Luxury label Balmain has released an app that aims to give consumers more access to the brand’s universe, in a mission championed by creative director Olivier Rousteing.
The app, which was released on iTunes yesterday, will allow users to engage with the brand in a multitude of different ways.
“The app is the final element of the strategy we are rolling out to launch the new monogram, the new logo, and to support overall the new communication strategy of Balmain,” the label’s CEO Massimo Piombini told WWD. “This is a way to connect with the next generation, with new customers, with a segment of customers that are close to the brand that are expecting from us these kinds of new features.”
For example ahead of the label’s upcoming couture show which takes place on January 23, users will be able to scan posters through the streets of Paris to trigger augmented reality content. Users will also be able to watch a livestream of the show, the house’s first couture collection in 16 years, as well as footage of the menswear show that is happening tomorrow.
To give brand fans a further glimpse into the brand, there will also interactive content around its new Saint Honoré flagship, which is due to open in February. The brand has announced that it will also be launching similar initiatives at key European cities in the future.
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Beauty care brand Lush is trialling Lush Lens, a mobile app created by its in-house R&D team, that uses artificial intelligence and product recognition to allow customers to scan a product with no packaging to gain access to information.
The technology is currently being tested at the brand’s first ever “Naked” store in Milan, where all products are free of packaging.
Customers in store have access to four Fairphone devices loaded with the app. They can then point to any naked product – such as the brand’s popular bath bombs – to receive information, such as an ingredients list.
“With this prototype mobile app we’ve put new technologies (AI) to a good use in our mission to eliminate more packaging and further educate our customers on our unique cosmetics,” says Adam Goswell, who runs technology R&D at Lush. The app is expected to be rolled out globally and be available for download on customers’ own smartphones in the future.
In piloting this digital programme, Lush is hoping to engage with digitally-minded consumers in a way that both satisfies their mobile behaviors as well as their constant need for information on the products they purchase.
The innovation also ties back to the sustainability goals the brand has built its DNA upon – by creating solid products (such as shampoo bars, rather than in liquid form) it not only eliminates the use of packaging like plastics, but enables experiences that more easily involve image recognition.
As for the first Naked shop, which opened in Milan earlier this month, Lush is hoping to not only promote sustainable behavior with its lack of packaging, but also through a series of in-store events, such as workshops and film screenings that will allow customers to share and exchange ideas of living plastic-free.
Prada has worked with Lil Miquela, a computer-generated virtual influencer, to promote its Fall 2018 collection via animated GIFs on Instagram Stories.
To announce the partnership alongside the label’s Milan Fashion Week runway show, Miquela posted a series of short Instagram videos featuring the GIFs, and invited her followers to head to Stories and play. The call to action read: “Go off!! #pradagifs are live in stories! Start posting and tag me.”
Over on Prada’s account, the CGI avatar gave followers a mini tour of the show space, a new Rem Koolhaas venue, while flying a drone around, which she controlled with her phone.
GIFs ranged from inspiration of Prada’s current collection, as well as nods to more archival pieces such as the SS10 flame shoe and the SS11 banana print.
Miquela Souza, or Lil Miquela, is a virtual version of a 19-year-old Los Angeles based influencer, who boasts over 600k followers on Instagram, and whose creators remain purposively elusive.
Speaking to the Business of Fashion in February, Miquela explains her success: “Initially, it probably stems from curiosity. I think people stick around because they end up learning more about themselves through the questions they’re asking. I love being able to communicate, learn and talk to everyone from all corners of the world. There is a sense of community to it as well, the people who follow me end up being friends with each other and the communications that it opens up is inspiring.”
Since “launching”, the influencer has been seen wearing the likes of Vetements and Proenza Schouler, while her music track “Not Mine” has been played over 100K times on Spotify.
Dolce & Gabbana has turned the illustrations from its autumn/winter 2016 accessories range into stencils that will appear as branded street art in the four fashion capitals of the world.
Starting in London and then hitting New York, Paris and Milan, the graffiti will be placed onto footpaths in 100 different locations in each city. The design, which features designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana and their pets, is accompanied by the #DGfamily hashtag in a bid to encourage social sharing.
