Tag Archives: technology

Innovating the humble hanger: flashback from Japan

15 Apr

I discovered this video when writing a story about the future of shopping this week, and thought it worth resurfacing.

It’s a simple premise: the  shopper removes items from the rail and as they do so they activate content on nearby video screens. It’s not the garment that holds the sensors, but the hanger it is hung on – recognising unique details, from the fabric it is made of, to shots of models wearing it.

It was a concept from a company called teamLab in Tokyo – featured as part of an exhibition called We Are the Future, and then later in retail store Vanquish around 2010-2012.

But it’s also one you can imagine working very effectively in a luxury store today, in part similar to the connected fitting rooms we’ve seen at the likes of Burberry with RFID tagged garments, or reportedly in pilot from Microsoft and Accenture with Kohl’s. But it’s also reminiscent of the Mother’s Day campaign run by C&A Brazil two years ago, which saw hangers embedded with real-time counters for Facebook Likes.

There’s a lot to be said for the humble hanger it would seem…

teamlab_hanger4 teamlab_hanger1 teamlab2 teamlab_hanger3

Digital snippets: Fabergé, Dior, Gucci, Marc by Marc Jacobs, H&M, J.Crew and Kate Spade

13 Apr

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech:

 

  • Fabergé’s NYC Easter egg hunt marks the largest Beacon deployment ever in the US [Fashionista]
  • Dior explores global flower sourcing with interactive map [Luxury Daily]
  • James Franco directs video for Gucci (as above) [WWD]
  • Marc by Marc Jacobs line crowdsources models with #castmemarc campaign on social [Vogue.co.uk]
  • YouTube fashion viral: Miranda Kerr is selfie obsessed in H&M’s spring 2014 campaign [Fashionotes]
  • J.Crew and Kate Spade to foster the next big fashion tech start-ups through new accelerator program [Co.Design]
  • IMG Fashion’s partnership with Tencent aims to boost Fashion Week China exposure  [JingDaily] bit.ly/1ltgJFZ
  • Fashion in the age of Instagram [NY Times]
  • How iBeacon and similar technology will change retail [eMarketer]
  • Five examples of how marketers are using iBeacons [Econsultancy]
  • ‘Showrooming’ hits luxury fashion – lack of e-commerce presence means clients buying elsewhere online [WSJ]
  • Luxury brands are stupid to snub the internet [BusinessWeek]
  • Decoded Fashion founder: ‘Designers need to launch like start-ups’ [The Guardian]
  • New app, Think Dirty, tracks the nasty chemicals in the beauty products you put on your face [Co.Exist]
  • The camera-wielding boyfriends behind fashion’s most famous bloggers [Fashionista]
  • How LiketoKnow.it is changing Instagram by monetising your photos [Pinetop Group]
  • Op-ed: The companies with the best software will lead fashion [BoF]

Digital snippets: Oculus, Luxottica, Wren, Asos, Nike, Birchbox, Tom Ford, Kenzo

28 Mar

The big tech story this week has of course been about Facebook’s purchase of virtual reality headset company Oculus VR. But there were lots of others to know about too. Read on for an edit…

oculus-rift-dk2

  • Google deal with Luxottica will bring Glass to Ray-Ban, Oakley [WSJ]
  • How Wren made a viral video of strangers kissing and increased sales by nearly 14,000% [Business Insider]
  • Asos and Nike celebrate 27 years of Air Max with first Google+ shoppable hangout [Marketing Magazine]
  • Birchbox, seller of beauty products, steps out from web to open New York store [NY Times]
  • Tom Ford joins the world of e-commerce with sexy new web store [Fashionista]
  • Kenzo’s virtual aquarium highlights the danger of overfishing [PSFK]
  • Chanel releases new Coco Mademoiselle Keira Knightley ad – She’s Not There [The Inspiration Room]
  • Lancôme ramping up digital initiatives [WWD]
  • How Yoox became the Amazon of the fashion world [Telegraph]
  • Why in-store tracking might not be as bad as it sounds [CNNMoney]
  • The Shazam of fashion is here, introducing ‘ASAP54′ [Styleite]
  • Silicon Valley never talks about the real reason you don’t own a smart watch or ‘wearable tech’ [Business Insider]

 

Fabergé fans to create digital portrait animations at Harrods

26 Mar

Fabergé Cinescope - Firebird in Cage

Fabergé is set to host a heritage-inspired digital installation in Harrods as part of its Easter-themed pop-up from April 1 – 21.

