Maddie Raedts is Founder & CCO at IMA || Global Head of Social for Fashion & Luxury at MediaMonks || Forbes 30 Under 30.
When the Cannes Film Festival launched in July, people were excited to see the looks displayed on the red carpet. It was a contrast to the digital-only Cannes Festival of Creativity just a few weeks before, where creativity was displayed through broadcasts and video instead.
As vaccine rollouts continue, lockdowns ease and travel opens up, you might think that the fashion industry is content to go back to its old ways of engaging buyers and consumers after a year and a half of digital experimentation.
But I anticipate the future of events will function more as hybrid experiences designed to engage people both up-close and far away — a setup that will transform the way fashion brands keep their audiences engaged, whether they’re insiders with access to an exclusive experience or consumers participating from home.
Here are three ways that digital is continuing to shape where the industry is headed as events like Fashion Week continue to evolve.
Personalized Experiences Drive User-Generated Content
Fashion shows and product reveals in 2021 and beyond face a critical challenge in playing to both digital and in-person audiences. A key way to engage audiences from afar is by driving user-generated content during the event and engaging the online community. Marc Jacobs, a brand that made a name for itself through high-profile innovations at Fashion Weeks past, offers a blueprint on how to achieve this.
The virtual launch of its Perfect Marc Jacobs fragrance included several activities for influencers who were in attendance to take part in, like portrait drawings by Jacky Blue, whose illustrations adorn the product’s packaging. The 24-hour event rolled out across time zones through Instagram stories, and the personalized activations encouraged social sharing that kept viewers and attendees engaged. The truly participatory event is a step above simply watching a show on a runway — and shows how digital can be used to activate audiences everywhere, not just a specific locality hosting a Fashion Week event.
Shoppable Content Fuels Urgency and Demand
In a recent report, our dedicated fashion and luxury innovation team noted how the fashion calendar is undergoing its own transformation, featuring limited capsule collections that release closer to the time of their reveal. Typically, a collection might not be available for purchase until months after a reveal, but new forms of shoppable content can help get products in front of consumers when it’s top of mind.
Amazon Prime’s series “Making the Cut” challenges fashion designers in a series of competitions. As new episodes release each week, viewers have the chance to shop the winning looks on Amazon. The limited stock sells out fast, so avid fans of the series are the most likely to nab it before it’s gone and while the designs are fresh. It’s a great example of how fashion can play to people’s passions through experiences that balance exclusivity and accessibility through digital, shoppable content.
Online Communities Have Their Say
The fashion industry has long taken the mantle of tastemaker by forecasting and inventing trends. What’s in vogue then trickles down from the stylish early adopters to everyday consumers. But as the voice of the consumer grows on social media, this prescriptive approach is, well, falling out of fashion with younger audiences. Top fashion brands are used to leading the conversation, and it’s time to hand over the reins. But this isn’t a bad thing, nor should it seem scary. It’s about opening opportunities to engage directly with audiences and build relationships in new ways.
Consider last year’s #GucciModelChallenge trend, in which TikTokers took the role of wannabe Gucci models and dressed themselves up in the label’s trademark style. The dress-up trend didn’t require participants to wear Gucci clothes to play with the brand’s distinct look, although Gucci is mentioned in the original sound accompanying the challenge.
Months later, Gucci’s official TikTok account began hosting and reposting similar content under the #GucciAbsoluteBeginners hashtag, a tongue-in-cheek tutorial on what it takes to become a Gucci model. The continuation of the user-driven challenge helped make the brand relevant on the platform, and with little effort on the brand’s part, it was just a matter of seeing how people wanted to engage with the brand tapping into that. The benefit to this approach is that you don’t have to focus on being original all the time in keeping up with the always-on demand for content.
Fashion and luxury thrive on aspiration and inspiring audiences. Likewise, their digital strategies should give people the opportunity to truly immerse themselves within the brand and its story. Hosting experiences that drive users to share, building urgency through frequent and limited “drops,” and employing social listening to seize opportunities to tap into communities each offers fashion brands important opportunities to engage with consumers — and drive relevance well into the next season and beyond. So, while the world continues to open up, I don’t see digital ever going out of style for today’s leaders in fashion.