I’m somewhat obsessed with the idea of the fashion industry working out how to nail audio branding. I’m not talking about just straight up music partnerships or even the sounds associated with a brand when being in-store, but the noises that personify the clothing or accessories in particular and whether they have the potential to subsequently be owned by an individual label. Food for thought…
It’s for that reason though that I love this initiative from SHOWstudio called The Sound of Clothes: Studio Sessions. The creative editorial site founded by Nick Knight, captured the sounds of Mary Katrantzou, Sibling, Piers Atkinson and Matthew Williamson’s collections being made ahead of their spring/summer 2014 shows this past September.
From the noise of the knitting machines and crochet needles being used, to beads and gems rustling, jersey being ripped, the pattern cutters in action, zips fastening and even models’ heels clicking during fittings, everything was collected, edited and then remixed into four musical tracks (as below) said to give “a unique audio take on the collections and capture the diversity of London Fashion Week”.
Sound artist Stu Sibley worked on the initiative, stretching and manipulating certain sounds so they seem like beats or instruments, while leaving others exactly as they were recorded. Each track is accompanied by abstract 3D visuals based on the runway collections themselves. Concept and direction was by Lou Stoppard and Neal Bryant.
By now, you will all have heard of Louis Vuitton’s new three-storey shop-in-shop in London’s Selfridges – a symphony of glass, leather, stone and bronze-painted wood, anchored by a double helix-like elevator spiralling up from the floor, as The Business of Fashion referred to it.
What’s got less attention however, is the interactive touch table that’s in place on its ground floor. Designed to help facilitate the personal shopping experience, this “Digital Atelier” allows sales assistants to guide customers through the brand’s inventory of accessories, share the story behind each piece, and offer opportunities for upselling.
It was developed by 3D digital experience company Holition in collaboration with the LV team. Selfridges is the pilot for a scheme that, if successful, could see it introduced to all flagship Louis Vuitton stores.
I popped along to the Holition studios ahead of launch in London last week to have a play with it. Here’s what I learned:
- The table offers three different digital experiences. First up is one called Atelier based heavily on storytelling as well as an exploration of the product. To activate it, consumers place a block – selected based on the print they’re particularly interested in (as the picture above shows) – on the bottom right hand corner of the oversized screen. Embedded with a code on its underside, that pulls up specific content about the corresponding line. Each of the different products are showcased with high res imagery and detailed information about its design as well as its care. There are also various videos based on the heritage of the brand and the craftsmanship of the products.
- The entire experience isn’t meant to just be about table however, but its integration into the store – otherwise the user might as well be at home and on the internet, the Holition team said. As a result, it enables consumers to either use a QR code attached to each product to bring them up on their own smartphones on the brand’s website, or save each one to a digital basket, called ‘My Selection’. From there they can either email themselves the list they’ve chosen to follow up later via e-commerce, or the sales assistant (as mentioned, this is after all a guided experience) can add it to their iPad so they can go and find the actual products.
- The second chapter of the table is called Gift Finder, offering a more playful experience based on discovery. The user answers a series of initial questions, such as whether the item is for him or her, what kind of character that person is (i.e. trendy) and what the gift is for (i.e. travel). A series of results follow under different categories – from belts to sunglasses and bags. An infinite circular scrolling reel showcases all of them, while a series of cute cards underneath allows refinement based on shape, material, colour and price. Once again, the items chosen can be added to ‘My Selection’.
- The third app is called Complete the Look, offering a more tailored experience. Consumers select items they already own to see a series of suggestions that go with it. It’s about upselling and cross selling. If you own this bag, you might like this scarf, or this purse. Each of the suggestions can be added to a moodboard by the user, and then once again sent to the ‘My Selection’ list. As Holition CEO Jonathan Chippindale explains: “It isn’t just about the technology – it’s about creating a fascinating and immersive experience for the end consumer. If the content isn’t exciting or engaging enough then the consumer quickly loses interest.”
- Holition was provided with all the information on the collections by LV so they could populate the apps. Now launched, the LV team has full access to the CMS behind it so they can change things like prices, and control the results that are surfaced. One of the most interesting things for them of course is how much can be tracked from the experience. They can see how long consumers spend with the apps, understand what exactly they’re interacting with, and capture both purchase information and interest. Email sign-up does of course also mean data.
- The initiative is designed to be a way to “start the selling ceremony”; asking consumers what they’re looking for and then interacting with the table as part of the conversation. As a result, it relies heavily on the sales assistants and their training to really work. The acquisition, retention and upsell of all clients is about the ability of the staff to maximise opportunities. For now, while the table is solely in Selfridges, it is hoped that will be a seamless exchange. The entire experience is not meant to be about technology, but a marketing and sales experience coming together to create a feeling. As is the main issue with wider in-store tech rollouts, it’s maintaining that level of quality so the table doesn’t just become a gimmick that will be the key in the future.
