this early history, as below. Note the themes we’re still obsessing over today: how to make tech more accessible to our daily lives, how to think insane clunky devices are appealing to the human form, how to turn some of that hardware into soft garments and how we might go about attaching it to our faces too.
It’s goodbye Hedi Slimane and hello Anthony Vaccarello quite literally on Instagram where Saint Laurent has wiped all of its previous posts on the @YSL account and replaced them with a single portrait of its incoming creative director Vaccarello.
The desire for a clean slate is not a surprising one – providing Vaccarello with the chance (if on Instagram alone) to start afresh with his vision for the brand.
Such erasing of history hasn’t been met kindly by fans however. Comments on the now single image, include: “Why delete Hedi Slimane’s work? Wtf”, “You deleted everything from Hedi’s tenure !! Bye b*tches”, “I found this very disrespectful towards Hedi’s work”, and: “That’s cute about Anthony but why take down Hedi’s photos? Hedi’s DNA will no [doubt] be continued. No issue with a new creative director but why erase the past 4 years?”
Many of the other comments show fans both disgruntled and hopeful about the changes. “We weren’t [buying] Saint Laurent, we were buying Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane…no more Hedi Slimane…no more Saint Laurent! I’m sure they’ll lose a lot in revenue from 2017…another Pilati unselling era ahead!” reads one.
Another by comparison: “Vaccarrello for YSL makes sense to me. He reminds me so much of an early 90s Tom Ford. I have been observing Anthony’s work on Versus and under his namesake brand.. a fresh modernist approach is what this maison needs rn. Someone who can bring some sharp sex appeal and sophistication back. I’m sure he’ll do magic and will be a great fit. Meanwhile, Hedi with his punk rock + grunge vibes was tiresome af. I wish all the best for his career though.”
YSL has over 386,000 fans on Instagram. It seems no noticeable changes have otherwise been made on Twitter or Facebook.
If you’re anything like me, you constantly have dozens of tabs open, bookmarks saved, emails placed in a strategic folder, and apps in use to keep track of all the stories you’re intending to go back and read.
It’s all too easy to let that accumulate, put off by the fact some of the pieces are just that little bit too long (#TLDR) to comfortably whizz through in a spare moment, rather needing you to find some dedicated time to sit down and concentrate on them. But, while we might be used to shorter and shorter formats through our social media postings – 140 characters here, six seconds there – not to mention an entirely visual-based strategy through Instagram particularly, there’s a growing trend for a lot more in the way of this long form content. Twitter itself is indeed thinking about extending to a 10,000 character limit, first page results on Google reportedly contain an average of 1,890 words (that’s mind blowing), and platforms like Medium have taken off for the very fact they enable users to easily spout words without any true perimeters.
Media companies from Buzzfeed to The Guardian, Esquire, The New York Times and Wired all also publish dedicated “long reads” or “big stories” today. The move comes down to an understanding that readers increasingly desire access to longer form content (and the involved insight, knowledge and informed opinions it provides). And more importantly, though counter to popular belief, they’re willingly engaging with it on mobile. In fact, a 6,000-word piece from Buzzfeed in early 2014, saw readers on tablets spend an average of more than 12 minutes with the story, while those on phones spent more than 25 minutes. As The Atlantic wrote: “[That’s] a small eternity, in internet time.”
No surprise then, there’s an increasing number of highly relevant fashion stories being released that also tick the box for indulgent consumption. As Imran Amed of The Business of Fashion wrote this weekend in a post about his venture into long form with a landmark piece on the Net-a-Porter / Yoox merger (as below): “The idea to do this kind of story came during a conversation I had in September with Graydon Carter, editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, who advised me: ‘Every once in a while, write an in-depth story that everyone in the fashion industry would want to read’.”
So here are five lengthy pieces (2,500-10,000 words) truly worth carving out some time for. Some of them date back to early 2015 (courtesy of my aforementioned bookmarking habit and some power reading this weekend), but if you didn’t get through them then, like me, now is your chance to revisit.
1. The secret deal to merge Net-a-Porter with Yoox – The Business of Fashion
Needless to say, top of this list of long reads, is the aforementioned story from The Business of Fashion last week. If you haven’t yet bitten the bullet, it’s broken down into four parts, chronicling exactly what happened between both parties and Compagnie Financière Richemont (much of which was behind the back of Natalie Massenet). This one is time consuming, but it’s insightful and worthwhile. As someone posted in the comments below: “Noting the tell-all film trend: fun to imagine who will be cast as Massenet, Marchetti and Rupert.”
