As London Fashion Week came to a close last week, it’s clear that social media has become a game-changer for the fashion industry. In just a few short years, the once-insular business has become a leader in the digital revolution. Companies like Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger and Marc Jacobs are finding innovative ways to build brand loyalty, while insurgent trendsetters from outside the fashion establishment are using social media to earn themselves front-row seats at the catwalk.
For decades, the fashion industry was dominated by an elite few tastemakers whose opinions could make or break the careers of aspiring designers. The image of the fashion gatekeeper was famously captured by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada; one gesture from her character, Miranda Priestly, and your fall collection could be destined for the dustbin. But today, up-and-coming designers and established brands alike can reach consumers directly, through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other digital channels.
A new, fast-moving media environment was unmistakable at London Fashion Week last week. The British Fashion Council kept everyone up to date with a live stream video and the official @LondonFashionWk Twitter feed. People following the #LFW hashtag could participate in a sprawling social conversation, rubbing virtual elbows with designers, fashion editors and celebrities. On Instagram, models like Cara Delevingne gave their fans a backstage pass and even a point of view from the catwalk itself.
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It’s clear that fashionistas are hungry for more information. They want fashion companies to raise the curtain and give them greater access to their favourite designers, models, and styles. But at a busy event like London Fashion Week, competition for the public’s attention can be fierce.
A key to success for retail brands is to capitalize on the unique characteristics of every social media channel. Twitter’s immediacy can’t be beaten for real-time updates and acts as a great social hub for a brand’s content on other channels. It’s also perfect for monitoring brand mentions and recognizing influential voices that should be amplified through retweets.
Instagram is a stunning visual medium that’s perfect for showcasing fashions and backstage antics while Vine allows brands to highlight their playfulness and creativity in ways that static mediums won’t allow. Burberry used Vine to demonstrate why they’re one of the leading digital innovators in the industry with this artistic video.
As important as it is for brands to produce their own quality content on social media, it’s arguably more important to leverage celebrities, high-profile bloggers and other influencers to maximize brand reach. While designers have always put influencers and movie stars in the front row of their shows (plying them with free clothes, complimentary make-up artists, and yes, cash payments) in order to maximize their own exposure in the press, these relationships have taken on a new dimension in the era of social media. It’s now vital to pack the front row of your fashion show with people who have a major social media following. Today, you’re as likely to see blogging sensations like Bryanboy or Tavi Gevinson in the front row as Anna Wintour.