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UPDATE: Your guide to all the strategic changes happening around fashion weeks

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We know fashion weeks are changing radically around us. Numerous designers have opted to shift from producing shows intended for trade, to ones that actually resonate with the consumers they’re ultimately supposed to reach.

For many, this means creating collections that can be bought in-season: a see now / buy now strategy, as it’s largely being called. But others are doing something different again: some stepping out of the fashion week race altogether, others merely changing the time of year the collections are shown instead.

At this point, the result is a bit of a muddle – a variety of strategies that may or may not work. Safe to say, where leaders including Burberry, Tom Ford and Rebecca Minkoff are stepping, numerous others are waiting in the wings to see what sticks before figuring out if they too will join the (r)evolution. The question is, will the traditional Parisian houses go there?

Here’s a round-up of all the changes so far:

UPDATE FEB 19: Mulberry

Mulberry is the latest to outline its plans to more closely align runway with retail deliveries. Ahead of its return to the London Fashion Week schedule with new creative director Johnny Coca this Sunday, the brand announced it will showcase part of its Fall 2016 pre-collection on the catwalk to tap into the idea of providing product that can be bought much sooner – it will drop in stores in April. CEO Thierry Andretta said the move will short-circuit the production of cheap high-street copies, allow retailers to sell original designs at full price and give customers quicker access to new products.

UPDATE FEB 12: Tommy Hilfiger

Hot on the heels of other big name brands listed below, Tommy Hilfiger has also announced a direct-to-consumer shift. It will kickstart such plans with its TommyXGigi collection, with supermodel Gigi Hadid, in September 2016, before moving to a full in-season and shoppable consumer show in February 2017. As BoF highlights, this is no small undertaking for a brand with over 20,000 points of sale, more than 1,500 stores and distribution in 115-plus countries. In fact, 60% of the company’s sales come from wholesale. It will accommodate those lead times with private appointments for trade in September. “When the collection is on the floor, there is going to be an incredible amount of excitement that normally happens six months earlier,” said chief marketing and brand officer, Avery Baker.

UPDATE FEB 12: Proenza Schouler

Proenza Schouler will make eight of the looks walking in its New York Fashion Week show next week, available to buy in its own store in Manhattan within 24-hours. Clients will also be able to pre-order other pieces. The designers call it an experiment as this point, in that they’ve manufactured limited quantities in advance, but something they’re looking to expand on. “We’ll see how this performs and take it from there,” said one half of the duo, Jack McCollough. “If it’s sold out a week after the show, then we’ll definitely push it further.”

Burberry

Burberry is shifting its fashion week calendar and supply chain so it shows in-season in both February and September (starting September 2016), and its collections are available to buy “immediately” after they’ve appeared on the catwalk, both online and in-stores. Chief executive and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, said: “There’s just something that innately feels wrong when we’re talking about creating a moment in fashion: you do the show in September and it feels really right for that moment, but then you have to wait for five or six months until it’s in the store… You’re creating all this energy around something, and then you close the doors and say, ‘Forget about it now because it won’t be in the stores for five or six months’.”

Tom Ford

Tom Ford originally cancelled his fashion week show in favour of one-on-one appointments with press and buyers this season, before opting to shift the entire plan to September when he will present both women’s and menswear for autumn/winter 2016. It will also be available to buy on the same day. “In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to consumers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” Ford said. “Showing the collection as it arrives in stores will remedy this, and allow the excitement that is created by a show or event to drive sales and satisfy our customers’ increasing desire to have their clothes as they are ready to wear them.”

Rebecca Minkoff

In a bid to capture consumer appetite and enable immediate purchases, Rebecca Minkoff (as pictured) will show her spring/summer 2016 collection during New York Fashion Week this month – that’s the same one (plus a few extra pieces) that she already put out in September. About 30-50% of the audience will be comprised of “everyday” consumers too. This catch-up season will then enable her to continue on a direct-to-consumer model with her autumn 2016 line. “Now all of a sudden, the Super Bowl [of shows] twice a year actually becomes an actual buying and retail celebration and festival, versus just a big tease,” CEO Uri Minkoff said.

Misha Nonoo

Misha Nonoo hit the headlines last season for her “Instashow”. While she has something similarly different up her sleeve for this coming week, she is otherwise also following suit and skipping a traditional show format until September 2016 when she will begin to show in-season for consumers to view and shop.

Hunter

After just four seasons showing as part of London Fashion Week, Hunter is stepping away from the catwalk entirely this season, and instead focusing wholeheartedly on exploring and amplifying its music festivals opportunity. 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. “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,” said creative director Alasdhair Willis.

Matthew Williamson

Matthew Williamson left London Fashion Week earlier in 2015 to move to a new model of six collections a year to suit what it calls the “buy-now-wear-now mentality” of its consumer. It closed its flagship store and opened a showroom in its place to operate as an appointment-only boutique for online shoppers. Business director Rosanna Falconer says it was a move that made enormous sense for shoppers. She was frustrated by the fact she used to be presenting images on social media fit for spring and frequently receiving comments back from fans referring to the fact it was cold outside, for instance. “It was so simple for the shopper; it just didn’t make sense. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re pushing something onto a consumer that they’re not ready for.”

Vetements

One of the latest announcements comes from Vetements. In a slightly different move, it will show (and produce) just two collections a year, and will do so in January and June, rather than in March and October (as Paris Fashion Week falls) to coincide more closely with pre-collections. The intention of doing so is to align with the fact a bigger portion of retailer’s budgets are spent on such lines, and they get more time on the sales floor before being discounted. For now it will still operate on a long lead-time of circa six months but the plan down the road is to swap the seasons over and deliver product by February for instance. “To reach this result, the whole production will have to be pre-produced. It means each piece in the collection will be part of a limited edition. No restock. One delivery. The true definition of luxury is something that is scarce. It would be nice to give luxury back its true meaning,” said CEO Guram Gvasalia.

BONUS: Karl Lagerfeld

In conversation with WWD, Karl Lagerfeld said he’s not against changes to the fashion system “if the future goes in that direction”, but that he would never do it the same way. He said companies that produce complex garments and use special materials would need to “make two collections — one immediate, and one available in six months. It’s a way to do the future and the present. It’ll just mean a little more work, ha ha ha”. He also noted that delivering clothes several months after their unveiling is not necessarily a bad thing. “There’s also the excitement of waiting for something,” he said.

And so the conversation continues…

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Digital has irrevocably transformed fashion weeks, is it finally time to change the model?

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Over the past few weeks and months, fashion brands Matthew Williamson, Hunter, Rebecca Minkoff and Thakoon (to name a few) have made strategic decisions that will not only redefine their business models, but impact the fashion industry as a whole.

Each of them has opted to either withdraw from participating in fashion week, or make their fashion week endeavour a more consumer-facing experience.

At the heart of such plans lies the challenge that social media has presented. As Linda Fargo, senior vice president of fashion and store presentation director at Bergdorf Goodman, told WWD: “We give [the customer] shearling coats in June when she’s just starting to think about shorts. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to create excitement and buzz for beautiful products and brand image with runway shows, allowing fast retail to copy it within weeks, while it takes us five months to get deliveries to her. By then, she’s tired of it because it’s been seen in too many posts and images. If you described the fashion cycle from a marketing, seasonality, desire/fulfillment perspective to anyone with any common sense, they would look at you like you were crazy.”

Needless to say, the industry is slowly but surely feeling the need to do something about it. Read the full in-depth story via Forbes, where experts weigh in on whether shifting to a direct-to-consumer model is something that makes sense across the board, or a fit for more contemporary, commercial brands compared to their heritage, Paris-based counterparts. One thing’s for sure, it’s a debate that will take some time to resolve.

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Digital snippets: shoplifters at Harvey Nichols, Iris van Herpen on fashion and science, Rakuten’s virtual fit start-up

