Fashion’s ecosystem is experiencing a back to the future swing.
I’m not referring to the 90s wide-legged women’s pantlegs sailing down the runways—sure to trip up any New York fashionista the moment she steps off a curb, or worse, tries to skip down into the subway. But rather, an existential crisis propelled by consumer demand for instant gratification and morphing Millennial values.
In an era where consumer expectations have been stoked by see-now-buy-now free shipping ecommerce fulfillment, no longer do fashion consumers get satisfaction from elaborately staged runway hoopla and fanfare. No satisfaction either in what has become pure anachronism—February catwalk bikinis and cruise wear and August furs—which don’t deliver for six months!
The “Kool-Aid” imbibed by the industry and referred to by CFDA president Diane von Furstenberg during NYFW last month, has simply stopped working. Von Furstenberg was an early advocate of digital innovation in fashion. But the runway system is also feeling the heat from fast fashion’s ability to usurp runway designs straight off the catwalk and drop in-store almost immediately.
Once seen as an incestuous, self-consuming elite microcosm, fashion in the era of social media is being redefined by forces both internal and external. In part by industry Luddites defined by smaller labels determined to lower the barriers to entry, in part by megabrand early digital adopters like Christopher Bailey of Burberry, but primarily by consumer expectations, technology and dramatic shifts in consumer values toward fashion.
The foundation of the erstwhile microcosm called fashion is simply undergoing a tectonic shift. A global complex system, aftershocks from buy direct from runway pronouncements at NYFW A/W 16 will continue for some time. Accustomed to seamless immediate gratification, in the eye of people today fashion has become commoditized.
To wit, a study conducted by Boston Consulting for the CFDA with a somewhat foreboding title: The Future of New York Fashion Week. The peer group interviewed concurred on several issues, including in-season relevancy, the outmoded delivery system, perils of markdown cadence, and significantly, the need to align with shifting consumer behavior and values, among other issues.
Taking note of fashion’s social media engagement milestones, beauty, entertainment and lifestyle media have joined what is quickly becoming an immersive deployment of digital platforms. In a recent NYC Social Media Week panel called Data Versus Gut, Hearst Media Digital editors applauded intuitive thinking, combined with data, as contributing to their digital media success in growing audience amplification and engagement. They also emphasized the curatorial distinctions of omnichannel for brands as diverse as Delicious, Harper’s Bazaar and Seventeen, rebuking the potential foibles of espousing a one size fits all social media content strategy.
Fashion tech innovation, strategic social marketing and social media analytics are now as integral to fashion as design. This centrifuge of innovation has accelerated with the advancement of mobile platforms, enabling mega and small brands to leverage wider engagement and brand share.
Among the tech trends during global fashion month:
• Shoppable runways. Direct from runway capsule collections were made available last month by Burberry, Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Tommy Hilfiger and Rebecca Minkoff.
• Instagram dominates NYFW. According to L2, Instagram still dominates as the preferred visual sharing platform for fashion, with engagement outpacing both Facebook and Twitter.
• Mobile video will dominate fashion media – By 2019, videos will generate half of global Internet traffic, according to Business Insider’s April 2015 Digital Video Advertising Report. Further, the February L2 Fashion Video Digest confirmed that nearly one-third of the most-viewed videos on fashion brands’ YouTube channels establish brand identity through heritage vignettes and unique, non-celebrity collaborations. Expect ad models to change dramatically, as video ad spend is expected to grow 22% per year over the next five years.
• The NetBase Popular Media analysis of NYFW 16 top video reposts below is a reliable media amplification tracker.