“The system is broken” is a phrase oft bounced around between those working in the fashion industry these days.
In a bid to keep up with increasing consumer demand, designers are not only overworked, but ultimately creating too many collections that only tend to hit shelves once shoppers are already fed up with them (or have bought versions of them via their fast fashion knock-offs), leading to more discounted product than ever before and retail sales slipping further and further as a result.
One of the catalysts for all that: fashion week.
Once an event for those in the industry only, it has of course become a truly fanfare occasion complete with more elaborate than ever runway shows, an ongoing street style circus, and above all else: access for anyone and everyone via the means that digital provides. And yet, the collections it showcases have largely remained for preview purposes only, still only heading to stores anywhere up to six months later.
Enter then, “see-now, buy-now”; the idea that rather than having to wait all that time, we can indeed watch it on the runway and immediately make a purchase. While there’s no unanimous decision on exactly what that business model looks like (as outlined in the CFDA’s report in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group), a number of brands are trying to shake things up and give it a go in their own differing ways during the New York shows this season. That means several big consumer-facing affairs, as well as some innovative uses of social media to do it all a little bit differently.
One of the most interesting things about taking a decent summer break, and particularly one in August, is observing what happens during that time. Traditionally still the month that most of Europe closes down, it is also the time just before fashion weeks begin again and therefore the perfect opportunity for quiet on the news front full stop. We’ve certainly noticed that with regards to digital campaigns or tech stories over the past six years that Fashion & Mash has been running. And yet, not so much this year…
August 2016 proved busier than ever in terms of news in this space, ranging from Burberry’s new see-now buy-now campaign to Kate Spade’s wearables launch, Dior’s WeChat moves and various new high-tech store openings. What that does of course is continue to prove the relevancy of this world to the industry’s growth and success.
Read on for a full breakdown of what you might have missed…
PS. We’ve rebranded our regular “Digital Snippets” series to this “What you missed” feature in a bid to bring you a broader range of relevant stories, as well as a breakdown by category to make your consumption that much easier. Note: this version includes a month’s worth of links – normal weekly service will now resume.
PPS. A new must-read site/newsletter in this space is LeanLuxe – edited by Paul Munford, and providing “stories, analysis, and opinion on the world of modern luxury business”.
Fashion needs a more robust approach to technology education [BoF]
Burberry reveals campaign it hopes will woo shoppers to first ‘straight-to-consumer’ collection [The Drum]
Dior in first with luxury WeChat handbags [China Daily]
Consumers prefer see now, buy now, wear now model, says Verdict [The Industry]
Luxury armageddon: Even Chanel takes a hit as sales and profits plunge [Trendwalk]
Gucci among world’s hottest fashion brands, while Prada cools [BoF]
Prada sales slide as weak demand weighs on luxury-goods maker [Bloomberg]
Macy’s to shutter 100 stores as online players pressure brick-and-mortar [WWD]
How Demna Gvasalia is revolutionising Balenciaga from the inside out [Vogue]
Burberry sponsors Snapchat Lens for My Burberry Black launch [The Industry]
For Kit and Ace, Snapchat doubles as a TV channel and customer service assistant [Digiday]
Nike and others dive into Instagram Stories: why marketers already like it better than Snapchat [AdAge]
While some retailers ignore Snapchat, others are killing it with lens and geofilter ads [AdWeek]
Snapchat found a way to bring its ads to the real world [QZ]
Burberry becomes first luxury brand to personalise on Pinterest [Marketing Week]
Grindr officially gets into the menswear game [Fashionista]
The shoppable runway took on new meaning at House of Holland’s London Collections Men presentation this weekend past, with garments available for purchase straight off the back of models thanks to augmented reality.
The initiative was the result of a partnership between Visa Europe Collab and visual discovery and augmented reality app, Blippar.
Users (in this case Radio One DJ Nick Grimshaw and model Rafferty Law) were able to hold their smartphone in front of the desired garment and tap the screen to activate AR technology that would pull up imagery and information about it. They were then able to instantly check out using a pre-registered and prepaid debit or credit card.
“Being able to scan garments through Blippar and purchase them pretty much off [the model’s] back is an amazing technological development and one I have dreamt of as a consumer and a fashion business owner,” said House of Holland founder, Henry Holland.
Visa Europe Collab co-founder Hendrik Kleinsmiede, commented: “Augmented reality has the potential to be transformative for the retail industry. Imagine a future where you can point your phone at a friend’s new outfit with their permission, only for the app to recognise and source that outfit in your size, and give you the option of having it sent straight to your home.”
