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business Comment Editor's pick technology

Agility matters: why Hunter not showing at LFW is a good thing

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Hunter Original, London Fashion Week spring/summer 2016

During spring/summer 2016’s round of fashion weeks held this past September, Hunter applied its usual experimental attitude to Twitter-owned live-streaming app Periscope. The British brand known for its wellington boots launched a campaign that saw live gigs taking place in the back of a customised vehicle. Exclusive access was provided to different artists who performed in the build up to the brand’s Hunter Original catwalk show.

While the initiative was a relatively quiet one given it was such a new platform, it made an enormous amount of sense for a brand that is entrenched (quite literally) in festival culture. It almost felt like a promise to who it could become; a nod to its authentic connection with music. Consequently it said it would carry the campaign through to 2016 with further gigs hosted on the way to the biggest festivals around the world.

Yesterday, the brand then announced it would be moving away from the traditional fashion calendar, no longer holding a London Fashion Week show and instead focusing wholeheartedly on exploring and amplifying this festivals opportunity.

It’s a decision that makes a great deal of sense. While fashion weeks are enormous marketing opportunities, and Hunter always did an incredible job of pulling in big names to ensure maximum press exposure – from Anna Wintour and Stella McCartney (wife of creative director Alasdhair Willis), to Paul McCartney, Rita Ora, and Salma Hayek – they’re increasingly an exercise in frustration for the consumer.

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Backstage at Hunter Original, London Fashion Week spring/summer 2016

At risk of preaching to the converted, here’s how it goes: brand spends big budget on fashion week show, invites big guests, does cool innovation piece to gain extra column inches and encourage consumer engagement. Consumer tunes in to said show because unlike in history, digital means everything is in real-time and accessible to them to fawn over as though they were in attendance themselves. They fall in love with it, and want to buy, but alas, they can’t.

While the communications side of the model has sped up, the backend hasn’t changed. The nuts and bolts of the industry remain as slow as ever, and while numerous brands have promoted exclusive ‘buy now’ items from the runway, most of the time a consumer has to wait circa six months before they can actually get their hands on the product.

The issue with that in today’s immediate and connected culture, of course, is that come next season when the respective items are suitable to wear, consumers are already onto the next idea, and less interested in purchasing what they would have been when they were truly captured in the moment. It’s an ROI conundrum.

Phew…

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Hunter at Glastonbury 2015

Needless to say, changing it is no small feat, particularly off the back of board meetings that lead with the line: “Because that’s the way it’s always been done”. But many are slowly but surely looking to kick that setup and come up with something else instead.

Matthew Williamson has already done it. Tibi found success by shifting towards monthly in-store releases a while ago. Both Jean Paul Gaultier and Viktor & Rolf decided to step away from ready-to-wear to focus solely on couture and fragrances. Other brands like Jonathan Saunders have announced they’re shutting down entirely, while some of the industry’s highest profile brands are losing designers in the face of the pace being just too much pressure. In short, any sort of change feels like it makes a lot of sense, and those willing to take the risk through restrategising should be applauded.

According to Hunter, it’s a time that feels right to move the needle on how it engages with its customer and how it excites the industry. Says Willis: “Hunter has been on an incredible journey these past two years, gathering real momentum as we set about transitioning this 160 year business. During this massive transformative period we have delivered four brand-defining Hunter Original shows at LFW. Using this success as a strong tail wind, and continuing our commitment to innovate, now is the time to push things further. At this time within our industry, the moment is right to change things up and, as a brand, Hunter can do just that.”

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Hunter’s New York pop-up store in November 2015

It will hold multiple global customer-facing moments during 2016, according to a statement. Detail is yet to emerge, but safe to say real integration with festivals, as well as shifting the model in terms of when and how consumers have access to product will be the priority.

On top of that, comes of course the global aspect – Hunter believes standalone stores are instrumental to its growth towards a lifestyle brand and numerous new openings are planned as a result.It is hoped the success of its first flagship on Regent Street in London, will be quickly replicated by its Tokyo store opening in March 2016, and then its further plans in New York and Hong Kong. There’s also a joint venture with Itochu in Japan and significant investment being placed in multiple languages for its e-commerce site.

Turnover during 2014 increased for Hunter by 17% year-on-year to £95.7m, with pre-tax profits of £15.4m, up 5% from 2013. This doesn’t therefore feel like a change that’s coming in the face of negative results as it has perhaps been for others (neatly spun into a positive news story), rather a bid to stay on top and keep performing to the advantages the industry can offer when approached in ways that work better. It’s also perhaps a straightforward admission that money can be more efficiently spent than the vanity project fashion week shows so often become.

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A heritage Hunter photograph

As the brand’s head of innovation and social media, Michelle Sadlier, posted on Twitter yesterday: “Taking risks, always innovating…so proud that Hunter has the agility and ability to do something epic like this!”

It’s nice, for once, to see that idea of “agile”, as we so often refer to the new wave of direct-to-consumer fashion start-ups, actually being played out in what is fundamentally one of Britain’s most treasured heritage brands.

