Digital snippets: Wren, Gucci, John Lewis, Lord & Taylor, Kenneth Cole, Sephora

18 Mar

A bit of a catch-up post today in light of several weeks of travel… here then all the latest stories to know about surrounding fashion and tech from the past fortnight or so:

 

  • “First Kiss” film (as above) goes viral with 63 million views – is ad for clothing label Wren [NY Times]
  • Gucci launches own Spotify music hub to promote short film ‘The Fringe’ [The Drum]
  • John Lewis looks to digital innovation as next big thing in retail with ‘JLab incubator’ [The Guardian]
  • Lord & Taylor now accepting bitcoin [CNBC]
  • Kenneth Cole challenges consumers to do good deeds and prove it via Google Glass [Creativity]
  • Sephora launches ‘Beauty Board’ social shopping platform [USA Today]
  • Bergdorf Goodman makes Instagram shots shoppable at SXSW with 52Grams [5th/58th]
  • Dolce & Gabbana crafts love story around perfume to appeal to consumer emotion [Luxury Daily
  • adidas launches gaming platform powered by social media starring Lionel Messi [Marketing Magazine]
  • Can Instagram save ageing teen retailer Aeropostale? [CNBC]
  • Which big brands are courting the maker movement, and why – from Levi’s to Home Depot  [AdWeek]
  • How beacon technology could change the way we shop [Fashionista]
  • On Instagram, a bazaar where you least expect it [Bits blog]
  • What Google’s wearable tech platform could mean for the fashion industry [Fashionista]
  • Smartphone payment system to be unveiled in UK [FT]
  • Alibaba ramping up efforts to sell US brands in China [WSJ]
  • What does WeChat’s new e-credit card mean for luxury? [JingDaily]
  • Op-Ed | Are camera phones killing fashion? [BoF]

Looking back at SXSW: wearables, privacy and avoiding bandwagons

14 Mar

This article first appeared on The Business of Fashion 

Rachel Arthur recaps the highlights of this year’s SXSW Interactive conference and identifies key takeaways for the fashion industry.

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AUSTIN, United States — The marketing and tech crowd hit Austin, Texas, once again this week for the annual SXSW Interactive conference, bringing with them more members of the fashion industry than ever before. There were representatives from long-time attendees like Burberry and Bergdorf Goodman, alongside a flurry of first timers from Parisian fashion houses and UK department stores alike, a sure sign of technology’s increasingly pervasive impact on fashion retail.

Thought of as an incubator for tech-enabled creativity which aims to provide a “view on the future,” the annual event is overloaded with keynotes, panel discussions and pop-up events, not to mention a trade show floor. But, as usual, much of the action also happened off-piste, in spontaneous conversations at hundreds of events and parties.

Here, we’ve compiled some key takeaways, on themes ranging from wearable technology to consumer privacy.

The State of Wearables

It was clear wearables — an emerging category of personal accessories with embedded sensors, displays and other digital technology (such as Nike’s FuelBand, Google Glass and Apple’s rumoured iWatch) — were going to be a key topic even before SXSW began. They’d dominated the scene at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas each January and over 60 sessions addressed the topic, up from a mere handful last year.

Speakers unanimously agreed that the category is advancing rapidly. American basketball star Shaquille O’Neal even made an appearance to discuss his new interest in wearable technology with Rick Valencia of Qualcomm. Yet despite predictions that the market for wearables could reach $30-$50 billion over the next 3 to 5 years, the growing consensus was that mass adoption was still a ways off. On Google Glass, Robert Scoble (author and startup liason officer of Rackspace) said: “This is one of those products you know is the future, but it’s so unfinished at this point that it’s frustrating. It’s three to five years away before it’s really useful.”

And indeed, it was the word ‘useful,’ more than design or aesthetics — which the current crop of wearables are widely thought to lack — that came up the most. Jennifer Darmour, user experience design director at Artefact, said she has a drawer full of wearables that she had worn for just a week or two each before abandoning them. There was too much focus on novelty, she said, rather than on creating real functional value. “We’ve been taking a technology and trying to find a problem for that technology, instead of the other way round,” she added. “We need a more human-centric approach.”