Indeed, that idea of being able to capture anyone’s outfit and pull up information about where it’s from has long been an appealing one to shoppers. This aims to take that one step closer to reality (albeit a simpler version by being preloaded with truly accurate data thanks to the fact it’s focused on one brand’s products).
The launch at this point is just a proof-of-concept one – meaning it only existed for the moment of the LC:M show – but the aim is to make the technology available to other retailers on a wider scale later this year. Kleinsmiede added that he hopes this virtual shift in traditional shopping behaviour is something we’ll see on the high street very soon.
This was the second time Henry Holland and Visa Europe have worked together. The two collaborated on a wearable technology project in September 2015 that saw items purchased from the brand’s womenswear show during London Fashion Week using a payment ring.
Zach Duane, CEO of Victoria Beckham sat down at Decoded Fashion in London yesterday to share insights on how he believes the brand has managed to gain credibility in the tough celebrity designer space, how VB is viewed in China, and exactly why he thinks the whole see-now, buy-now model can’t work for everyone.
Here’s a recap of the highlights…
“There was obviously huge cynicism around Victoria in the fashion world to begin with. We wanted her to be taken seriously as a designer, so we tried to learn our craft and convince through the collection and the value of the product. From day one every media outlet was following our steps, so it was a very public journey from the beginning. It therefore worked to be very open. Victoria is very like that anyway; she’s prolific on Instagram. But it’s not contrived. The content we share is very natural and real even though the concept behind it is a strategy we have – it’s always carefully considered.”
“We know it’s not ok to film a highly produced and polished video and push it out three months later and assume that’s going to be a relevant story. You have to be a bit raw these days. It’s not that it’s dumbing it down, it’s just that people are so used to seeing stuff so constantly on social that it’s fine to post iPhone photos, or mash a collage together. It’s the idea that has to be right – as long as it’s relevant to your brand. The world has moved in that direction in my view. There are some things we do that are much higher production value – like our look books or our show – and it’s fine to have a mixture like that. We’re not, and we don’t pretend to be, a heritage brand. If you’ve got a history of crafting leather goods, or a designer that founded the house in the 50s, then maybe you have to take a certain approach. But for us, in the lifespan of fashion, we’re a new thing, and we’re not shackled by the rules of the past. We’re doing what’s relevant now.”
On a welcoming store environment
“From day one Victoria had a global audience. Spice Girls were a global phenomenon and everyone was interested in her. So we now try to cater to everyone – our current customers, future customers or people just interested in us and what we’re doing. In our first store on Dover Street we really made sure that everyone who came in would feel very welcome. And I really mean that. We headhunted and Victoria and I personally interviewed every single person for it. Our store manager Lin [Aima Hellem], got the job because when asked what she would do if 200 Spice Girls fans come in, she said she would give them the best tour of the store possible. It shouldn’t be a closed space – a student who wants to come in and understand Victoria’s vision should be as relevant as someone spending £10,000.”
On perception in China
“We don’t ship to Asia which is a slight anomaly, but we do trunk shows there; e-commerce pop-ups basically. What we’ve learnt from China is that our shopper is much younger, and she didn’t know Spice Girls at all. She knew Victoria was famous, but she thinks it’s because she’s a designer. So the way we treat them is so different to someone who has lived and breathed that journey with Victoria. Those insights are so important for merchandising, for comms direction and more. With China we don’t have to focus on the credibility part. It’s about immersing [consumers] in the collection, getting them to understand the theme of the season. It’s much more of a fashion-focused educational process. If we’re talking about new clients in other markets like America however, then it’s about going back to basics a little bit. We have to tackle the fact they may think of Victoria as a Spice Girl first; so it’s about credibility and then about getting them into fashion later.”
On the see-now, buy-now movement
“The media is always looking for headline problems for headline solutions. But whether we’re showing in February and shipping in August is a basic issue – there are much bigger problems around things like international shipping and so forth. What Burberry is doing makes total sense for them – it’s a retail business, they sell predominantly through their own stores. If you’re going to spend millions of pounds on amazing shows, you may as well do it when collections are in store so you convert those consumers. But for emerging brands, it’s just impossible. Your business is predominantly a wholesale business. Your show is a trade show; it’s to buyers and editors. They’re coming to have a view and see what resonates with them, and if it does then they come and place their orders. In terms of what the consumer accesses – the answer is not ‘one size fits all’. Our ready-to-wear line needs to be reviewed; it needs that industry perspective and buy-in, that’s the nature of it. But with our Victoria Victoria Beckham line, then it’s different. We’ve done a show in Korea for instance, we’ve partnered with an artist, we’ve done events in London as it hits the store – so we’re constantly connecting with the consumer with it; it’s just a different rhythm. You have to be specific about who you’re trying to talk to, why you’re trying to talk to them and what the message is.”
