5 Things You May Have Missed This Week

By Georgia Buchanan

1. Entirely VR Clothing Collections: Yay or Nay?

A recent project by Dutch artists Pinar & Viola consisted of a holographic catwalk show of an entirely VR clothing range (but showcased on a real model) during Amsterdam Fashion Week. The theme of the show was animism; the belief that a soul or spirit exists in everyday objects, and they reflected this by presenting clothes imbued with characteristics like eyes and mouths, which became animated characters through the combination of the holographic screens and the model’s movements.

“We believe that people buy, throw and mistreat their clothing because we do not feel connected with the inanimate objects around us,” explained Pinar & Viola. “That is the reason why, with this catwalk experience, we intended to make people empathise with their clothing the way they do with their friends, by creating a catwalk experience where the spirit of the clothing was visualised.”

Pinar & Viola’s holographic catwalk was a collaboration with Amber Slooten, a Dutch fashion designer and AMFI (Amsterdam Fashion Institute) graduate, who had worked with virtual reality clothing and holograms as part of her degree. Slooten created the 3D models for the clothes simulations whilst Pinar & Viola worked with catwalk choreographer Kim Vos for the movements of the real-life model, Nelle Swan, who was motion captured. Slooten, inspired by the mixed reality concepts of companies like Magic Leap and Microsoft’s HoloLens, wanted to explore how a future of holographic garments might work.

She said: “I realised that I did not want to make a collection in real life. It will end up in the back of my closet and it would have served for a couple of nice editorial pictures but that’s it. We already carry such a big virtual identity, but it is hidden behind screens. Why not make it visible in the space around you? I am a fashion designer and what I am interested in is the body, and the way it moved through material. Whether it is a virtual fabric, flames, hair or other virtual entities doe not matter to me. The virtual world has so many materials I could never use in real life and this would also be the goal for the next collection.”

It is also far more eco-friendly. By creating a world for fashion in the virtual environment, “we can inspire others to save resources, time, space and the ecosystem,” say Pinar & Viola. “With this catwalk, we wanted to show that technology plays a fundamental role in the future of fashion, industry, and our planet.”

2. The Hamptons = Summer’s Home of Luxury Retail

You may have heard of the Revolve House in the Hamptons. A waterfront mansion that online retailer Revolve has taken over for the summer months, it opens its doors to a different celebrity host each weekend; from Kim Kardashian to Hailey Baldwin to Chrissy Teigen, all the American ‘It’ ladies are doing it. With these celebrity fashion bloggers, models and actresses, comes a plethora of fashion pop-up shops taking over the Hamptons’ beach towns. Moët Chandon provides the champagne, and the guests provide the social media promo through the hashtag #RevolveintheHamptons.

Even outside of the Revolve House and the Kim Kardashian clan, The Hamptons are a hot bed for luxury retail during the summer months. “The Hamptons are always a desired consumer audience that brands are trying to connect with,” says Maurice Bernstein, co-founder and CEO of experience brand agency Giant Step. “It’s seasonal, though, it doesn’t make sense for most brands to set up there all year.” Whilst the likes of Gucci and Stuart Weitzman are frequent summer habitants of the town, smaller more niche luxury brands are also looking to get their names and products in front of the extremely wealthy customers that populate the Hamptons. New to the area this season are brands like The Line, a luxury clothing company that is using the retail space to host events with designers like Joseph Altuzarra.

Lucie Greene, worldwide director of the Innovation Group at J. Walter Thompson, said: “The Hamptons is less about revenue from sales as publicity and connection to the influential audience who will be there - who in turn will share their presence on social media channels. Providing an experience, novelty, and visually striking activities are key here.”And now that more and more luxury brands are seeking a space in the Hamptons to provide this experience, competition is high and locations are being secured for the following year from the moment the current season ends. Brands are using any and all tools in their arsenal to be able to maintain their prime summer spot and to continue nurturing their relationships with these high-flying consumers. For example, Net-a-Porter brought its same-day delivery offering to the Hamptons in June, as well as setting up a concierge line that customers can call for personalised style tips and extra errands. Not only this, but the luxury e-commerce giant also launched a $1,400 “Getaway Kit” that offers a curated selection of summer gear plus two tickets on the Blade, the helicopter that takes the wealthy from Manhattan to the Hamptons in style.

As discussed in previous digests, and as a hot topic of the moment, it is acknowledged now that e-commerce brands need to get offline, and physical retail stores need to get online. All brands need to have an omnichannel setup if they want to stay ahead in the game. And with this in mind, the Hamptons are the ideal platform for the likes of Net-a-Porter and Revolve to expand to the offline world.

3. Could Brexit Help Revive British Manufacturing?

Whilst the majority of articles I’ve read on Brexit (both those related to fashion and those on a more general note) have seen the population’s majority vote to leave the EU as an entirely wrong decision with only negative repercussions, this week Heidy Rehman wrote a piece for the Guardian with a different spin. “Brexit could help revive British manufacturing”. And not only this, but she believes it to be the luxury brands who can help to drive this revival.

