Categories
Blocks Editor's pick social media technology

Robots, holograms and wearables: a tech history of fashion week

This post first appeared on Fashionista.com

DVF_googleglassSS13
Diane von Furstenberg spring/summer 2013

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.

Robots

mcqueen
Alexander McQueen spring/summer 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.

Fendi_droneAW14
Fendi autumn/winter 2014/15

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.

Wearable technology

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.

RichardNicoll
Richard Nicoll spring/summer 2015

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.

Virtual reality

topshop_virtualrealityAW14
Topshop autumn/winter 2014/15

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.

DiorEyes
DiorEyes virtual reality headset

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.

RebeccaMinkoff
Rebecca Minkoff Google cardboard headset

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.

Holograms

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.

Live action

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.

BurberryTweetwalkSS12
Burberry Tweetwalk spring/summer 2012

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.

Bring on the rest of spring/summer 2016, we say.

Categories
Uncategorized

Fashion week: designers divided over digital media

Although the fashion industry has been quick to use digital media to become more accessible to consumers, certain designers are using the same tools to keep catwalk access exclusive.

While I watched the ICB by Prabal Gurung show at New York Fashion Week it struck me that although the fashion industry is embracing the openness digital media provides, the backlash against it is also beginning.

I wasn’t at the Lincoln Center; or any other grandiose venue across Manhattan, but rather in front of my computer screen.

However, the difference to any other live-stream of a show during a fashion week, was that this one was online-only.

I am a strong proponent of watching shows from the comfort of my own home or office anyway. As media editor of an online trends service, my defence is that I’m actually the geek that prefers being able to more easily tweet while still focusing on the collection. The biggest bonus of all is that you get a far better view of the garments first time around via the stream, than you often ever do when you’re there next to the catwalk.

As Christina Binkley, style columnist for the Wall Street Journal said on Twitter: “Watching the ICB by Prabal Gurung online fashion show is like watching football on TV. You’re not there, but you see more than if you were.”

However, what you don’t often get with either, unless you’ve headed straight backstage or you’re booked for follow-up salon appointments, is that close detailed view; a true second look. Believe me there have been many times when I’ve peered forward from my seat, or better yet hit pause and CTRL + to zoom in on the screen – it’s not quite the same.

But this is why ICB was perfect. Every look was already there in high-res jpeg form. And every detail had a dedicated picture too – the fabric textures, the handbags, the prints and the make-up choices. There were also informative notes on each piece and a video of Gurung discussing his inspirations. All can be replayed and revisited.

And what’s even more interesting about all this, is that the ICB show was also invite-only. Even my colleague next to me couldn’t login – her email address wasn’t on the list.

This new exclusive online-only strategy has made me wonder – is this a step towards an anti consumer all-access sentiment? Are Gurung’s team trying to buck the trend for offering everyone around the world a “front row seat” via the web? Could this be the beginning of a backlash to the fashion industry’s rapid adoption of burgeoning social media platforms?

We first saw it with Tom Ford, who has a strict no photographs and no reviews policy for at least three months, and Phoebe Philo at Céline, who likewise calls for no shots or tweets from backstage at her shows. Those decisions have been met with mixed reception, but both are essentially attempting to close the gap between the hype of a new collection and the time (on average six months later) it actually hits the shop floor.

ICB is adopting the same exclusive strategy, albeit with a less established brand and solely on a digital platform.

“The password is just a replacement for your seat number,” said Ed Filipowski, co-president of PR company KCD, who was behind the concept. “To me, it’s not MTV, it’s not YouTube. It’s for the industry.”

While the time lag wasn’t enforced (I for one was tweeting as I watched), it seems, if anything, at least an attempt at rediscovering a sense of authority in the industry. Enabling the likes of Vogue and the major newspapers to be the first to comment once again, rather than your dime-a-dozen blogger is an interesting step.

Likewise, the British Fashion Council is reinforcing the importance of focusing on the press and buyers who attend London Fashion Week this season. Although consumer access to the event, which kicked off on Friday, has become increasingly open over the past few seasons, and is set to be its biggest yet with 46 shows streaming live, those in the trade are being prioritised once more.

For the first time, their passes to the fashion week grounds provide a constant stream of live content, thanks to an ongoing partnership with image-recognition app Aurasma. By scanning them, they’re directed to live news from the London Fashion Week organisers. While that content isn’t exclusive, it is confirmation of ensuring the experts have easy, on-the-go access to everything they need, especially given the fast-paced nature of such a week.

