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The fate of fashion has been in flux now more than ever and its millennials that are changing the landscape. Along with this comes new platforms for online communication that bridges the esoteric gap between what was previously highbrow brand and anonymous consumer. As the strength of social media grows, more high end labels are bolstering their digital strategy, and ‘see-now-buy-now’ and user friendly e-stores alone are no longer sufficient. In the final part of the future of luxury fashion, discover how social media influences the future of luxury fashion.
Luxury can be virtual
In an age where people spend so much of their waking hours online, even the most established brand will suffer without a positive digital experience for their consumers. But for those of you who already knew that, let me illustrate the scenario for you.
My first job out of university was as an assistant manager for a premium high street brand that considered themselves ‘affordable luxury’. Over there, perfect visual merchandising – to the point of measuring the angles of an overhead track light – and what is referred to as ‘Brand Senses’ was optimal to our sales. Creating a memorable experience worth sharing was part of the customer journey. However, even though that company was ahead of its time in terms of story telling and social clout, it was incredibly resistant to a social media presence beyond its control. No photos were allowed unless it was taken via polaroid (a major clue as to where I worked). And although a ton of bad press was key to it’s drop in popularity, they didn’t do much to help themselves by imposing a sharing ban on their products, people and stores.
Three years later, I found myself sitting on a panel discussing in-store retail experience from a social media ‘expert’ point of view to a room full of Unilever, Hunter and Matches Fashion execs. Even as senior industry insiders, this story came as a surprise to them.
And those three years later, it is now possible for a brand – a luxury brand no less – to be successful with the majority if its presence online. The meteoric rise of cult brands like Cult Gaia and Self Portrait over the last few years prove this point and although the latter now has its own flagship store, there are distinct differences between this and the traditional brands of yesteryear. Tap on the Albemarle Street location tag for Han Chong’s sartorial baby and have your retinas flooded with the interiors of what could be a museum. Sculptural rails, pink marble accents, geometric columns a lighting fixture you’d expect in an accountant’s office somehow work together. They paint an image of modernity, function and how structure lends so much complexity to what is really a simple space. Oh and there are like, almost no clothes. Victoria Beckham’s store on Dover Street looks like the inside of spaceship but its product is very visible.
Other online brands with an accessible price point but a ‘luxury’ status among millennials include For Love and Lemons who extended their pop-up store in LA due to demand, and Mansur Gavriel that did their first just two years ago in New York. Have they just learnt from older companies that expanded too fast or are permanent, physical spaces no longer as relevant and worth the cost as they were before?
Are we ready for the digital future?
It’s all well talking about the online experience being as equal as the one IRL but are everyday shoppers actually ready for this future? ES magazine, an offshoot of the Evening Standard publication for those of you who aren’t familiar, recently published a feature on some of the most popular fashion labels on Instagram. Think Staud, Rixo London and Triangl – all of whom started in the virtual space and continue to dominate it through influencer marketing and holding an elite status of their own. Although social media is capable of making a humble fashion designer into a heralded icon in half a decade or less, how will this translate to the rest of a company’s digital strategy?
When the headlines aren’t about Trump, Brexit or the Royal Wedding, it’s often focused on the next Industrial Revolution headed by artificial intelligence. The sentiment is rarely encouraging although the message is often rational and neutral (at least from the papers I read). At my last job (in case you’re wondering, I’ve come a long way from the dark, heavily-scented floors of my first occupation) I wrote a piece on Farfetch’s Store of the Future, a concept with which I am completely infatuated.
The concept combines purchasing data with real life experience to create an emotionally intelligent shopping experience (AI), complete with smart mirrors in changing rooms from which you can opt for different sizes. There may even be an Amazon Go type of check-out that doesn’t require queueing or the appearance of card or cash. Perhaps the first guinea pigs for this will be our beloved brands that made it first on Instagram.
How far should brands go to win our attention and ultimately, our loyalty? And at what point in the curve does the consumers’ demand for digital innovation meet with a brand’s readiness to supply?
Shot at Le Meridien Piccadilly by Anastasija, @anastasija__je
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