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London amps digital to make fashion week more public than ever

This article first appeared on Mashable

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New York Fashion Week came to a close Thursday, heralding the return of another fashion week in London. Once again, anticipation for the week is not limited to the collections themselves: The industry and the public are equally interested in what digital innovations the top design houses will introduce during their shows.

When one fashion house introduces a new digital innovation, it doesn’t take long for others to follow — if it’s good. One need only remember that fashion shows weren’t live-streamed five years ago, nor did designers reveal behind-the-scenes snapshots over Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Today, those are a matter of course.

But what’s next? New York saw Tommy Hilfiger introduce Lytro cameras and a “social concierge” service to its show this season, while Rebecca Minkoff experimented with messaging app Snapchat to debut its collection. For London Fashion Week, which runs from Sept. 13 through Sept.17, yet another round of ideas are on their way. Here’s a preview.

Celebrating London

Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter and chairman of the British Fashion Council, published an open letter in UK newspaper The Evening Standard ahead of this season’s shows, calling for the whole of London to help raise the profile of British fashion by engaging in the excitement surrounding Fashion Week.

“All eyes will be on you as our international guests will be tweeting, Instagramming and reporting in nearly 50 countries across the world,” Massenet wrote, adding that this “will help grow our brands, stimulate exports, create new jobs and generally make us a must-visit city.” She invited the public to be their most stylish selves for the week to show their support.

Once a trade-only event, London Fashion Week has increasingly become an opportunity to speak directly to consumers. This is especially the case at the event’s headquarters in Somerset House, where an “Instabooth” has been set up to celebrate the best of the capital’s street style. Visitors will be able to print images of themselves as souvenirs as well as share their favorite looks on Facebook. Highlights will also be posted on the official London Fashion Week Instagram.

Meanwhile, a social media wall in the courtyard of Somerset House will provide running commentary on the shows, as pulled from anyone using the #LFW hashtag. Posts will be regulated to keep them appropriate, but the aim is for a visual insight into the experience of Fashion Week, whether that’s through catwalk looks, front row pics or celebrity sightings.

This consumer-facing strategy is being pushed out across the city in a year-long campaign. The British Fashion Council last week announced that every Friday for the next 12 months it will broadcast a fashion news bulletin, dubbed #FashionFridays, on screens situated on the London Underground. Beyond news and other fashion-related content, the BFC will hold competitions to encourage consumers to engage with the broadcasts using the hashtag.

The BFC is not the only one taking to the streets of London this season. Belstaff, which cancelled its New York presentation last weekend to focus on the opening of its London flagship this Sunday, is doing so with a bold statement. Playing on its motorcycle heritage, the British-born brand is closing off part of New Bond Street to welcome a parade of 50 bikers. In lieu traditional models, Belstaff is using “rugged” British guys in the parade, ones who are passionate about the brand, Emilie Hawtin, senior marketing and digital media manager, tells Mashable. “They are already wearing Belstaff; they’re getting it dirty and using it the way it’s supposed to be used,” Hawtin says.

During the parade, the bikers will perform tricks on vintage bikes, which The Sartorialist’s Scott Schuman will be on hand to capture. The well-recognized street style photographer will also shoot a series of intimate portraits of the bikers before and during the ride. The resulting images will be hosted on the Legends section of Belstaff’s website, which is already home to images of its oldest jackets and the icons who have worn them.

Enhancing show experiences

When it comes to the shows themselves this season, the two big moves come from Burberry and Topshop once again. Both are partnering with technology companies, albeit ones at radically opposite ends of the scale.

Burberry is teaming with Apple to capture its Spring/Summer 2014 collection using a set of not-yet-released iPhone 5S devices. Its team will capture both photos and video of the runway looks as well as backstage, which will be shared via social media. It’s a promotional rather than an innovative partnership, a way to leverage the buzz created by Apple’s latest device.

Having partnered with more established technology players in the past, this season Topshop has sought out a young mobile startup called Chirp to create a new experience for its show. Chirp is a mobile app that transmit images, notes or links through “digital birdsong” — users post their content, then hit a yellow button to emit a unique 20-note chirp, which other devices running the app nearby can pick up. The retailer will be using the app to send out images, including prep and backstage shots, to attendees of the show via several “Chirp locations” around the event site. Its Oxford Circus store will also feature a Chirp and Twitter “garden” full of digital content for shoppers to explore.

