Why luxury brands are revealing themselves through the raw and unfiltered lens of Periscope for London Fashion Week

As Fashion Week arrives in London this weekend it’s clear that Twitter’s live-streaming app is the channel of choice for brands looking to engage with more consumers.

This marks the first season that brands have been able to get their hands on 6-month-old Periscope, Twitter’s live-streaming app, building off its popularity at New York Fashion Week. Tommy Hilfiger, Vera Wang, Carolina Herrera and Ralph Lauren were among the many designers that used the live-streaming tool to give fans a raw and unfiltered view of what happens behind the scenes.

It’s perhaps unsurprising then, given the wealth of videos that are broadcast using Periscope every day with fashion proving to be one of its most popular categories.

Hunter Original is using Periscope for the first time for its London show. It will launch #BeaHeadliner Mobile Sessions on the tool where up and coming musicians will perform on their way to the show, answer fan questions, and then film the runway.

Since the arrival of Alasdhair Willis as creative director in 2013, digital, particularly live-streaming, has been at the heart of the shoe-brand’s fashion week presence. In September 2014 this saw it partner with mobile video company Grabyo for real-time geo-targeted broadcast highlights and last season, in an industry first, it simultaneously live-streamed its own show across eight large scale digital screens around the UK.

“We see this as a huge opportunity to speak to new audiences at such a key time on the fashion industry calendar and for the brand - in particular extending our reach to a broader audience that might not traditionally engage with London Fashion Week,” Willis told The Drum.

Democratizing fashion

However, fashion’s love of live-streaming content far and wide is nothing new. The British Fashion Council (BFC) broadcasts as many as 95 per cent of London Fashion Week’s shows through its website and via a giant outdoor screen in central London. But, as Willis alludes to, the adoption of such technologies by brands themselves is reflective of a wider shift in the industry to make fashion more accessible.

“When you have an exclusive product, it is imperative to protect your brand. However in the fashion industry this often translates as being insular and self-serving,” suggested Tom Winbow, who heads up business development at creative agency Ralph.

Persicope, then, provides an opportunity to give people a view into the fashion world that hasn’t been overly crafted and instead deliver something raw, but that – crucially - doesn’t live forever.

Brands like Burberry and Hunter have shown that by using such platforms they can broaden the reach of their shows beyond the fashion industry to become a brand that embraces innovation and creativity, as well as luxury and beauty.

“We can heighten the show experience which I believe is key to delivering a strong brand message,” explained Willis. “The social mobile fashion consumer is forcing brands to think creatively and innovatively about how they publish content and engage with their communities. We recognised that it's no longer a broadcast, but now an interactive experience that must go to the consumer, when and how they want to consume our show. You have to take the experience to their device, wherever they are.”

The popularity of free live-streaming platforms where everything is temporary is also reflective of the challenge to ensure that, while you are trying to reach as wide an audience as possible, you invest resource into exclusive, permanent content targetting the VIP consumers that will actually buy product.

Beyond Fashion Week

The BFC has been working hard with brands in order to help them become more familiar with the new tools at their disposal in an attempt to drive better engagement with a range of audiences both during fashion week and in between show seasons.

For its part, Hunter is planning to use Periscope as a platform throughout 2016 to provide followers with access to musicians on their way to the biggest festivals around the world.

And you need only look at Burberry to realise the difference such a strategy can make. The brand’s chief financial officer Carol Fairweather has previously revealed that its use of Snapchat is generating “the best we’d ever had in terms of digital engagement” and today mobile accounts for 40 per cent of visits to its sites with sales increasingly made via smaller screens.

As such, Clara Mercer, head of marketing at the BFC, said getting to grips with fledgling social channels is now high on the agenda of every designer.

“London Fashion Week is a great example of being a key marketing moment where you can create a lot of noise, but if you don’t say anything until the next fashion week you’re going to lose that engagement,” she said.

Given the speed at which the fashion industry works, and the need to have a strong creative point of view, the majority of luxury brands have opted to take social in-house rather than outsource to an agency.

To help both smaller designers and large fashion houses stay up informed, the BFC has created mentioning days with Google, Instagram and Twitter where designers can get advice about how use their tools and understand the data to inform content.

For the last round of ‘speed-dating’, Mercer said over 75 brands participated.

Fashion brands haven't always translated their creative flair into innvoative marketing, opting instead to channel their budgets into their fashion shows. With the likes of Burberry showing what can be achieved when digital is used to reach people beyond the Vogue reader, live-streaming and social video is helping them to amplify and activate one of their biggest expenditures and creative assets. That's a good for them and a good thing for fashion levels.

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