Fashion Forward

Fashion shows are exclusive to say the least. You have to be rich, famous, or a pretty darn good designer to be in attendance at any worthy fashion week show, as these events are not open to the public. The conventional wisdom that once closed its doors to aspiring designers and customers, is now encouraging attendance through social media outlets. Consumers are being put front and center at these shows virtually to lure fashionistas in and make them feel like they are part of the buying and decision making process.

This year, Google + and Topshop created London Fashion Weeks most interactive show yet. From micro-cameras to Google hangouts, fashionistas using social media were right at the center of this specific fashion week show, and were even able to preview clothes and hangout with models!

This was described perfectly by Vikram Kansara, a writer for the Business of Fashion

“While megabrands like Burberry and Louis Vuitton have live-streamed their runway shows for several seasons now, the Topshop initiative, dubbed “The Future of the Fashion Show,” aims to bring consumers even closer to the action, employing wearable, high-definition micro-cameras and a slew of Google platforms, from YouTube to Google+ Hangouts, to let users virtually inhabit the privileged perspectives of fashion industry archetypes — the model, the guest celebrity, the retail buyer, even the designer — and experience the show through their eyes.” – Topshop and Google Plan Data-Savvy Digital Runway

The idea that Topshop uses social media to leverage its brand isn’t anything new. Last year, Justin Cooke, Chief Marketing Officer of Topshop, worked with Facebook to create a social presence on a project called “Customize The Catwalk.” Over two million viewers watched the show online.

Customize the Catwalk allowed customers to view and customize Topshop Unique designs as the models came down the runway by allowing the customer to view items in different colors. The viewer could then purchase these items right off the runway. Those viewers who ordered items right off the runway could get these items delivered to them right away, instead of waiting for them to arrive in the stores.

As Justin Cooke noted:

“This show is all about the customer and creating what we call ‘social entertainment’ around our product. We want to take the energy and the excitement of our iconic Oxford street store to millions of people all over the world through Topshop.com. It’s social, it’s commerce and it’s entertainment all rolled into one.”- Justin Cooke, Chief Marketing Officer, Topshop 

This year, the London Fashion show took on a life of its own through Google+. Leading up to the actual fashion show, the Google + team released a trailer that showed the story line for the fashion show through social media. A Topshop social media participant could now be a buyer, model and really  “be part of the team.” Topshop and Google+ even used 3-D Google Map technology to give fans access to the upcoming show’s space in the Tate Modern. Topshop fans had access to everything.

Justin Cooke noted that within the first five minutes of the actual fashion show, there were over 200,000 social media shares on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr using the “Shoot The Show” feature.

As Cooke states:

“Great brands sell experiences. The product has to be incredible, but the experience lasts forever”.- Justin Cooke, Chief Marketing Officer, Topshop

Its clear that selling the fashion experience is working for Topshop. How will other semi- closed industries start embracing social media to open their doors to the public?

As Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Analytics Evangelist stated,

“Too many companies have not evolved from what I call ‘shout marketing’ — think TV, newspapers, magazine ads — to influence by initiating and participating in conversations with consumers. There needs to be a generational shift.”- Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Analytics

As Justin Cooke is only 31 years old, it is understandable how Topshop’s marketing is at an extremely social level. How will other brands compete and keep up? How would you? With that said, part of what makes fashion “cool” is that it is exclusive and limited. How will this open environment impact the fashion industry? Only time will tell if the rest of the fashion industry jumps on board with this new social model, but it seems inevitable.

7 comments

  1. I like this idea, but I think as is the case, particular in social media, once you make something this accessible you lose control over the message. In fashion a lot of elements that are referential, and these elements might be lost without the middle men (fashion editors). So yes, it allows for brands to connect to consumers more directly, and yes it allows designers, brands, to access a wider audience, but I think it could be a double edged sword.

  2. kaitlinahern2013 · ·

    Great blog! I think Topshop is doing an amazing job utilizing social media to expand their fashion show audiences. This follows the trend that fashion shows are slowly becoming more inclusive, and while they were once limited to designers, magazine editors, and celebrities, many have expanded to include bloggers. Not without a fair bit of backlash however. Suzy Menkes recently wrote an article for the NYT claiming bloggers are ruining Fashion Week. She makes some valid points, but ultimately comes off like an elitist. In an industry ridden with this elitist, exclusive mentality, I’m not sure if other, higher end brands will follow Topshop’s efforts. The counter argument to Ms. Menkes’ is that bloggers make high fashion more accessible and cater to a wider audience. Either way, I think Topshop is blazing the trail of democratizing fashion by encouraging consumers to take part in their shows.

    Suzy Menkes article
    http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/the-circus-of-fashion/

    Bloggers’ rebuttal
    http://fashionfilesmag.com/index.php/news/news-sub/340-are-fashion-bloggers-ruining-fashion-week-suzy-menkes-thinks-so

  3. I am totally fascinated by the combination of social media and fashion. I think social media has totally changed how the fashion world operates. For example, you questioned if what makes fashion “cool” is that it’s exclusive and limited. I think this used to be the case, but that it has changed in recent years. Due to fashion blogging and the exposure of street style photos on various social media platforms, fashion has become much more about personal style and how you wear the clothes rather than what brands you are wearing. Whenever I open my Instagram or Twitter apps, they are immediately flooded with cool street style photos. And don’t even get me started on Tumblr — the street style social media hub!

    Overall, forms of social media like blogging, tweeting, and Tumbling have really brought me closer to fashion and increased my knowledge of it, and I think this is a wonderful thing. Because so many more people are able to access fashion now, it has become that much more creative and indicative of today’s world.

  4. Great post! Topshop’s initiative is ingenious, and I wonder why it took them so long! I agree with you, it seems inevitable that companies will quickly do the same. On the other hand, and in agreement with with the comments Kaitlin made above, I imagine that high fashion brands will keep the exclusivity of their brands and will be more reluctant to engage in a strategy similar to Topshop’s. I envision companies such as H&M, JCrew, and Zara quickly following in the footsteps of Topshop, especially since these companies fall more along the lines of affordable fashion. On another note, I think the bloggers do a great job of portraying trends, and I personally kept up with the fashion weeks in various countries through fashion bloggers that I follow (mainly on Instagram). I think its high time companies engaged with their customers on a more personalized basis.

  5. I actually saw a talk by Bradley Horowitz, the Google product manager in charge of Google +. They are really pushing the hangouts feature heavily, and there were some interesting use cases of it around the world. I’m not sure I 100% like the idea of just “hanging out” waiting for people to talk to me, but they have put alot of effort into trying to create a much more real virtual presence than other video conferencing systems, which is interesting. I have yet to try it though.

  6. What a great way to use social media! Indeed, when these shows are more accessible it might turn lower their value, but when we’re talking about a brand like TopShop that is targeted to young audiance, I think this step was brilliant marketing-wise for both sides. As we talked in class, it’s too early to bury Google+.
    P.S. on last comment: I found the most useful feature in the google hangout is the desktop sharing.

  7. leomi621 · ·

    Like others have commented before, i dont think well see Hermes or Chanel stream their next runway shows on social media sites, but there is potential for a lot of other business with initiatives like this. I personally have seen the release of new cars at auto shows streamed in its entirety online, and i know that a large router building company had some success in streaming the launch event of one of their brand new products. In both cases,the companies launching new products were pleased with seeing viewer behavior data and interpreting vast amounts of feedback on their brands posted on social media sites.

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