On never standing still
“We were very humble at the beginning. Victoria really felt, and she still does to this day, that she had to earn her place in fashion. She’s always challenging herself. From a creative standpoint, that is a constant in our business – never stand still, constantly push yourself. We’re always questioning whether the business model we’ve got is innovative enough too. Could we be doing more? It’s that push to prove ourselves that has kept us driving forward.”
As the designer churn continues apace, it’s no surprise to see lots of this week’s coverage surrounding what the future of the industry might look like on that basis, as well as whether this whole see now, buy now concept will work. Read on for an outline of Balmain’s plans, as well as other fashion and tech stories you need to know from the likes of LVMH, H&M, Gap and more. Dare we say ad blocking gets a mention too…
The fashion industry is undergoing significant structural change; from the way it delivers its collections, to how it promotes them to both the industry and its consumers. Where traditionally there are big time lags between fashion week shows and the products then hitting the shop floor, increasingly there’s a race to get items into the hands of shoppers as fast as possible in order to capitalize on the hype the digital era has generated.
The whole debate is an intensely complex one, from the very nature of luxury down to how it affects multi-brand retailers, traditional buyers and more. From a logistical perspective it means big changes on the back-end in terms of manufacturing and supply chain timelines. While on the front end, it also means facilitating the purchases themselves in numerous new ways.
This consumer-facing part of the debate has so far been the one most explored. As brands including Burberry through to Rebecca Minkoff have announced their intentions to move to a real-time model, meaning you can see the collection in fashion week and buy it immediately (#seebuywear), they have introduced interesting tech-enabled initiatives to facilitate it. This is about more than just e-commerce pages made live in the moment after the show, or capsule collections hitting flagship stores (even if that does include newbies like Prada), and rather some valid digital partnerships that enhance the shopping experience.
The key thing here is the shift from designers putting budget into technology for the sake of it at fashion weeks, to rather spending on something that is going to impact the business from an ROI point of view. It’s about entertainment to drive conversions; not just engagement, likes and new followers.
There’s a lot for the industry to figure out in terms of making this a viable move across the board from the operational standpoint (and as yet little clarity as to how those who have said they’re doing it are structurally making that happen), but for now, there’s at least a willingness to experiment with what it looks like for consumers.
Head over to Forbes for an outline of those moves from the likes of Burberry, Rebecca Minkoff, Misha Nonoo and Temperley London.
“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.
In all the discussion of shifting fashion week strategies to a more retail or consumer driven calendar, one thing less discussed has been actually facilitating and measuring the shoppable element itself.
For many, being direct-to-consumer and “in-season”, means the products are available in-store or online either immediately after the show or within a period of 24-hours. Other than (hopefully) seeing sales naturally increase off the back of such launches, how do you measure which channels are making the most impact?
Are consumers watching your live stream and then heading to your flagship immediately thereafter? Have they picked up on the images from Instagram and then typed in your e-commerce URL? Same old attribution problems, different day. However, this time, the content you’re putting out really does have immediate resonance, and for once there is a way to drive not only traffic but measurable ROI off the back of video particularly.
Take Rebecca Minkoff for instance. The New York designer launched its #seebuywear strategy this week by showing her spring/summer 2016 show once again (albeit with a capsule collection of 17 new pieces also included). Certain valuable customers were invited to attend the runway in person, other VIPs were hosted in-store, and it was of course, also live-streamed online for the public to see. Needless to say, the collection was available to purchase (some items to pre-order) there and then.
What was particularly nice however, was the literal shoppable element on its videos thereafter too. On its website right now, you can watch the catwalk collection back with “cards” sitting on top of the footage (as shown in the screengrab above) directing you to the specific product pages of the items you might want to click and buy.
Meanwhile, an additional video in partnership with Cinematique introduces a “touchable” element specifically to the accessories shown. Viewers can click on the handbags as they come down the runway to save them into a personal folder. A small symbol on the bottom right of the frame can then be clicked on at any time to open a panel showcasing each piece they saved (as shown in the picture top). From there, they can also access full e-commerce shots and the option to buy.
It’s an interesting evolution for the role of the shoppable video – once something tied to the idea of entertainment, but failing to fully resonate for the fact it clashed with the lean-back and relaxed viewing that goes with such content, rather than the lean-in and fully engaged attitude that comes with fashion week collections. Or that is certainly the hope.
Check out the Cinematique x Rebecca Minkoff experience below. And expect lots more of this sort of work to follow.