Fashion Disrupted: It's a Brand New World
The evolving reliance on technology in our everyday lives has ignited a transformation that is redefining the fashion industry. Established on a rich history, haute couture names and exclusivity, it is a sector that significantly represents and influences global culture. At the center of this revolution is the reality that our digital landscape has forever altered consumer habits, expectations and priorities. With the foundational elements of the fashion industry being challenged by technology, how can brands compete and advance?
Aspiration to relevance
The LV from Louis Vuitton has long been seen as a status symbol. The iconic mark is recognized worldwide. However, for Spring/Summer 2016, Louis Vuitton cast a new face for the line – Lightning, a heroic character from Final Fantasy. On the surface having a fictional heroine from a virtual world take the place of a human muse seems like a peculiar stretch for a historic fashion house; however, long before the brand was boiled down to a monogram, it stood for pushing the boundaries of reality and dreams. Nicolas GhesquiÈre, the creative director of Louis Vuitton, notes, "Lightning is the perfect avatar for a global, heroic woman and for a world where social networks and communications are now seamlessly woven into our life. Lightning heralds a new era of expression.” She is not only the perfect next step in LV's communication of this message but is a prime example that even the most renowned luxury brands are investing in attributes that encourage relevance versus aspiration.
Exclusive to inclusive
Having a personal shopper used to be synonymous with a high price tag and access to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was reserved for the industry's elite. The notorious shopping scene in "Pretty Woman,” or the cutthroat road to success traveled by the cast of "The Devil Wears Prada” depicts the exclusive nature that once defined who was permitted behind the scenes of the fashion industry. However, the Internet has radicalized our concept of accessibility. Digital natives have grown up with the entire world at their fingertips. They have only lived in a world where accessing information happens in nanoseconds. J.Crew has met the consumer's need for instant connection by making high quality suits accessible. In its Ludlow shop, customers can design and purchase custom suits, complete with tailoring and monogramming.
Thanks to the ever-expanding world of bloggers and vloggers, a seat to a Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week show now only requires a social media account, and cell service or WiFi. Producing runway show events for new media platforms is top of mind for every brand that is sending product down the catwalk. The goal now is to make the experience as accessible and interactive as possible to drive same-day, virtual sales.
Luxury designers Rebecca Minkoff and her brother/co-founder, Uri Minkoff are unlocking the velvet ropes even further via augmented reality. With a purchased virtual reality headset consumers around the globe were given a 360-degree live experience at Rebecca Minkoff's 2016 Fall runway show. The duo didn't stop there. They've also partnered with a startup called Zeekit to offer their consumers a virtual fitting room to try on the latest runway styles. The question is no longer should our brand be accessible, but how should we strategically grant access to our consumers.
Space to experience
With the relentless rise in online sales, the challenge for a retail or fashion brand is not to become obsessed with e-commerce, but rather seek to understand the consumer's journey across all channels – social, mobile, full web, customer service and special pop-up activations. Simple cross-channel integration is imperative to connecting and engaging consumers with a brand. In our fast-paced lives, shopping in store is now considered a social or leisure activity. With that being an actual reality, there is a renewed goal for experiential retail spaces – focus less on selling and deliver a highly-interactive, memorable experience to build brand loyalty.
Bonobos, the men's e-commerce apparel company, opened up a fleet of brick-and-mortar "guidestores” where you can't buy anything. You come in, and someone helps you put together outfits while you hang out and drink a beer. You're then assisted by a Bonobos "guide” with ordering all your selected items online, which are then delivered to your home or office. Beyond a hard sell, the renewed purpose for a physical retail space is to craft a multi-sensory, service-first brand experience your customer can take home.
As digital natives continue to shape the cultural and economic landscape, identities will become more fluid, opportunities more abundant, and markets even more saturated. Brands that hesitate to be strategic in their evolution risk becoming confusing and irrelevant. Thriving fashion companies that are positioned for future success are embracing their industry's heritage, while setting a new standard in brand building in response to the demands of the modern consumer.
Alison Carreon is marketing manager and Jenna Isken is a strategist for Siegel+Gale.