Other content highlights

Other London designers will be sharing their collections via a variety of digital means. Twenty-nine of 58 shows will be live-streamed throughout the week, including 18 from Somerset House, eight from Topshop’s new Regent’s Park venue, and from off-site locations chosen by Burberry, Mulberry and Paul Smith. The Christopher Raeburn, Sister by Sibling and Simone Rocha shows will also be streamed directly to the BFC’s Twitter feed.

Here’s a round-up of the rest of the social content to look out for:

  • The BFC is continuing its live Twitter Q&A sessions with industry insiders, including blogger Susie Lau of Style Bubble, using #AskLFW. This time, all of the responses will be recorded using six-second Vine clips.
  • Matthew Williamson is handing out props branded with the hashtag #ohMW (Oh My Williamson), encouraging attendees to tweet and Instagram photos of themselves with the prop. “We wanted a cute prop to make people feel at ease with the camera – we want to show personality and character,” says Williamson’s head of digital Rosanna Falconer.
  • Jonathan Saunders will use an app called Slidergram to showcase “slideshow-style videos” of key looks from its show, as well as backstage and close-up shots. All will be accompanied by the show’s soundtrack.
  • Paul Smith himself will be taking over the brand’s Instagram for the majority of the week, revealing pictures of Sunday’s show prep as well as the new Mayfair store opening Friday night using the #takenbypaul hashtag.
  • eBay UK has teamed up with video blogger Patricia Bright of BritPopPrincess for a series of videos focused on street style at LFW, with looks shoppable straight from eBay’s YouTube channel. eBay will also be revealing a capsule collection by designer Holly Fulton.
  • Pinterest’s fashion week hub continues in London, this time showcasing boards from the likes of Harvey Nichols, Anya Hindmarch and Mulberry.
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Live streaming fashion week: is it worth the cost?

This article first appeared on Mashable

FASHION-BRITAIN-CHARLES

When the late designer Alexander McQueen live streamed his spring/summer 2010 show in late 2009, his aim was to transform fashion week, an invite-only industry event, into “global entertainment.” He 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 revolutionizing the ‘show system’ as we know it.”

That show garnered 3.5 million views on YouTube, and though McQueen never did another live-streamed show — the Spring/Summer 2010 collection was his last — the concept rapidly spread. Four years later, live streaming is the norm across fashion weeks around the world. But the experience hasn’t perhaps come to fulfill McQueen’s original vision. In most cases, live streams are mundane, and watched by very few people.

IMG, which runs New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, is kicking off a new season this Thursday, and has lined up live streams for 59 — approximately two-thirds — of its shows. The degree of designer participation may seem surprising, given the levels of consumer engagement last season. According to Jarrad Clark, global creative director at IMG Fashion, the 60 shows live streamed at New York Fashion Week in February amassed 840,000 plays in total, an average of just 14,000 views per show.

Likewise in London, the British Fashion Council’s most-viewed show last September sat somewhere in the region of 6,000 views, according to an industry source. Even Marc Jacobs only attracted 20,000 viewers to its live stream, the company said. Burberry is one of a few brands with a substantial viewership, amassing 240,000 on-demand views for its most recent show on YouTube.

Rosanna Falconer, head of digital for designer Matthew Williamson, formerly BFC, says: “When [live streaming] first worked, it felt like magic, it felt more digitally innovative than anything we’ve seen in recent years. But that novelty has worn off a bit, everyone is now doing it.” NYFW alone has over 250 shows and presentations in eight days, a significant proportion of which are live streamed. That’s a lot of content to expect the public to tune into. So is it even worth it?

Seeking ROI

Understanding the ROI of live streams is a bit of a grey area. Many designers record videos of their shows regardless of whether they’re streaming it, so the greater part of the financial investment live streaming requires is already there. Likewise, many showing with IMG in Lincoln Center or Made Fashion Week at Milk Studios get the live stream as a part of their show package. Even if the content delivery isn’t vastly creative — two or three cameras are standard — it’s an easy add-on to accept.

A bespoke live stream inevitably increases the price. I was quoted in the region of $20,000 to $50,000 for the full video package, depending on the production requirements. To make a live stream more interesting, designers often invest in other extras — a more elaborate set, for example, or a musical performance — which can up the price even further. Streaming itself costs only around $12,000, and that’s for those hosting off-site from the main venues and in need of a satellite hook-up, a source says.

