Fashion weeks have always been an access-only extravagant affair – all flashy events including celebrities, studios, catwalks & after parties – intended to launch a new season to the trade audience and industry insiders. Brands have been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to create that excitement and buzz for the new collection. But in reality when the collection actually hits the stores for mass audiences, fast fashion finds a cheap alternative and there is a drop in consumer excitement. Only in 2015, Givenchy made its NY show public by offering tickets, which gathered more than 1200 non-industry folks to attend the show. For the last decade, brands are trying to connect with their consumers and simplify communication.
On the other side, fashion weeks are not sustainable. The flashy runway sets are landfilled after a 15 minutes show. Celebrities travel from fashion capital to fashion capital leaving their carbon footprint. According to the New York Times, the New York fashion week in 2019 was responsible for a full 37 percent of the emissions. 2019 saw the cancellation of fashion weeks across Scandinavia and London. All of this was leading towards a digital revolution – a digital alternative to fashion weeks – which many of the industry insiders believe is a paradigm shift in the fashion business. Though the transition was not overnight, In 2020, Coronavirus acted as the catalyst for this fundamental change. With social distancing and massive quarantine globally, there is a shift towards digital-only solutions.
With the announcement from the British Fashion Council about the London Fashion Week to be a digital-only platform in June 2020, it marks the official beginning of the digital fashion weeks across Europe.
Digital fashion weeks are finally here and they giving brands an opportunity to redefine the fundamentals of their business model, towards a sustainable future. From virtual runways to virtual showrooms and digital clothes – the industry is starting to embrace digitization beyond online retailing and supply chain automation.
How can Luxury Brands approach Digital Fashion Week:
1) The Science Behind Livestream:
First things first. There’s no doubt live streaming helps you reach a bigger audience (almost everyone around the globe). The fundamental element of a digital fashion show is choosing the right live streaming platform to connect with your audience. Though social giants like Facebook and Instagram give you a relatively personal and snap worthy experience, it’s important to capture the essence of the show from varied angles in real-time. So it doesn’t feel boring to your audience. In 2016, Carolina Herrera partnered with Livestream.com (Acquired by Vimeo) which allowed the audience to move around the room online. Behind the scene was two 360 degrees camera technology which made it possible. Imagine watching a 2D and a 3D movie. The experience is different right?
The work does not get over after that. To maximize the impact of live streaming,
1.1. You have to stream it across all possible platforms that provide streaming options: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. So combine it with a multi-stream platform.
1.2. Capture short clips during the show to further use it in your marketing channels: website, press, email, and social media.
1.3. Go Local if you can. If your collection is targeted towards particular geography where your core shoppers are or you want to test pilot a new market (which most brands are doing now), then choose a local streaming platform where the users are already present or acquainted with. It maximizes your exposure even before your products hit the stores. Tory Burch took to WeChat and Weibo to connect with its audience for the China market in 2019.
1.4. Ditch the normal. Brands need to look beyond how fashion weeks used to be physical. Erase from your mind what you know about live streams till now. Take a fresh look at the concept as a whole and be creative. Digital runways give you the freedom to experiment with new formats and unexpected ways to reach your audience.
2) An Entertainment first approach:
When the movie industry can shift from theatres to Netflix, why can’t fashion? Brands can present the digital fashion weeks as a movie premiere or a live concert or a sports event – entertainment first. But how?
2.1. Keeping it interactive – Who won’t love JLO coming live for Coach and interacting with the audience in between a live program? Brands can instantly connect with their end consumers by making the live streaming interactive and fun. Users can interact with celebrities, industry influencers, and ask questions related to the new collection. It simplifies the communication gap between the brand and the consumers and makes them feel part of the brand as a whole.
2.2. Partnering with a media agency for creating a plot – Digital fashion runways don’t need to be live streaming of catwalks. Like H&M has partnered with a Netflix series to promote one of its collections targeted to teens, Luxury brands can create their own plot. Something which is longer than a commercial but shorter than a series.
2.3. Think beyond media entertainment – If you have launched yoga pants, live stream your new collection on a yoga masterclass by a powerful influencer. If you have launched a sportswear collection, live stream at a sports event – If it’s a racer jacket, head straight to F1 Tracks. Be creative in collaboration. Look for all possibilities – across industries and geographies.
3) Creating that buzz (before and after):
The whole objective here is not to lose the excitement.
3.1. Drop a teaser – Create short clips on what’s upcoming and spread it across all channels – website, social, email, press, streaming partners.
3.2. Run countdown clocks – across all channels.
3.3. Create an omnichannel branding – Change your entire online presence around the story plot of your show – Be it the images on your website or branded newsletters or sneak peek of the celebrity showstopper – It creates a memorable impact on user’s minds when they see a consistent experience across all channels.
3.4. It’s important to keep the conversation going after the show is over. Arrange press conferences for designers to elaborate more on the collections. Create a larger conversation. Use a brandable hashtag and encourage your audience to keep using it in different ways. Run online contests asking about people’s feedback on the collection, create quick and fun games around what happened on the show.
4) The ‘See Now Buy Now’ Option:
Digital runways give you the opportunity to go that extra mile in providing instant gratifications to consumers. Be it a live interaction with their favorite celebrity or instantly making a purchase on the live runway show. The simplification of everything (communication, connection, purchase, and whatnot) and the power of digital is what makes digital fashion shows successful for the brands and the consumers.
And, does it bell the sustainability ring finally? Yes, Definitely.