2. A huge underclass of ghost workers are making your shirts in their homes – Quartz
Informally employed homeworkers in developing countries make up a substantial portion of the (subcontracted) manufacturing process for fashion retailers. This story dives into who they are, what they do and how to go about changing it so that they’re treated fairly and under the same laws as other workers. “The first step is to bring them out of the shadows and acknowledge that they exist,” writes author Marc Bain. It’s an insightful piece – detailed and warranted of its length – on an area rarely touched upon elsewhere.
3. Losing the thread: how textiles repeatedly revolutionised human technology – Aeon
With all the obsession with wearable technology of late, there’s a lot to be said for this essay, which outlines the very fact that textiles are indeed a technology of themselves. “More ancient than bronze and as contemporary as nanowires,” it reads. It goes on to highlight how pertinent textiles have been on economic development and global trade, and calls the industry out for thinking that ‘wearable tech’ is about gadgets pretending to be accessories rather than the cloth we actually wear against our skins. The piece takes us from the development of aniline dyes and cellulose-based synthetics to the performance-based materials we take for granted today. There’s also a great analogy of weaving (the original binary system) rather than mining when referring to the Bitcoin Blockchain.
4. Fashion week, reinvented – The New York Times
Vanessa Friedman penned this piece on how New York Fashion Week is evolving at the beginning of last season (September 2015). Largely a focus on how WME/IMG were bringing designers into its new venues, it explores how the aim is to make the whole affair seem less commercial yet simultaneously a feat of entertainment for the masses. It sets the scene comprehensively, and outlines the ambition on many fronts to evolve what fashion week is and what it could be. Since then, there have been multiple additional stories released, especially around the CFDA’s plans to hire the Boston Consulting Group to conduct a study on whether or not NYFW should become a consumer-facing event presenting collections more closely aligned with retail drops. Lots of food for thought as we approach the autumn/winter 2016 shows.
5. How menswear took over the internet – Esquire
Men’s fashion is growing by more than 100% a year. With that as context, this long form story from Esquire dives into where and how that is happening, talking to executives from Luisa Via Roma, Mr Porter and Matches Fashion. According to the latter, the online men’s market is highly valued for the fact returns are lower and loyalty often higher. Some 50% of its male customers return to buy something else within a year. The story also highlights such tidbits as more money coming from shoes on Mr Porter than Net-a-Porter, and Natalie Massenet saying that the rise of a more creative economy could lead to menswear becoming as big as womenswear over the next decade.
Technology is due to get a big nod of acceptance from the fashion industry in 2016 as the theme of the next Costume Institute exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”, will focus on the dichotomy between handmade haute couture and machine-made fashion, according to Vogue. It will showcase over 100 pieces of fashion, and unsurprisingly, be sponsored by Apple.
“Traditionally, the distinction between the haute couture and prêt-à-porter was based on the handmade and the machine-made,” explains Andrew Bolton, curator of the Costume Institute. “But recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred as both disciplines have embraced the practices and techniques of the other.”
Expect to see traditional techniques including embroidery, pleating and lacework placed alongside new technologies such as laser cutting, thermo shaping, and circular knitting. Workshops on areas including 3D printing will also allow the public to see designs taking shape in real-time.
While there’s no information yet as to whether the exhibition will span into the embracing of digital by the industry thus including brands such as Burberry through to Ralph Lauren, there will no doubt be pieces on display from the likes of Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen and Issey Miyake.
Further hints lie in the fact Nicolas Ghesquière, Karl Lagerfeld and Miuccia Prada will serve as honorary chairs of the Met Gala due to take place on Monday, May 2. Apple’s Jonathan Ive as well as Idris Elba and Taylor Swift will join Anna Wintour as co-chairs.
Memorable moments during fashion month used to surround incidents like Anna Wintour being splattered with paint by anti-fur protesters, or Naomi Campbell taking a tumble in those sky-high Vivienne Westwood shoes. There have been incredible sets – Fendi on the Great Wall of China, everything from an airplane to a supermarket at Chanel and a giant steam train when Marc Jacobs was at Louis Vuitton.
Today, however, technology is becoming the new differentiator and the main means of grabbing attention — not to mention press headlines — during the shows. Thus far this season, Ralph Lauren has streamed his runway show on billboards in London’s Piccadilly Circus via Periscope, Zac Posen partnered with Google to reveal a dress coded with moving LED lights and Intel introduced drones to fly overhead at numerous shows.