So far, just one post exists on Instagram from someone spotting the stencil in Paris (as below).
Each city will also see the artwork created in a different medium. In Milan, for instance, it will comprise a seven-colour palette of “green graffiti paint” made of clay and gypsum, which contains no harmful chemicals and will fade in a few weeks, according to Vogue. In the other fashion capitals, the images will be reverse-stenciled via high-pressure hoses.
While anything new in social media normally hits New York and London fashion weeks first, taking several seasons to finally get to Milan and Paris, Snapchat seems to be bucking that trend.
Yes the platform launched back in 2011, and yes it has been used at fashion weeks before too, but if there’s one thing the past month has proved, it’s how many more brands have willingly taken the plunge.
New York saw new accounts launch from Tommy Hilfiger (in partnership with supermodel Gigi Hadid) and Marc Jacobs, as well as two dedicated stories from Snapchat shared throughout the week. London meanwhile, also saw some exciting work, with a dedicated story created by Burberry for the channel, and further new accounts from the likes of Mulberry and Mr Porter.
Once we hit Milan, much of the same continued, with some great insights behind-the-scenes from the likes of Dolce & Gabbana and Gucci particularly. Over to Paris, and H&M used the platform to get its viewers to help choose which shoes from its show should be sold in store in September (inviting them to take a screenshot to vote). Balmain was also on there documenting its bevy of supermodels and their new hair colours, Stella McCartney playfully added lots of emojis, and Valentino handed the reins of its account over to blogger Bryan Boy.
Dior was a bit of a surprise with its launch – providing another behind-the-scenes tour with further emojis splashed on top (who would have thought it!) And for all those wanting more, Snapchat provided yet another dedicated catwalk story throughout as well.
Here are some of the Milan and Paris brand highlights:
If there’s one channel that seems to be winning this fashion week season, it’s Snapchat. While Instagram still lives on as its polished and beautiful counterpart, Snapchat is increasingly becoming the preeminent channel to build hype for a designer, if only for the fact it feels so genuinely like you’re getting an inside look at something going on.
Over to Milan yesterday, and next up was Gucci, which used Snapchat to reveal its partnership with street artist GucciGhost, aka Trouble Andrew. You’ll have already spotted the actual collaboration pieces taking to the catwalk – graffiti on skirts, handbags and emblazoned across the back of jackets.
On Snapchat, Andrew was also seen creating his artwork around the show venue; both outside and as a backdrop for the models. Graffiti lives both in the real world and as designs on top of the Snapchat content. Once the show began, he also shared close-ups on his collaborative designs as they walked down the runway.
The relationship with Gucci came following Andrew increasingly using the #guccighost designs – a play on the interlocked GG logo – across his own social channels, as well as in wall art and on vintage clothing. The idea literally sparked from creating two holes in a Gucci sheet and going as the “Gucci Ghost” to Halloween one year.
As Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, told WWD: “I saw the way Trevor [Trouble Andrew’s real name] was using the symbol of the company and I thought it was quite genius. It’s completely different than the idea of copying. It’s the idea that you try to [take to] the street, through language like graffiti, the symbols of the company.”
Needless to say, it’s representative of the new way of creative thinking and revived spirit Michele is bringing to the Gucci house; all of which is making us obsessed with the brand once again.
“Certainly this is the boldest collaboration of a major brand with an artist since [the Louis Vuitton-Stephen Sprouse] series orchestrated by Marc Jacobs (Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince and Yayoi Kusama following Sprouse), and the flashiest. And it’s the first time a major fashion brand has enlisted an artist that it has so inspired to such an audacious degree,” writes Bridget Foley for WWD.
On Gucci’s Instagram, Michele was quoted as saying: “I took the most interesting things of @troubleandrew’s and I asked if I could re-customize them. I find it interesting that the GG pattern has made this circle around the world. I customized his work and he says I’m like a doctor who treats them, makes them better. He puts in his culture, I have mine. The two things together are good. Diversity always produces something interesting,”
He added: “Trevor’s language is authentic; Trevor is authentic. He lives in Brooklyn, he knows Gucci. The way he used the color, the way he’s translating our power is real. I wanted to put [his work] into the collection to give this kind of language real life; it’s just another face of the brand. And also, I love the idea of what is real and unreal.”
