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technology

Google and the BFC launch educational platform for British fashion

Google and the BFC's new platform for British fashion
Google and the BFC’s new platform for British fashion

The British Fashion Council has partnered with Google’s Arts & Culture team to celebrate British fashion via a new educational platform that includes several virtual reality experiences.

Launched ahead of last night’s new Fashion Awards, which honoured designers and other industry players from around the word, the g.co/britishfashion site is designed to inform and inspire future generations of young fashion creatives and students.

Support the BFC’s Education Foundation, it brings to life the creativity, heritage and craftsmanship of British fashion, pulling together content from big names in the space – including brands, designers, craftspeople, photographers, stylists, models and more – and using technology to tell their stories.

There are immersive digital exhibits from the likes of Burberry, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood for instance, a virtual reality experience of Manolo Blahnik at work in his atelier, and a high resolution capture of a couture dress from Alexander McQueen’s SS17 collection, allowing people to zoom in and see its threadwork in never-before-seen detail.

To mark the launch of the project, Paul Smith has also designed a special-edition Google Cardboard to enable the virtual reality viewing, and created online exhibits around five objects that represent his creative vision and brand.

Caroline Rush CBE, CEO of the BFC said: “The internet has been an incredible resource for opening up the fashion industry to a new audience, giving young people access to information not previously available. This collaboration represents a new step, bringing together diverse information into one, engaging place. We hope this legacy project will not only inspire but also educate – allowing young people wanting to get into fashion to see the breadth of individuals, skills and careers that make up this multifaceted industry.”

In total, there are over 1,000 assets to explore, including 20 multimedia exhibits, 25 videos and three virtual reality experiences, all accessible from anywhere in the world, on desktop, laptop or mobile.

Sarah Mower MBE, American Vogue chief critic and BFC ambassador for emerging talent, has also directed a short film captured in 360 VR so viewers can come face-to-face with industry luminaries. Included are Naomi Campbell, Anya Hindmarch, Edward Enninful and Joan Burstein.

Users can also search archive material from British fashion houses by colour and chronology, explore profiles of numerous of the industry’s other key players, and go behind-the-scenes with top craftspeople and producers of British fashion, including the Royal School of Needlework and Brora Cashmere.

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Editor's pick mobile technology

Macy’s teams with IBM Watson for AI-powered mobile shopping assistant

IBM Watson Macy's
The new AI-powered Macy’s On Call mobile tool from IBM Watson and Satisfi

Macy’s is set to launch an in-store shopping assistant powered by artificial intelligence thanks to a new tie-up with IBM Watson via developer partner and intelligent engagement platform, Satisfi.

Macy’s On Call, as it’s called, is a cognitive mobile web tool that will help shoppers get information as they navigate 10 of the retail company’s stores around the US during this pilot stage.

Customers are able to input questions in natural language regarding things like where specific products, departments, and brands are located, to what services and facilities can be found in a particular store. In return, they receive customised relevant responses. The initiative is based on the idea that consumers are increasingly likely to turn to their smartphones than they are a store associate for help when out at physical retail.

Head over to Forbes for the full story on what the technology itself includes as well as further detail on what the experience enables the customer to do.

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business Comment Events fashmash

Redefining legacy: why fashion brands need to focus on meaning and values to win

FashMash Live
#FashMash Live

The way the fashion industry approaches innovation today is akin to leaving the house without trousers, said Pia Stanchina, former industry manager for fashion and luxury at Google, now independent start-up advisor and consultant, at the inaugural #FashMash Live discussion held at Huckletree in London last week.

It’s an oft-used analogy, but one that seems highly appropriate to a market primarily driven by PR headlines over lasting returns. To explain it in more depth, Stanchina said: “Most fashion brands think of innovation the way that women think of earrings – they do the sort of things that are really jingly and sparkly, offering short term wins, when what they need to do is think of the sort of strategy that’s like the trousers of the outfit – the long term business objectives. The point is, you can leave the house without earrings, but you can’t without trousers.

“Most brands are leaving the house without trousers… they’re saying look at this amazing campaign that we have, but actually there’s no real meaning to it and it’s not unlocking any sort of value for the brand.”

Of course the fashion industry is not alone. A recent study from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising showed that campaigns with a short-term goal grew from 7% to 33% between 2006 and 2014. This idea of short-termism, where the aim is to activate sales over less than six months, is considered significantly less effective than those with long-term, brand-driven growth in mind.

Coupled with that increasingly narrow view is the advent of ad blocking. Nowadays, consumers are increasingly able to tune out and turn off. The most recent survey from the IAB UK, for instance, shows 22% of British adults online are currently using ad blocking software – a rise from 18% in just late 2015.

In other words, advertising at large is currently focused primarily on quick wins and doing so in such a saturated market that the audience is increasing looking for ways not to have to receive them.

The average consumer sees 6,000 brand messages per day, Wendy Clark, CEO of DDB Worldwide North America (and former CMO of Coca-Cola) said at this year’s Cannes Lions. “If that’s the case,” she added, “more [content] is not an option. It needs to be more good.”

FashMash Live
Rachel Arthur, Nicolas Roope and Pia Stanchina speaking on the #FashMash Live panel

In an age of too much noise, marketers need to be thinking about the sort of long lasting messages that achieve cut through, she added. They need to be building legacy in order to create brand equity. So they need to be thinking about trousers, more than earrings, to return to Stanchina’s reference.

And if trousers are strategy and legacy, then the belt to them has to be relevancy, and that’s also something often missing in fashion marketing.