The ‘Fabergé Cinescope’ will enable visitors to try on jewellery via a digital mirror and then create a one-of-a-kind animated portrait of themselves that can be shared across social media.

These portraits are based on a Victorian novelty concept – the trompe-l’oeil optical effect created by placing two images on either side of a disk and rotating them quickly to make them look like one (as per the video below).

Fabergé says marrying innovation with tradition is always its aim, and in this case its “transforming a period toy into a digital-age concept”.

The initiative is being run in collaboration with Russian style icon Miroslava Duma. It will also see the story of the Fabergé jewellery house retold via the Harrods windows, and an ‘Egg Bar’ showcasing the iconic precious egg pendants. An exhibition space will present other historic pieces from the brand, including the original 1901 Fabergé Apple Blossom Egg never seen before in the UK.

Zappos piloting personal shopping service on Instagram with #nextootd

19 Mar

Most of you will have already heard of the hashtag #ootd. For those who haven’t, this is the epitome of the #selfie phenomenon. “Outfit of the day” as it stands for, has over 23 million posts attached to it on Instagram.

That’s 23 million images associated with what people are wearing, said Will Young, director of Zappos Labs – the San Francisco-based experimentation and innovation arm of e-commerce site Zappos – during SXSW last week. “We looked at [those figures] and asked as a retailer how do we be a part of that?”

The answer? His team recently launched a pilot project on the platform called Next OOTD. Very simply, followers are invited to post a selfie along with the hashtag #nextootd. Those who do will receive a personalised shopping recommendation based on their Instagram from Zappos in return.

Zappos is of course a company that prides itself, and has become known, for customer service (its longest ever phone call was nine and a half hours – and celebrated for that fact, Young revealed). He said they are constantly trying to think of lots of different ways to take that service to the next level.

At the moment this project is entirely manual – there’s one person doing it who doesn’t even work weekends – so the potential to scale isn’t really there, he admitted, but that’s not to say it won’t be down the line.

“Personal shopping via Instagram… that could be the future of our business,” he argued – and perhaps rightly so given the buzz around social shopping once again at present. “It could have a 50 person team manning it and making personalised shopping recommendations.”

To his own strategy, he added: “I heard Sarah Friar, CFO of Square speak recently, and she said: ‘Think big but start small.’ That’s kind of how we approach things at Zappos Labs.”

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.

Valencia_ONeal_IMAGETHINK_SXSWi14-656x371

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.”

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…

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

12 Feb

TopshopLFW_AW14_Inition

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.

Digital snippets: adidas, Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus, Bitcoin, American Apparel

20 Jan

Here’s a highlight of the best stories in the fashion and tech space over the past couple of weeks…

adidas_Stan_Smith_Popup

  • adidas launches Stan Smith pop-up store, includes 3D-printing station (as pictured) [Dexigner]
  • Louis Vuitton debuts spring campaign on Instagram [Refinery29]
  • Neiman Marcus CEO apologises for data breach, offers free credit monitoring [The Verge]
  • Overstock CEO: Why we’re accepting Bitcoins [CNBC]
  • Five reasons why American Apparel is bullish on Twitter [AdWeek]
  • Aerie’s unretouched ads ‘challenge supermodel standards’ for young women [Huffington Post]
  • Warby Parker launches interactive 2013 annual report [Laughing Squid]
  • Wet Seal hires 16-year-old to build its following on Snapchat [AdAge]
  • François-Henri Pinault puts his money where his mobile is via Square, hints at future for luxury world buying into tech [FT Material World]
  • Show business: are fashion shows still relevant? [BoF]
  • Beacons: what they are, how they work, and why Apple’s iBeacon technology is ahead of the pack [Business Insider]
  • Personalisation is key for beauty omnichannel strategy: L’Oréal Luxe exec [Luxury Daily]
  • Try on virtual make-up and pay with your hand with retail tech at CES 2014 [BrandChannel]
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