But on the other hand, London is also seeing a continuing focus on consumer-first. Burberry kickstarted it with the Tweetwalk last September – offering those on Twitter a glimpse of each look seconds before those actually in attendance. The same is planned for tomorrow’s show, with a delayed version of the image-stream also being posted on the giant Cromwell Road billboard in London (Europe’s longest advertising outdoor space).

The brand’s main focus is reach; getting out to as many of the public as possible, which is why they’ll also be live-streaming to Liverpool Street Station, as well as on mobile and tablet device.

Harrods is taking it one step further again by handing the buying decision of the forthcoming Burberry collection over to its Facebook fans.

On Tuesday, the day after the designer’s show, the department store will post images of every look on its Facebook page. Those that receive the most ‘likes’ will be incorporated into the store’s purchases for the season.

The argument almost certainly is that it’s common sense those outfits proving the most popular at this stage will end up being the ones that sell once they hit the floor later in the year (although the profile of the Harrods Facebook fan versus the actual Harrods shopper could be questioned).

Similarly, back in New York and Oscar de la Renta turned to crowdsourcing, inviting consumers to become a part of his creative process by launching a virtual pinboard open for anyone to post their ideas to. The idea is similar to Pinterest, the new picture-based social network, that has been attracting lots of attention of late.

The Board” is a call for anyone and everyone to help the designer with inspiration sources for his resort collection.

Both of these initiatives aren’t just about providing consumers with increasing amounts of access anymore then, but actually involving them in the entire behind-the-scenes process; from concept to sales rail.

Combined with ICB, the result of these conflicting digital strategies is an overwhelming sense of the fashion industry being drawn into a “whirlpool”. There is now a battle between a tightening industry grip on the one hand, and an all-access opening to consumers, on the other.

Neither side is right or wrong, but there’s still that gaping hole from one extreme to the other, and more importantly from the season we’re seeing to the season we’re buying.

The question is can the industry, defined by these biannual fashion weeks, the world over, adapt fittingly while continuing to embrace the benefits of digital media?

This piece originally appeared on The Telegraph

Categories
Uncategorized

Burberry to debut catwalk collection via animated GIFs on Twitter

Click here for the lowdown on all things digital planned for the Burberry show at London Fashion Week today: Mashable

Categories
social media technology

Burberry preps for SS12 digital extravaganza featuring Tweetwalk, Instagram takeover and a 4-D Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

LFW_2002279a

Burberry has partnered with Twitter for its spring/summer 2012 show due at 4pm today, providing fans with a backstage Twitpic of every look before it hits the runway.

The “Tweetwalk”, as it’s been named, will allow @Burberry Twitter followers to see the collection moments before anyone else and in so doing once again confirms the luxury label’s status as a digital innovator.

Twitter’s new media gallery photo functionality also allows all of the images to be viewed in full – click here to see.

“We are thrilled to create the first ever ‘’Tweetwalk show’’ in partnership with Twitter. Twitter is instantaneous and I love the idea that streaming a show can be in many different forms. This collection is all about the most detailed hand crafted pieces and fabric innovation, creating a beautiful physical experience that is communicated digitally in dynamic and diverse ways and I love balancing those two worlds,” said Burberry’s chief creative officer Christopher Bailey.

“Burberry was one of the first brands to truly understand Twitter’s ability to connect people all over the world with what’s most meaningful to them. Thanks to their creativity, fashion lovers everywhere will be able to see the new Burberry collection even before those in the front row,” added Tony Wang, general manager of Twitter UK.

The initiative comes as part of a move to offer fans the experience of the show from start to finish, providing them with greater access than ever before – in fact more so than those present – to enable them to feel a real part of the story.

Accordingly, the live-stream continues as per previous seasons with coverage of the red carpet in the build up to the event. It can be seen on various media partner sites as well as on Burberry.com and the brand’s YouTube and Facebook pages. For the first time, the brand’s 8m Facebook fans are also able to stream the show on their own page.

Meanwhile, the brand’s Instagram account is also joining in the action, this time with British photographer Mike Kus, the most followed user in the UK, at the helm.

And for those interested in buying spring/summer 2012 immediately, the brand’s runway to reality concept continues this season too – offering consumers the ability to purchase items from the collection exclusively online and at in-store events worldwide for one week for delivery within just eight weeks.

Meanwhile, those lucky enough to have a ticket to the show, will also be welcomed by “an immersive, multi-faceted experience” surrounding the brand’s new Burberry Body fragrance.

A 4-D hologram of face Rosie Huntington-Whiteley will be showcased in a scented room using innovative virtual imagery first pioneered by the brand for its Beijing store launch earlier this year.

Check out Bailey’s intro to today’s show, below: