5 Things You May Have Missed This Week

By Georgia Buchanan

1. Five Top Take Aways From Our London Summit

Attracting the industry’s leading experts and innovators, the inaugural FashTech Summit covered hot topics from virtual reality to the future of sustainability. We round up what you need to know from the two-day event:

1. Wearables are still a hot topic, but it’s more about intelligent fabrics

The summit reminded us that while wearables will still form part of the future of the industry, they’ll be part of the fabric of our clothes rather than gimmicky accessories that light up when our phone rings. Remember when brands were launching smart watches and tablets, asked Dean Johnson, head of innovation at creative agency Brandwidth. “Now we’re seeing the decline in growth of products like the Apple Watch.” Across several panels, experts emphasised what a powerful force smart clothing could be. Both Nick Carvell, associate style editor of GQ.co.uk and Wired assistant editor Oliver Franklin-Wallis, were firmly of the view that clothing in the future would feature intelligent fabrics.

Debera Johnson, executive director of Pratt Institute, the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator, built on this in a later panel discussion, forecasting that 10% of our clothing will be connected to the cloud by 2026.

2. The power is firmly in the hands of the consumer

A key message underpinning much of the two-day FashTech Summit, was that the balance of power has shifted from the retailer to the customer, whose knowledge and expectations have never been greater. Everything needs to be at the convenience of the customer and when it comes to deliveries, that means offering a range of choices, agreed a panel discussing fulfilment. In fact, when Glossybox’s customers complained about issues with their deliveries, the beauty subscription service quickly shifted to another carrier, said its UK and Ireland managing director Charlotte Abercon.

In another panel discussion, experts honed in the necessity of offering a frictionless experience. After realising that its customers were more interested in photography than detailed product descriptions, Finery London invested in expensive photography, said Luca Marini, its co-founder and chief operating officer. Also, as consumers demand more, brands need to personalise content and product to the customer. Brands need to be able to “talk to individuals rather than audiences”, claimed Nicholas Oliver, founder of data marketplace People.io.

3. Use storytelling to engage your audience

Paper Magazine chief creative officer Drew Elliot drew the audience in with a compelling presentation on how the title’s controversial Kim Kardashian cover created a worldwide phenomenon. The captivating Elliot told the audience how engineering a story was part of the journey in “breaking the internet”. He said: “We wanted to use the printed magazine to create a digital sensation. We devoted the entire issue to it and created an important theme and built an entire story around it and worked with all kinds of other people to make it viral in nature. We knew this image, this cover, and the famous butt would create a huge sensation.”

Creating a story was a key message underpinning several other presentations including one from Philip Handford, founder and creative director of design agency Campaign Designs, who highlighted the importance of creating a destination store with a story in order to attract and engage consumers. This was a subject further explored by the travel and ecommerce panel, with CNTraveller.com deputy editor Hazel Lubbock believing brands could be more successful by following the travel industry in harnessing the power of storytelling. She highlighted this by pointing to brands such as Chanel who were trying to attach themselves to the festival experience.

4. Cater to millennials valuing experiences over ownership

There’s been many studies thrown about in the past six months on how millennials are fuelling the experience economy and how this is expected to have a knock-on effect on clothing. Nina Faulhaber, co-founder of activewear startup brand Aday, said 77% of millennials prefer to have fewer possessions and spend money on experiences. She said consumers will become more interested in “cost per use” – owning fewer items, but wearing them more. She asked: “What if we had apparel that we could do so much more with?” The future, she sees, is product that serves a multipurpose, such as performance wear combined with a fashion focus.

The physical store will also become more important in engaging consumers seeking experiences, said Handford, who highlighted his client Selfridges as a retailer punching above its weight when it comes to providing an interactive and mesmerising store presence, citing its interactive perfume experience, Fragrance Lab, as one example.

5. Luxury brands’ digital activity still amiss

While Burberry continues to be referred to as the luxury digital trailblazer, its peers are still lagging behind when it comes to offering a super slick, online experience across all channels, several speakers agreed. Lubna Keawpanna, co-founder and creative director of digital creative agency Smack Agency, spoke of how some brands have “stores and products that are inherently beautiful but the experience doesn’t carry through into digital and social”.

In another discussion focusing on luxury online, Zoe Patoff, senior director of digital at international PR firm Karla Otto, said that while luxury brands are starting to invest in ecommerce, they’re not investing the level of money into the team or activity needed to drive traffic to their websites. 

2. What does Coachella’s move to the ‘mainstream’ mean for fashion brands? 

Coachella is now arguably the biggest music festival in the world. Or at least the most highly documented across all social media platforms. But as the two-weekend-long music (and fashion) extravaganza continues to grow ever more mainstream, it simultaneously begins to repel the edgy, cool designer brands that used to dress its revellers and throw its best parties.

In their place, we can now see a substantial increase in low to mid priced giant fashion brands like Levi’s, H&M and Calvin Klein; the result of a shifting demographic at the festival, whose attendance has doubled in the past seven years alone and now plays host to a far less indie/alternative line up and crowd than years before. Today it is the norm to see headline performances from the likes of Bieber, Rihanna, and Beyoncé, and the grounds littered with major corporate sponsorships from brands like Heineken, American Express and T-Mobile, all hoping to interact with the hoards of social media-savvy millennials coming through the gates.