Q Manning, chief executive of app design company Rocksauce Studios, agreed: “We need to solve problems. Just because we can build it, doesn’t mean we should. We need to pinpoint will this actually be useful? Is it beneficial? Will it help me live my life better?”

Jay Morgan, digital creative director of Havas Worldwide, added: “When wearable tech becomes [part of our] normal clothes and we don’t have to [actively] interact with it, it’s not then going to be about whether people care about it, it’s just going to be a part of your life. That’s what brands need to think about it now.”

Managing Privacy

Privacy was another key topic at SXSW this year, perhaps unsurprisingly as whistleblower Edward Snowden gave one of the headline talks. Appearing via Google Hangout from an undisclosed location in Russia, Snowden called on the technology community to help protect privacy rights by building them into technical standards. “There is a policy response that needs to occur, but there is also a technical response that needs to occur,” he said. “It is the development community that can really craft the solutions and make sure we are safe.”

Christopher Soghoian, principle technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, added: “I really think that consumers need to rethink their relationship with many of the companies to whom they entrust their private data. I really think what this comes down to is if you are getting the service for free, the company isn’t going to be optimising your experience with your best interests in mind.”

While Soghoian was referring to Internet services like Facebook, the issue of consumer privacy should be of concern to retailers as well, as they increasingly collect and leverage personal data.

“The bottom line is data should not be collected without people’s knowledge and consent,” said Snowden. “If data is being clandestinely acquired and the public doesn’t have any way to review it and it is not legislatively authorised, it is not reviewed by courts, it is not consonant with our constitution — that is a problem.”

For others, the issue of privacy and personal data was seen in the context of a value exchange, with consumers increasingly willing to reveal information in return for benefit. “The more utility you get, the more you’re going to have to give away your privacy,” said Scoble, adding he’d happily do so himself in return for more useful and personalised experiences. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, agreed: “I’m excited about data being about me. The marketer gets a certain amount of value in the stats on my demographic, but the real value is for me.”

Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT, said the way forward was giving consumers control of their data. “We are now developing technologies to give people control over who manages their data and how. We are ensuring privacy, so it will be very easy and very comfortable for them to give their data over and get something out of it.”

Avoiding Bandwagons

Elsewhere at SXSW, conversation swirled around everything from “embeddables” (technology emebedded in the world around us, such that “virtually any human activity we can think of is going to be modified and amplified with an invisible mesh of data and processing that we will drift through obliviously,” according to one panel) to bioengineering. But ultimately, “good technology is no excuse for a bad idea,” said Paul Kemp-Robertson, co-founder and editorial director of marketing consultancy and magazine, Contagious. “It’s easy to jump onto bandwagons just because a new technology looks cool. Everyone enjoys feeling like that little kid chasing after the bright, shiny tool in the distance. But in this age of service design and living data, if a marketing idea is not useful, relevant or entertaining, then really there’s very little point in letting it loose on the world.”

Kristina Simmons, a partner at leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, agreed. Wearable technology, for example, should not be a priority just because everyone is talking about it. “It needs to be something that makes sense for your business. It’s about thinking about your top five priorities, versus saying I want to do something with wearables.”

“Innovation isn’t just giant leaps and bounds and the sexy stuff — it’s also about the basics and thinking about how we do things better. Incremental changes can make a big difference too,” said Will Young, director of Zappos Labs.

“Being first has always been a big thing,” said Ben Malbon, Google’s head of creative partnerships. “But the future is here already. We should use the existing tools we have on the table. Innovation doesn’t need invention.”

Forget Instagram: what has happened to fashion week commentary on Twitter?

28 Feb

This post first appeared on Fashionista.com

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Is it just me or has Twitter become much less inspiring during fashion week season? I say that as an avid user – both personally and profesionally. I peruse posts day to day, and particularly once the shows hit London, Milan and Paris, when I’m watching via livestream from New York. I scroll through my own feed, I consume via social dashboards attached to designers’ websites, and I go back and search using hashtags and brand names afterwards, too.

What I’ve always enjoyed is the live commentary that you gather from those in the front row, but there seems to have been very little of it for the past couple of seasons, and I for one really miss it. Not the tweets that tell me what show they’re waiting for, the fact the first model has appeared/the last model has walked out, or even what color they’re seeing. Those still exist, and I can gather all that from home.

No, what I really want back, is actual commentary. I want to hear from the editors –- the experts no less — about the 1930s theme emerging at Prada and the influence Miuccia drew from film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, or the details of the new Bloomsbury-inspired, hand-painted florals at Burberry Prorsum. I want to know what is sashaying down that runway that, from my own 13-inch screen, I can’t quite see.

The images that are posted can be nice, of course, and on occasion insightful (if not blurry, but that’s another issue). But what happened to a wonderfully descriptive annotation along with it? Or better yet a real-time opinion, a review-on-the-spot even? Here are some of the highlights from the Lanvin show Thursday:

Lots of pictures naturally, but did you gather much about the line really? Navy, white and feathers. It’s a start.

Now it’s not that everyone has put their smartphones back in their handbags to focus on the clothes as they come out of course. So what’s going on?

First up, quite obviously: Instagram. During London Fashion Week there were a total of 266,767 mentions on Twitter, and 316,359 posts on Instagram, according to Bell Pottinger, a British public relations and marketing firm. So arguably, much more time is being spent there.

It goes without saying there’s huge benefit in that space of course. But when someone is at at home watching a livestream, or has access to high-res images in near real-time — not to mention backstage ones from the brand themselves — Instagram shots from the front row don’t necessarily offer all that much. They’re a nice-to-have, and for a feel of fashion week in general, a fantastic stream to follow. But for those really wanting to know about the collections themselves, there’s still a gap — an information gap.

The skill of an editor who has worked in the industry for 10 or more years is to be able to quickly deduce what a collection is about, to analyze its importance for trends, to bring contextual knowledge of its applicability to the commercial market and to offer a clear understanding of the technical side (i.e., garment construction and fabrications).

Portraying that over Twitter is no mean feat. I attempted it as a guest Tweeter on behalf of my employer, WGSN, for the @mbfashionweek account during New York at a number of shows and it’s entirely consuming.

But I don’t think the fact few editors or publications seem to be offering anything like this anymore comes down to just not having the time. With social media now reaching maturity, there’s inevitably becoming a greater push in terms of strategy for organizations and individuals alike on what to do and what not to do to achieve audience engagement.

So here’s my question: Is this lack of Twitter commentary as simple as editors just becoming more obsessed with Instagram? Or is there actually a direct decision being made not to give away too much there and then? (The knowledge of these men and women is a valuable commodity — why hand it out on a free platform, when you can rather store it up and post it on your own site for traffic generation later?)

Then again, maybe it’s just as simple as the fact we’re also all just a little bit over it. Or overwhelmed. Or lazy. Still, I’d like it back.

Digital snippets: Burberry, Calvin Klein, Moschino, Saks, M&S, Primark

27 Feb

A round-up of all the latest stories surrounding fashion and tech…

 

  • Burberry reveals ‘digital innovation’ partnership with WeChat to strengthen social presence in China [The Drum]
  • Calvin Klein asks fans to snap selfies in their skivvies for #MyCalvins campaign [BrandChannel]
  • Fast-fashion: Moschino offers fans the ability to shop its McDonald’s-themed show live [Dazed Digital]
  • Saks recreates in-store beauty tutorials with six-second videos on Vine [LuxuryDaily]
  • Marks & Spencer launches new website to replace Amazon platform, after three years in the making [The Telegraph]
  • How Primark achieved 1.7m Facebook Likes in just six months [Econsultancy]
  • Former GQ editor Lauren Bans comes out as @CondeElevator Tweeter [Fashionista]
  • New privacy website lets you opt out of tracking in retail stores [AdAge]
  • Ebay buys virtual fitting room start-up PhiSix Fashion Labs [PC Mag]

Aritzia launches spring collection via digital Instagram mosaic

21 Feb

aritzia_lookbook_instagramCanadian retailer Aritzia has made clever use of the grid view on Instagram to launch its spring/summer 2014 collection.

A total of 510 images have been unveiled as individual Instagram shots, together creating a mosaic of the new season look book. Some images are mere blank pink squares, others show the corner of a leg, the edge of a shoe or a torso. The team refers to it as “a piece of (digital) art”.

Reminiscent in part to what Uniqlo did on Pinterest, albeit without the animation, this is one of the strongest examples seen on Instagram, not to mention the first at such scale – an impressive scrollable collage at 42 iPhone lengths long.

