THE FU­TURE OF FASH­ION

In­no­va­tions chang­ing the in­dus­try

Fashion Quarterly - - Contents -

GO-GO-GAD­GET GAR­MENTS

Wear­able tech: Whether it’s an Her­mès Ap­ple Watch or a Tory Burch Fit­bit, there’s no short­age of lux­ury-branded ac­tiv­ity track­ers on the mar­ket. But if Google has any­thing to do with it, the end could be nigh for high-fash­ion wear­ables, with smart fab­rics on the road to mak­ing them ob­so­lete. In 2016, the tech gi­ant an­nounced it was part­ner­ing with Levi’s to cre­ate the Com­muter Jacket, us­ing its patented Project Jacquard fabric. In­cor­po­rat­ing con­duc­tive threads, the jacket — which be­comes avail­able this year for around $500 — works with a Blue­tooth cuff and the wearer’s smart­phone to fa­cil­i­tate such func­tion­al­i­ties as play­ing mu­sic at the touch of a sleeve. Se­cur­ing its spot at the fore­front of fash­ion innovation, Google has also col­lab­o­rated with H&M-owned dig­i­tal fash­ion house Ivyrevel on the so-called ‘Data Dress’. In 2018, the brand will re­lease an An­droid app that mon­i­tors a user’s ac­tiv­ity for one week, gath­er­ing data on how they travel, where they eat and what the weather is do­ing. This data will then be used to cre­ate a com­pletely per­son­alised gar­ment, which the cus­tomer can or­der through the app for a base price of $140.

3D printed fash­ion: High-fash­ion de­sign­ers have been ex­per­i­ment­ing with 3D print­ing technology for al­most a decade, mem­o­rable mo­ments be­ing the 2500-piece gown cre­ated by Michael Sch­midt and Fran­cis Bi­tonti for bur­lesque star Dita von Teese, and ba­si­cally ev­ery­thing that French cou­turier Iris van Helpen sends down the run­way. But we mere mor­tals are now en­joy­ing the ben­e­fits too, with la­bels such as the San Fran­cisco-based Con­tin­uum of­fer­ing 3D printed swimwear to cus­tomers who type their mea­sure­ments into the brand’s on­line store. Adi­das, Nike and New Bal­ance are us­ing body scan­ning technology to cre­ate be­spoke, high-per­for­mance footwear. There are still hur­dles to over­come be­fore this mode of pro­duc­tion goes main­stream — namely print­ing and as­sem­bling costs, and the ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity of ma­te­ri­als. How­ever it’s a rapidly ad­vanc­ing area, with seem­ingly lim­it­less scope once the kinks are ironed out.

Blockchain: Util­is­ing the same soft­ware that drives cryp­tocur­rency Bit­coin, Blockchain works like a mi­crochip for clothes. It can com­bat coun­ter­feit­ing by al­low­ing con­sumers to ver­ify an item’s au­then­tic­ity, as well as stor­ing in­for­ma­tion about a prod­uct’s his­tory, in­clud­ing where it was made, where the fabric was grown and what chem­i­cals were used in its pro­duc­tion. As so­cial con­scious­ness con­tin­ues to weigh on con­sumers’ minds, be­ing able to ac­cess this in­for­ma­tion through our smart­phones will no doubt soon be af­fect­ing our pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions.

SHOP­PING SMARTER

The Busi­ness of Fash­ion re­cently re­ported that 2017 was the worst year on record for bricks-and-mor­tar re­tail, with store clo­sures across the US up 200% from the pre­vi­ous year. With the growth of on­line shop­ping be­ing the ma­jor cause, brands

and re­tail­ers are work­ing with tech­nolo­gies to of­fer cus­tomers a shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence that meets, if not ex­ceeds, that of­fered by their dig­i­tal coun­ter­parts.

A re­tail pioneer for the dig­i­tal age, Amer­i­can de­signer Re­becca Minkoff has seen a 200% in­crease in sales since fit­ting out her New York flag­ship store with a video wall that helps shoppers to find items. In­ter­ac­tive mir­rors also let them match the dress­ing room light­ing to the sce­nario they are buy­ing for. Else­where, Gap, Ama­zon, and eyewear brand Warby Parker have de­vel­oped apps that al­low cus­tomers to vir­tu­ally ‘try on’ an un­lim­ited num­ber of prod­ucts in their own homes. The up­shot is more pur­chases made more of­ten, with a lower re­turn rate that ul­ti­mately saves the re­tailer money. Re­tail­ers and cus­tomers are also reap­ing the re­wards of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence soft­ware that fa­cil­i­tates pre­dic­tive fore­cast­ing and bet­ter mer­chan­dis­ing, re­sult­ing in in­creased prod­uct avail­abil­ity and faster, more ac­cu­rate de­liv­er­ies.

