Fashion’s ecosystem is experiencing a back to the future swing.
I’m not referring to the 90s wide-legged women’s pantlegs sailing down the runways – sure to trip up any New York fashionista the moment she steps off a curb – but rather, an existential crisis propelled by consumer demand for instant gratification and morphing Millennial values.
In an era where consumer expectations have been stoked by ‘see-now-buy-now’, free shipping ecommerce fulfillment, no longer do fashion consumers get satisfaction from elaborately staged runway hoopla and fanfare. No satisfaction either in what has become pure anachronism – February catwalk bikinis and cruise wear and August furs – which don’t deliver for six months.
The “Kool-Aid” imbibed by the industry, and referred to by CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg during NYFW last month, has simply stopped working. Von Furstenberg was an early advocate of digital innovation in fashion. But the runway system is also feeling the heat from fast fashion’s ability to usurp runway designs straight off the catwalk and drop in-store almost immediately.
Once seen as an incestuous, self-consuming elite microcosm, fashion in the era of social media is being redefined by forces both internal and external. In part by industry luddites defined by smaller labels determined to lower the barriers to entry, in part by megabrand early digital adopters like Christopher Bailey of Burberry, but primarily by consumer expectations, technology and dramatic shifts in consumer values toward fashion.
The foundation of the erstwhile microcosm called fashion is undergoing a tectonic shift. A global complex system, aftershocks from buy direct from runway pronouncements at NYFW A/W 16 will continue for some time. Accustomed to seamless immediate gratification, in the eye of people today fashion has become commoditized.
To wit, a study conducted by Boston Consulting for the CFDA with a somewhat foreboding title: ‘The Future of New York Fashion Week’. The peer group interviewed concurred on several issues, including in-season relevancy, the outmoded delivery system, perils of markdown cadence, and significantly, the need to align with shifting consumer behavior and values, among other issues.
Taking note of fashion’s social media engagement milestones, beauty, entertainment and lifestyle media have joined what is quickly becoming an immersive deployment of digital platforms. In a recent NYC Social Media Week panel called Data Versus Gut, Hearst Media Digital editors applauded intuitive thinking, combined with data, as contributing to their digital media success in growing audience amplification and engagement. They also emphasized the curatorial distinctions of omnichannel for brands as diverse as Delicious, Harper’s Bazaar and Seventeen, rebuking the potential foibles of espousing a ‘one size fits all’ social media content strategy.
Fashion tech innovation, strategic social marketing and social media analytics are now as integral to fashion as design. This centrifuge of innovation has accelerated with the advancement of mobile platforms, enabling mega and small brands to leverage wider engagement and brand share.
Among the tech trends during global fashion month:
- Shoppable runways. Direct from runway capsule collections were made available last month by Burberry, Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Tommy Hilfiger and Rebecca Minkoff.
- Instagram dominates NYFW. According to L2, Instagram still dominates as the preferred visual sharing platform for fashion, with engagement outpacing both Facebook and Twitter.
- Mobile video will dominate fashion media. By 2019, videos will generate half of global Internet traffic, according to Business Insider’s April 2015 Digital Video Advertising Report. Further, the February L2 Fashion Video Digest confirmed that nearly one-third of the most-viewed videos on fashion brands’ YouTube channels establish brand identity through heritage vignettes and unique, non-celebrity collaborations. Expect ad models to change dramatically, as video ad spend is expected to grow 22% per year over the next five years.
- The NetBase Popular Media analysis of NYFW 16 top video reposts below is a reliable media amplification tracker.
- Paris Fashion Week A/W 16 Popular Media Amplifies – Measured with the NetBase Application media analysis tool, the chart below tracks the top 10 Twitter image and video reposts amplified in global markets. Recently published NetBase Luxury Brand Passion Report included a similar paid/owned media analysis reflecting Louis Vuitton’s higher paid media costs vs. Chanel’s. Ironically, Chanel displaced Louis Vuitton in first ranking in the two year study.
- The growth of Snapchat in fashion, beauty and lifestyle. Boasting 100 million users, Snapchat’s informal unedited aesthetic is a beacon to Millennials, delivering to the platform 8 billion unpolished video clips a day in stark contrast with the stilted fashion marketing code. Cosmopolitan has reported that they get up to 3 million views a day via their Snapchat Stories.
- London Fashion Week’s top tech moments featured Burberry’s collaboration with Apple TV to stream its show, along with special brand features and connecting with Burberry style reps. Topshop Periscoped and VidTweeted Nick Night’s Go-Pro backstage shoot of the collection. Other digital innovation came from Temperley and Mulberry.
- Versace scored Insta-Girl Gigi Hadad at Milan Fashion Week, capitalizing on her enviable social media following to explode Donatella’s social reach. Milan’s youthful fashion orientation was also evident at Emporio Armani and Diesel Black Gold.
- Globalization of fashion in social media. This season, only 38% of the Spring Haute Couture designers were French. Increasingly, fashion labels are using enterprise listening platforms to identify and vet global influencers as a tipping point for opening potential new markets and growing regional marketshare.
- Tracking mobile media sharing in global markets is a barometer of brand success, as well as a measure of paid/earned media ROI. The NYFW A/W 16 chart below is an analysis of Popular Media shared across global markets tracked in NetBase Application. Notably, our top 15 Twitter global image analysis identified significant NYFW 16 image sharing by Sooyoung in Korea and Joke Jaith in Vietnam, both of whom, with significant following, are fashion influencers in their countries.
And specific global fashion month brand initiatives:
- Petit Hermès – Petit h – Petit h video highlighting creative design and selection process of the fully sustainable extension brand, utilizes discarded materials from Hermès production. Feeding appetite for transparency, Petit h’s Food For Thought mobile video campaign isn’t intended to exclusively boast brand heritage vignettes or quality, which are considered a mainstay, but rather to speak to a new market of younger global affluents who place high value on authenticity and sustainability. In fact, Petit h is open to independent submissions whose designs are consistent with the mission of Petit h.
- Chanel’s Vocabulary of Fashion reflects the couture brand’s creative mission of cultural relevancy. Faced with challenges posed by Millennials for greater “transparency,” Chanel’s initiative is as much a market cultivation effort as it is cultural outreach and an attempt to connect with new market values.
As of today, the French seem to be the only ones holding out on radical fashion week runway disruption, apparently issuing an edit against buy-direct-from-runway. Yet, in the world according to Karl, even though the “system is a mess,” Paris, the fashion capital of the world, doesn’t feel compelled to, sacré bleu!, step into American shoes.