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Editor's pick social media

From Instagram to Snapchat: the best uses of social media this fashion week season

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One month later, four cities down and with hundreds upon hundreds of different designer looks for spring/summer 2016 revealed, it’s no wonder so much of the fashion week season blurs together.

For the fashion savvy, there are of course the ever-notable collections (Wang’s last at Balenciaga, new colour and embellishment at Gucci, in my opinion everything at Hermès, plus the endless off-the-shoulder looks seen throughout each week), but there are also the marketing techniques used that helped some brands stand out more than others, regardless of the outfits they revealed.

Selfies at Dolce & Gabbana or wearable tech at Chanel and House of Holland aside, this season was all about a renewed focus on social media channels particularly. Innovative campaigns spanned 360-degree imagery on Twitter to a couple of uniquely creative approaches on Instagram and a highly polished example on Snapchat.

Head on over to Forbes for all the highlights from Misha Nonoo, DKNY, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger and Hunter Original.

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data e-commerce Editor's pick social media

British brands enabling fans to shop real-time #LFW trends by leveraging outdoor advertising

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

Despite fashion week being all about what clothes we’re going to wear next season, brands including Hunter Original and Topshop will push current stock in a big way when London begins from Friday.

Both are turning to digital screens up and down the UK in Ocean Outdoor’s network, in a bid to truly capitalize on the hype that London Fashion Week brings. They will run real-time out-of-home (OOH) campaigns that not only provide consumers with more access to the event than ever before, but encourage them to actually shop by placing existing product, rather than new, front and center.

The fashion industry has struggled to solve the conundrum that building huge hype during fashion week season brings, when that tends to be six months before products hit the shop floor. Essentially, by the time the collections arrive, the shopper is already on to the next. Burberry was one of the first to make some of its line available for purchase immediately as far back as 2010, in response. Numerous other brands have followed suit since, including as recently as Tommy Hilfiger yesterday in New York.

But that idea only goes so far in practice. By the nature of their release, those items tend to be limited in numbers; either pre-produced thus run as more of a campaign (Tommy Hilfiger), or available for pre-order and delivery in just a few weeks on items that are straightforward to do so with (Burberry). Shifting the production process any further is quite an ordeal for most design houses, but for those on the high street it can be quite a different story.

“Since Burberry first [live streamed its show] there has been a slow trickle of better accessibility and speed to market from fashion week,” Lindsay Nuttall, chief digital officer of BBH and former global head of strategy and communications at Asos , told me. “Zara famously turn around production in a rapid process to soak up demand piqued by fashion week coverage. At ASOS we would provide guides of the key trends from each season for fashion hungry customers that related directly to current stock we were carrying. Innovation in digital formats like mobile and digital outdoor is shifting this up a gear now and taking it out to the mainstream consumer.”

Hunter and Topshop will be some of the first examples of brands making fashion week shoppable by promoting current, and therefore assumedly less limited, stock in conjunction with their shows.

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Hunter will kickstart its initiative by live streaming from its catwalk on Monday February 23 at 6pm GMT simultaneously across nine billboards. Run by agency Candyspace, this digital first for the industry (Burberry previously live streamed its show on just one billboard in London’s Piccadilly Circus), will hit high-traffic retail environments in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow. Messaging alongside the show will drive the audience to Hunterboots.com, as will a content takeover on the landing page of the WiFi-enabled sites for those logging in via their mobiles.

The brand will continue its campaign for three further days after the show, pairing content from the new Fall 2015 collection alongside similar pieces already available for purchase this season, including a poncho, parka and boot. By focusing on core silhouettes and ‘icon’ styles, rather than merely newness, the brand aims to offer the inspiration, not to mention the functionality, for immediate purchase.

Topshop meanwhile has partnered with Twitter to showcase  key trends emerging from London Fashion Week according to tweets using the #LFW hashtag. That real-time data will be fed through to billboards around the country from Friday February 20 until Tuesday February 24. It will be displayed as a word cloud and placed alongside corresponding shoppable Topshop product.

Consumers will also be invited to tweet to @Topshop with any one of the trends highlighted (it might be #pleats or #colourblocking for instance), to then receive a curated shopping list in response. Six billboards – all of which are within 10 minutes walking distance of a Topshop store – will be utilized for the time period. The experience will be replicated in one of the Topshop Oxford Circus windows as well as viaTopshop.com.

Sheena Sauvaire, global marketing and communications director at Topshop, said: “Through Twitter’s listening power, we can allow our global consumer to shop the trends as and when they happen, and give them insight and access into runway shows. The idea of live advertising is just beginning, and thanks to the Ocean Outdoor sites, this will be a first example of real-time shoppable billboards.”

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For both Hunter and Topshop, which are of course two of the more accessible fashion week brands in terms of price point, it’s a smart move to marry fresh and buzzworthy content with current stock. It’s smarter again to facilitate the shopping element of it all by integrating a seamless mobile experience, says Nuttall. “Linking everything to mobile means awareness and engagement is never more than one swipe away from converting to purchase, right there and then, wherever they are.”

