Digital is En-Vogue

13 August, 2014 by Admin | Events

Vogue Festival, in association with Vertu, was fuelled mostly by coffee and social media. The former to keep energy up through many sessions and late-night parties and the latter to share street chic and sound bites with fashion fans at large. The most glamorous festival in London featured speakers from big and boutique brands presenting both what inspires them and what helped forged their businesses in Britain. It was fantastic to hear speakers share their stories of how digital and social have enabled more immediate connections with their customers. This message could not be any more timely for the year Forrester has called ‘the year of digital business.’!

Vogue Festival 2013 saw fashionistas, brand representatives, bloggers and entrepreneurs of all kinds converge on London’s Southbank Centre at the end of April.  Dressed to kill and armed with smartphones and tablets to document the event, attendees heard from entrepreneurs like Natalie Massenet of Net-a-Porter and fashion muses like blogger Susie Bubble and Japanese Vogue editor-at-large Anna Dello Russo. Everyone had something to say about social media and digital. 

Natalie Massenet, a tech-savvy businesswoman with a self-described eye for ‘the next big thing’, began the popular online luxury fashion retailer, Net-a-Porter, out of her spare room in 2000 when no one believed that people would ever shop online.  She spoke about the importance of using digital and social media cleverly and even demonstrated it by sharing her presentation via the world’s first ever Instagram book (or ‘Insta-bio’) LIVE with the audience. (Check out @Nataporter_mystorysofar.) From humble beginnings to 2.5 million views per month, she has founded a business known for solid digital strategy and high-quality content. Now, as chair of the British Fashion Council, Natalie believes that British brands have a corner on creativity in fashion but must focus on the core business skills and innovative technology tools needed to grow.  For Natalie, it seems that having a digital presence as a company is not only fashionable, it’s just good business. 

But not everyone agrees.  Christopher Kane, 2011 winner of the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund, is more tentative about a digital store-front for his eponymous brand.  During the panel discussion, The Secrets of Creating a British Brand, he said that he prefers to ‘take it slowly’ given the expense of building a web platform and ‘do it when the time is right’.  Fellow panel member Anya Hindmarch, founder of the cult British accessories brand, told the audience that she was also initially tentative about digital and social media for fear that such exposure would dilute the brand and open her company up to copy-cat-manufacturers. Over the years, however, Hindmarch changed her views. She says she has learned that digital is not only about presenting a 24-hour easily accessible store-front but also ‘great for building a more immediate connection to the customer.  If you can’t afford a brick and mortar store, have a website! It’s cheap and you can share your brand story.’

This immediate and personal connection between brand and customer is especially important for keeping communication lines open in a crisis. Jonathan Akeroyd, CEO of Alexander McQueen discovered this during the sad days following the death of designer Lee Alexander McQueen.  Friends and fans from all over the world came together online and via social media to express their grief and love for the late designer and the style and beauty he infused into his brand. 

I came away from the festival with a sense of excitement for the future of the fashion industry and its love affair with digital media.  How, when and why brands should invest in a strong digital strategy were key talking points for several speakers.  My main takeaway was that the unique power of digital in the fashion industry is to connect the brand and consumer in a personal, immediate and potentially profitable way.  Whether you are an entrepreneur like Natalie Massenet, a designer at the beginning of his/her career or a brand in a crisis, I feel strongly that ‘getting digital right’ needs to be a strategic priority.  I am sure that the festival speakers’ words and ideas tweeted, instagrammed and facebooked by festival goers will go on to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and fashion-industry insiders to keep their finger on the digital pulse.