Said Aritzia CEO, Oliver Walsh: “We have moved into the age of the image-based social network. It makes perfect sense to release our spring lookbook in a place where our customer loves to spend a good deal of time indulging in beautiful visuals.”

The campaign exists via @aritzialookbook (the mosaic effect only works on mobile). It was maintained originally as a private account and launched to the public all in one go. To promote it, a series of the blank pink squares were posted via the main @aritzia feed with the line: “510 images. 42 iPhone screens long. View our collections like you never have before: @aritzialookbook.” In less than 24 hours its followers jumped from 0 to 2,485.

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Fendi drones: tech for tech’s sake or smart #MFW move?

20 Feb

Fendi_drone

The big story coming out of Milan Fashion Week today was of course about the Fendi drones.

Referred to as a sign of the luxury house’s commitment to “innovation and creativity”, the initiative saw four drones installed with cameras recording its autumn/winter 2014/15 show. As they flew above the runway, that footage was beamed back to those watching online at home.

“The main reason for doing this is to be able to offer impressive images and an experience that even surpasses being at the actual show,” Pietro Beccari, president and chief executive officer of Fendi, told WWD ahead of the event.

So a couple of key thoughts…

First off, Beccari also said the drones – which were powered by Parrot and in collaboration with the creative department of Google – wouldn’t be at all disruptive. “They are small, and we will increasingly get used to such technology,” he said. That might well be the case, but we’re not used to them yet, which meant most people actually in attendance in Milan focused predominantly on the bots over the collection.

Note several of the below Instagram posts, and this tweet from the FT’s Vanessa Friedman:

As far as publicity goes, that’s not a bad thing of course (more on that in a minute) – fashion shows as entertainment are by no means a new concept, after all.

What should have been spot on though, was the experience for those at home. Beccari said it would be completely “immersive and unprecedented”, thus far better than watching in person from the front row – so what was expected was a high-definition, up-close view.

A dashboard on the Fendi website hosted both a classic stream of the show and the “Drone Cam” to choose from. Like Topshop has done in the past, viewers could take snapshots of whichever they were watching and then share those collection images with their Facebook and Google+ friends and followers.

Unfortunately, the quality of the drone recording was, for all intents and purposes, awful. Up-close and personal? It was not. The shapes of the pieces the models were wearing could barely be made out, let alone the finer details of the line. The snapshot tool did work, as you can see in the screengrab below (which also documents the blurry runway), but the share function didn’t; merely clicking through to Facebook, before just getting stuck.

That was both the case with the live-stream version and the on-demand recording that has been on the Fendi site since. In fact, the recording that is up there now is actually a slightly better version in terms of the drone camera used – a switch was clearly made post live event.

Fendi_dronecam

But back to the question in the title of this post, were the Fendi drones merely tech for tech’s sake or a smart Milan Fashion Week move? The answer, I’d argue, is both.

It goes without saying this was absolutely tech for tech’s sake. And by that I mean technology that is essentially pointless (the traditional live stream providing a far more detailed and therefore beautiful view), but is employed on the grounds of the fact it makes for a great, albeit gimmicky, story. This is how most big-budget retail technology launches currently operate.

And a great story it was. Given drones were already buzzworthy thanks to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ December 2012 announcement, this was a topic top of mind and tip of tongue for many people, not to mention key members of the press. Fendi captialised on that (smoothly avoiding anything along the lines of privacy or security concerns), and won key coverage in everything from The Guardian to Bloomberg as a result, with New York Magazine’s The Cut, The Times and Fashionista inbetween. The only angle otherwise hyped was the Karl Lagerfeld doll that model Cara Delevingne carried to both open and close the show – and even that also had a Big Brother camera in it.

Let’s not forget this is a big coup for Milan Fashion Week – hardly the epicentre of fashion and tech stories any prior season. Fendi, under the creative direction of Lagerfeld, is also not the first brand you’d think of to lead in this space. Burberry maybe. Diane von Furstenberg perhaps. Even Dolce & Gabbana at a push, but not likely Fendi.