On his work being revealed, Andrew added: “I can’t wait for this stuff to come out. It’s validation for my craziness.”
“If you build a consistent, legible, aspirational brand image, you don’t need a six month media blitz to warm consumers up to a new collection – they already know what they’re buying into. If Saint Laurent – a Kering brand – hit the runway and the shop racks simultaneously, it would sell briskly, and Pinault knows it. His comments indicate a cautious approach to a complex, risky restructuring more than philosophical position,” Wray continued.
He ended on the idea of Pinault wanting to learn from others’ mistakes, a move all too evident from the luxury industry’s initial lack of willingness to embrace all the challenges (and opportunities) the digital era has brought. I have consistently heard – even with every new social media platform – the desire to first know which competitors are already on board before many of them have also opted to take the leap. It comes as no great shock that Burberry was one of the first major players to announce its move to an in-season consumer calendar; it has long been the first on all of these fronts, from its early uptake of all things digital, to its more agile supply chain system influenced heavily by CRM data.
Unsurprisingly over in Paris however, Pinault is not the only one thinking otherwise. The Fédération Française de la Couture du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode is sticking by its guns and will shun the consumer-show shift too, reports WWD.
“As far as we are concerned, the present system is still valid,” said federation president Ralph Toledano.
He previously commented: “The fashion industry is a huge success, our companies are growing very healthily and business is excellent… We are not going to be ruled by technology.” Indeed, let’s not forget that for many brands in Paris, while technology is surely a consideration, such steps into embracing digital have, to this day, still fallen short of actually launching e-commerce; and this is in spite of the fact we know that digital today now influences 60% of all luxury purchases.
The thinking around whether or not to adapt Paris Fashion Week was also taken to a board of broader industry players off the back of the CFDA’s announcement in the US that it had hired the Boston Consulting Group to look into whether to make New York Fashion Week a consumer-facing affair. They included Dior CEO Sidney Toledano, Chanel’s president of fashion Bruno Pavlovsky, Saint Laurent CEO Francesca Bellettini, and Hermès executive vice president of manufacturing division and equity investments Guillaume de Seynes.
Sticking with the status quo is now also being backed by brands including Nina Ricci, Chloé, Agnes b., Issey Miyake, Isabel Marant, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Sonia Rykiel, Leonard, Dries Van Noten, Maison Margiela, Paul Smith and Kenzo.
To be fair, Ralph Toledano does go on to list a multitude of reasons why such moves are so complicated (understandably), and thus at this stage deemed unnecessary – from managing the supply chain and its purposeful scheduling, to balancing embargoes with press and buyers (although that latter part seems very do-able frankly, especially if they’re used to it in other cities).
But, it must be said, and as Wray essentially pointed out, this does also feel somewhat like another case of Paris lagging behind its counterparts, as it has done with so much of digital. The issue is, the case of waiting for the right “me-too” moment may at some point finally catch up with some of these brands.
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.
Memorable moments during fashion month used to surround incidents like Anna Wintour being splattered with paint by anti-fur protesters, or Naomi Campbell taking a tumble in those sky-high Vivienne Westwood shoes. There have been incredible sets – Fendi on the Great Wall of China, everything from an airplane to a supermarket at Chanel and a giant steam train when Marc Jacobs was at Louis Vuitton.
Today, however, technology is becoming the new differentiator and the main means of grabbing attention — not to mention press headlines — during the shows. Thus far this season, Ralph Lauren has streamed his runway show on billboards in London’s Piccadilly Circus via Periscope, Zac Posen partnered with Google to reveal a dress coded with moving LED lights and Intel introduced drones to fly overhead at numerous shows.
