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All hail the fashion forum! In the social media age, we need them more than ever, says Susie Bubble

fashion forum
The Fashion Spot

The degree of depth and specificity that take place in the discussions on internet fashion forums, not to mention the honesty and critiquing of the industry, make them an incredible valuable resource, argues Susanna Lau, aka Susie Bubble, founder of blog Style Bubble.

“In the age of Instagram and Snapchat, they may seem like antiquated artefacts of the late 1990s or early 2000s. But fashion needs them more than ever,” she writes for The Business of Fashion.

She gives The Fashion Spot as one example, a site containing nearly 10 million posts on it to date, and the one known as a go-to hub for discussion since its launch in 2001. “The grain of the conversation… is often frank, no-holds barred and pointedly critical of the industry. That’s because members aren’t beholden to their IRL identities. In a forum, you can truly be anonymous and express the sort of unfiltered opinions that are sorely lacking in the general discourse in a fashion world still dominated by big brands.”

She says the sort of depth to the conversations, whether it’s about fashion schools, the cut of a Hedi Slimane-era Dior Homme jacket, 1990s-era Prada advertising campaigns, the rivets on a certain designer bag and the friction this causes with clothing, also can’t be found in mainstream media publications or social media platforms.

“Forums will always be a valuable source of information and discussion for people who want to go beyond fashion’s surface, and those people will always exist,” says Eugene Rabkin, founder of StyleZeitgeist, another well-established forum. “The social media cater to the part of us that wants immediate and easy satisfaction. But at some point, a stratum of audience becomes dissatisfied with such superficiality.”

Importantly, Lau explains, the commentary on forums isn’t always music to designers’ ears, but that often makes it something they pay attention to. She cites the likes of Rick Owens, Joseph Altuzarra and Dries van Noten as all turning to them for honest feedback on their work.

In the Spring 2013 print issue of Style.com, then-editor Dirk Standen said: “As one PR exec told me recently, the designers he works with are more interested to hear what the anonymous commenters on TheFashionSpot.com have to say about their collections than the mighty critics.”

“Forum members have nothing to lose; they are certainly not making money from fashion,” Rabkin explains. “Forums are an incredible source for honest criticism. It is true that you have to have a thick skin, because sometimes the criticism is brutal, but in turn the praise is honest and therefore truly deserved.”

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social media technology

#NYFW digital highlight: Tommy Hilfiger’s social concierge

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Tommy Hilfiger brought a sense of digital personalisation to those in attendance at his California-themed New York Fashion Week show this season; offering up a service that delivered assets – pictures through to collection information – upon request in real-time.

The “social concierge”, as it was called, saw a dedicated team of 30 responding to emails sent in from showgoers – either providing them with what they were after from a cloud-based library, or directing a team member on-site to capture the request directly. Mashable experimented with this 30-minutes in advance to see what was possible, asking for an image of the designer with a model doing a thumbs up, and got the exact shot back just before the show began, as shown above.

Meanwhile, I requested one of the first looks, a finale shot and an image from behind-the-scenes while the collection walk was in action, all of which I received within 15 minutes of it ending. Mine (included below) were evidently shot on an iPhone, though the service did also incorporate higher quality photography and reportedly a team of digital technicians to instantly edit the shots.

The concept is of course tied to social media sharing. Said the company: “[It] allows the industry to curate and share a new layer of exclusive, customized content on their own digital platforms for their followers during the show.” It added that the aim was to further “emphasise the approachable and inclusive DNA of the brand”.

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That access to exclusive content for attendees also continued with the brand’s “Runway Newsroom”, an online portal that opened immediately following the show, once again intended largely for press and buyers. This included everything from a full collection statement to high res images of the line, behind-the-scenes activities and even set design. So too were there sketches from the designer and detailed photographs of the fabrics.

As Avery Baker, CMO at Tommy, told WWD: “There is increased pressure on media and influencers to communicate immediately to their followers. We felt this program would help facilitate and streamline the process for them.”

Two further pieces of digital content were also created for the season:

The first was the result of the brand providing bloggers including Scott Schuman and Susie Bubble with Lytro cameras. These light field cameras allow photos to be refocused after they are taken. In other words, viewers can focus in on the model in the foreground or switch to the crowd behind her just by tapping the screen (see below).

And secondly, it partnered with artist Meagan Cignoli to capture moments in the lead-up to and during its show using Vine and Instagram video (see this one for instance). A separate series of 30-second videos were created by the brand focused on details like the beauty looks, the accessories in the collection and its beach-themed set up.

As with last season, “The Conversation” of the show was captured on a live social media feed displayed in the entrance-way to the venue on 90ft screens.

TH SP14 collection first look 24TH SP14 Collection Detail 6sketches TH SP14 collection conversation 08

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Learn how to blog from the front row with Topshop this #LFW

Just been browsing some of the initiatives for London Fashion Week, which starts first thing tomorrow, and came across the series of in-store workshops being held at Topshop’s Oxford Circus store.

The session on blogging from the front row (Saturday at 11am and 5.30pm) sounds great – those behind Topshop’s Inside-Out and Susie Bubble will be hosting. Seems to be a lot of legs for “how to” events in retail at the moment…

There’s also an illustration master class curated by the Design Museum and in collaboration with artist Howard Tangye tomorrow, and a live Q&A with hip young designer David Koma next Tuesday.

For those wanting extra fashion facts about the NEWGEN designers the retailer is sponsoring at fashion week this season, you can also pick up one of their QR-coded fashion bookmarks which on scanning leads through to an insightful film.