This move to the ‘mainstream’ is not to everyone’s taste, and the brands who see themselves as industry trendsetters no longer see Coachella as the right fit for them. “Big, established brands are always looking for ways to be relevant to hipsters and millennials, and to them, Coachella allows them to borrow some ‘cool equity,’” says Mary Zalla, global president of consumer brands at brand consultancy Landor. “The less established brands, like Alexander Wang and Mulberry, don’t need the borrowed equity so much. As Coachella grows and becomes more broad and more commercialised and mainstream, these brands think, I’ve got to be a trendsetter and find the next up and coming thing. They’re concerned about creating trends - not responding to them.”

Not only is the new Coachella scaring away the exclusive high-end brands, it’s also making it a lot harder for the smaller brands with smaller budgets to get a look in. “[Coachella] is way oversaturated,” says Sydney Reising, New York-based publicist and founder of Sydney Reising Creative. “Unless I had a million billion dollars, I wouldn’t mess with anything on-site.” HOWEVER! That’s not to say they can’t use other, more creative ways to make an impact at the festival; as demonstrated by Rebecca Minkoff, a FashTech favourite. Acknowledging and accepting that her brand “couldn’t compete with big brands and their events”, Minkoff has, instead, attended the festival for years purely to capture content for social channels; using the festival activity to her advantage, to keep up to date with her followers and fans and ensure an upkeep of her brilliant online presence and engagement. This year, for the first time, the innovative designer is hosting her first official event: a lunch for 40 influencers in conjunction with Smashbox. Attendees will be gifted with leather jackets which they can have personalised by a New York graffiti artist; as well as having their make up done, photos taken and other activities.

Minkoff explains how this more affordable and intimate event can actually be more effective than a throwing a huge party: “If you’re a big brand and throw a party, I don’t know what the ROI is there. We’re very ROI-focused, we’re trying to have people go to Snapchat, go to Instagram. We’re trying to be thoughtful about the people we’re targeting and whether they fit the brand. [We’re not just throwing a party, but creating something that lives online for all of our customers who can’t be at Coachella.” Minkoff is hoping the lunch will be as lucrative in social media impressions as her store opening in October which generated 18 million impressions.

Whether you’re a small brand or not, there is always scope to build reach at an event like Coachella. Minkoff advises anything from running around handing out online gift cards to people whose style you like, to pulling up an RV in a parking lot and having an activation. As Yonathan Dominitz taught us during his “Decoding Innovation” workshop at our Summit last week, it is all about thinking outside the box - realising what variables are within your control and outside of your control and working out the best ways in which to manipulate and utilise these in an original and creative way.

“[Coachella] is still an important music festival,” says CFDA CEO Steven Kolb, who will be co-hosting a brunch on Saturday with fashion and beauty site PopSugar and designer Jonathan Simkhai. “I think as things mature and get older, they become different things than they were than when they were young and new. But I still think [Coachella] has the talent, the pull, the attendance, the credibility in terms of music and I think the fashion integration into that still works for brands”. 

3. The Instagram Game: Eva Chen’s Top 5 Tips

As we all know, the Internet and social media have totally transformed the world of fashion and marketing, and Instagram in particular has emerged as a critical marketing channel. With Luca Solca, head of luxury goods at Exane BNP Paribas, calling it “by far the most relevant platform for luxury brands”, it is clear that if you want to succeed in this crazy industry, you need to know your Instagram.

The Business of Fashion sat down with Eva Chen, Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships, this week to get her exclusive insight into how best to utilise the holy grail of social media platforms. “[The rapid extraordinary growth of Instagram] didn’t surprise me, just because of the visual element of Instagram. A picture is worth a thousand words, and now a picture can speak to millions of people.” So then, how can we use this platform to the best of our advantage? How can fashion brands get ahead on Instagram? “The same hallmarks of a great brand in the wider world are what makes a great brand on Instagram,” Chen explains. However, this doesn’t always translate in real life, so to help us out, Eva identified five principles for building a powerful presence on Instagram.

Firstly, she highlighted the importance of ENGAGEMENT over the number of followers.
“It’s not a numbers game. I feel like the fashion community is especially competitive and brands are looking at each other’s follower counts. But it’s the passion and engagement that people feel for a brand that matters most. That is a key gold star. You can have millions of followers, but more important is whether people are commenting and tagging their friends. That means you’ve created something that people are talking about and that’s what makes a good post.” Rebecca Minkoff is a designer who has done this excellently from the very start. Her first priority was always to engage with her fans and followers and grow her audience organically. This allows you to hear what your audience wants and respond to it and cater to it. And this is why buying your fans is a bad idea in terms of longevity. They won’t care, they won’t be engaged, they won’t spread the love, and they won’t spend the money.