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…

harveynichols

  • Harvey Nichols features genuine CCTV shoplifting footage in new Rewards ad (as pictured) [Creative Review]
  • Iris van Herpen’s science fashion [BoF]
  • Rakuten buys virtual fitting room start-up Fits.Me in a fashion commerce play [TechCrunch]
  • Why an “Amazon for high fashion” is a really bad idea [HighSnobiety]
  • Amazon Fashion, playing the long game [BoF]
  • ShopStyle figured out how to monetise Snapchat [Racked]
  • Why it took Zappos Labs five tries to admit failure [Fast Company]
  • Stamp your in-store Snapchats with custom Lilly Pulitzer prints [Digiday]
  • Crocs bets big on interactive Twitter videos with ‘Funway Runway’ effort [AdWeek]
  • Online jewellery start-up Bauble Bar to open retail stores [Forbes]
  • Matthew Williamson to sell part of pre-fall collection exclusively on Lyst [Fashionista]
  • Net-a-porter partners with Tom Ford on e-commerce exclusive [WWD]
  • Nike quickens plans to ‘seamlessly connect social platforms to commerce’ [The Drum]
  • How artificial intelligence is powering e-commerce in India [TechinAsia]
  • Fashion apps continue the trend for mobile swiping [The Telegraph]
  • Six futuristic retail displays that will change your idea of ‘e-commerce’ [Time]
  • Luxury brands dip toes in e-commerce waters [WSJ]
  • Why the Internet of Things won’t be about the ‘things’ for retailers [Retail Dive]
  • The man who wants to turn our clothes into modular gadgets [Wired]
  • Meet Mona, the world’s smartest personal shopper [PSFK]
  • Why the Apple Watch is flopping [Co.Design]
  • 3D-printing has stagnated, says pioneering designer Francis Bitonti [Dezeen]
  • We did not expect Vogue’s native advertising to be this good [Brand Republic]
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Why Matthew Williamson’s new in-season e-commerce-only business plan makes sense

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Matthew Williamson is to close its flagship store in London and refocus on a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business based on instantly-shoppable collection releases.

The announcement from the 18-year-old British company might mean a big shift in strategy (presumably resulting in job losses alongside), but it’s a restructuring that makes sense. The new business model will see six collections presented a year to suit what the label calls the “buy-now-wear-now mentality” of today’s consumer. A showroom will be opened in central London in place of the store, operating as an appointment-only boutique for online shoppers.

The ready-to-wear industry today is debilitated by fast fashion retailers, but also by the ever increasing speed of our digital communications cycle. Where a six-month time lag between the reveal of the new season’s line and its arrival in stores once made sense, now it doesn’t. The social media hype of fashion week season – whether it’s a live-stream, a sneak peek on Snapchat, or a highly perfected Instagram shot – is all very well, but by the time that collection comes around, consumers have all but forgotten the excitement they once felt. Numerous businesses are trying to figure out how to address that challenge.

As highlighted by Fashionista today, Williamson isn’t the only brand to be downsizing and restrategising accordingly, nor will it likely be the last. Over the years Tibi has shifted towards an “advanced contemporary” label releasing new collections in store now about once a month; both Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade have recently announced the closure of their lower-priced contemporary lines; and Jean Paul Gaultier and Viktor & Rolf have stepped out of ready-to-wear altogether to refocus on couture and fragrances. Elsewhere we’ve seen the likes of Tamara Mellon also launch an eponymous line based on monthly deliveries and a similar buy-now-wear-now concept.

“Over the years, the industry and consumers have changed and we’re keen to address and respond to that. The aim is to refresh what’s there, and to create a lifestyle brand that we’re truly proud of both creatively and commercially,” said Williamson and the company’s chairman Joseph Velosa in a joint statement.

It’s a big opportunity for the company. While the closing of the store suggests it wasn’t performing, and the overall shift in strategy makes it clear the business is struggling, e-commerce sales at Williamson are reportedly up 290% year-on-year since 2014, only serving to highlight the fact this is a shopper increasingly willing to buy online. The idea that luxury products – Williamson’s colourful dresses typically retail upwards of £1,000 – don’t sell on the internet is of course now a giant myth.

Williamson also has a strong social media following for a small brand, with just shy of 100,000 followers on Instagram, followed by 43,000 on Facebook and 30,000 on Twitter. Its greatest success story has been on Pinterest, gaining a huge 963,000 followers in less than four months since launch.

Rosanna Falconer*, newly-promoted business director at the company, formerly communications director and the one responsible for the brand’s digital strategy, is heavily focused on channels that drive referrals and conversions on the website. Of the new plans, she added the company would continue to focus on bringing a “personal, offline experience” to its e-commerce customers. The showroom will be accompanied by the launch of a new website in early 2016 that will offer free shipping worldwide and same-day delivery in London.