If you line up those costs against total viewership (i.e., cost per view), live streaming shows doesn’t make for a great return on investment. Yet a number of people in the industry stand by the fact it’s valuable even if not quantifiably (by reach). “We looked at it [when we first launched it three years ago] as the next step in cultivating fans, giving them an inside look into something that was otherwise very private or hard to get into.” Daniel Plenge, director of digital at Marc Jacobs, says. “We never looked at it as needing to show a return on the investment. It’s more about a branding and brand DNA extension for us.”

Quynh Mai, founder of agency Moving Image & Content, who helped produce Nicola Formichetti’s live-streamed shows while at Mugler, agrees it’s all about the super fan. “They’re the ones who share it with their friends and become brand ambassadors in their own social circles.” In other words, even if the quantity of viewers is low, the quality in terms of brand advocacy has potential to be high.

Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder and director of fashion at Rightster, the video network powering live streams for the likes of IMG and the BFC, says the figures for minutes watched, rather than number of viewers, can back this up. NYFW viewers watch between 12 and 24 minutes on average, she says, demonstrating significant engagement in a world where the average online video is just 5.2 minutes long, according to comScore.

Data collection

Though relatively small in reach, the size of live-stream audiences do provide some valuable data to brands. Most are able to view the demographics of their audiences, including age, gender, income bracket and geography. Marc Jacobs is also using its live stream to capture e-mail addresses, inviting fans to RSVP for the live stream in advance and for a chance to win tickets to attend the show in person, Plenge says.

Belstaff analyzes the social sentiment of its live stream to determine which pieces in the collection are most favorable with viewers. Such data informed the buying team for the current season, The New York Times reported in February, and is even helping the brand merchandise its regional e-commerce sites accordingly. Interestingly, Belstaff has chosen not to live stream its show this season, implying the initiative wasn’t perhaps as successful as made out previously. The company was unable to comment further for this piece.

Topshop, under the direction of Chief Marketing Officer Justin Cooke, has likewise used its live experience to gather data from its consumers over the past two seasons, capturing not only which items, but which colors they most engage with. The high street retailer said 4 million viewers tuned in to its February 2013 show, which was live streamed and then available immediately on-demand. A “Shoot the Show” tool, which let viewers capture and share screenshots from the video, upped engagement, triggering 200,000 shares across social media.

The future points to more of this. Rightster is set to introduce an in-player feature next season that will help brands measure social sentiment on different looks. As with Topshop, viewers will be able to grab specific tops and bottoms from the streamed show and share them over social, Goldstaub explains.

The Engagement Challenge

Developing social strategies around live-streaming experiences is the strongest way to ensure their success, says Dan Clifford, a former VP of marketing at Victoria’s Secret. “We need to be as careful with the content as we are with the product. That’s what reaching the individual that doesn’t have the luxury of being there is about,” he said. “Too many brands isolate the runway as a moment in time and don’t consider the pre and post opportunities that they could be harnessing and leveraging across the whole season.”

There’s reportedly a significant drop off in terms of viewers when shows don’t start on time — a standard occurrence in the fashion industry — making the pre-show roll particularly important to help establish and maintain engagement with fans.

Plenge agrees: “We’re trying to be creative to incentivize people to come and watch and pay attention for more than 10 minutes, which nowadays is really hard.” The Marc Jacobs show has had blogger Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and then model Jessica Stam play host on its pre-show broadcasts for the past two seasons. It also has a social stream built into its player where viewers can see tweets and Instagram pictures, as well as an accessories-cam that shows close-ups of the shoes and bags as they come down the runway.

Plenge says there will be an “improved version” this season with cameras placed in such a way to “really benefit the viewing experience for fans,” but he hastens to add it’s not about bells and whistles. “If we do that we lose the integrity of the show and the collection. We don’t want to be known for our digital initiatives but for Marc’s vision and his clothes.”

Jarrad Clark, global creative director of IMG, says content strategy results in deeper engagement. The organization introduced pre-produced segments, as well as interviews with designers post-show, to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia this year. “It increased radically the amount of time spent with the shows,” he says. In Australia, shows averaged between 23 and 50 minutes of engagement among viewers last season, nearly double the amount of time averaged in New York.