And what if, for you, the ap­peal of on­line shop­ping lies not in an im­proved cus­tomer ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence, but the lack of one al­to­gether? En­ter con­tact­less shop­ping — the so­lu­tion to long check­out lines and te­dious small talk with sales as­sis­tants who want to be there about as much as you do.

In China, un­manned con­ve­nience stores where cus­tomers pay for prod­ucts by scan­ning them with their smart­phones are pop­ping up all over the place, and Wal­mart has an­nounced plans to open some­thing sim­i­lar by the end of this year, bring­ing new mean­ing to the phrase ‘tap and gap’.

THE CHANG­ING FACE OF FASH­ION WEEK

It used to be that fash­ion weeks were trade events, de­signed for buy­ers and me­dia to see for­ward-sea­son col­lec­tions. The for­mer de­cided there and then which pieces they would carry in stores, the lat­ter dis­cerned the ma­jor in­com­ing trends and wrote these up in show re­views and trend re­ports. From these two an­gles, the gen­eral pub­lic re­ceived a fil­tered ver­sion of what hap­pened on the run­ways. Now, thanks to so­cial me­dia, it’s fil­tered in a dif­fer­ent sense, Instagram in par­tic­u­lar hav­ing lifted the vel­vet rope and trans­formed fash­ion week into a pub­lic spec­ta­cle.

Con­se­quently, fash­ion houses are adapt­ing how they show­case their col­lec­tions and are in­vest­ing where they see the high­est prob­a­bil­ity of re­turn. An anal­y­sis of so­cial me­dia men­tions dur­ing New York Fash­ion Week last Septem­ber showed that it’s not the clothes catch­ing peo­ple’s attention. Rather, it’s show­stop­ping sets and, ac­cord­ing to so­cial me­dia mon­i­tor­ing agency Brand­watch, a strong celebrity and in­flu­encer pres­ence. “A mere [celebrity] ap­pear­ance can give you as much ex­po­sure as a de­signer who’s worked [on their col­lec­tion] day and night for months,” wrote so­cial data jour­nal­ist, Gemma Joyce.

As for get­ting the clothes the recog­ni­tion they de­serve, a dig­i­tal strat­egy that works with the avail­able ap­pli­ca­tions is es­sen­tial. And in­deed, far from the blurry run­way snaps and slap-dash cap­tions of the early iPhone era, many brands have be­gun to use smart technology in so­phis­ti­cated ways — pre-rolling fash­ion week con­tent shot specif­i­cally to be viewed on a smart­phone screen.

“[Think] de­tail shots of fabric at Calvin Klein, or a long-form cap­tion that tells the be­hind-the-scenes story of a par­tic­u­lar mo­tif, as McQueen will reg­u­larly post,” says Eva Chen, head of fash­ion part­ner­ships at Instagram. Ex­plain­ing that the fash­ion busi­ness is a “show-and-tell in­dus­try”, Chen told Vogue that Instagram pro­vides de­sign­ers the op­por­tu­nity for richer sto­ry­telling while al­low­ing users to feel like they are sit­ting front row. “In­clu­siv­ity is the new ex­clu­siv­ity,” she says.

It might sound like an ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise — and it is — but if it means your col­lec­tion floods the feeds of an un­lim­ited

and pre­vi­ously un­tapped fol­low­ing, you can pretty much ex­pect that mock rocket launch/’90s su­per­model re­union/other mis­cel­la­neous PR stunt to pay for it­self in sales.

Un­less, of course, the length of time be­tween your fash­ion week show­ing and your col­lec­tion be­ing avail­able is such that the con­sumer loses in­ter­est along the way — this be­ing per­haps the big­gest chal­lenge the new fash­ion week model presents. Speak­ing to Vogue in Septem­ber last year, Man Re­peller blog­ger Le­an­dra Me­dine voiced her con­cerns specif­i­cally in re­la­tion to New York Fash­ion Week.

“Its com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage ... is cer­tainly [its] con­tem­po­rary [fo­cus],” she said. “The trou­ble, in my view, is that per­haps we don’t need to see con­tem­po­rary wear six months be­fore it can be pur­chased.”

Ev­i­dently, Alexan­der Wang agrees — the street-luxe la­bel an­nounced in Jan­uary that its AW18 show­ing in Fe­bru­ary would be its last at NYFW for the fore­see­able fu­ture. Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of sev­eral of its New York-based con­tem­po­raries, in­clud­ing Proenza Schouler and Ro­darte, the de­ci­sion re­flects the Wang camp’s de­sire to fo­cus its en­er­gies and bud­gets on ex­e­cut­ing more col­lec­tions through­out the year with more fre­quent drops, which it will pro­mote via off-sched­ule pre­sen­ta­tions that align more closely with these drops.