Second, is CRAFT A STRONG IDENTITY. “Having a strong visual identity and a visual rubric - that’s important. Just as when you pick up a magazine, whether it’s Self Service or Vogue, and you could remove the title from the cover, but you would still know which magazine it was just from the image, the typography, the talent they’re using, the tone of voice - that logic extends to Instagram as well. Feeds that have a very consistent look do well. You want moments of spontaneity and joy, but it’s also about consistency.” Know your brand, and stick to it. Otherwise you risk confusing your audience and losing their interest.

Third: AUTHENTICITY WINS. “It’s about authenticity. The accounts I love following most all have the sense that there are real people behind them. There was a point in time when things got very manicured, but what I’m seeing now, whether it’s Donatella [Versace] or Taylor Swift or Gigi Hadid singing in grainy videos, taken at home in poor light, is a swing back to authenticity and real life. People want to feel the ‘Insta’ in Instagram. The campaign images always do well, but it’s the behind the scenes where Karlie Kloss is eating a cookie backstage - those are the images that always get more engagement, because you feel like you’re seeing through someone’s eyes.” I think this point is reflective of why Snapchat has become such a success; people always want an insight into the brand or star’s world, so giving snippets of what feels like intimate and personal snapshots is always going to be a favourite amongst consumers.

Fourth, Chen recommends CULTIVATING A COMMUNITY. “The Instagram audience wants to feel like they’re a part of something. The conversation is really important - talking back to your followers, asking questions of them. It’s not something that every brand does. But I think Valentino, for example, does this very, very well. When people are in their Rockstuds they’re posting pictures and tagging Valentino and the brand is using a lot of this user generated content, saying to followers ‘Hey, if you post us, we’ll repost you’. It’s nice because they’re spotlighting how people dress in Valentino. But when Valentino comments on their followers’ feeds, you can legit see people freak out.” One of the brilliant things about the online domain of fashion and commerce, is that you can create a whole other world to live and interact within. Bricks-and-mortar shops are falling behind because they cannot yet grasp how to cultivate a community in the same way that is possible on platforms like Instagram. Consumers, especially millennials, are there, ready and willing to get fully immersed in an online community, so you just need to find the right way to harness them.

Fifth and finally, COLLABORATE WITH NATIVES. Chen explains how “We’re in a new age where it’s about collaboration. Gucci is a great example. They do something called #GucciGram, where they collaborate with artists on Instagram. They have a collaboration with a painter named Unskilled Worker. Dries [Van Noten] worked with an Instagrammer named Button Fruit, who hand-painted his show invites. These collaborations are closer to artist residencies, where the reciprocity is more about inspiration and access versus ‘I’ll work with you because you have 9 trillion followers.’ That’s influencer marketing, which a lot of brands are doing extremely well, but that’s always existed.” Collaborations have always been an exciting way of marketing a brand or product, whether it be in fashion, music, art, or other, and the brilliant thing about this type of collaboration is that it can not only open up your brand to a totally new demographic, but it also make for a completely organic creation; something that has never been done before. 

4. Balmain Joins The ‘See Now, Buy Now’ Gang

Balmain is the latest label to join the campaign to turn the traditional fashion calendar on its head. “I believe in ‘see now, buy now’ - we have to stay connected and go faster”, said Creative Director Olivier Rousteing at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference in Seoul this week. “We are probably going to head for [that system], for sure. But it’s important to keep key pieces that you will sell later and also have pieces that are available immediately after the show. It’s good to have a mix of price points too.”

Whilst the concept has been predominantly unpopular in Paris, Rousteing is himself a poster boy for democratising luxury fashion, engaging with consumers across a number of platforms and campaigns, such as Kim Kardashian’s mobile game and his collaboration with H&M. He is also known for his entourage of famous model friends who loyally wear his collection to a vast number of media-covered events. This, plus a huge social media following, will undoubtedly help to drum up interest in instantly-shoppable items for the label.

The fashion world’s response to the quickly-evolving, social media-dominated landscape is encouraging, and it will be interesting to see how these big labels’ foray in to the ‘See Now, Buy Now’ actually pans out logistically. Watch this space! 

5. Summit Highlights

As I’m sure you’re all aware (we may have mentioned it a few times…!), last week we held our inaugural FashTech Summit at Studio Spaces in East London, and what a brilliant three days it was!

For those of you who couldn’t make it down, we hope we’ll see you at the next! But for now, you can check out the highlights for both days on our Summit website.

For Day 1 Highlights, click here
For Day 2 Highlights, click here


FashTech Talks: “My Dream About AI” with Martin Peniak at Second Home, Thursday 5th May

Martin Peniak works in the area of parallel programming. He has worked for the European Space Agency and also in the NVIDIA research centre in Sillicon Valley. During his post-doctoral studies at university in Plymouth, he trained the humanoid robot iCub and was the first to apply parallel programming in the field of cognitive robotics. Currently, Martin works for Cortexica where he is creating a biologically inspired system for visual searching. In his free time, he likes to play ethnic musical instruments and he take pictures of the universe.

Why Martin Peniak at FashTech Talks?

“What I like about Martin is that he can easily and interestingly explain scientific topics, such as parallel programming or cognitive robotics, to everyone. He has captivated the attention of many foreign scientists and so I am delighted that we can introduce him to the FashTech audience” - Alex Semenzato, FashTech Founder

Click here to read more and RSVP.