At a time when established brands in the fashion industry are facing an ever-competitive landscape ripe with start-ups who have the ability to adapt at a far faster pace, those willing to demonstrate the fact they too are relevant by being brave enough to make such strategic decisions, might just be the ones who have the staying power.

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

*Falconer is also co-founder of the #fashmash events series associated with Fashion & Mash

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Digital snippets: Matthew Williamson, Gap, Amazon, Instagram, Wanelo, Tinder

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech:

MatthewWilliamson_Instagram

  • ‘Is it scalable? I think it has to be,’ Matthew Williamson head of digital on customer acquisition through Instagram [The Drum]
  • Amazon launches #AmazonCart (#AmazongBasket), a new way to shop without leaving Twitter [TNW]
  • Fashion world sashays to Instagram for brand-building [FT]
  • Wanelo profiled: like mall browsing, with a click [NY Times]
  • Meet the new wave of Tinder-like shopping apps [Fashionista]
  • Stylect, the Tinder for shoes, finds you a perfect pair [Co.Design]
  • Study shows prevalence of consumer ‘webrooming’; more people researching online and buying in local stores [AdWeek]
  • Tracking is dead: the next wave of wearables is context [re/code]
  • Millennial-focused marketers start to dig in to new SnapChat video feature [AdWeek]
  • Must see: colour-changing fabric uses heat sensitive technology to react to sound files and its surrounds [PSFK]
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Twitter Mirror arrives at fashion week with Matthew Williamson

twittermirrorMatthew Williamson is introducing the Twitter Mirror backstage at its London Fashion Week show this season.

Already becoming a regular feature of events such as The Grammys, The Oscars and even NBA games, this is a tablet usually positioned off-stage that enables celebs to snap selfies and autopost them to the event in question’s Twitter feed.

This will be the first time it is used at a fashion week. Williamson will have it set up for models to interact with in the build up to Sunday’s show. Each shot will be placed in a bespoke frame by the designer that reflects the new autumn/winter 2014/15 collection and its inspiration.

According to the brand’s head of digital, Rosanna Falconer, the aim was to give fans of the brand access behind-the-scenes in much more of a natural way than ever before. In previous seasons, Williamson shows have seen Vine used to reveal the details of the collection in real-time. Without intending to be, the best ones have always been when the models wearing the looks have been a little cheeky.

“This time we wanted to strip away the camera and the photographer, so it was just the models left, and see what we ended up with,” said Falconer.

Vine will be used during the show itself, with three posts revealing key pieces in full narrative – from sketch, to beading and final look. The brand will also continue its #ohmw campaign, handing out props branded with the hashtag to encourage attendees to similarly tweet and Instagram photos of themselves.

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SHOWstudio captured and remixed the sound of four SS14 collections being made

Matthew_soundofclothes_SHOWstudio

I’m somewhat obsessed with the idea of the fashion industry working out how to nail audio branding. I’m not talking about just straight up music partnerships or even the sounds associated with a brand when being in-store, but the noises that personify the clothing or accessories in particular and whether they have the potential to subsequently be owned by an individual label. Food for thought…

It’s for that reason though that I love this initiative from SHOWstudio called The Sound of Clothes: Studio Sessions. The creative editorial site founded by Nick Knight, captured the sounds of Mary Katrantzou, Sibling, Piers Atkinson and Matthew Williamson’s collections being made ahead of their spring/summer 2014 shows this past September.

From the noise of the knitting machines and crochet needles being used, to beads and gems rustling, jersey being ripped, the pattern cutters in action, zips fastening and even models’ heels clicking during fittings, everything was collected, edited and then remixed into four musical tracks (as below) said to give “a unique audio take on the collections and capture the diversity of London Fashion Week”.

Sound artist Stu Sibley worked on the initiative, stretching and manipulating certain sounds so they seem like beats or instruments, while leaving others exactly as they were recorded. Each track is accompanied by abstract 3D visuals based on the runway collections themselves. Concept and direction was by Lou Stoppard and Neal Bryant. 

There’s also a wonderful essay by Maria Echeverri alongside the project that charts the history of sound through dress: “The various instances of sound in dress ranging from the Renaissance to present day hint at the untapped potential of resonant dress, for ultimately, the act of making and hearing noise is implicit in the experience and interpretation of clothing. And by understanding the enlivened dexterity of sound through its past, we can begin to imagine, and hear, its future.”

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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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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?