“Technology can be a point of differentiation and a source of competitive advantage in a crowded fashion marketplace,” says Karinna Nobbs, program director and senior lecturer of digital fashion strategy at the British School of Fashion. “If you do something well you can really get good PR coverage and be seen as a first mover/innovator, which should translate to sales and loyalty.”
Even if it doesn’t add to the user experience, nor directly impact a brand’s bottom line, technology integrated into a fashion show is often about a designer exercising his or her creative freedom, in a similar way to theatrical extravagances of the past. That said, some of the most elaborate tech ideas showcased during fashion weeks past actually took place well before you could Instagram them. Here’s our history of technology and the designers who have embraced it since 1999.
There might be hot debate in current times about where artificial intelligence is likely to lead us, but robots in some form or another have long appeared at fashion week. For spring/summer 1999, Alexander McQueen presented one of the most famous moments of his career when two robots spray-painted a dress worn by model Shalom Harlow in shades of black and yellow as she spun on a revolving platform.
In 2007, Hussein Chalayan showcased a vision of our future wardrobes based on garments that changed shape. A Victorian dress unfurled to reveal a flapper style and a tiered design shortened into a mini, all thanks to microchips and animatronics. This was wearable tech before wearable tech.
Jump to autumn/winter 2014, and drones hit the runway at Fendi, circling above the heads of show-goers to live stream content back to viewers at home. The resulting experience was terrible, but it grabbed headlines for Fendi all over the world.
Speaking of wearable technology, it goes without saying that designers today are increasingly experimenting with how to embed things like electronics and connected devices into their collections. To highlight that fact, Diane von Furstenberg provided a particularly noteworthy story when she sent Google Glass down her runway in September 2012. Models wore the augmented reality eyewear as they paraded the designer’s spring/summer 2013 looks, capturing the scene around them for a video released at a later date. The finale saw DVF herself dragging Google co-founder Sergey Brin, along with her then-Creative Director Yvan Mispelaere, down the runway to take a bow with her.
Last year we also saw the likes of Rebecca Minkoff and Diesel Black Gold featuring wearable tech accessories in their shows — and let’s not forget the work Dutch designer Iris van Herpen has been doing for a long time in 3D printing. Richard Nicoll, meanwhile, unveiled a slip dress made from a fiber-optic fabric activated by high intensity LED lights for spring/summer 2015 in partnership with Disney and Studio XO. The question remains, however, as to when the wearables trend will become more widespread.
If you’re into gaming, you’re probably all over virtual reality (VR). Maybe you’ve already got your own headset. Fashion brands have been experimenting with those, too. Topshop first offered up such an opportunity when it provided customers with a VR experience in its London flagship store for autumn 2014. Specially commissioned Oculus Rift-based headsets enabled shoppers to see its catwalk show in real-time through a 3D virtual world. The aim was to make them feel as though the models were walking in front of their eyes and the celebrities were sitting right beside them.
Dior captured in 3D a backstage view of its show earlier this year, and proceeded to offer up that experience in select stores through its own VR headset, called DiorEyes. Users were able to explore the full 360 degrees of the backstage space, seeing the models during their final prep for the show surrounded by makeup artists, photographers and designer Raf Simons.
Rebecca Minkoff filmed her February 2015 show for VR viewing, too. The process reportedly required two cameras with three dozen separate lenses to create footage that has just this week been released on a specially designed Google cardboard headset, into which you stick your smartphone. Democratising fashion week indeed.
If you weren’t already convinced Alexander McQueen was an innovator, then consider his autumn/winter 2006 collection, which featured a hologram of Kate Moss in the finale. The projection appeared within a glass pyramid surrounded by billows of white smoke. It was deemed fashion magic.
Holograms were also central to Polo Ralph Lauren’s spring/summer 2015 show. In what the brand referred to as a 4D holographic water projection, it showed models wearing the new collection against a 60-foot high fountain in Manhattan’s Central Park. The images were pretty blurry, making it hard to decipher much about the new collection, but like many other tech experiences, it grabbed headlines around the world.
With all these innovative ideas in mind, hearing that a brand is merely live streaming its show doesn’t really do it for us anymore. But once upon a time, this alone was big news. When Alexander McQueen streamed his spring/summer 2010 show — yes, it really is only that old — the event drew in so many fans, it crashed SHOWstudio’s website. While the fact that Lady Gaga was performing was arguably the biggest contributing factor there, it was also an early sign of just how much interest there was in fashion week happenings from fans around the world, especially when mixed with a little extra entertainment.
