European Fashion Weeks 2016: Now for real

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This is it, last week ended the Fashion weeks season. And what did we see in Europe? After New York Fashion Week opened doors to all fashion fans over the world, this is also what we expected to happen in Europe, yet European cities still seem to nurture the cult of exclusivity and sticking with more conventional collections and catwalk shows. Nevertheless, it was an interesting season – a mixture of new names at big design houses, new go-to market strategies at others and also some tech initiatives thrown in for good measure. Most of the brands (especially big well known names, such as Louis Vuitton, Louboutin etc.) were using social media extensively during the season – for promotion of the locations and events beforehand, live streams of collections, backstage photos and snaps, attendees photos, take-over of their accounts… Balmain even used Instagram stories to give us a sneak peek to the after party with the celebrities and models. But digitally speaking, this is also where most of the big names stopped and chose other ways to differentiate.

Karl Lagerfeld made digital world the theme behind Chanel’s spring/summer 2017 show at Paris’ Grand Palais. The venue looked like a data storage unit and the show started with two Stormtroopers (models), dressed in the all tweed brand`s iconic outfits and white helmets reminiscent of virtual reality goggles. The brand mocked our day-to-day dependency on technology, but the whole strategy seemed a bit dystopian, being live streamed on Facebook and the Chanel website and ditifully shared on all social media platforms possible. Nevertheless, the brand admit in numerous interviews that the technology (in this case fundamentally e-commerce) is the key for long-term growth strategy, which in case of many luxury brands is still a stranger. The whole theme of this season’s show might be a precursor to the fact the brand is finally about to go headfirst into e-commerce towards the end of this year. A huge shift in strategy, given that Kar Lagerfeld refused to ever sell Chanel items online during his reign.

Stormtroopers at Chanel's Data Center Show Spring 2017

Stormtroopers at Chanel’s Data Center Show Spring 2017


Dior, not doing e-commerce, is another example of slow digital innovation within the luxury sector. The brand’s fashion shows are one of the most anticipated and celebrity filled at Paris Fashion Week. And this year wasn’t an exception, especially because it was Maria Grazia’s first show since taking over the helm from Raf Simons, and leaving her post at Valentino. The show was well promoted beforehand on all social media platforms and live streamed via Facebook. Moreover, the brand was very active even after the show; it published images of the collection on all possible platforms and started posting short testimonials of A-level celebrities commenting the collection, their expectations etc. Digital availability would definitely enable brand to fully exploit it’s potential and satisfy the impatient demand of today’s customers.

Testimonials of celebrities on Dior's Instagram account Testimonials of celebrities on Dior’s Instagram account


Some big names undertook a different approach of bringing it’s new collection to the wider public. Dolce & Gabbana populated its front row with YouTube stars (including male model Lucky Blue Smith and Vine celebrity Cameron Dallas), a true millennial generation of celebrities to reach millions of their targeted fans. The brand invited more than 20 young famous faces to witness the debut of their Tropico Italiano collection. Even though the brand didn’t do any other digital out-of-the-box innovations itself, this new generation of future tastemakers took care of the sharing on every possible platform that exists. Similar, non-digital way, was chosen by Moschino, where Jeremy Scott gave his front-row guests Mosch­ino-branded iPhone 6 covers and encouraged them to photograph his life-size paper doll-inspired clothes. While the show was live streamed, the brand additionally reached the audience of first rowers.


The new generation of front rowers at Dolce & Gabbana fashion show The new generation of front rowers at Dolce & Gabbana fashion show.


Even though most of the brands rely on fans’ sharing on social media, Gucci decided to the contrary and made a backlash against Instagramers and Snapchatters. King of decadence, Alessandro Michele, shrouded his bright pink venue with pink mist that made everything look, well, pink, and so impossible to take photos at the venue. The show was live streamed on Facebook and the details of the collection were well visible there, however the brand failed to reach a wider audience.


Bright pink venue at Gucci’s show


Burberry was one of the few brands in Europe, that utilized the “”see-now, buy-now” approach (as mentioned in our previous blog post). The brand even launched the chatbox support on Facebook, to share content around the new collection as well as live customer service. Similar than Tommy Hilfiger’s chatbox it operates as a series of multiple-choice questions, inviting the users to say what they want to see. Users can see animated sketches of certain looks, the inspiration behind the line, or chat directly with the customer support. However, when it comes to customer support, there is still some improvement potential, as the staff even after a couple of tries wasn’t responsive at all.








Smaller brands pushing the borders of digital trends

Even though big brands didn’t manage to wow us, there were some uprising brands and designers, that took care of that. Martine Jarlgaard London surprised the visitors of her show with an empty space, without a typical runway setup. The attendees had to wear augmented reality headsets, to see the brand’s new collection coming to live in front of them in form of holograms. This enabled them to move around the room freely, explore the collection from all angles, whilst also discussing the outfits with the designer. What is different to virtual reality is, that users still see other people in the room and the point of reference still exists, but there is another layer on top. This offers a step away from the passive experience where you sit down and just watch the collection, it’s more of an exploration. And the even better news for the visitors? No more FOMO over those front row seats.

Hololens used for mixed reality during Martine Jarlgaard's fashion show

Hololens used for mixed reality during Martine Jarlgaard’s fashion show


The tech-savvy online retailer Lyst caught our attention as well, when it staged an augmenter reality exhibit, that made possible to dress naked models through a shop window with virtual representations of clothing using tablets and smartphones. Lyst used four “humannequins” and four sets of clothing, which they selected from the algorithm on their platform that allows them to identify the hottest trending clothes in London at the moment.

Lyst's  “humannequins” Lyst’s  “humannequins”


Hussein Chalayan, on the other side, brought wearable technology to Paris Fashion Week via partnership with Intel. As models walked the runway, visual projections showcased their stress levels on the wall beside them, via biofeedback being sent from the connected accessories they were wearing. The idea was to aid in the awareness and proactive management of stress. The connected accessories shown on the runway were a proof of concept at the stage, so we don’t expect to see them on the market next year, but we believe that fashion and technology are at the heart of modern culture and that we will see much more adoptions in the near future.


Weareble technology at Hussein Chalayan's show

Weareble technology at Hussein Chalayan’s show


Even though European fashion weeks were exciting due to lots of debuts designers changing brands, the big names of the industry remain slow on the uptake of much in the way both digital and technical innovation. In a situation where there is a serious danger of over-saturation, smart brands should apply digital technology available to close connections between customers, brand narrative and products. Although European brands aren’t utilizing this fully yet, we believe that live-streaming, ordering straight from the runway, live social media campaigns, are the latest steps in a creative process that will continue to evolve.

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