Digital innovation influences London Fashion Week PR strategies

London Fashion Week, where 60 per cent of shows were live-streamed this year, seems now to be as much about technological innovation as the clothes.

A model on the catwalk at Topshop's Tate Modern show
A model on the catwalk at Topshop's Tate Modern show

For example Burberry continued its association with the cutting edge by embedding digital chips into its garments that unlocked tailored content when a smartphone was hovered above them.

Emma Hart, creative director at Push PR, a fashion PR company whose clients include vintage clothing brand Tara Starlet and swimwear brand Simply Beach, says: "It’s essential to prove that as a brand you are forward thinking in every area of innovation; yes, it’s about both tech and fashion but it’s also about style and creative innovation."

The use of digital media to reach an audience beyond the event is now mainstream, though the organisers of Fashion Week, the British Fashion Council, point out this is not at the expense of the numbers attending the event.

It claims this February’s edition attracted a record 5,000 visitors made up of buyers, TV, radio crews, journalists and photographers.

But despite the growth in interest, there is no evidence that the brands taking part are increasing how much they spend on PR around their shows.

Topshop’s budget has instead been "engineered" towards digital media in an unprecedented way, according to its head of global PR Richard Storer.

The retailer, which has worked with Google in previous years, this year employed 3D agency Inition to offer its fans a virtual reality experience of its collections.  

However, it also gave them the chance to see the shows with their own eyes, Storer says.

"This season our key PR message was to democratise fashion and the shows at LFW in particular. This was achieved by our choice of venue – the iconic Turbine Halls at the Tate Modern where they have a viewing platform overlooking the show space.

"In the days in the lead-up to our show anyone was able to watch the full start-to-finish production, model run-through, sound check, seating the fashion industry, celebrity arrival through to the show itself - all with no invite required."

In contrast Harrods went to great lengths to maintain its exclusivity, hosting a fashion show mid-flight on a British Airways Airbus A380 for 200 guests, though not forgetting social content.

Lauren Stevenson, Harrods' head of communication, said: "We’ve seen a direct impact on traffic to Harrods.com from our social content during Fashion Week."

There is no doubt that Twitter was abuzz with real-time responses to the shows, with some faring better than others.

According to social media specialists Hootsuite, Marks & Spencer’s ‘Best of British’ womenswear collection enjoyed 32% positive social media mentions, compared to 7% and 25% for Burberry and Topshop.

It was the first time Marks & Spencer had exhibited at London Fashion Week, which seems to justify the BFC’s claim that the event’s media value is shooting up, as it is "in people’s faces" like never before.

In a recent Financial Times interview, BFC chair Natalie Massenet floated the idea of taking it on tour to other British cities and even for major global cities to bid to host all the international collections.

Pie in the sky stuff perhaps, but if it comes off it will keep life interesting for fashion PRs.

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