As the late designer said at the time: “I wanted to create a sense of inclusion for all those in the world who are interested in my work and the world of fashion. This is just the first step towards revolutionising the ‘show system’ as we know it.” While he personally never did do another live stream — that collection was to be the last before his death — the concept rapidly spread.
Designers providing ever-greater access through digital means has grown season after season. Burberry has been the pioneer in this sense. Its now iconic campaigns have included everything from a “Tweetwalk” that showcased images of the new line on Twitter before those sitting in the front row saw them, to its “Runway to Reality” (later “Runway Made to Order”) concept that offered consumers the ability to instantly purchase specific items from the new collection for delivery within seven weeks, instead of several months. There have also been personalised GIFs, digital kisses and the ability to buy nail polish via Twitter, but this season it’s been all about Snapchat.
Clarks Originals is turning to popular messaging app Whatsapp to launch a multimedia storytelling campaign created by agency BBH.
The UK-based footwear brand will use the platform to tell the tale of its Desert Boot as it relates to popular culture. “From Rats to Rudeboys”, as the initiative is being called, will see images, playlists, videos and messages sent from three key personalities from subculture movements that featured the boot as an unofficial mascot during the 60s and 70s.
To access such accounts, users are first prompted to add a new contact number to their Whatsapp via teasers films placed across social media. That will introduce them to Nathan Clark, the original Desert Boot pioneer – a young man in the British Army in Burma who discovers a suede and crepe boot through his fellow officers in the bazaars of Cairo, and takes it back to his small family shoe business in England.
From there, fans are invited to discover the stories of Steve Barrow of The Mods, Bruno Barbey of The Enraged, and Stitch of The Rudeboys. Below is more detail from Clarks on each of them:
Steve Barrow, The Mods If it’s possible for one man to define an entire subculture, Steve Barrow would be as close as it gets. In an era when modernist culture was flourishing in the UK, Steve would find himself at the heart of it. He was The Mod. He would go on to inspire the youth of his generation to embrace new music, and through his finely tailored tweed suits and the Clarks Desert Boots on his feet, to embrace fashion. Add him on WhatsApp (+44481 492599) to hear his story live from 1965 and be a part of the coolest generation Britain has ever seen.
Bruno Barbey, The Enraged In May 1968 Bruno Barbey, Paris resident and Magnum photographer, was to find himself at the centre of a national uprising. Over the course of those few, tense days, he would go on to capture a series of photographs that would define a nation’s restlessness and encapsulate the spirit of rebellious youth. Add him on WhatsApp (+44481 491810) to hear his story live from 1968, from the debates with the heads of the Sorbonne, to the Clarks Desert Boots the students wore on their feet.
Stitch, The Rudeboys Meet Stitch, reggae icon and head of a group of rudeboys called the Spanglers who were at the heart of reggae’s birth in 70s Kingston. At a time when status was king, every rudeboy in town had to own a pair of Clarks. But how do you buy British shoes when your government have banned imports? Add him on WhatsApp (+44841 495645) to hear his story live and direct from 1976. The man who left for England with a suitcase full of records, and returned with a suitcase full of Clarks.
Online trend forecaster and b2b fashion publication, WGSN, is set to host a Google Hangout next Tuesday, December 10, which will see a panel of industry-leading experts talking about the modern history of the internet and sharing their viewpoints on the innovations set to shape the future.
For those of you who don’t already know, this is my employer, which also means I’ll be hosting the Hangout. Joining me at 4pm GMT will be Uri Minkoff, CEO of Rebecca Minkoff; Justin Cooke, founder and CEO of Innovate7 and former CMO of Topshop; Nicola Peters, director of innovation and experience at Innovate7; and Amy Levin, founder and creative director of College Fashionista. We will also have WGSN’s editor-in-chief, Sandra Halliday, and director of advisory services, Ruth Marshall-Johnson, on the air.
The event is a celebration of WGSN’s own 15-year anniversary. Now that doesn’t sound very old, but can you believe when we started out, Google was still in its Beta phase. Most retailers obviously hadn’t begun to consider the prospect of selling their wares online, let alone envisioning the global connectivity sites like Facebook and Twitter would bring.
Fast forward to 2013 and the world as we knew it has, of course, completely transformed. Classic marketplaces have been disrupted, new initiatives have both emerged and disappeared at the speed of light, and consumers now have more of a voice than ever. Keeping up is a 24/7 challenge; but never more of an exciting one.
So please join us live on Tuesday, while we debate it. You can of course also expect to hear a few thoughts on things like 3D-printing, wearable technology, and those Amazon drones. Sign up here: wgsn.co/1eH2467