The Future

Fashion Week live streaming might not live up to McQueen’s vision across the board, but the future of live streaming, if approached strategically, is set to only get more interesting, says Clark. “As more technological advancements come our way, and the industry continues to experiment, we’re going to see live streaming very differently. [Designers] will begin taking more risks with it all, so it’s not as cookie-cutter as it is now.”

A key area for evolution is making the experience shoppable, something pioneered by Burberry and replicated by numerous other brands since including Topshop and Ralph Lauren. From a data perspective this is especially important opportunity, but it points to the fundamental problem of fashion weeks generally. How can consumers engage wholeheartedly with product they can’t buy for six months? And even if they can buy it, as is the case with some of Burberry’s collection, why would they want to buy something off-season, i.e. a coat at the beginning of spring?

“The problem with live streaming is it’s put a focus on how bizarre the timeline of fashion is,” says Lou Stoppard, fashion editor of SHOWstudio. “Being able to buy and get the pieces immediately is an exciting next step, but it opens up so much around the seasonality and pace of fashion. We’re going to see that completely upturn very shortly. Younger designers particularly are showing they’re very disgruntled by the fact they’re making stuff that people want and can’t yet get.”

Ultimately, fashion weeks still need to be about business before entertainment.

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#NYFW: your online guide

Mashable_NYFW

Mashable has, as always, posted a stellar round-up of how all to tune into the upcoming New York Fashion Week online.

More than 80 designers are planning to unveil their spring/summer 2014 collections simultaneously on-site and to consumers via live-streaming video, reports Lauren Indvik. She also highlights the very best fashion news sites and social accounts to follow in order to keep up with all the action.

Check out the full piece here: Where to watch New York Fashion Week online 

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How fashion brands are using Vine

This article first appeared on Mashable

Fashionbrands_Vine

The fashion industry immediately embraced Vine, Twitter’s 6-second video app, after it launched in February. It was no surprise it was suddenly so popular: The app was released just two weeks before New York Fashion Week kicked off, a time when behind-the-scenes runway shots were readily available to capture and share in 6-second loops.

But Vine is much more difficult to make look beautiful and polished than Instagram photos, and brands quickly discovered that to participate, they needed to relax their typically stringent production quality requirements. Perhaps that’s why, following the shows, most fashion houses dropped the platform altogether, only returning to it, in some cases, for the menswear shows in London and Milan earlier this month.

That’s not to say that Vine’s fashion future is dead — it’s merely getting a slow start. Early data indicates that Vine videos are shared four times as often as other kinds of Internet video, and the launch of video for Instagram, which many brands have already enthusiastically adopted, is creating further incentive for fashion firms to ramp up their capabilities and resources in this area.

Let’s take a look at a few fashion brands using Vine to exceptional effect…

Stop motion art

Stop-motion artists are among Vine’s most popular users. Eyeing this trend, French Connection collaborated with photographer Meagan Cignoli to create a series of highly shareable, summer-themed stop-motion videos. In one video, the brand’s latest collection packs itself into a suitcase for a holiday. In another, various outfits are laid out and rolled up on the beach.

Cignoli tells me that each video typically has between 100 and 120 separately recorded clips. The result is incredibly fluid and eye-catching, instantly negating any notion that Vine can’t be a platform for quality creative work. Online retailer Nasty Gal is another standout for stop-motion inspiration, weaving playful, wiggling pieces of candy in and around products like handbags, shoes and makeup. Burberry, too, has used stop-motion video to showcase product prints and patterns, as well as celebrities present at its last menswear show.

Showcasing product details

The beauty of the French Connection work by Cignoli is that it places products front and center, but it’s so creative it doesn’t feel like marketing. Marc Jacobs is another example of a designer who is doing this, releasing some nice stop-motion work that features handbags on what looks like a rotating conveyor belt.

For others, Vine presents an opportunity to demonstrate the work that goes into making products. Matthew Williamson did this during London Fashion Week in February with his #matthewmagnified campaign, and Oscar de la Renta, through the handle OscarPRGirl, used Vine to detail the craftsmanship that goes into its bridalwear pieces.

Gap is also using Vine to highlight key pieces in-store, but takes a more editorial approach, employing models for its videos. In one, a woman spins around in an assortment of dresses. In another, a young girl plays in the latest DVF GapKids collection in the park. These are much more developed than the clips that debuted during fashion week season: a haphazard amalgamation of garments on hangers and poorly lit models on runways.

Injecting personality

Some brands’ Vine videos manage to be both beautifully produced and full of personality.

Urban Outfitters released short videos that are playful yet stylish at the same time. In one clip, a bunch of balloons float into an office. In another, the contents of a purse are being prepared ahead of a festival trip. In another stop-motion video, makeup carries itself into a bag. It’s worth noting that with more than 40,000 followers, Urban Outfitters is one of the most popular brands on Vine, proving that volume and frequency of posts can be a more successful formula than fewer, higher quality videos — as showcased by French Connection, which has just a fraction of Urban Outfitters’ followers.

Behind the scenes

As mentioned, fashion brands released a great deal of behind-the-scenes content on Vine during fashion week season. This is a trend that’s continued since the shows, with brands and retailers providing windows into their corporate headquarters, design studios and individual stores.

Marc Jacobs has used Vine to take followers on many journeys at its headquarters and stores, from the creation of its latest Resort collection campaign to celebrity interviews during in-store book signings. Using the hashtag #staffstyles, Marc Jacobs frequently showcases the prints and patterns worn by its employees. In another example, Bergdorf Goodman features staffers as they try on different pairs of sunglasses. The video is tied to a message about sun protection.

Puma recently released a series of Vine videos featuring Olympic champion Usain Bolt on the set of his latest campaign for the brand. The quick all-access videos, shot again by Cignoli, frequently allow Bolt’s own personality to come through. Meanwhile, Nordstrom has shown what it’s like at its stores after hours, with shoes whimsically moving about on shelves when customers aren’t there. In another video, a flying shirt leads followers on a magical tour through merchandise.

Beyond the obvious

One thing fashion and retail brands haven’t taken advantage of is the how-to video, which is a popular hashtag on Vine. Bergdorfs has done a beauty tutorial and Nordstrom has used Vine to show how to tie a tie, but there are plenty more opportunities here.

As autumn’s busy event calendar gets rolling and the fall collections hit stores, expect to see more behind-the-scenes footage as well as more close-up product shots. Though some brands’ participation has been impeded by corporate approval processes, there’s no doubt — especially with the recent launch of video on Instagram — that short-form video will become a more central part of the fashion industry’s output.

As Cignoli advises: “Fashion brands just need to let go a little and enjoy Vine for what it is, the quickness and easiness of it. If they can find a way to do that, it’s going to be much more beneficial even if what’s going out isn’t always the most amazing piece of content.”

Do you have any favorite fashion brands you follow on Vine?

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Burberry personalising new collection with embedded digital content

This article first appeared on Mashable

Burberry_Smart_Personalization

Personalisation just got a whole lot smarter thanks to a new initiative from Burberry, which is launching as part of its London Fashion Week show on Monday.

The British heritage brand is embedding digital chips that will unlock bespoke content in its new season’s coats and bags in a bid to entice consumers to pre-order them immediately after they hit the catwalk.

The chips will activate short films (as demonstrated below) to bring the product in question to life, telling the story of its creation, from sketches to runway edits. They will also show video of the customer’s name being engraved on metal nameplates — also new this season — that are stitched into the lining of the coats and bags.

Users will be able to see the videos when their items are put in contact with smartphone or tablet devices logged into Burberry.com thanks to a new technology the company will reveal more information about at the delivery date (expected within nine weeks). For consumers in London who are able to visit the brand’s digitally integrated Regent Street flagship store, the same chips will prompt the videos to appear on its large-scale mirrors, which turn into screens.

While this “Smart Personalisation” concept demonstrates how technology can benefit Burberry shoppers, the brand also has plans to connect with its broader fanbase using social media. On the day after the show, Burberry will invite followers to tweet with the hashtag #madefor, so they can receive personalized images of their own bespoke nameplate, for example.

The show will also be live-streamed within Burberry’s Twitter feed for the first time, as well as online and in the Regent Street store. Additional access will be provided through two Instagram accounts: @Burberry will share images from backstage, the red carpet and the runway, while @Burberry_Live will take more detailed images of the collection to feed into Burberry.com’s dashboard.

Where Topshop launched a model cam for its show on Sunday, Burberry is also promoting backstage interaction with its models. The “Burberry Beauty Booth” will share images taken by models with the brand’s followers in real-time, when they tweet with the #BeautyBooth hashtag.

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Vine, Google+ take center stage at London Fashion Week

This article first appeared on Mashable

Twitter’s new video-sharing app, Vine, took off in a big way at New York Fashion Week. Designers and editors alike logged in to Vine to capture and share six-second scenes from the shows.

