Mobile is changing the way fashion is being created and consumed.

That’s the conclusion of Emily White, senior director, business opportunities, at Instagram, who points to the sophistication of cameras on smartphones as one reason for ushering in the transformative change.

This story first appeared in the October 30, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

White spoke of attending a Burberry fashion show and seeing the large cameras being replaced with iPhone 5s, with the videos quickly being uploaded after they were shot. “That’s better than sitting in the audience,” White said.

She also spoke of a footwear firm in Kenya where a team showed how the shoes are created.

Given that mobile is everywhere — it’s with us all the time — how else is it changing the world?

According to White, industry data show there were just 4 billion photos taken by analogue cameras in 2011, compared with 380 billion using a mobile device. The sophistication of the screen resolution on the camera in mobile devices has changed dramatically, and people are using services such as Tumblr and Pinterest to share their experiences.

Companies such as Rebecca Minkoff and Oscar de la Renta are using mobile to provide “content that one wouldn’t have access to,” such as showing the creative process, whether it’s how a garment is designed or backstage before the start of a fashion show. On a more personal level, consumers are in store fitting rooms taking photos of themselves and sharing looks with family and friends to get feedback before they buy.

“That’s a democratization of fashion. It’s giving people more access to what they like,” White said.
She pointed to three key elements of digital that help foster the dialogue between fashion brands and their customer.

First, content is king. For White, great content is the high bar. She cited J. Crew providing great images to showcase design, and Adidas creating an art gallery while also allowing consumers to click and buy the products. Another example is footwear designer Nelissa Hilman, who shows the design process from the creation to the styling of the shoe. “I own the shoe before it sells,” White said, in a testament to the emotional bonding that can be created between the consumer and the brand and its products.

Second, engage your community. “Digital has to be a two-way conversation,” White explained. She cited Alice + Olivia’s Instagram account, where the company showcases its collection and asks followers for their favorites. “That’s real-time feedback,” White said. Another example was the two-week contest on Instagram from Michael Kors at #MKTimeless in August 2012 where users were asked to share pictures of people wearing their favorite Kors watches. The content drove the number of Instagram users, as well as generated thousands of user photos.

Third, engagement can be inspiration. And it has to be authentic and real. “You know it when you see it,” White said. She cited Hermès’ photos of leather being rolled as an example. “You can see it. You can smell it,” White noted.

“Fashion connects with you emotionally,” an important element, White said, because “people buy things they connect with emotionally.”

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