As WWD noted last week, "Gucci is doing it. So are Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Target, Urban Outfitters, Louis Vuitton and Rachel Roy." Once content to thrive behind the decadent curtain of whatever fabric was currently season, social media, like fashion blogging and reality TV before it, has forced fashion into a new level of access. So in today's fashion world, an aspiring fashionista in Kansas can get a glimpse into Betsey Johnson's day, submit a design for a Coach Tote, and tell Teen Vogue via Facebook that they like the latest issue, all with a few keystrokes. It's a world where teenaged fashion bloggers are invited to design shoes for major retailers and limited-edition handbags are hidden across NYC, hints given away scavenger hunt style on Twitter. Pretty remarkable, don't you think?
What is also important to note are the conversations taking place with the laptop powered down and the phone on vibrate at the bottom of a bag, conversations of the face-to-face kind about the future of our industry and opportunities to engage with the innovators and leaders who are shaping it's evolution. These meet-ups and collaborations are not only contributing to the industry's awareness level and willingness to shift when it comes to social media strategy, but the business world at large is taking note of how fashion is taking up space online.
Recently, at the 140 Conference in New York, fashion entrepreneur Yuli Z and fashion marketing expert Macala Wright discussed fashion + social media in regards to Twitter. It's worth a listen to hear about how issues of privacy and even trends themselves are being affected by this new form of communication.
Even more recently, 360Fashion, a network of high level fashion professionals using the latest web 2.0 and mobile to create online media, hosted a mixer in New York that was streamed live using the 360Fashion Live streaming Facebook application. The purpose of the event was to bring together top bloggers and fashion professionals to discuss how new media is affecting their professions. Top make-up artist Regina Harris, (she recently did Chanel Iman's cover look for the May, 2009 Bazaar) and celebrity and Vogue stylist Lisa Von Weise (Lindsey Lohan, Penelope Cruz) answered questions from attendees, sharing insight into the fashion industry, how they use online media, where the find inspiration, and trend spotting, in an open-ended discussion.
For those who were unable to attend, I asked Anina, founder of 360Fashion, to take PR Couture readers through the night. If you were able to attend, I'd love to hear your thoughts and insights. In Anina's words...
The audience had some very powerful questions for Lisa and Regina regarding the pressure of fashion week and the resources used when they are planning photo shoots. Both Lisa and Regina rely heavily on the internet for research. Lisa browses blogs and uses style.com for their photo albums. She feels that blogs are more insightful and give her more inspiration and perspective than traditional media. She says that the time frame for job turnaround and planning is very short, so being able to browse the style.com collections in her home in peace is a great service, while being able to read fashion blogs gives her a perspective into what is happening on the street.
Regina on the other hand browses the web for inspiration: photos of bruises, paint splatter, art, are all helpful in bringing reality to her technique. Everything is very well researched and requires often trips to museums, or even walking around on the streets for inspiration.
Risi-Leanne Baranja, Editor-in-Chief of Palacinka Beauty Blog, gave insight into how Palacinka has built an online audience and how their experience with comments has recently shifted,from comments on the blog itself, to comments on their Facebook page, as a result of sharing a recent post on their fan page, to via Twitter. Regina agreed, saying that people will often read her blog and then comment on her Facebook page about the blog article. Anina commented on this behavior saying that it was why 360Fashion was integrating heavily with Facebook and Twitter.
Rodney Cutler from Cutler Salon stopped by to be interviewed in the 360Fashion Live stream on Facebook. Rodney says that Cutler is moving heavily into the online media space and already have integrated video screens and fashion week videos that their salon sponsors into their salon decor, and there is hope for the Cuttler blog yet!
Collective Hardware provided the space for the evening and were very accommodating for the event. They announced plans to bring an online art and fashion community to life. Already the Collective Hardware space has integrated video cameras, hifi systems, wifi throughout the floors, a fashion store where they showcase young designers, and a prosthetics lab downstairs that Regina went to see, stating that she was glad to have such a place nearby--normally they are in Los Angeles. Regina intends to expand her business into special effects as her photoshoots are often crossing over between art and fashion.
The discussion of mobile and online vs print media was very interesting. Lisa von Weise, when asked about having her styling shown on a small mobile phone screen, commented that she had long ago given up on the idea of everyone seeing all the details that go into dressing a model for a photo shoot. The layers and the accessories often are fine details that create the overall look so she did not thing that the size of the photo mattered, and that it was more a question of convenience and reaching a wider audience. Regina commented that having every detail of her makeup visible in the iPhone magazines was not really an issue, and agreed with Lisa's comment about how their work is there to support the photographer in getting the best overall image.
Marco La Conte and Davide Cernushi, both photographers who attended the event, had a discussion with Anina about why they were not participating online. Both Lisa and Regina agreed that in their experience it was the backstage information, the how to, or why of fashion was the most interesting for modern readers of the web and that their blogs were there to give this insight. Comments were made about how the concern from high-end media producers regarding quality loss on with digital media and about how having recopied images of album covers and ripped sounds, were diminishing the quality of the artists producing the work. Regina commented that her perfume could not be creative with a more handcrafted, artisan approach, and that she would not be able to mass produce it because she makes everything, from the bottle to the scent itself. However, what she found interesting was that online sales of the perfume way outnumber the sales in Barney's New York--even though Barney's was percieved as far more exclusive and prestigious.