London Fashion Week (LFW) attendees are poised to pick up where New York left off. Design houses including Burberry, Jonathan Saunders and Paul Smith, as well as the British Fashion Council, are all expected to use the app to bring followers behind the scenes and front of house.

It’s Matthew Williamson’s feed, however, that’s the must-see. The designer, known for his intricate, handcrafted garments, will use Vine to showcase details up close during Sunday’s show. As the looks hit the runway, backstage shots by photographer Sean Cunningham (of Burberry Tweetwalk fame) will be posted to Twitter, magnifying the embellishment and beadwork in a bid to bring followers a more detailed view than those available to the front row.

The initiative takes its inspiration from Williamson’s #MatthewMagnified campaign on Facebook, which makes use of the Pic Jointer app to show catwalk images alongside close-up detail shots of the fabric work. Vine will see them in motion, as introduced by the designer below:

Rosanna Falconer, head of digital for the designer, referred to the idea as “Cinéma vérité,” a French term for true-to-life documentary filmmaking. “I love the way it’s such raw footage. Rather than being a final polished campaign image, it’s about what’s going on right now, live from backstage,” she says. “We’re trying to give our followers better-than-ever access with a real, up-close quality. In many ways, it’s like a digital version of the go-see, which are the appointments made by press and buyers after the show to view the collection in greater detail. It’s the beadwork, the detail and the craftsmanship of the product right there.”

Up close and personal

This idea of a digital go-see, or bringing fans and followers even closer to the Fashion Week action, is also part of Topshop’s plans for the season. As part of a partnership with Google, the British retailer will be providing viewers with live access to every aspect of its show using dozens of cameras, capturing fittings, “red carpet” arrivals and the show itself from multiple points of view. The aim is to offer the experience of what it’s like to be the model, the buyer, the makeup artist or even the designer.

Central to this is its model-cam, which will see Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Rosie Tapner and Ashleigh Good all wearing real-time, HD micro cameras so followers can see the show from their perspective. Pre-stitched into the clothes and bags, these cameras will show detailed footage from the runway as well as backstage. They have been developed with satellite broadcasting company, SIS Live, and make use of the “Hawkeye” technology from major sporting events like Wimbledon.

Justin Cooke, Topshop’s chief marketing officer, says he expects it to steal the show. “The models will become the protagonists. Viewers will search for ‘Cara on the runway,’ and their content will get propelled around the world,” he says.

In addition to Topshop, a new partnership between the British Fashion Council and YouTube will serve up live streams of 20 shows through the LFW channel at youtube.com/lfwtv. A further 13 will also be streamed at londonfashionweek.co.uk/live.

Topshop is adding to its event with pre-show coverage also live-streamed through a customized YouTube page. Hangouts will air from the red carpet, backstage and the front row. “We’re using it as a live broadcast, like the Oscars, like a live behind-the-scenes documentary,” says Cooke.

Catwalk countdowns and live Q&As

Last season saw a big focus on visual diaries in the build-up to London’s shows, and the same goes for the Autumn/Winter 2013 shows.

Julien Macdonald returned to London Fashion Week following a two-season break, and in so doing shared preparation images over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram leading up to his show on Saturday. There was also a time-lapse video of the show space being constructed.

Peter Pilotto, meanwhile, who arrived on Twitter just last week, is likewise posting images in the buildup to his Monday show in what he’s calling his “Catwalk Countdown.”

Back at Topshop, the four aforementioned models will all be featured in a “Road to Runway” digital diary on Google+, documenting everything from their first fittings to the moment they hit the catwalk. There’s also a Google Hangout inviting viewers to see behind the scenes at Topshop’s headquarters ahead of the show and ask the design team questions as they apply their finishing touches.

Expert Q&As are also a go-to for the British Fashion Council again this season. Twitter sessions will this time be held with British Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman, designers Manolo Blahnik and Henry Holland, and blogger and DJ Bip Ling, using the #AskLFW hashtag.

Personalization meets pre-orders

There’s much in the way of shoppable activity set for London this season, too. House of Holland has developed a capsule collection exclusively for eBay.co.uk, comprised of a dress, an oversized slogan t-shirt, an iPhone cover and a pair of tights, each emblazoned with the signature House of Holland Autumn/Winter 2013 “rave wave” print. The micro-line is available for purchase until Sunday, Feb. 24, with all proceeds going to Cancer Research UK.