Both campaigns have the potential to not only satisfy consumer appetite, but also provide measurable return on investment (ROI) on what would otherwise be a pure brand awareness push.

As the Hunter team said in a statement: “[It] will allow Hunter to capitalize on the heightened brand attention afforded by London Fashion Week and maximize this considerable commercial opportunity, addressing the challenge to drive sales six months before the runway collection lands in stores.”

This focus on ROI also comes at a time when the industry seems to be moving away from large scale, or more PR-worthy, innovation usually seen during fashion week – think drones at Fendi or a 4-D water show from Polo Ralph Lauren. Instead the emphasis so far in New York this season has been on social media programs that drive conversion, according to WWD.

As Melisa Goldie, chief marketing officer of Calvin Klein, told the paper: “You can have millions and millions of eyeballs, but if there’s no real conversation it’s nothing but a bunch of eyeballs… We really want to show that we are getting a return on our investment that is beyond just brand awareness and buzz. That is the next phase of digital.”

OOH done well has the potential to fit within that remit. Says Nuttall: “Outdoor has always been a brilliantly high impact and creative medium. It’s also always been able to reach a burgeoning young fashion consumer at a key moment that is both inherently social and ripe for conversion – when they are out and about shopping with their friends.”

The idea of a shoppable OOH campaign is “hard working commercial stuff”, she adds. “If the fashion industry embraces the creative and commercial opportunity that it represents, it will be really exciting to see where they take it.”

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Editor's pick film

Mat Maitland brings surrealist style to Hunter campaign film

Hunter has collaborated with visual artist Mat Maitland for a surreal, technicolour film as part of its autumn/winter 2014/15 campaign.

The spot features models including Charlotte Wiggins and Neelam Johal hiking through a forest, set against a mountainous backdrop as driving rain, flashes of lightning and a collage of floating Hunter boots arrive. A cast of animals referred to as “icons of the British countryside” including lambs, foxes, fish and geese also appear.

Maitland, who is known for his surrealist imagery and distinctive style of multi-layered compositions, said of the piece: “My focus was on depicting a mysterious dreamlike world reminiscent of the Highlands. I tried to explore the relationships between animals, people, landscapes and fashion, an idea which emerges from the collaged and abstract images pulsating on the screen.”

The film showcases new footwear, outerwear, knitwear and accessories from the Hunter Original collection, including the Original High Heel, Original Chelsea and Original Poncho. A series of stills from the video are shown below.

Maitland also created a short film that was projected onto the central surround of the Hunter Original spring/summer 2015 show during London Fashion Week last month.

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Editor's pick film mobile social media

Hunter to partner with tech start-up Grabyo for real-time #LFW show

Hunter Original AW14 Look 1

Live and localised are two key phrases you can associate with the Hunter Original show due to be held at London Fashion Week next Saturday, September 13.

The British-based wellington boot brand, in its second ever season showing on the runway, is set to partner with real-time video start-up Grabyo in order to deliver up to 10 instantaneous highlights from the catwalk to its fans via Twitter.

Key moments as they unfold will be available for followers in 10-45 second clips, whether at a desktop or viewing via their smartphones (which is where the majority of traffic inevitably tends to be seen based on Grabyo’s past experience).

Better yet, said content will also be geo-targeted on Twitter so the type of items shown from the collection are reflective of the user’s particular region and climate.

Read the full story at Forbes.com.

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social media

Hunter uses Instagram video as second screen to #LFW show

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Hunter might be the new kid on the block this London Fashion Week season, but its show and accompanying social media coverage was as slick as the best of them.

The famous wellington boot brand introduced its new Hunter Original line with models parading along a catwalk covered in water. Under the creative direction of Stella McCartney’s husband Alasdhair Willis, this was a stylish line of practical outerwear, not to mention numerous new footwear pieces, fit for the current UK weather.

But for those watching online, it was the Instagram video posts that particularly stood out. In a sea of thousands of #LFW tagged images, not to mention endless blurry runway Insta-videos, Hunter took to the platform with a series of high quality, pre-produced clips.

Created as part of the wider #beahunteroriginal social media campaign, each one was designed to “capture the inspiration behind the collection and allow a deeper insight into what is being seen on the runway”. What that actually meant was quite abstract, creative work.

Overlaid copy set the theme – “If you’re born a pioneer”, “Forged by the desire to discover” or  “Take the path that others dare not take”, from one to the next. Graphics spliced in then showed a section of a boot, a close-up on a fabric or an original sketch, as well as a series of autumnal outdoor scenes nodding to the heritage of the brand.

Willis said: “Born out of a passion to innovate, a pioneering spirit has always been at the heart of the brand. This spirit is key as the future vision for Hunter is developed and the reason for leveraging Instagram in this way. We are delivering a unique experience for the Instagram community, in real time, providing a deeper insight into the story of the collection and the world of Hunter Original.”

Hunter referred to the Instagram move as its LFW “second screen experience”. See each of the posts below…