A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend Stream, WPP’s annual digital “unconference”. Whilst there, I went along to a talk entitled “Fashion, Luxury and Digital”, hoping to be enlightened by examples of luxury brands doing great digital work. Unfortunately, the “best” practice case studies offered up were not exactly inspirational, mainly consisting of good-looking but not at all interactive flash-based sites. Although this was a little disappointing, it led to an interesting group discussion about luxury brands and their seeming reluctance to embrace digital (and in particular social) media.
On the surface, luxury and social media are polar opposites – one is about aloof exclusivity, the other about democratic inclusivity. However, the assumption that they are therefore a bad fit is simplistic. Many luxury brands have turned a blind eye to digital media because they see it as synonymous with losing exclusivity and control but the reality is that they are already involved, even if this is unintentional. Run a Twitter search or trawl through fashion forums and there will be countless mentions of specific luxury brands, some of which come from highly informed online influencers.
What a waste if these luxury brands aren’t even aware of, let alone willing to engage with these potential online brand ambassadors. Aspiring designer handbag owners and enthusiastic teenage fashion bloggers may not be their customers just yet, but they are likely to be in the near future, so it seems like good business sense (if nothing more) to acknowledge them.
Speaking of teenage fashion bloggers, I should mention that some fashion houses are tuning into the importance of newly emerging online fashion influencers. Kudos to the big labels that invited the pint-sized, 13 year old blogging star Tavi (from Style Rookie) along to their recent shows. It is encouraging to see that some luxury brands are at least are recognizing that in this digital age, style influencers are emerging from a wider and more diverse circle than before.
Whilst we’re on the subject of fashion shows, kudos also to the ever-innovative Alexander McQueen for bringing his latest fashion show to a wider audience. In partnership with SHOWstudio, McQueen used robotic cameras to simultaneously film and broadcast his show live on the web. Instead of being hidden away, the cameras formed a key part of the stage set, dramatically making the point that the show was being watched by more eyes than the standard audience of fashion “professionals”. The result was mesmerizing (watch for yourself here). McQueen also tweeted from behind-the-scenes, sharing his thoughts and excitement. As he himself said “Every year, buyers and the press come to see the spectacle of my show, but I want to generate something else, something for a wider audience–for people in Australia, Asia, and Middle America who don’t have a seat at the show. Really, what I’m aiming for is world domination!”
Let’s hope that with such influential figures as McQueen recognizing the importance of embracing digital media, more luxury brands will follow suite. I’ll be watching this subject closely and welcome any news of luxury brands doing interesting interactive work.