Beccari referred to the company’s investment in the development of its digital content as a bid to speak to a younger customer base. One thing’s for sure, there’s a whole raft of tech (and journo) types who have at least now heard of that brand called Fendi. And on that basis, yep, it was a pretty clever move too.

Remember that time when…

Digital snippets: Michael Kors, Rebecca Minkoff, Vivienne Tam, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen

17 Feb

From New York to London, and everything in between, here’s a mega round-up of all the latest stories surrounding fashion and tech…

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  • Rebecca Minkoff gives inside look at fashion week with Keek app [Mashable]
  • Vivienne Tam’s WeChat partnership delivers NYFW front-row access [Jing Daily]
  • Marc Jacobs opens fashion week pop-up that accepts Tweets as payment (as pictured) [Fashionista]
  • Zac Posen curated a Spotify playlist for his new lookbook [Styleite]
  • Alexander Wang showed colour-changing clothes during fashion week [Technical.ly]
  • Warby Parker tops list of top 10 retail innovators [Fast Company]
  • London Fashion Week: Nokia and Fyodor Golan create ‘world’s first’ smart skirt [Marketing]
  • Net-a-Porter puts its fashion sense on paper in new print magazine [BrandChannel]
  • Miu Miu unveils ‘Spark and Light’ short film [WWD]
  • Sass & Bide launches 360-degree shoppable ad [PSFK]
  • Bloomingdale’s hosts live-styling event on Instagram to drive interaction [Luxury Daily]
  • The new Moda Operandi app is like Tinder for designer clothes [NY Observer]
  • Instagram is shaping up to be the world’s most powerful selling tool [Forbes]
  • Seven ways retailers are embracing tech, from body scanning to digital wallets [AdAge]
  • What’s so alluring about a woman known as Man Repeller? [NY Mag]

Hunter uses Instagram video as second screen to #LFW show

16 Feb

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Hunter might be the new kid on the block this London Fashion Week season, but its show and accompanying social media coverage was as slick as the best of them.

The famous wellington boot brand introduced its new Hunter Original line with models parading along a catwalk covered in water. Under the creative direction of Stella McCartney’s husband Alasdhair Willis, this was a stylish line of practical outerwear, not to mention numerous new footwear pieces, fit for the current UK weather.

But for those watching online, it was the Instagram video posts that particularly stood out. In a sea of thousands of #LFW tagged images, not to mention endless blurry runway Insta-videos, Hunter took to the platform with a series of high quality, pre-produced clips.

Created as part of the wider #beahunteroriginal social media campaign, each one was designed to “capture the inspiration behind the collection and allow a deeper insight into what is being seen on the runway”. What that actually meant was quite abstract, creative work.

Overlaid copy set the theme – “If you’re born a pioneer”, “Forged by the desire to discover” or  “Take the path that others dare not take”, from one to the next. Graphics spliced in then showed a section of a boot, a close-up on a fabric or an original sketch, as well as a series of autumnal outdoor scenes nodding to the heritage of the brand.

Willis said: “Born out of a passion to innovate, a pioneering spirit has always been at the heart of the brand. This spirit is key as the future vision for Hunter is developed and the reason for leveraging Instagram in this way. We are delivering a unique experience for the Instagram community, in real time, providing a deeper insight into the story of the collection and the world of Hunter Original.”

Hunter referred to the Instagram move as its LFW “second screen experience”. See each of the posts below…

Twitter Mirror arrives at fashion week with Matthew Williamson

13 Feb

twittermirrorMatthew Williamson is introducing the Twitter Mirror backstage at its London Fashion Week show this season.

Already becoming a regular feature of events such as The Grammys, The Oscars and even NBA games, this is a tablet usually positioned off-stage that enables celebs to snap selfies and autopost them to the event in question’s Twitter feed.

This will be the first time it is used at a fashion week. Williamson will have it set up for models to interact with in the build up to Sunday’s show. Each shot will be placed in a bespoke frame by the designer that reflects the new autumn/winter 2014/15 collection and its inspiration.

According to the brand’s head of digital, Rosanna Falconer, the aim was to give fans of the brand access behind-the-scenes in much more of a natural way than ever before. In previous seasons, Williamson shows have seen Vine used to reveal the details of the collection in real-time. Without intending to be, the best ones have always been when the models wearing the looks have been a little cheeky.

