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Podcast technology

Nick Knight on why AI cannot simulate creativity

Artificial intelligence is not yet good enough to simulate creativity, says British fashion photographer Nick Knight on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

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Speaking live at a FashMash event in London, he explained that AI as it stands today, is a long way from what creativity is: “When you create a picture, it is done through desire, accident, failure, fear, love, and arousal. Predicting what I will do by how I did past steps is not a good way to create my next piece of art; it’s not a good way to simulate creativity.”

He was referring to the way in which AI looks back at past behavior in order to work out what is probable next. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t one day figure out how to do so, he noted, adding that he is working on new projects that will keep him on the frontline of it so as to have a say in what it could look like down the road.

Knight has built his career on pushing the boundaries of image making. He has photographed some of the world’s biggest celebrities and models – from Lady Gaga and Bjork to Kate Moss and the late Alexander McQueen. Almost two decades ago, he launched SHOWstudio, an online platform celebrating fashion film, and changing the way fashion was consumed through the internet.

Now his next act is understanding how technologies like AI and robotics will impact creativity, and how he can become a part of such a movement.

During this conversation with guest host Rosanna Falconer, Knight explains what the smartphone has to do with Shakespeare; how SHOWstudio broke the internet but created history with the first ever live streamed fashion show for Alexander McQueen in late 2009; and why he is an eternal optimist about the future.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick social media

Nick Knight to Insta-shoot Topshop’s #LFW show

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Topshop is teaming up with Nick Knight, founder of SHOWstudio.com, for live Instagram coverage during its upcoming London Fashion Week show.

The visionary photographer will shoot the “true atmosphere and unseen culture” of the Topshop Unique autumn/winter 2016 event at Tate Britain, and release the images in real-time to the brand’s 6.2 million Instagram followers.

This “Insta-shoot”, will cover everything from the setup through to the finale on show day (Sunday, February 21). The aim is to step away from the “ordinary, often ubiquitous documentation process” seen during fashion weeks, Topshop said in a statement.

It will also be possible to watch Knight in action by tuning into Periscope, where GoPro cameras will be broadcasting his creative process.

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Said Knight: “Fashion systems are developing so rapidly, and there are so many new and amazing possibilities. SHOWstudio has always championed change and innovation, so the challenge of posting real-time and live steaming from GoPro straight to Periscope is one we relish. SHOWstudio was also founded on the principal of championing fashion film and moving image, so we were delighted to accept Topshop’s offer to collaborate on capturing the Topshop Unique Show in the most dynamic way possible.”

Shoppers at the retailer’s flagship store at Oxford Circus in London will also be able to access a dedicated London Fashion Week area, and see a 3-D window installation by set designer Thomas Petherick.

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film

Fashion names star in Apple Mac’s 30-years ad

 

Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen is one of several fashion creatives to star in a new ad from Apple, a spot filmed using a series of iPhones over the course of just one day.

1.24.12, as it’s called (for the day it was shot), is a celebration of 30 years of the Macintosh. When the Mac was introduced, it promised to put technology in the hands of the people, Apple says, launching “a generation of innovators who continue to change the world”.

Van Herpen is seen in her Amsterdam studio working on one of her elaborate creations at about 43 seconds in. While many fashion designers work on a Mac these days, she is one of a few who also turns her ideas into reality using a 3D printer.

“Iris van Herpen initially saw the computer as a strictly two-dimensional environment. For someone who often begins the creative process by sketching on a mannequin, that wouldn’t work. But when she discovered 3D printing, everything changed,” reads the write-up on the Apple website, where a timeline has been created documenting creativity for the past 30 years.

 

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Van Herpen is included under the heading for 2014 on the site, but two further dates are also relevant to the fashion industry.

1996 is dedicated to Tinker Hatfield, who is the designer behind many of Nike’s most popular shoes. He said the Mac enabled him to experiment more freely in terms of different materials, contours and patterns, and to see all his designs instantly. “Apple gave us this amazing tool and a new way to do things. It was a little crazy, yet satisfying and liberating at the same time,” he is quoted.

The year 2000 is then focused on photographer Nick Knight, who created SHOWstudio.com, and in so doing, “changed how people saw fashion”. He pioneered fashion film, and was of course one of the very first to live stream a fashion week show. “I wanted to make fashion accessible to a broader audience. And I wanted to share more than static images,” he says.

Consumers are also invited to share information about when they first owned a Mac and how exactly they have used it, via an interactive portion of the 30 years microsite.

A short documentary about the Mac’s history has also been released, featuring Van Herpen, Hatfield and Knight, among others…

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technology

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

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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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Comment social media technology

Live streaming fashion week: is it worth the cost?

This article first appeared on Mashable

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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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digital snippets e-commerce technology Uncategorized

Digital snippets: Alexander McQueen, Vogue, M&S, Nike, Guess, Bloomingdale’s

Some more great stories from around the web surrounding all things fashion and digital over the past week:

 

  • Vogue.com, SHOWstudio win Webby Awards [WWD]
  • M&S raids its archives to create interactive lingerie timeline [Pressitt]
  • Nike projection mapping sees building twist [Digital Buzz]
  • Guess Inc’s social strategy [WWD]
  • Bloomingdale’s exec: RFID boosts inventory accuracy, sales [Luxury Daily]
  • Japanese virtual stores designed to give realistic in-store experience [PSFK]
  • Decoded Fashion conference highlights fashion and tech’s tricky relationship [BetaBeat]
  • Infographic: could Pinterest be the silver bullet for retailers on social media [Mashable]