Burberry, meanwhile, has rebranded its “Runway to Reality” shoppable concept as “Runway Made to Order.” Still a pre-order service for early season delivery on coats and accessories, it will also offer fans a personalization element with nameplate engravings available on each item. The rest of the brand’s show plans will be announced closer to showtime on Monday.

Topshop is enabling followers to buy straight from the catwalk again too, offering items from the collection for pre-order as well as makeup and nail polish for instant delivery. Its “Shoot the Show” and “Customize the Catwalk” initiatives from last season are continuing also, this time refined and modified according to people’s behaviors, i.e. how they interacted with the features during the Spring/Summer 2013 show.

In addition, Topshop and Google have developed a “Be the Buyer” app on Google+ that will allow fans to create moodboards of their favorite items from the runway while seeking video advice from Topshop’s own buying experts, as well as those from department stores Selfridge’s and Browns. The results, says Cooke, will help feed data back to Topshop on what items or colors are the most popular, cleverly shaping its decisions about what to put in store.

Such movements are proving that digital innovation at LFW aren’t solely about gaining fans and building awareness of current collections, but are an opportunity for getting consumers to help determine what will actually hit the shop floor. It doesn’t get much more personal (and for the retailer, efficient) than that.

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Chanel launches microsite documenting its history

It might not be the industry’s most exciting story, but it’s great to see Chanel not only announce something digital-related, but do so with an exclusive on a tech site – Mashable.

The French fashion house launched a new miscrosite dedicated to the history of its founder and its legacy products on Friday.

Inside-chanel.com currently features a timeline of the brand from Coco Chanel’s birth in 1883, to its direction under Karl Lagerfeld in present day, as well as a section focused on the No. 5 fragrance.

“Chapter One”, as the latter is referred to, looks at how “a revolutionary scent created in 1921 continues to be the best-selling and most famous fragrance in the world,” according to the company’s Facebook page.

It includes chronological ads (print and TV) as well as a short film called For the First Time, as shown below.

According to Mashable, additional sections accompanied by films will be introduced to the site over time.

“Telling our history on the web and making it accessible to as many people as people is yet another way of marking our difference, reaffirming our values and forming emerging markets by enabling them to discover a world to which until now they had little — or no — access,” a Chanel spokesperson said. “We have always been an innovative brand — that is what we wanted to get across.”

Mashable adds: “Chanel, it’s worth pointing out, only sells its fragrance and beauty collections online, but the company has upped its investment in online content over the past couple of years, particularly in the development of short films.”

A couple of other examples worth checking out include Valentino’s digital archive, and Dior’s online magazine. Check out the No. 5 film below, as well as a number of images from the Inside Chanel site…

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London Fashion Week: your digital preview

This article first appeared on Mashable

Once again, London Fashion Week is aiming to prove it has just as much muscle in the digital department as its counterpart in New York.

Innovation kicks off at Topshop. Newly installed chief marketing officer Justin Cooke, formerly vice president of public relations at Burberry, has developed an interactive, shoppable livestream experience for its Unique show on Sunday afternoon.

On Topshop.com, viewers will be able to browse product shots and color options for certain apparel and accessories as they come down the catwalk. Viewers can then place orders for delivery in six to eight weeks. Beauty products worn on the catwalk will likewise be available for purchase with delivery in 48 hours. And each look will be instantly shareable with Facebook friends thanks to a “shoot the show” feature developed in conjunction with Facebook engineers.

Jonathan Saunders is similarly offering fans the chance to pre-order his collection, this time on social platform Motilo, which allows users to shop together through live video and chat.

Ten of the looks from Saunders’s Spring/Summer 2013 line will be made available immediately following the livestream, which is being hosted in a specially-created hub on the Motilo site.

Visual diaries

The British Fashion Council (BFC) will be hosting livestreams of 47 shows at londonfashionweek.com/live this season, including those showing apart from the main catwalk venues, such as Christopher Kane, Mulberry and Paul Smith. The BFC’s in-house team will also be narrating the LFW story with behind-the-scenes snapshots on Instagram via the “BritishFashionCouncil” account.

Meanwhile, designer Anya Hindmarch, taking inspiration from Oscar de la Renta‘s bridal and spring shows, is working with the BFC to bring fans all the live action of her show via Pinterest.