Rehman is the founder and manager of Rose & Willard, a womenswear brand that designs, manufactures and retails their products all in one single London location. Whilst she can of course see the downfalls of us voting ‘Leave’, namely the depreciation of the pound and the repercussions of this, she also sees this as an opportunity to alter the structure of the fashion world for the better. Brands may soon have no choice but to produce in the UK, and is that such a bad thing? Provided our politicians do their part in the wake of this referendum, and help to make the transition as easy as possible by ensuring British brands choose British manufacturers over competitors in Poland, Portugal or Hungary, then it could be the start of a very exciting future for UK fashion.

It is here that Rehman believes that the luxury brands can take the reigns and drive the change. The majority of luxury brands currently manufacture in low-cost regions and focus the wealth of their outgoings on big advertising budgets and trophy shops. Due to globalisation, and a shift in the consumer demographic, scale is now hugely important, and this can only be provided by low-cost overseas manufacturers. Rehman’s company uses the same luxury fabrics and materials as high-end brands, but they manage to manufacture here in the UK. By working out of a non-prime location facility and using pop-ups rather than expensive shops, Rose & Willard manage to keep their fixed costs low. The resulting product? Affordable yet high quality products. So it can be done! Luxury brands just need to take the time to investigate and make the change.

However, it is not all down to the brands to initiate the change. If we are to see long term alterations to the system, it needs to start with education. Rehman explains that schools need to take responsibility for including manufacturing courses and awareness in the curriculum so that it can become a common and desirable career for young students. Otherwise the UK is not going to be able to match up to the workers in Europe and even further afield and local production just won’t be possible on a large scale.

Finally, and most relevant to our “FashTECH” digest, is the necessary involvement from technology that Rehman cites. Tech investments are needed, she says, in order to “compete with the luxury of Italian products and the technical performance of Swiss and Japanese materials.” More specifically, she explains: “If British mills could provide the stretch in fabric that is required for professional women’s workwear there would be a ready market.” There are also some technical fabrics available overseas that can’t currently be sourced in the UK, such as crease-resistant fabrics and ones that can wick away sweat.

Rehman is optimistic about the future of British fashion as a result of Brexit, but she is clear in her statement that “there needs to be a clear plan.” Something that I’m not sure anyone has just yet, but hopefully over time the politicians can prove us wrong.

4. What a Pokémon Go Experiment Taught Us About AR Marketing

This article is from Huge and can be found here.

Huge is known as a digital agency, but since last year, we’ve operated a café in Midtown Atlanta. Huge Café is our real-time, real-life test lab where we can connect innovation and customers quickly. It helps us understand the challenges, considerations, and implications our retail clients face when they contemplate making changes to their business. We put our theories into practice at the café first, at our own expense, so we can say with conviction that they work.

Leveraging the popularity of Pokémon Go—the mobile augmented reality game where players try to capture Pokémon creatures in the wild—was the café’s most recent proof of concept. We made a limited investment in the form of in-game currency in the first days of the craze to make the Huge Café a part of the overall Pokémon Go game play—and yielded an astonishingly high return on investment.

Activating Pokémon Go at the café just as the phenomenon took off helped us glean early insights about augmented reality’s potential implications for businesses and marketers. Studying user behavior and analyzing sales trends during the week we paid for active “Lures,” which attract Pokémon creatures to a specific location, yielded tangible data about how AR can impact retail businesses.

A 400% ROI.

Pokémon Go launched in the U.S. on July 6 with a slow build through the weekend, when usage of the app exploded. Within days of launch, Pokémon Go had more daily active users than Twitter, and players were spending more time in the app than on Facebook. Players walked (and walked, and walked) in search of more Pokémon to catch, to bars and restaurants and, yes, coffee shops. Hoards of people hit the streets to try out the game; strangers were talking to one another, bonding over Pokémon Go. Cars were rolling by the café with drivers yelling "Did you catch the___?” The energy and excitement was palpable.

A few establishments (some justifiably) found Poké hunters to be a nuisance, but we wanted to invite in as many as possible. Since we were located between two Pokéstops (virtual depots for picking up free game-related loot), we also had a geographic advantage.

On Monday, the first day we used the Pokéstop lures, most of the activity remained on the street, with a few new customers showing up inside the café for a drink. Activity spiked on Tuesday as Pokémon Go achieved scale and players experienced one of the game’s unfortunate side effects: battery drain. As a courtesy, we offered free device chargers in the café. This service brought players in and gave them the chance to cool off, rest up, and recharge. Many also placed an order. Sales were 27.4% higher than an average Tuesday.

On Wednesday, exhaustion started to set in. Active players had been walking in the Atlanta heat for days on end, as hatching some of the eggs meant walking up to five miles. Visitors to the café held down tables for hours at a time thanks to the proximity of our two lured Pokéstops and the convenience of charging, WiFi, and air conditioning (the high temperature on Wednesday was 93 degrees). Sales were 28.4% higher than average that day, and the upward trend continued for the rest of the week.