“This time we wanted to strip away the camera and the photographer, so it was just the models left, and see what we ended up with,” said Falconer.

Vine will be used during the show itself, with three posts revealing key pieces in full narrative – from sketch, to beading and final look. The brand will also continue its #ohmw campaign, handing out props branded with the hashtag to encourage attendees to similarly tweet and Instagram photos of themselves.

Why Topshop is focusing on shoppers in-store with virtual reality #LFW experience

12 Feb

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What’s interesting about Topshop’s digital plans for London Fashion Week this season, is its focus primarily on the store – on shoppers rather than showgoers.

The British retailer is partnering with a company called Inition to offer consumers a virtual reality experience from its Oxford Circus flagship. Specially commissioned Oculus Rift-based headsets will enable individuals to see its catwalk event taking place in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall on Sunday, February 16, through a 3D virtual world – from VIP arrivals and backstage sneak peeks, to the Unique collection show itself. The telepresence technology will make them feel as though the models are walking in front of their eyes, and the celebrities sat right beside them.

This is substantially more advanced than Burberry’s 3D streaming to customers in its stores in 2010. Wired has a great write-up explaining why: “Those wearing the [Inition] headsets – incorporating headphones and the Oculus Rift – will be able to see the live catwalk unfold if they look straight ahead on one virtual screen as well as the celebrities they are sitting ‘next to’, thanks to an 180-degree wide angle on the stream. If they look behind them at a second virtual screen they’ll get a view into the backstage area, where models will be having their hair and makeup done. If the wearer happens to look up, they will ascend into a higher level, where they will be able to see the rafters and a number of 360-degree images of, for example, celebrity selfies. All around the virtual screens and other elements, the environment has been designed to look like the Turbine Hall, with concrete and large girders.

“On top of the live stream will be built a number of animated elements that reflect the theme of decay that characterises the autumn/winter collection. So there will be leaves, flowers and crows that fly around on top of the space. Tweets using a specific hashtag will emerge in the virtual world as petals dropped by the virtual crows.”

Andy Millns, co-founder and creative director of Inition, said: “Virtual reality is the ultimate interface to the digital world with the power to transport the user to another place as soon as they put on a special display. This unique technology has the potential to open up fashion shows to the consumer at home and we believe this will be the first of many executions of this kind.”

Last season, Topshop partnered with Chirp, a start-up that enabled the sharing of content via sound. It was a cute idea, and was fun to play with for those who tried, but the truth is (according to those involved) it wasn’t all that successful. Very few people at the show actually downloaded the app you had to have, let alone then had it open ready to collect the specific sounds emitted as the show took place. The Chirp Garden hosted in the store was no doubt a smarter move in terms of engagement. That said, it led to content shared, rather than an immersive experience.

The headsets for this coming weekend, as abstract as they might look and feel to wear, go back to what opening up show access is really about: making consumers feel involved. And not just via the web or social media, but in the brand Mecca that is the flagship store. Topshop Oxford Circus is arguably one of the best global examples of this – a tourist destination, an immersive consumer experience, and a space that has played host to all sorts of other campaigns; a shoppable Pinterest wall, a series of talks and events for those interested in the industry, a Tweet Shop for Halloween and more.

The one downside with this virtual reality initiative of course is that it’s restricted to just a few. A competition is being held in the run up to Sunday’s show via social media, which will result in five winners who will be the first to experience it. The installation will then be available to further visitors – we presume those who sign up, or queue for it – on-demand, for three days.

But as mentioned, that’s only at the Oxford Circus location, and not any of the other 400+ Topshop stores – directly owned or otherwise – around the UK and the rest of the world.

And that’s part of the issue with in-store tech innovation at present. It’s a costly move, it’s also an experiment most of the time, so it tends to be limited to one place. This campaign specifically is quite a unique example, and undoubtedy one best suited to the flagship on the basis it’s the theatrical homeland of the brand. With most other initiatives, however, the technology – no matter how far away from being a gimmick it is – won’t become more than a PR story if the majority of consumers don’t ever get to see or experience it.

Topshop is referring to this virtual reality installation as not just transporting the viewer, but providing an insight into how we will consume media in the not so distant future. This fashion week, it’ll still largely be an exclusive experience, but the potential is there.

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