“Our con­sumer will be bet­ter served through the new sys­tem,” says CEO Lisa Gersh, ex­plain­ing that the new ap­proach “re­frames prod­uct on the month that it ships, rather than the out­dated la­bels of ‘re­sort’ or ‘pre-fall,’ giv­ing our cus­tomers more rel­e­vant and con­sis­tent mer­chan­dise through­out the year.”

For de­sign­ers yet to jump the NYFW ship, a ‘see now, buy now’ model that al­lows con­sumers to shop their favourite looks straight off the run­way is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly de rigueur. Mean­while, in an at­tempt to woo back the likes of Wang, The Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica is propos­ing pre-sea­son fash­ion weeks in the June and De­cem­ber time slots more suited to their sell­ing needs.

With lo­cal de­sign­ers in­creas­ingly see­ing the value in in­de­pen­dent, off-sea­son pre­sen­ta­tions, one won­ders whether New Zealand Fash­ion Week will adapt in the same way. Un­til then, some are us­ing NZFW as a plat­form to change the in­dus­try’s way of think­ing from the in­side out. Emerg­ing de­signer Wynn Craw­shaw of Wynn Ham­lyn made waves last year by show­ing his en­tire 2018 range at once, the col­lec­tion aptly ti­tled ‘Sea­sons’.

Partly a com­men­tary on the ef­fect of global warm­ing on the fash­ion in­dus­try, the con­sol­i­dated au­tumn/win­ter and spring/sum­mer of­fer­ing was also ex­plained as a way of get­ting around the in­creas­ingly prob­lem­atic fash­ion cal­en­dar — a strat­egy that we can ex­pect to see more em­brac­ing in 2018.

TO MAR­KET, TO MAR­KET

Step­ping away from tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing meth­ods, 2017 saw an ex­po­nen­tial rise in fash­ion brands us­ing in­flu­encers to push their prod­uct. But with con­sumers now su­per savvy when it comes to iden­ti­fy­ing paid-for con­tent (largely be­cause of stricter reg­u­la­tions around dis­clo­sure), will this year see the in­flu­encer econ­omy bub­ble burst?

Not ex­actly. Due to ad­vances in soft­ware that make it eas­ier for brands to mea­sure the value of get­ting In­sta-fa­mous faces on board, con­tent mar­ket­ing plat­form Lin­qia re­ports that 39% of mar­keters plan to in­crease their in­flu­encer bud­gets in 2018. But brands and in­flu­encers are hav­ing to re­think the ways they work to­gether, mak­ing their re­la­tion­ships not only more trans­par­ent but more long-term — the think­ing be­ing that a con­sumer will likely see a paid-for en­dorse­ment as more gen­uine if it isn’t a one-off. Says Gil Eyal, CEO of in­flu­encer di­rec­tory, HyprBrands, “the au­di­ence wants to see that the in­flu­encer re­ally likes the prod­uct and is us­ing it in the long-term. So the brands that will win are the ones cre­at­ing their own in­flu­encer ros­ters and ac­ti­vat­ing those ros­ters again and again.”

With in­flu­encer out­reach com­pany To­mo­son re­port­ing that 22% of cus­tomers are now ac­quired di­rectly through in­flu­encer mar­ket­ing, it’s no won­der this is where the money is be­ing spent. But more con­ven­tional mar­ket­ing meth­ods are also yield­ing brands bet­ter re­turns than ever, thanks to a new fo­cus on per­son­al­i­sa­tion.

From ge­o­graph­i­cal and de­mo­graphic in­for­ma­tion to in­ter­net search his­to­ries, the avail­abil­ity of in­sights that al­low ad­ver­tis­ers to serve us cus­tomised e-news­let­ters, web­site land­ing pages and tar­geted dig­i­tal ads has seen in­creased con­ver­sion rates across the board. Of course, as it be­comes eas­ier for brands to track our ev­ery on­line move, the like­li­hood of be­ing served an ir­rel­e­vant ad also in­creases. And the more ads we see for prod­ucts and ser­vices that re­late to some­thing we’ve men­tioned but once in a text, email or (if you be­lieve the con­spir­acy the­o­ries) IRL con­ver­sa­tion, the more tempted we’ll be to use ad block­ers, and then no one wins.

‘The au­di­ence wants to see that the in­flu­encer re­ally likes the prod­uct ... so the brands that will win are the ones cre­at­ing their own in­flu­encer ros­ters’

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