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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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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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Comment Editor's pick social media

What brands can learn from Will Smith on authentic marketing

will smith cannes lions
Will Smith at Cannes Lions

“Smoke and mirrors in marketing is over; it’s really over,” said actor Will Smith at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. He was referring to the idea that you used to be able to put “piece of crap movies” out there and get away with it; that you could promote them with loads of trailers featuring explosions in them in order to hide how terrible they really were, but that today’s speed of accessibility has transformed that.

“Now [the audience] only has to be 10 minutes in and they’re tweeting about how terrible it is,” he explained. “They know instantly and they know in real detail.”

It’s a basic lesson highly applicable to the sort of content work as well as the product that brands, including those in the fashion industry, push out today. Getting away with crap is a lot less possible, and rightly so.

What has to happen instead, said Smith, is a shift from focusing on product to focusing on people; on putting their needs first. “I consider myself a marketer. My career has been about being able to sell my product globally. But the power is now in the hands of the fans, so you’ve got to be authentic. The only choice I have is to be in tune with their needs, not try to trick them into seeing Wild Wild West,” he joked in reference to one of his not so successful films. “You have to have integrity or you get shot down in a second.”

He said by having a deeper understanding of people, the product created is going to be more successful. “It’s about making a product that considers the audience first – and considers how to improve their lives [even if that is just about making them laugh],” he explained.

It’s very hard to reverse engineer the other way, he added, because why you did it is already baked in. “If you did it for reasons that are less than noble then it’s going to be a part of the product, or the content or service, and people are going to know it.”

He referred to Apple products as the perfect example of getting it right, because Steve Jobs didn’t care about anything other than creating products that would blow our minds. “That feels like love. People can tell when you’ve considered them in your equation and Apple knows how to do that.”

In essence his message was about thinking of the purpose right from the start. “The reason why you’re doing it has to be the core of the story if you want it to relate to people.”

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#SXSW Interactive in prep: a fashionable playing ground for 2013

FashionBrainBar_SXSW_main

If there was one thing I learnt from SXSW last year, it was that I absolutely had to go again in 2013. On top of the fact it’s the place to hear industry leaders  give expert insights, the place to learn about new innovations and source fresh inspirations, and the place where trends and directions for the tech world break… it’s also a breeding ground for incredible networking.

For anyone working within the fashion-meets-digital space, this seems especially the case this year, with more attendees headed to Austin from our industry than ever, as well as a host of relevant events to go with it.

Fashion’s Collective is hosting one of them, known as the Fashion Brain Bar on Monday, March 11 (as pictured above). It’s aim is to provide a bit of respite from the insanity of the festival, but also a space for everyone to meet the people they need to meet and have “the conversations that will play a key role in the advancements we’ll see over the next few years”.

Industry experts on hand will include Raman Kia, executive director of integrated strategy at Condé Nast through to Dave Gilboa, founder of Warby Parker. The full list can be seen here, as well as a space to submit questions to them in advance.

Another fringe event planned is called The Neighborhood. Created by AvecMode and 2nd Street District, it’s a move on from the Style X event of previous years, which brought a fashion focus (complete with runway shows) to Austin nearer the end of the festival. This time plans are in place from March 11 – 14 with a bit more of an industry edge. There are pop-up stores still, but also Q&A sessions with pros from the likes of Neiman Marcus, Michael Kors, Lyst, Refinery29 and more, as well as highlight interviews with menswear designers John Varvatos and Billy Reid.

The main SXSW schedule does of course feature a number of fashion-specific events too, including this one with Nina Garcia focused on the democratisation of high fashion. And this one featuring New York’s “digital it-crowd” in Aliza Licht, Cannon Hodge, Erika Bearman and John Jannuzzi (that’d be DKNY, Bergdorf Goodman, Oscar de la Renta and Lucky Magazine).

Fashion’s Collective has also published a survival guide to the whole five days, including must-attend events (lots of them non-fashion which I would highly recommend, there’s nothing like being inspired from outside your normal remit), as well as a handful of food and drink recommendations (indispensable).

I also love this guide from Andrew Hyde, called Ditch the Marketers, Find the Makers, it sums up the rest of the experience beautifully (be friendly to everyone, sit down when you can, put down your tech and look at people – yes really).

On that note mind you, if you’re going, drop me a line over Twitter. Assuming I can connect, I’d love to meet you.