Across the week, we saw an ROI of 400% on activating Lures. More important than the payout, however, was what we learned about leveraging the transformative power of AR in retail spaces, and the potential impact of mixed-reality game play.

The Future of Mixed Reality.

This was not a one-time thing or a gimmick. It is the start of what we believe is one of the most significant and potentially disruptive trends and dynamics in digital and retail; investors have directed more than $1 billion into AR/VR technology in 2016 already. Pokémon Go is the current craze, but the larger phenomenon is about the convergence and rapid adoption of pervasive gaming, location-based activity, and mixed reality. This represents a new dynamic that brands, marketers, and especially physical retailers need to acknowledge and understand. There is a lot to consider and learn about AR, what it means for users, and what it means for businesses. A few initial thoughts based on our experience with Pokémon Go:

1. Pokémon is just the beginning.

Pokémon is the standard-bearer for AR gaming now—but it’s obviously not the singular future of this type of experience. While you need to understand the nature of Pokémon to successfully play the game, it is more important to have a handle on the model and mechanics of these types of games, as well as the role and power of the game maker.

Beyond the in-game micro-transactions, the game has not yet been commercialized. There is no way yet to buy or sponsor a Pokéstop, build your own Gym, or introduce your own character. There is also no way to bait Lures from a distance to scale this beyond an immediate location. This will likely change as Pokémon matures, offering a greater variety of options for activating the game as a media property or event. It’s a useful exercise to imagine and plan out how you’d activate this game, or this type of game, across your footprint and within your locations. Also, consider the power making a game people fall in love with. In our small-scale and highly localized test, we saw how the game itself could dramatically affect foot traffic and migration patterns of individuals and groups on the street.

2. Games can stress the service model.

What do you do, and how do you react, when the primary reason certain people visit your business is not the primary reason you are in business? Games like Pokémon Go have the potential to turn any physical location into an attraction. Any corner or block could attract a Times Square—sized crowd if the mixed-reality game creates enough excitement and payoff for people to visit or converge. Retailers should consider how to do business with incidental visitors, asking themselves questions like: How do we accommodate customers who aren’t there for the direct service we provide? Do we merely tolerate them, or do we support—and even court—them? For example, we offered cards for free steamed buns at lunchtime to players who showed us their captured Pokémon, giving them an excuse to stick around or come back later. Exclusion is an option—but not a good one. It’s a potential loss of opportunity, as we saw with frustrated businesses putting up signs warding off players.

We advocate the opposite approach: Borrow inspiration from Starbucks’ policy of opening up bathrooms and WiFi to everyone, building up some goodwill, and then converting strays into paying customers.

3. Location, location, location means what?

The Huge Café is on a nice corner in Atlanta’s Midtown district. There is good Monday—Friday foot traffic from offices and neighborhoods during business hours, but it’s quiet in the evenings and dead on the weekends. Last week, however, we enjoyed a spike in traffic and activity as a result of our proximity to two Pokéstops. Our rent does not today take into account the virtual attraction created by the game and our lease rate is based on the known population and traffic counts. What will happen when there’s a virtual overlay on the physical world that creates new traffic patterns that defy the conventional real estate models upon which rental rates have been established? Will we see the equivalent of Pokémon premiums for real estate? Again, this change isn’t coming tomorrow or necessarily in the next couple of years, but you can expect this will be a conversation in lease negotiations and renewals five years from now.

4. You’ve got to play it to get it.

You can’t figure this out just by reading about it. You have to get the app, play the game, and cast yourself in the role of the user to truly understand what it really means.

5. Virtual experiences create real connections.

Gamers are after virtual rewards, but they pick up Pokémon in real locations, which form a part of the entire memory. In other words, players don’t just remember catching a monster, they recall where it happened in the real world. Case in point: Last week, a customer tweeted his thanks for both a free steamed bun and a fairly scarce Pokémon called Starmie.

Have we earned a repeat customer? We think so, and we’re counting our lucky Starmie.

5. FashTech Talks: “Age of the Influencer?” last few tickets!

We are very excited to be hosting the next in our series of FashTech Talks on Wednesday evening at the Yard in Shoreditch. In association with IPR London and Diipa Khosla (India’s most successful global fashion and lifestyle blogger), our expert panel will be discussing how effective brand ambassadors and bloggers are to a brand’s digital strategy and the real level of ROI they provide for the companies employing them. 

The talk comes at a very interesting time, with new laws having just been implemented to make sure followers are aware when 'influencers' are being paid to promote products. We'll be looking at how this will affect the way in which brands, and more importantly followers, react to sponsored content.

The panel’s stellar line up includes: Diipa Khosla, India’s largest global fashion & lifestyle blogger; Debbie Cartwright, Managing Director at IPR London; ^^ and ^^, moderated by Sam Burne-James, News Editor at PR Week. After an hour’s discussion and Q&A, we will then be providing complimentary drinks and a chance to network with your fellow attendees.

If you’re interested in attending please click HERE now as we are down to our last 18 tickets! Looking forward to seeing you all there!