The big news today has of course been about Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts’ move to become an SVP at Apple, as well as the subsequent announcement of Christopher Bailey’s new title covering her role as well as his existing one as chief creative officer at the luxury brand. Here are the must-read stories on it:
- As outlined in a statement from Apple, Ahrendts’ role will be to have “oversight of the strategic direction, expansion and operation of both Apple retail and online stores”. She will join the company by mid-2014 and report directly into Apple CEO Tim Cook
- 9to5Mac has the full text of an internal email Cook sent to Apple employees, in which he refers to Ahrendts as “wicked smart” and someone who shares the company’s values, its focus on innovation, its emphasis on customer experience and its care for people
- In general the move is being reported as a positive one for Apple. Fast Company has done a great job of aligning Ahrendts’ mindset with Apple’s based on an interview she gave earlier this summer surrounding the future of retail. A second piece suggests replacing the words “trench coat” with “iphone” in one of her quotes as further proof of why she’ll be such a good fit for the brand
- Meanwhile, a tweet from Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal said the announcement is a signifier of how the “convergence of fashion and technology continues”, a sentiment that’s been echoed elsewhere. Vanessa Friedman of the FT wrote: “It also demonstrates the increasing give and take between luxury and tech, as great personal gadgets become luxury accessories, design plays a big role in brand equity, and luxury increasingly becomes tech-savvy”
- Let’s not forget, Ahrendts is the second senior fashion executive to be hired by Apple this year. As reported by The Business of Fashion, Paul Deneve, former chief executive of Yves Saint Laurent joined Apple in July, and is thought to be working on wearable devices
- But Ahrendts offers Apple another significant value too; namely understanding China. As highlighted by Quartz: “It is also gaining the expertise of one of the most successful luxury brands in China, which happens to be the world’s largest smartphone market and one of Apple’s target markets”
- Over at The Telegraph there’s a great outline of how the first Apple Store came about under Steve Jobs, and grew to its 408 locations worldwide today. But it highlights how Ahrendts will not inherit a business without challenges. “Rivals such as Samsung and Microsoft have copied the Apple Store template and are expanding their own retail footprints around the world,” it says. And: “Apple retail has been without permanent leader for over a year following the brief tenure of former Dixons chief John Browett, who took over after Ron Johnson left in 2011 for the top job at JC Penney.”
- Much of the coverage otherwise surrounds the fact Ahrendts is the first woman to join the Apple exec team, placing her alongside the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer making waves at other technology companies
- But there’s also an argument the move is a bit of a step down for her – from the top of the pile at Burberry (not to mention the highest paid CEO on the FTSE 100 last year) to another fish in a big pond at Apple. Mashable has a few thoughts on that however, including the fact Apple could be grooming her for the CEO role in the future. It also outlines that Apple’s retail revenues are about seven times that of Burberry. (There’s some nice background info in this piece about the impact Ahrendts has made at Burberry too)
- Meanwhile, the news of Bailey as Ahrendts’ successor at Burberry (taking on the dual role of chief creative and chief executive officer) has been met with mixed response. Shares dropped 7.6% on London’s stock exchange today, suggesting there’s not a great deal of confidence surrounding it, despite enormous backing from Ahrendts and from Burberry’s chairman Sir John Peace in the brand’s video announcement. During this, Bailey himself refers to the fact the brand has “only just started dreaming”, mentioning future strategies surrounding beauty and re-integrating Japan back into the business
- As the Guardian reported, there were suggestions Bailey had been handed the top job to stop him following Ahrendts out of the door, though Burberry was forced to deny it. It instead reinforced the support he has in the rest of the company management team; in spite of the fact finance director Carol Fairweather only stepped into the role in July this year, and chief operating officer John Smith joined in March
- Another piece from The Business of Fashion notes it is “truly unprecedented for a designer to graduate from creative director to chief creative officer to chief executive officer, as Bailey will have done when the transition is complete”. It asks: “Can Mr Bailey, someone who is not obviously au fait with the dollars and cents of balance sheets, intricacies of global supply chains and the excruciating detail of retail operations, run a multi-billion dollar creative business in every sense of the word and also communicate with analysts on Wall Street and in the City of London?”
- As Friedman at the FT likewise says: “Now we have an art-school-trained man without an MBA atop a £7bn public company – albeit one who was always referred to by Ms Ahrendts as a “partner”. And we have final confirmation that these days, corporate and creative are becoming one and the same when it comes to high-end fashion. Argue all you want about whether or not it is a good development for either side (and I betcha people will argue) – the fact remains it has happened.”
Pic via Fast Company