“Technology can be a point of differentiation and a source of competitive advantage in a crowded fashion marketplace,” says Karinna Nobbs, program director and senior lecturer of digital fashion strategy at the British School of Fashion. “If you do something well you can really get good PR coverage and be seen as a first mover/innovator, which should translate to sales and loyalty.”
Even if it doesn’t add to the user experience, nor directly impact a brand’s bottom line, technology integrated into a fashion show is often about a designer exercising his or her creative freedom, in a similar way to theatrical extravagances of the past. That said, some of the most elaborate tech ideas showcased during fashion weeks past actually took place well before you could Instagram them. Here’s our history of technology and the designers who have embraced it since 1999.
There might be hot debate in current times about where artificial intelligence is likely to lead us, but robots in some form or another have long appeared at fashion week. For spring/summer 1999, Alexander McQueen presented one of the most famous moments of his career when two robots spray-painted a dress worn by model Shalom Harlow in shades of black and yellow as she spun on a revolving platform.
In 2007, Hussein Chalayan showcased a vision of our future wardrobes based on garments that changed shape. A Victorian dress unfurled to reveal a flapper style and a tiered design shortened into a mini, all thanks to microchips and animatronics. This was wearable tech before wearable tech.
Jump to autumn/winter 2014, and drones hit the runway at Fendi, circling above the heads of show-goers to live stream content back to viewers at home. The resulting experience was terrible, but it grabbed headlines for Fendi all over the world.
Speaking of wearable technology, it goes without saying that designers today are increasingly experimenting with how to embed things like electronics and connected devices into their collections. To highlight that fact, Diane von Furstenberg provided a particularly noteworthy story when she sent Google Glass down her runway in September 2012. Models wore the augmented reality eyewear as they paraded the designer’s spring/summer 2013 looks, capturing the scene around them for a video released at a later date. The finale saw DVF herself dragging Google co-founder Sergey Brin, along with her then-Creative Director Yvan Mispelaere, down the runway to take a bow with her.
Last year we also saw the likes of Rebecca Minkoff and Diesel Black Gold featuring wearable tech accessories in their shows — and let’s not forget the work Dutch designer Iris van Herpen has been doing for a long time in 3D printing. Richard Nicoll, meanwhile, unveiled a slip dress made from a fiber-optic fabric activated by high intensity LED lights for spring/summer 2015 in partnership with Disney and Studio XO. The question remains, however, as to when the wearables trend will become more widespread.
If you’re into gaming, you’re probably all over virtual reality (VR). Maybe you’ve already got your own headset. Fashion brands have been experimenting with those, too. Topshop first offered up such an opportunity when it provided customers with a VR experience in its London flagship store for autumn 2014. Specially commissioned Oculus Rift-based headsets enabled shoppers to see its catwalk show in real-time through a 3D virtual world. The aim was to make them feel as though the models were walking in front of their eyes and the celebrities were sitting right beside them.
Dior captured in 3D a backstage view of its show earlier this year, and proceeded to offer up that experience in select stores through its own VR headset, called DiorEyes. Users were able to explore the full 360 degrees of the backstage space, seeing the models during their final prep for the show surrounded by makeup artists, photographers and designer Raf Simons.
Rebecca Minkoff filmed her February 2015 show for VR viewing, too. The process reportedly required two cameras with three dozen separate lenses to create footage that has just this week been released on a specially designed Google cardboard headset, into which you stick your smartphone. Democratising fashion week indeed.
If you weren’t already convinced Alexander McQueen was an innovator, then consider his autumn/winter 2006 collection, which featured a hologram of Kate Moss in the finale. The projection appeared within a glass pyramid surrounded by billows of white smoke. It was deemed fashion magic.
Holograms were also central to Polo Ralph Lauren’s spring/summer 2015 show. In what the brand referred to as a 4D holographic water projection, it showed models wearing the new collection against a 60-foot high fountain in Manhattan’s Central Park. The images were pretty blurry, making it hard to decipher much about the new collection, but like many other tech experiences, it grabbed headlines around the world.
