Bringing the consumer on the catwalk: how digital trends are changing the fashion industry

Last week at Fashion Talks – the conference that takes the pulse of the Belgian fashion designers – there was another ‘d‘ word on everyone’s lips – and that was ‘digital‘! This was reflected by the conference participants themselves, many of whom went to Twitter to share their thoughts in over 800 #fashiontalks tweets during the one-day conference.
After a day of insightful presentations and interviews it was clear that, behind the glamorous surface of the fashion industry, the digital era has brought similar challenges and opportunities as in the other industries. Three themes ran like a red thread through the presentations: consumer collaboration, brand stories and experimentation.

1. Collaborating with your fan community is a powerful way to grow your brand

If you create something that people love, they will spread the word for you. And with entire fashion shows now available online, sharing this content has never been easier!
Getting influencers involved in the design process can only encourage them to share the story! Among the many examples mentioned by the Karina Nobbs, a fashion branding expert, is that of the Italian trainer brand Superga, which joined forces with fashion bloggers for designing some of their collections. The outcome of the June 2013 collaboration with fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni (of The Blonde Salad blog) was a collection which sold out in 10 days, so the experiment is now repeated for the new fall/winter 2013 collection!
For the iconic Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, the users defined its current positioning, according to Chris Taylor, designer at Converse. The brand was struggling in the ‘80s, when it ceased being the official shoe of the National Basketball Association. When Kurt Cobain was seen wearing Chuck Taylor, the grunge and punk generation followed; it then also became the sneaker for new sports cultures such as skateboarding. Converse embraced the new positioning and now the iconic sneakers stand for ‘unleashing the creative spirit‘.

2. Having a unique and authentic story means consumers will love and also share it

That was the opening point of Stefan Siegel, founder of Not Just a Label, a platform for emerging designers. The Art of the Trench for example is a social platform created by Burberry as ‘a living celebration of the Burberry trench coat and the people who wear it‘, where customers share their street style portraits wearing the iconic trench coats. Since the start of the website in 2009, e-commerce sales have grown 50% every year, an increase partially attributed to higher web traffic from the Art of the Trench site and Facebook. Former CEO Bailey, an Apple VP since recently, described Burberry as being ‘as much a media-content company as a design company‘.

3. Making a lot of digital experiments, you can find out what works best for your brand and your customers

The best example was given by Ahmed Imran from The Business of Fashion, who described the evolution of the platform from ‘passion project‘ to digital authority in the global fashion business. After starting a website in 2007, he then mirrored the changing media habits of his customers by a newsletter which became a daily digest, then social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest), video content (interviews), live broadcasting from fashion events and even a periodical print. Business of Fashion has over 700K followers on Twitter alone, some of who mention the daily digest as their first morning read when they wake up.
When taken seriously, these three trends promise strong opportunities for digitally-savvy fashion brands to collaborate with customers and grow their brand – for established international brands as well as for the emerging designers who craftfully and often quietly practice their art.
Want to read more about how the world of fashion can use digital channels for this collaboration? Read our case study on The Art of Research, on how we partnered with DIESEL for translating their brand story on Pinterest.

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