There was a healthy dose of optimism in London last night as the industry’s leading fashion and tech names gathered to celebrate this year’s Fashion Futures Awards.
“What fashion and tech have in common is they’re both about the future,” said host Angela Scanlon, as she opened the Decoded Fashion evening in partnership with the British Fashion Council.
Big winners during the night included Snapchat, which walked away with the tech visionary award for the fact it’s giving fashion brands new ways to infuse storytelling into their marketing. And Grindr, which picked up the Beyond the Runway title, for its collaboration with JW Anderson in January 2016, which saw it live stream the brand’s menswear show to its audience of predominantly gay men. The judges crowned the collaboration’s “out of the box thinking” and focus on brilliantly connecting consumers in the moments that matter.
Burberry was also celebrated – winning the fashion visionary award for the way in which it has helped make the idea of “disruption” more of a norm in the industry. That came in spite of the fact it’s operating in increasingly tough market conditions; announcing adjusted pre-tax profits were down 10% for the year to March 31, just yesterday morning.
Other brands with prizes included ASOS in the Killer Experience category for its new A-list loyalty programme, and Sephora in Bytes and Bricks, for its high-tech concept Flash store in Paris.
The awards are as much about those daring to innovate on the brand side, as it is about the tech founders that have created the best new tools that allow them to do so. On that basis, digital knitwear start-up Unmade won for its collaboration with designer Christopher Raeburn, for instance, while personal stylist site Thread won in the Real-Time Innovator category for its application of artificial intelligence alongside human insight to provide a particularly unique and forward-thinking proposition for menswear.
Meanwhile, delivery start-up Parcel for Me walked away with two awards – one for being the Master of Mobile and the other as this year’s Game Changer: the entrant considered most likely to disrupt fashion and retail in the future.
Other winners in the start-up space included Semaine, a content meets commerce platform taking home the New e-Store on the Block title, and custom footwear line Myswear, which scooped up the Big Idea award.
As with everything digital – noise is one of the greatest barriers to success. With more players in the space, comes increased difficulty around standing out. E-commerce business is no different.
Responsive mobile sites and extensive product detail – once considered special features – are now points of parity. Ideas like free shipping, blog content and wish lists are commonplace. With consumer expectations at an all-time high, going above and beyond is harder than ever too.
Today, landing the claim of “hidden gem” particularly is no small feat. Up against established names including Net-a-Porter and Zappos, through to Farfetch, Lyst, Zalando and more, start-ups and smaller players must increasingly find ways to differentiate themselves in order to get seen. After all, it’s not just about giving shoppers reasons to visit, but convincing them it’s worth hanging around long enough to spend too.
While the specifics vary, the bulk of the success stories can be summarised under three headings: exclusivity, editorial and user experience. Read on for a highlight of eight lesser-known or particularly unique names worth checking out:
For a curator of high-end designer pieces, Shop-Ghost does nothing like its competition. The website is quirky and drunk with dizzied content, but somehow, it works. Tumblr-style clustered graphics are met with fragmented thoughts in “blog posts” that suggest pieces to fit the mood. The website is not searchable, does not bother with filters and offers anything BUT a clean interface. The zine formatting even forces users off the site to make the actual purchase. This is the digital version of the cluttered shop that oozes cool and finds you fleeing with three bags in tow. www.shopghost.com
2. Bow & Drape
Bow & Drape finds its niche right at the cusp of where young Millennials match up with Gen Z. This pop culture hub plays right into its market, updating simple garments with customisable and glittered-emoji makeovers, finished with the catchphrase du jour. A shoppable Instagram section also sees a witty artful take on meme-manufacturing, keyed in on ‘90s nostalgia and modern trends. www.bowanddrape.com
Each week, Semaine focuses on a new tastemaker, allowing a completely shoppable behind-the-curtains reveal into their lives. Monday begins with a short film or profile of the individual in question, while each subsequent day then features another glance into their lives, ranging from their beauty regimes to the dust collectors on their bookshelves. www.semaine.com
4. The Iconic
If you’re in Australia – this name won’t be new to you. For everyone else, it’s worth knowing for the unique fashion glossary on offer – a categorisation feature every site should consider implementing. The fashion conscious shopper is able to use it as a tool to quickly navigate the expansive site offerings in search of their unique piece. The fashion newcomer, however, gets a complete education in images akin to a more accurate and completely shoppable Google Image search. www.theiconic.com.au
Brika is the perfect online destination for the shopper with DIY pipedreams, but lack of skills to deliver. Each day, a new artist is introduced on the homepage with their story and collection featured. In search of art, home décor, jewelry, accessories or even little knick-knacks for kids, this is the destination that breeds the perfect kitsch meets craft item. www.brika.com
6. Shoes of Prey
For the love of shoes, a woman need look no further than Shoes of Prey, which enables users to customise every aspect of their footwear, from sole to zipper. What makes this a standout offering is the expansive colour selection and a complete 360-degree view of the final designs. www.shoesofprey.com
7. Of a Kind
This one may already be on your list – if it’s not, it’s really time to bookmark it. An online concept store, it specialises in limited runs of items created especially for its website. The supply side of the operation comes from emerging designers, which further appeals to the quaint luxury of the setup. The special items are deemed “# of a kind”, letting the consumer know just how unique their buy is. Each item is also paired with a beautifully photographed story, similar pieces to curate a collection and non-exclusive add-ons that make the look. www.ofakind.com
8. Vide Dressing
The consignment model is completely revamped by Vide Dressing – the eBay of the pre-owned luxury fashion market. Sellers post their goods, get them checked over by a legal team for authenticity and then have 72 hours to ship to their buyer after purchase. The unique feature that sets Vide Dressing apart from competitors such as Vestiaire Collective is a money-back guarantee within 48 hours of product receipt. www.videdressing.co.uk