With all these innovative ideas in mind, hearing that a brand is merely live streaming its show doesn’t really do it for us anymore. But once upon a time, this alone was big news. When Alexander McQueen streamed his spring/summer 2010 show — yes, it really is only that old — the event drew in so many fans, it crashed SHOWstudio’s website. While the fact that Lady Gaga was performing was arguably the biggest contributing factor there, it was also an early sign of just how much interest there was in fashion week happenings from fans around the world, especially when mixed with a little extra entertainment.
As the late designer 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 revolutionising the ‘show system’ as we know it.” While he personally never did do another live stream — that collection was to be the last before his death — the concept rapidly spread.
Designers providing ever-greater access through digital means has grown season after season. Burberry has been the pioneer in this sense. Its now iconic campaigns have included everything from a “Tweetwalk” that showcased images of the new line on Twitter before those sitting in the front row saw them, to its “Runway to Reality” (later “Runway Made to Order”) concept that offered consumers the ability to instantly purchase specific items from the new collection for delivery within seven weeks, instead of several months. There have also been personalised GIFs, digital kisses and the ability to buy nail polish via Twitter, but this season it’s been all about Snapchat.
Is it just me or has Twitter become much less inspiring during fashion week season? I say that as an avid user – both personally and profesionally. I peruse posts day to day, and particularly once the shows hit London, Milan and Paris, when I’m watching via livestream from New York. I scroll through my own feed, I consume via social dashboards attached to designers’ websites, and I go back and search using hashtags and brand names afterwards, too.
What I’ve always enjoyed is the live commentary that you gather from those in the front row, but there seems to have been very little of it for the past couple of seasons, and I for one really miss it. Not the tweets that tell me what show they’re waiting for, the fact the first model has appeared/the last model has walked out, or even what color they’re seeing. Those still exist, and I can gather all that from home.
No, what I really want back, is actual commentary. I want to hear from the editors –- the experts no less — about the 1930s theme emerging at Prada and the influence Miuccia drew from film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, or the details of the new Bloomsbury-inspired, hand-painted florals at Burberry Prorsum. I want to know what is sashaying down that runway that, from my own 13-inch screen, I can’t quite see.
The images that are posted can be nice, of course, and on occasion insightful (if not blurry, but that’s another issue). But what happened to a wonderfully descriptive annotation along with it? Or better yet a real-time opinion, a review-on-the-spot even? Here are some of the highlights from the Lanvin show Thursday:
Lots of pictures naturally, but did you gather much about the line really? Navy, white and feathers. It’s a start.
Now it’s not that everyone has put their smartphones back in their handbags to focus on the clothes as they come out of course. So what’s going on?
First up, quite obviously: Instagram. During London Fashion Week there were a total of 266,767 mentions on Twitter, and 316,359 posts on Instagram, according to Bell Pottinger, a British public relations and marketing firm. So arguably, much more time is being spent there.
It goes without saying there’s huge benefit in that space of course. But when someone is at at home watching a livestream, or has access to high-res images in near real-time — not to mention backstage ones from the brand themselves — Instagram shots from the front row don’t necessarily offer all that much. They’re a nice-to-have, and for a feel of fashion week in general, a fantastic stream to follow. But for those really wanting to know about the collections themselves, there’s still a gap — an information gap.
The skill of an editor who has worked in the industry for 10 or more years is to be able to quickly deduce what a collection is about, to analyze its importance for trends, to bring contextual knowledge of its applicability to the commercial market and to offer a clear understanding of the technical side (i.e., garment construction and fabrications).
But I don’t think the fact few editors or publications seem to be offering anything like this anymore comes down to just not having the time. With social media now reaching maturity, there’s inevitably becoming a greater push in terms of strategy for organizations and individuals alike on what to do and what not to do to achieve audience engagement.
So here’s my question: Is this lack of Twitter commentary as simple as editors just becoming more obsessed with Instagram? Or is there actually a direct decision being made not to give away too much there and then? (The knowledge of these men and women is a valuable commodity — why hand it out on a free platform, when you can rather store it up and post it on your own site for traffic generation later?)
Then again, maybe it’s just as simple as the fact we’re also all just a little bit over it. Or overwhelmed. Or lazy. Still, I’d like it back.