How technology is changing the face of fashion PR
What makes Christopher Bailey one of the ‘greatest visionaries’ of this generation? Sure, he’s the chief creative and chief executive officer of Burberry, one of the world’s most iconic fashion houses, but it has been his ability to adapt technology to tell the brand’s story in new and exciting ways that has pushed company sales under his reign from £500m a year in 2001 to £2.5bn last year.
From the launch of the digitally-integrated flagship store in London that uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips to improve customer engagement, live-streaming of fashion shows that allow customers to buy straight off the catwalk, other multi-platform selling across social media channels and smartphone apps, it is clear that digital technology is at the heart of Burberry’s global communication strategy and holds the key to its enormous success.
Like Burberry, other fashion brands too, be it premium, high street or independent designers, are increasingly embracing technology to take on the role of PRs and do the talking for them. This in turn has changed the face of fashion PR dramatically.
Forget press previews, Topshop, for example, showcased its Spring Summer 2015 collection on Instagram and Facebook before it appeared on the runways of the London Fashion Week. As part of its ‘Social Catwalk,’ the retailer handpicked five influential Instagrammers to share their views on the collection while also inviting users to take part in creating their own looks using the hashtag #Instagramwindow. This was followed by a triple screen installation in-store that then broadcasted the images from both consumers and Instagram collaborators.
The above initiative is one of the many examples of fashion brands taking publicity, promotion and consumer participation into their own hands, thereby reducing costs and the dependency on media organisations to do it for them. It perhaps also explains the phenomenal increase in the number of fashion bloggers and vloggers that are today the face of major fashion houses and the voice of emerging labels and designers.
Digital technology is especially beneficial for new designers who may not have the budget to invest in infrastructural projects, but can just as well use technology to drive innovation, creativity and if done right, create a mark for their brand at par with the bigger players.
Take Pablos Holman, for instance, a computer programmer (and a reputed hacker) who is using a new micro-production manufacturing tech to make custom-designed, on-demand leggings. His Seattle-based company, Bombsheller, gives people a chance to try their hand at garment design and custom clothing, a route taken by bigger brands such as Burberry and Jimmy Choo. With over 2,000 followers on Facebook, 1,100 on Twitter as well as publicity in some leading news publications including Fortune magazine and The Independent, Pablos is now eyeing Britain for the second computerised factory.
According to Nour Al Hammoud, a fashion and lifestyle PR consultant, new independent designers are making their way into the saturated fashion market because “because affordable small-scale manufacturing options, fashion technology business applications, and low overhead e-commerce solutions are reducing the need for so much upfront capital to enter fashion entrepreneurship.
“PR has always played a primary role in the business of fashion and since content has become so important and traditional barriers to entry for fashion companies and media outlets crumbled, the role of fashion PR has indeed intensified.”
Al Hammoud is right – the role fashion PR has intensified because technology makes for a better storyteller – because technology interwoven in fashion is a better looking blend that adds that extra oomph factor, gives brands that extra edge.
Going forward, as the lines between fashion and technology continue to blur, the gap between premium brands and independent designers will narrow. Brands need not be a Burberry, but what they will all need to make their mark in the digital era is a Christopher Bailey.
Blog Contributor: Priyanka Dayal Twitter:@DayalPriyanka
Priyanka is a journalist with experience in some of the world’s best newsrooms including The Wall Street Journal, Hindustan Times, Haymarket Group’s PR Week and Campaign magazines, Longitude Research, amongst others