“Most people in luxury brands today haven’t really thought about what makes them relevant anymore, it’s always harking back to where they came from, and not to what people who buy from them actually care about today,” Stanchina explained.

She used the example of heritage – something that many brands have latched on to in order to try and achieve storytelling. We see countless videos of craftsmanship in the ateliers of big fashion houses, showcasing the little hands, or “les mains”, at work for instance, she explained. But this is becoming a tired view, not to mention something that doesn’t work for digital as much as the industry seems to hope it will.

Take Chanel’s couture show in Paris just last week, which was set inside its atelier, showcasing the couturiers as they constructed the garments. “It was probably an amazing experience if you were there… really magical,” Stanchina commented. “But if you were watching it on Instagram, it was really dead. It was a complete anti-climax. It didn’t translate well to digital at all.”

Stanchina also talked to the idea that luxury has long traded on friction in order to create desire – from limited distribution to high price points. Both of those things would have once been considered pillars of the industry (along with craftsmanship), she said, but they’re crumbling away; they’re not relevant anymore. What is, of course, is still that sense of desire, but it has to be done in a way that is more meaningful, she added.

When it came to meaning and value, Nicolas Roope, who joined the discussion from creative agency Poke, where he serves as both ECD and co-founder, said this has to be baked in from the start in order to be successful with digital today.

“The reason [brands like Ted Baker, Reformation and Redbull] are digital first is not because they sat down and decided they were going to be digital first, it’s because they have that natural spirit and they’ve built their business and the way they operate around it. They were perfectly ripe for becoming digital because they were already clear about what they stood for from the start,” he explained.

Indeed the technology, or setting the platforms up to enable full digital integration, is the easy part, he added. “The hardest thing is to help [brands] to understand being digital first is about having clear direction; something to offer that’s really valuable and that’s defensible.”

Stanchina agreed, adding for those just starting out in the industry: “We’re in a very specific moment in time when starting a company is easier than it ever was before, but it’s also the most competitive time it’s ever been to do that. [Success] is about understanding what it is your company is doing, what you create, what makes you defensible and different in the marketplace, why there’s a need for your company in the first place, and then really going after it.”

For those back in established brands, Roope noted how difficult it can be to drive change or indeed value tied to digital if there isn’t yet full leadership support internally behind it.

In a bid to seek a pair of trousers that have long lasting value, over that pair of sparkly earrings, he advised brands to try and find a middle ground – a low risk environment and some steady gains to prove the change you can effect through innovation done in the right way. “Most organisations are very respectful of success, so how do you get to success in the smallest, cheapest, most risk free way is your aim, and once you have it think about how to celebrate it and build momentum around it to move it upwards,” he added.

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product Startups technology

Crowdfunding find: This wearable helps kids learn tech skills through active play

moverkit1

The latest launch from start-up Technology Will Save Us is a wearable device for kids called The Mover Kit. One part accessory, and the other an educational tech toy, it comes as a series of components, including a set of eight RGB LEDs, printed circuit board, motion sensor (or accelerometer), compass and rechargeable battery, that need to be put together. Doing so is said to be as easy as building a LEGO house or paper airplane. Once done, a band is added that snaps around the wrist.

The idea of the device is it then reacts as the wearer moves; illuminating different lights based on different actions. Twist it one way and it turns red, the other way and it’s changes to white, for instance. Move a lot, and all eight “rainbow” LEDs will trigger. The intention is to encourage active play.

But the kit isn’t just about such building – the real creativity lies in the fact kids can code what the rules are themselves. Head over to Forbes to read all about how.

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business data Editor's pick technology

The brand, the brand, the brand: 8 highlights from Under Armour’s CEO at SXSW

underarmour

A highlight keynote session at this year’s SXSW Interactive festival came from Under Armour CEO and founder, Kevin Plank. Inevitably well versed in how to play the media machine, this was one of the smoothest talks about brand building and transformation you’ll have ever seen.

“We went from being a products company to an ideas company,” he said as one of his opening gambits, and the reason why he predicts the business will grow from a $4 billion one today, to $7.5 billion by 2018. Connected fitness is a significant part of making that happen too.

Here are eight other quotable quotes you need to know from the hour-long interview:

  • “Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Culture is everything. For us it’s the brand; the brand, the brand, the brand. No matter what we do it comes back to relying on the brand. And this begins with the founders; the core individuals who got our company going”
  • “Over promise and then deliver. We already slept yesterday. Today we work. It’s an attitude of saying we’re going to find a way. That attitude is extremely important for Under Armour”
  • “I like being defined as a performance company. It’s unlimiting. It’s an untethered approach to the way we’re seen”
  • “A brand is a story. It has a beginning, middle and an end. Every product we build is like a chapter, every athlete we sign and every interaction we have. All of them are a chapter in our brand story”
  • “Wherever we’re going is an evolution… we’re not limiting that to apparel or footwear, but to the idea that anywhere our logo shows up it has to be the best. It just has to be the best”
  • “Our belief is data is the new oil. You think it’s a coincidence Google or Amazon is who you’d bet on? 40% of their revenue is attributed to purchase history… The companies who will win are those using math.”
  • “I always have in red pen: ‘Don’t forget to sell shirts and shoes’. We take you up on the loop-de-loop but then take you out through the gift shop. It’s about not forgetting that we sell shirts and shoes”
  • “We’re in the first innings of this game. We are just getting going [with connected fitness]… Our aim is to give you something and make it so you couldn’t live without it after”