Her experience throughout London Fashion Week, as well as of her show itself on Tuesday, will be pinned to the BFC’s board, providing a real-time visual diary for fans to engage with. Inspiration shots, backstage prep, even seating plans and invitations — not to mention the collection as it hits — will all be included. The Osman show on Monday will also be live-pinned.

The recently relaunched Net-a-Porter Tumblr promises to give a comprehensive overview of Fashion Week from both the front row, the street and, increasingly, backstage. The e-commerce site’s Fashion Fix blog meanwhile is equally as strong, hosting all manner of daily video insights and editorial content about trends.

Blogger, illustrator and photographer Garance Doré is also creating a series of videos for Net-a-Porter from each city, introduced in New York with an inside look at her prep for the week, and continuing through London with a second release on Tuesday.

Expert commentary

For those looking for some more expert analysis and professional insight on the collections, the place to head is SHOWstudio. Here, an exciting dose of live commentary and conversation is taking place alongside the livestreams on a number of key shows.

Hosted by SHOWstudio’s Lou Stoppard and writer Camilla Morton, you’ll find panel discussions with fashion experts including journalists, stylists, buyers and image-makers. “It’s about communicating fashion in a raw, unedited and honest way… and bringing the excitement of the front row to a broader audience,” the team explains.

SHOWstudio founder and director, Nick Knight, adds, “There is so much potential to cover the fashion shows in an entertaining way that can involve and excite a huge range of people. Sport events, for example, are always explained to their public by a panel of ‘experts,’ whereas fashion is just presented as if its only audience is the industry. Fashion coverage is also so inoffensive; everyone is too scared to rock the boat. Any art form benefits from a strong and robust critical forum — including fashion.”

Whistles CEO Jane Sheperdson, writer Colin McDowell, filmmaker Ruth Hogben, artist Daphne Guinness and more will all be featured. The initiative is occurring throughout fashion month (so New York, Milan and Paris too) from the company’s headquarters in London. LFW will see three shows covered: Burberry, Christopher Kane and Fashion East.

The BFC is looking to Twitter as always too, continuing its #AskLFW conversations from @LondonFashionWk with guest tweeters this season, including New York socialite Olivia Palermo, designers Matthew Williamson and Roksanda Ilincic, and Grazia magazine’s style director (and soon-to-be fashion director at Harvey Nichols), Paula Reed.

Geo-tracked transport

And finally, Vodafone is set to help LFW VIPs get about the city more easily throughout the week, thanks to an innovative bespoke app.

Each of the Mercedes-Benz cars VIPs travel in will include a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet pre-loaded with “fleet management technology” so they can track their progress in the city. In other words, they’ll be able to view their location and speed — similar to how you would on an airplane — in relation to the press and photographer buses, helping them judge how long they have until the next show begins.

As Rosanna Falconer, digital marketing executive at the BFC, explains, “It lets them know how quickly they need to be there, and whether they have time to stop off for that all-important cup of coffee.”

The app also includes a calendar of the show schedule, a list of PR contacts, a Twitter feed displaying relevant hashtags and a stream of post-show videos from YouTube. The initiative helps ensure those all-important attendees remain as on the ball so as to keep providing content for the rest of us.

Despite being a city largely comprised of young, independent designers — with therefore decidedly low budgets — London’s support network sees it once again upping its game for Spring/Summer 2013, cementing itself as a true contender in the digital space. Of course, we will have to see what Burberry has planned for us on Monday.

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Kenneth Cole inspires with word-based Instagram contest

Kenneth Cole has assembled a team of “culture mavens” to act as curators and judge its new contest on Instagram, which invites fans to submit photos based on inspirational words.

The initiative celebrates the launch of the brand’s higher positioned line, Kenneth Cole Collection, and this week focuses on the word “impact”. Lauren Indvik, associate business editor of Mashable, will choose her favourite image. Previous words have included “provocative” and “empowering”.

“Join the collection of voices,” reads a post about it from Kenneth Cole. “Speak through style. Express through image. Make a statement through Instagram.”

To enter, users need to follow @KennethColePRD on Instagram and tag their pictures with #KCCVoices and #impact. Above the brand shows its own idea of impact in New York City.

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Wearable tech: infographic

There’s an incredible Infographic on Mashable today looking at up-and-coming wearable technology from head-to-toe. Check it out below: