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Update – Lockdown status in Scandinavia, Europe and the US

Update – Lockdown status in Scandinavia, Europe and the US

Update – Lockdown status in Scandinavia, Europe and the US

The Lifestyle Team at VOCAST is made up of native researchers, with specific knowledge about what is happening across international markets. In the current situation with COVID-19, different countries are taking different precautions. As each country struggles in various ways, it might be beneficial to focus on markets that are more open. Here is an update on the lockdown status of our 10 markets.

The latest updates as of 03/08/2020 are underlined and in bold:

Fashion Weeks/Fairs status in 2020:

Copenhagen Fashion Week has been pushed forward by a few days and is set to be held from the 9th to 12th of August in a hybrid format, meaning that some shows are running as usual (physically on the catwalk). However, some brands prefer to create a digital show presentation that will be prepared beforehand. This will allow them to be agile no matter what happens. Fashion trade fairs are scheduled to be held during the same days. Initially scheduled in May, Denmark’s annual design event, 3 days of design, has been postponed and will be taking place from the 3rd to 5th of September.

Paris Fashion Week Haute Couture and Homme was held from the 6th to 13th of July and was digital. However, Paris Fashion Week Womenswear (from the 28th of September to the 6th of October) will be presented in a hybrid form and will have both physical and digital shows. In September, both Première Vision (4th – 7th) and Who’s Next (15th – 17th) fashion fairs will take place as usual, Maison&Objet will be a digital fair (4th – 8th).

Milan Fashion Week was held from July 14th to 17th, the first “hybrid” digital fashion week featuring both men’s and women’s pre-collections for Spring Summer 21. For the September fashion week, the women’s and men’s agenda have also merged to the same week and will take place in September (22th – 28th) featuring the Spring-Summer collections of 2021. The 2020 edition of Salone del mobile has been canceled and the next edition will take place in April 2021 (13th – 18th). Pitti Immagine Uomo has announced that this year’s trade show will be done digitally, launching a new platform and format called Pitti Connect. The calendar has been moved and compressed into two days of digital activities taking place in September 2020 (2nd – 4th).

London Fashion Week took place in June, and it was the first major fashion week to present digitally. What should have been London Men’s Fashion Week became a digital platform on London Fashion Week’s website, showcasing fashion for all genders. Virtual showrooms, films, podcasts, and playlists were used to showcase British fashion along with the new hashtag #LFWreset. London Fashion Week is scheduled to continue digitally in September.

Stockholm Fashion Week is making a return via a digital platform from the 25th to the 27th of August. The new fashion week embraces a 360-degree format, setting the stage for SS21 presentations and shows, live-stream Q&A sessions with designers, interviews and panel discussions, wholesale showrooms, consumer activities focusing on the current season’s collections, and much more.

Berlin Fashion Week and most major fashion and design fairs have been postponed to 2021.

As of now, no official announcement has been made for New York Fashion Week.

Scandinavia

Denmark:

Lockdown status: Denmark has, since mid-April, been opening up parts of the country gradually. This has now resulted in the country almost being back to normal. Private offices, retail stores, restaurants and education and cultural institutions are all open. Gatherings are currently limited to 100 people, but are likely to be increased to 200 people shortly if infection rates are controlled. Due to the increase in infection globally, Denmark is now recommending all passengers on public transportation to wear masks. 

Press status: Though the press has been highly affected by this pandemic, they are now all back to work and running daily tasks close to normal with photoshoots and events, of course, limited to the restrictions made by the government.
 

Retail status: All non-essential stores, department stores, and shopping malls are opened again. Distance limitation is mandatory to ensure social distancing between customers, and dispensers with hand sanitizer are placed at all entrances.

 

Sweden:

Lockdown status: With an increasing curve of infected cases, Swedes have been blocked to travel abroad by many different countries. Even to its Scandinavian neighbors, Denmark and Norway who are welcome to visit Sweden. On July 1st, the border opened up for 15 non-EU countries, and from July 15th Swedes were welcome to travel to some countries within Europe, but the Foreign Ministry’s advice against travel from Sweden still remains until August 31st. Five months after most of the world lock-downed, Sweden is still doing business as usual. However, some restrictions are still put in place: offices are still encouraged to work from home and a limit of 50 people is allowed at social gatherings. This means that weddings, graduation parties, and events are asked to keep this restriction in mind. The increasing curve is taking place in some parts of the country, specifically in Stockholm and the West coast.

Press status: When reaching out to Swedish contacts think about mentioning the good weather and the possibilities for a relaxing staycation in their own country. Be friendly and not irritated over the fact that the Swedish government has not put any further restrictions in place. Grab ahold of the opportunity that journalists are on their emails and phones much more than before, excited for new collaboration opportunities. Focus on products and messages that can work in a local, home, and outdoor context with Scandinavian summer in mind.

Retail status: Retail is rolling with early seasonal sales, but it is struggling to keep numbers green, and employees are continuously furloughed. Opening hours for shops are slowly going back to normal.

 

Norway:

Lockdown status: The summer is coming to an end in Norway and life is slowly but surely returning to the new, post COVID-19 normal. Public gatherings are allowed up to 200 people meaning that bars, stores, and other businesses have for the most part opened up again. In terms of leisurely travel, Norway have greatly eased up the travel restrictions and it is now possible to travel to most of Europe without risking quarantine upon return. Still, it is advised to not travel unnecessarily and many have chosen to spend their free time exploring their home country.

Press status: Press contacts and influencers are slowly but surely moving back into business as usual. However, July is the main vacation month in Norway and that includes most press.

Retail status: Even at the most crucial point of the pandemic, large malls were allowed to stay open granted they could maintain a distance between customers and employees. Despite this, most stores saw a decrease in sales of anywhere between 30 – 100%. According to several industry experts, this has laid the foundation of the most dramatic discount-summer ever as most stores have products in stock that they had expected to sell during the crucial springtime months. We are still in the beginning phase of this, but across the nation there seems to be optimism lurking as well as a newfound enthusiasm for supporting local stores and brands.

Europe

Germany:

Lockdown status: The contact restrictions in Germany have been slightly lifted. However, every state is still responsible for the implementation of federal regulations, which can slightly differ from each other. In some smaller regions, the infection rate has increased and local lockdowns have been implemented again. Hygienic regulations, such as a 1.5 meters distance and wearing a mask in public areas, still apply in all states. Germany has opened its borders. However, since July 27th, a new rule has been in forced that all travelers returning from risk areas will have to be tested. Around 130 countries are currently on the risk list worldwide – these include the US, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, as well as Luxembourg and Ukraine. Furthermore, to break the chain of infection faster, the federal government of Germany has developed a free corona alarm app. The idea is to determine if someone has been in contact with an infected person and whether this can result in a risk of infection.

Press status: Journalists and editors are still in short-term employment, out of the office, or on vacations. This means that people in the industry work fewer hours or are not working at all right now. However, all editorial offices are still reachable. The best way to contact editors is by sending them an email. In general, employees at big publishing houses, such as Gruner + Jahr, Burda, Condé Nast, and Axel Springer, still work from home. Photoshoots and magazine productions in studios are still ongoing – by following the official regulations. Even-though most offices and teams are slowly starting to come back to their office, the coronavirus pandemic has become a wake-up call for digitization in Germany, as many weaknesses in the digital solution of companies, schools and universities were revealed.

Retail status: Valid from the 1st of July until the end of this year, the German government has decided to decrease the VAT on products and goods from the usual 19% to 16%. The goal is to increase sales and boost the German economy, which has been hit by the pandemic in the last months. Since May, all shops and retail stores have been open. However, hygienic requirements must be followed. Access to the shop must be controlled, queues avoided and a maximum number of people (customers and staff) must be specified in the area. Contactless payments have massively increased in German stores.

 

France:

Lockdown status: As of July 20th, anyone 11 years of age and over must wear a mask in enclosed public places, anyone going against this rule will be fined €135. The French can freely travel again throughout the country, without distance limitations or carrying an authorization form. The Paris region (Île de France) is no longer in the red, but green zone. However, gatherings of more than 10 people are still prohibited, and wearing a mask in public transport is still mandatory. Starting on the 1st of July, tourists from Schengen area countries including the UK are allowed to enter France. Long-term residents from 14 non-EU countries: Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, and Uruguay, are allowed to travel to France too. People coming from a high-risk country will need to quarantine for 14 days. With talks of a second wave, lockdowns measures are soon going to be discussed by the French government.

Press status: Receptionists in most publishing houses are picking up the phone, however, some journalists and editors are still working from home. Reaching out by e-mail is still preferable though their responding time may vary. Influencers on the other hand are still very responsive. Please keep in mind that the French holiday period is during August.

Retail status: The French government highly recommends online shopping as an alternative. Wearing a mask is now mandatory upon entry into stores and hand sanitizer dispensers are still made available at each entrance. Outdoor markets and covered halls are open again – unless the regional prefectures decide otherwise, it is, therefore, important to check each prefectures’ website for more information. Big shopping centers larger than 70.000 m2 such as Le Printemps and Galeries Lafayette were authorized to open again in Paris. Summer sales have started (July 15th) with deceiving numbers. L’Alliance du Commerce (department stores, fashion/ footwear brands alliance), reported a 38% drop in store visits compared to the start of the 2019 sales. The Covid-19 crisis has pushed retailers to demand the cancellation of rents for the duration of the lockdown, and rents to be adjusted until return to normal.

 

Italy:

Lockdown status: In Italy, the official state of emergency has been prolonged by the government until October 15th. This is because although the death rate and infections have decreased drastically, the virus is still circulating and many fear the second waves that have started to affect other parts of Europe. Domestic travels have been allowed since June 2nd and the borders have been opened for the EU and other European countries. Italians and foreigners are free to enter and travel, and body temperatures are measured by the borders and at airports. Public transport is open and allowed whilst practicing social distance. Masks are still mandatory once you step outside your house. Public offices are open, with restrictions involving distance, masks, and sanitary supplies. Other offices, however, need to be able to fulfill the same measurements as public ones to be kept open. Offices are therefore still partly closed but some are starting to regain normal pace. In general, Italians are increasingly positive in spirit and many are looking forward to their -domestic- vacations in August.

Press status: Publishing houses are still closed in general, and only a handful of editors have started to work from the office a couple of times a week. Journalists are not answering their work phones but are still responding to emails. Influencers are still very responsive. When contacting the Italian press, keep in mind that many Italians still haven’t regained the pace of normal life and many have been personally affected by Covid-19 in different ways. Signs of solidarity in relation to the pandemic is generally highly appreciated, especially in business-related matters. Keep in mind that most Italians go on vacation in August and that one can expect delayed email response during this month.

Retail status: Shops, hairdressers, and bars have been open since May 18th and have, to a large extent, gone back to normal routines and opening hours.

 

The United Kingdom:

Lockdown status: The UK has been hard hit by Covid-19, with high rates of infection, fatality, and economic loss. All four nations are now beginning to open up workplaces, domestic travel restrictions, and social distancing guidelines though it is now mandatory to wear a face mask in most public indoor places. Since July, there have been a few second-wave-lockdowns in specific regions and cities in England. Since July 4th, nonessential businesses such as pubs and restaurants, theatres and cinemas, museums, and galleries were able to open up for the first time since lockdown began. Additionally, from July 10th international travelers from some countries no longer needed to self-quarantine for 14 days upon entering England. However, countries that have rising numbers of Covid-19 cases have been put back on the list of countries where UK residents must self-quarantine after visiting. As of August 1st, Spain and Luxembourg are the only countries to be put back onto that list.

Press status: Although offices and other workplaces are allowed to open, many workplaces continue to work from home if they cannot upkeep the safety policies in place. Although many in the British lifestyle industry are eggar to start getting back to work if possible, major publishing houses such as Hearst and Conde Nast still encourage all employees to work from home. Editors and journalists can be contacted via phone and email but prefer to be contacted via email in general.

Retail status: The majority of high street retailers are now open and are back in business. Depending on the size of the store, only a few people may be inside at once. Face masks are now mandatory in all stores and hand sanitizers are present in entrances and exits.

 

The Netherlands:

Lockdown status: Tourists from the EU, Schengen Area, and the UK are allowed to travel to the Netherlands. People arriving from Sweden and the UK are strongly advised to quarantine for 14 days during their Dutch stay. The Dutch are allowed to travel within Europe, but only to ‘yellow’ or safe countries. This list is continuously updated and can have countries turn to a negative orange code at any given moment. Only essential travel is allowed outside of Europe, upon return of such a trip, two weeks of quarantine are mandatory. A new rule allows people to apply for their loved ones from other countries to enter the Netherlands for a period of maximum 90 days. The maximum indoor capacity since July 1st is 100 people, without employees. Venues like cinemas, bars, restaurants, theatres, and events like weddings and burials are allowed more than 100 guests but only if attendance is notified in advance and health checks are possible. Outdoor capacity is at 250 people, though similarly it can be exceeded if attendance is noted beforehand for example, through restaurant reservations. All seats have been available on public transport since July 1st, but it is mandatory to wear a mask.

Press status: The government still advises people to work from home whenever possible and for workers to avoid public transport during rush hour. This means that some journalists are responsive and answering their emails while others are less available due to filled mailboxes.

Retail status: Non-essential stores and shopping malls are all open, which was already the case as The Netherlands hasn’t enforced any official lockdown. Social distancing measures of 1.5 m are still required to keep safety, but some professions where this isn’t feasible such as hairdressers are exempt from the rule.

 

Belgium:

Lockdown status: It is mandatory to wear a mask in indoor public places. Because of a rise in cases, the number of social contacts has been reduced again. Every household is allowed five close contacts and group activities are limited to 10 people. The private social bubble has been expanded to 15 different people per week. Everything has reopened except for nightclubs and mass events like festivals, bigger sport, cultural or ceremonial events. As of August 1st, a maximum of 400 people indoors and 800 outdoors. People are free to travel to Belgium but need to wear a mask when using public transport. Travel abroad is permitted, but strongly discouraged. Belgium has opened its borders to all EU countries and the UK, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Norway. People returning or entering from countries marked red are tested upon return and quarantined for two weeks. The colour-coded map is updated every day on the Belgian website for Foreign Affairs.

Press status: Working from home is strongly encouraged again. Keeping a social distance of 1.5 meters is required between colleagues if working remotely is not an option. Most journalists are still working from home, their response time may vary. However, influencers are still very quick to reply.

Retail status: Stores and markets are open again, following guidelines on how to do this safely. Wearing a mask and keeping 1.5m social distance is mandatory. A study by the Thomas More college and retail federation Comeos discussed on retaildetail.be notes that the pandemic has positively influenced the online shopping behavior of Belgians. Belgian consumers are said to be finally won over by e-commerce, but will also be shopping more in local stores. 30% of Belgians say they will continue shopping online in the future. 44% mentioned they consciously look for online shops of local retailers with a physical store in Belgium. 23% said they were planning on visiting the physical stores they had discovered online. 58% will avoid shopping in malls and 29% percent notes having a smaller shopping budget now. This market research was conducted with more than 3000 Belgians between 30th April and 10th May before the opening of non-essential stores.

America

The United States:

Lockdown status: The US has been badly affected by Covid-19, though the country never imposed a nation wide lockdown. Infection rates and unemployment rates are high nation wide. US residents can begin to travel internationally again, however, some countries are not permitting US residents entry. Anti-racist protests and natural disasters such as Tropical Storm Isaias and the California fires, are contributing to the difficulties that the US is currently facing when it come to the pandemic. The Black Lives Matter movement has been taking up form as protests across the US since the end of May. Nationwide protests are still ongoing and have taken place in all 50 states and has had effects on employees and businesses in the lifestyle industry. Due to the protests and looming natural disasters on top of the pandemic, it is important to be patient when in contact with individuals in the American market.

Press status: Industry professionals such as the press are reachable through email and sometimes on their personal phones, however, there can sometimes be delays due to teams working remotely. Different publishing houses have varying rules for their employees however, it is best to assume that employees are working from home.

Retail status: The US has not yet been in full countrywide lockdown, rather different states have imposed different lockdown rules and regulations for people and businesses to follow. The majority of the country is relatively open, but regulations are subject to change. This means few domestic travel restrictions, businesses deciding for themselves if their employees will work from home or not, and some retailers open on high streets.

What you should consider: 

Now more than ever, understanding what all these different markets are going through is essential. Decisions have to be taken carefully in order to maintain good business relationships. Brands can re-think the way they communicate by being creative, cost-effective, and sensible during these uncertain times.

COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns had a very negative effect on retail, but have also opened up for more digital solutions for stores across all markets as we are seeing a boom in e-commerce. When it comes to reaching out to the press, rather focus on markets like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and expect a longer response time for journalists in markets like Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as they still have limited access to their working space. Instead, reach out to influencers, as they are still responding really well even in markets that are badly affected like Italy and France.

The United States and The UK are amongst the countries that are the most affected by COVID-19 worldwide. For these two markets especially, it is very important to remain patient and follow new developments in order to communicate sensibly.

 

Ines is the French Fashion and Design Researcher at VOCAST. After spending most of her life on the beautiful African continent she has chosen Copenhagen as her home-base. A self proclaimed “beauty addict”, she previously worked in the beauty industry and is now exploring her passion for digital marketing, fashion PR and design.

 

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As social media becomes more rooted in people’s lives and takes on other functional roles beyond communication, the aspect of what an influencer means is set to grow. Influencers will become key intermediates, connecting brands with consumers on social media in resonating, authentic ways that can deliver in returns as e-commerce and social media blend together. It is an industry that is just as changeable as it is a given in brands marketing mix these days. The definitions and trends of how to utilize this force is a necessity if a brand wants to stay relevant and connected in the future. 

Today, the word ‘influencer’ is a term widely spoken about and generally tends to be misunderstood. According to the Cambridge Dictionary the word influencer has two different definitions. The first is the origin of the word, and explains that a person of influence is someone that can affect or change the way other people behave. The second definition is the occupation most of us associate the word with, a person that is paid by a company to show and describe its product or services on social media, encouraging other people to buy them.

An influencer, aka a creative, content creator and entrepreneur, is a person with the skill and knowledge of creating content that can affect people’s behavior. I would say something like: Though some may not understand the phenomenon of influencer marketing, brand ambassadors have been proven to benefit said brands by working alongside professional creatives with entrepreneurial drive, loyalty and of course, influence. By 2022, influencer marketing is expected to rise from $8 billion in 2019 to a $15 billion market, writes Business Insider Intelligence, based on Mediakix Data. Collaborating with an influencer is also a way for brands to establish new trends, which you can read more about in our previous DNA of trends article.

The ideas “reach” or “niche” are two factors to consider when deciding on what influencer to work with. Before making that decision, a brand needs to find out who their audience is, where they rank on socials and what aligning values are key drivers in the future partnership. Those components will determine if it is a successful collaboration or not. We at VOCAST have gathered ongoing and future trends when it comes to influencer marketing, that was embarking before the pandemic and also the changes that have been made in the light of Covid-19.

Vocabulary

 

Nano-Influencer
A niche influencer that could have less than 1,000 followers

Micro-Influencer
An influencer with a following from 3,000 – 100,000

Macro-Influencer
An influencer with a following from 100,000 and more

Collaboration
The action of working with someone to produce something, a partnership

Engagement rate
A metric that measures the level of engagement that a piece of created content receives from an audience (likes, comments, shares) 

Authentic
Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine. The
quality of being real or true

CGI
Computer-Generated Imagery 

Niche
Interesting to, aimed at, or affecting only a small number of people

Alignment
An agreement between a group of people who want to work together because of shared interests

Spotted trends before Covid-19


Nano-influencers with professional access and passionate artistic skills

In the beginning of the influencer boom, a large following was the most important factor, but today the market is saturated and filled with paid, fake followers which has led to distrust from followers towards influencers with big numbers. Then, brands turned their attention to micro-influencers that have about 3,000 to 100,000 followers. As the request for authenticity got stronger, the new person holding influence is the Nano-influencer, which could have a following of fewer than 1,000 people. This genre of influencer has a high impact on their community, has a strong recommendation power and generally has a higher engagement rate on Instagram (7,2%) than micro and macro-influencers. 

But why is that? According to Influencer Marketing Hub, it’s important to select an influencer that operates in the same social space as your audience as well as having the same values and culture, preferably with an expert position in their niche field. Some nano-influencers are industry professionals who just share what they actually work with and use the products in a genuine environment that is expert-approved. This is common in the field like cosmetics, athletics and interior design, says Amine Rahal, guest writer at Forbes. Kati Chirakorn at Vogue Business writes about the up and coming influencer-editor, who are editors working at popular magazines and have a big network and followers, consisting of both retailers and customers. 

The other side of nano-influencers are passionate and skilled people. To work with people with a passion like stylists, photographers, designers, sculptors, dancers, writers and musicians helps brands tap into micro-cultures where the person is an advocate with their own values, creating out of pure passion and interest. It is important to have the common niche audience align with both the brand narrative and the influencer narrative for a powerful and value-adding effect. 


New deals that are data-driven

Partnerships between a creator and a brand will see more pay per performance-based deals in 2020 like pay-per-click, pay-per-sale or pay-per-view according to Forbes Agency Council. With this data-driven approach, metrics will have a bigger impact on the decision-making process when it comes to starting a new partnership with a content creator or signing a long-term contract. Since brands spend a lot of their budget on influencer marketing, they need to validate what they get for their money hence data is a new focal point, for both parts. With this trend bort parts need to practice transparency and be honest about the goal or expectation when it comes to engagement, reach or ROI.


Expanding platforms 

According to Ismael El Qudsi, CEO at Social Publi, a leading influencer platform in 25 countries, Instagram is the biggest platform for influencer marketing today. Based on a study, 75% of 2,500 influencers ranked the channel as the top platform to carry out their business on. But with a younger generation leading the way on social media, new channels like TikTok and Twitch are emerging. Brands need to know where their audience spends time and who they look to for influence when it comes to promoting new products.


From looking to listening

Since a profile online has about 2,7 seconds to grab someone’s attention, immediate attention through video is crucial for getting a message across. Facebook Live, IGTV and Youtube are all visual tools that have proven to be successful for both influencers and brands and by 2021 video will represent 80% of all internet traffic, compared to 67% in 2016. Video includes the best out of two worlds for maximized storytelling, audio and moving imagery.

Audio and specifically podcasts is another niche market that is increasing in popularity and expanding its user base. With a podcast, the brand or influencer comes closer to their audience and communicates in a less formal way which breaks down barriers and a deeper relationship is established. 27% of all Americans, that is 73 million people, listen to podcasts monthly, with 85% of them finishing or almost finishing each episode. They are a great communication tool for a brand to highlight features, success stories and the brand’s benefit’s by collaborating with a niche podcaster.


Virtual influencers

Lindsay Dodgson at the Insider says it is still a bit uncertain where this trend will go, but along with technology like AI, people are fascinated by so-called 3D art CGI influencers. This is a form of futuristic influencer marketing that brands should consider. These influencers are fiction and computer-generated personas who have realistic characteristics and personalities of humans. Brands and individuals with a skilled mind for technology are behind these creations and they are the ones managing their partnerships with brands and Instagram accounts. Two CGI influencers to have a look at are Lil Miquela (2,3 M followers) who attends red carpets and has collaborated with Prada and Shudu (201K followers) who was the first digital supermodel. 


Co-creators and communication experts

The influencer market has matured over the years and has equipped experienced storytellers and communicators who know how to engage an audience in a genuine and personal fashion. Ismael El Qudsi explains that the role of the classical influencer is evolving from a “pose as a salesperson with a product” partnership,to being an actively important associate in consulting and shaping campaigns as a co-creator alongside the brand. “Since they are social media experts this can help support brands in strategically navigate their social channels and engagement”, further explains El Qudsi. 

Another expert in the field is the platform, Instagram. They’ve been a part of creating and shaping the influencer market as it is today. Instagram’s new “Branded Content Ads tool” allows a business to “share their story from a creator’s point of view and use the authentic content in their ads”. This means that a brand can share and promote a creator’s post in stories and peoples’ feed as an ad, reaching beyond the creator’s own followers. This will give Instagram an even more important role as a third party in the relationship brand-creator.

Spotted trends in effect of
Covid-19


From employee to brand ambassador

This trend was spotted even before the outbreak of covid-19 but escalated during the pandemic. Employees on all levels are hidden in-house experts and a loyal asset in troubling times. It has also been shown that there is 8 times the engagement on the content featuring and created by employees shared on brand channels than other posts. Featuring employees gives a behind the scene affect that aligns with the transparency approach requested by consumers. GANNI is a brand utilizing this by featuring its staff wearing favourite pieces and utilising #GANNIWFH. By showing that the product is suitable for the current situation, the employees become ambassadors and a familiar face to the brand’s audience. This also builds on the image of being transparent. 

The realization of long-term partnerships

Forbes Agency Council talks about brands realising that short-term partnerships won’t get them the same kind of advocacy and trust-building that a long-term partnership with the right influencer will generate. This has proven very true in a season of crises like covid-19 placed the world in. A brand that could benefit from these partnerships is the Danish fashion brand Stine Goya. The brand has built a house of Goya-friends over the years, and in a reality where social distancing is dictating content creation, a brand with a lot of loyal friends does not struggle as much as a brand without. Stine Goya received a lot of support on social media and had a full house of loyal friends to help them create interesting and authentic content to share during these uncertain times.  

A is for Authenticity

While having brand employees and collaborating partners stuck at home with no place to go, the only thing to do was to open the lens to influencers homes, press “live” and make the private and sacred place called home, public. This has shown a new side of influencers when their followers have been invited into the bathroom for a sheet-mask session, the living-room for a 15-minute workout or the kitchen, making food together but apart. 

The classic influencer lifestyle with sponsored travels and sparkling events haven’t just been canceled, it has become irrelevant in the light of an ongoing pandemic. This “naked” and forced approach has sparked creativity for both brands and influencers and has led the way to more authentic partnerships being sealed. A match between brand and creator, made as a mutual adoration of each other’s skills, designs and talents. A close and organic relationship can help and works as a safety net that “can drive conversion even when ads aren’t running as normal” – says Kaleigh Moore at Vogue Business.

Industry perspective 

 

 

Eleonora Milella
@eleonoramilella
Micro-influencer from Turin, Italy.
Digital content creator.
Does collaborations with several Italian fashion and beauty brands

 

 

 

 

 

Victoria Bond
@victoriabond007
London based Make-Up Artist.
Industry professional.
Have been featured in British Vogue, Elle, L’Officiel

 

 

 

Have you noticed any changes in how brands approach you in the last couple of years?

 

Eleonora: “The most evident difference in fashion brands’ approach to us content creators, is undoubtedly linked with the authenticity and spontaneity of the content creation process: Brands are no longer giving guidelines, but instead leave it to the creators to express and narrate the stories in the way he/she thinks is best. It’s precisely based on these ways of being and communicating that brands choose who to work with on social media.”

Victoria:My relationships with brands tend to be organic. I will have worked with them for many years as a makeup artist and built up a strong relationship. I have noticed that more brands want authenticity and industry professionals. I think this is because the general public are realising that influencers are paid to say they like a product so don’t feel it’s genuine. Obviously this isn’t always the case but does tend to be the norm.”

 

When you create content for brands on social media, have you experienced a shift in audience engagement?

 

Eleonora: Linking back to the answer of the previous question, my followers have never asked me to change: I’ve chosen to gradually adopt a less “polished” approach to content, such as more authentic photos with imperfections, which then have received appreciation. In this way, I insert a product in an authentic context linked to everyday life. I think this approach has reached a peak now “thanks” to the times that we’re living: we found ourselves stuck in our homes without seeing the world that surrounds us, still having to use our minds to create. And what better location to narrate our everyday lives than our houses?!”

Victoria: “I think it’s harder to engage an audience. Instagram has a tendency to tinker with algorithms although if I’m honest I don’t know what that means. I just know it’s hard to get content seen to a wider audience. Any content I do create is purely because I think the products are great and I want to share the love/knowledge. I don’t receive any payments for this only products which are for my kit. Any products I recommend are tried and tested first on multiple people so I know it works!”

 

What does the future hold for you? Are you optimistic about what the influencer industry has to hold for creatives and artists?

 

Eleonora: “In the future I hope to continue to work in this industry, I find it stimulating and full of challenges. I’m optimistic because I believe there is always room for creativity and communication. We all want to feel inspired and inspire, and this industry allows us to do so.”

 

Victoria: “I think it might be the return of the expert rising like a Phoenix from the fire. A lot of professional Makeup Artists have been ignored or overlooked by some brands in favour of ‘influencers’ without a professional background. Although I definitely think there’s room for everyone as I do understand that an non expert can speak to people too. I just worry that their content can be technically incorrect and can lead to worrying trends. They also put on far too much makeup which is really misleading to the average woman looking for advice!”

 

Say whatever you want, influencer marketing is a creative asset for brands that’s here to stay. The role, format and expression, as we know it, will change as technology, social media platforms and the audiences’ demands and values evolve. But, the benefits from having a communicative expert and a friendly face connected to your brand will build vital interacting relationships. Consider digging into up and coming nano-influencers, videos on TikTok and long-term creative partnerships to stay up to date and relevant with future marketing initiatives. 

 

Image credit: Unsplash

 

 

Josefine is the Swedish Fashion & Design Researcher at VOCAST. When not working Josefine can be found studying design technology at KEA, dancing to Abba music, or practicing the art of creativity. 

 

 

Our lifestyle researchers constantly create and update curated lists with handpicked media, experts and high profile contacts from the fashion, home interior and lifestyle industries in 10 different markets. We provide contacts from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, The UK, The US, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.

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Rise of the Plantfluencer: Bringing the Great Outdoors Home

Rise of the Plantfluencer: Bringing the Great Outdoors Home

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Rise of the Plantfluencer: Bringing the Great Outdoors Home

Rise of the Plantfluencer: Bringing the Great Outdoors Home

Rise of the Plantfluencer: Bringing the Great Outdoors Home

The urban jungle trend has been around for some years now, but the confinement due to the recent pandemic has brought people closer to their leafy friends than ever. To help interior and lifestyle brands find their green fingers: A brief introduction to the plantfluencer phenomenon and how they’re bringing the great outdoors home.

In times of social distancing and home confinement, the balcony has taken centre stage. We all remember the viral videos of Italian and Spanish neighbours joining voices on the few square metres of outdoor space they were allowed to frequent during the toughest phase of the Covid-19 related lockdown. Whether one has a garden, terrace, balcony or just a simple window: People have started bringing the outdoors indoors, swapping their social life for a life with plants.

Trends come and go, but some really grow on us. So we reached out to Lina Juvens, researcher with the Belgian trend research and marketing agency Trendwolves, to find out just how relevant the urban jungle trend is. Who are the plantfluencers and how can interior and lifestyle brands benefit from engaging with them?

Urban Jungle Trend

“The urban jungle trend has been around for a while and has its roots in the city where people living in small spaces were looking for quiet and peaceful retreats. They ended up creating those spaces in their own homes”, explains Lina

Back in 2017, The New York Times writes, almost a quarter of the American houseplant shoppers were between 18 and 34 years old. “Part of this millennial indoor generation that is home in vibrant but often polluted cities, was also attracted by the air-purifying qualities of plants, following the advice of a NASA report”, Lina adds. The space agency actually conducted its ‘Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement’ study in 1989, but the green trend picked up and dusted it off decades later to find out about the clean air benefits of the Peace lily and the Florist’s chrysanthemum.

Plantfluencer Phenomenon

One can trace back the revival of the houseplant to around 2014, when social media channel Instagram had truly taken off as a hub for millennial home décor inspiration. Friends Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff  are some of today’s biggest plantfluencers. Their @urbanjungleblog started as a monthly green thumb section on their interior website in September 2013, but grew out to be a true Urban Jungle Bloggers™ community with over a million followers, its own trending #urbanjunglebloggers and selling books like Plant Tribe: Living Happily Ever After With Plants at Urban Outfitters.

The plant boutique The Sill is just as successful. Funded by a 12,000 dollar Kickstarter campaign, Eliza Blank started her current global plant brand from her New York apartment as an online concept in 2012, The New York Times writes. Now, it offers online workshops, hosts other community events such as cocktail parties, sells all sorts of trendy plant gear, totes and tees included.

Other plant influencers followed similar paths. Darryl Cheng from Toronto, Canada is the green creative mastermind behind @houseplantjournal and the author of The New Plant Parent. Alana Langan and Jacqui Vidal launched their botanical wares studio Ivy Muse in Australia back in 2014 which commits to, as they write on their website, ‘enhancing wellbeing through the use of plants’. One can do so in style, as they too released a book titled Plant Style. Last but not least, Londoner Emma Sibley had a passion for gardening, but no green space in the UK capital and so started her London Terrariums in 2014. The renaissance of houseplants gave her startup the perfect boost and her Little Book of House Plants and Other Greenery has become a guide to many.

A Plant Lifestyle

Compared to 2016, in 2019 US house plant sales had increased by 50 percent according to the National Gardening Association. The plantfluencer phenomenon was born, bringing the plant lifestyle to the millennial masses who choose to become ‘plant parents’ to their ‘plant babies’. Not only do they hord houseplants and book deals, but totes, tees, and home interior accessory collections too. 

The urban jungle trend brings a new boho vibe to home décor and anything that matches green leaves goes: tapestry, printed textiles, vases, pottery, macramé hangers, and wicker chairs. Interior design brands expand their annual outdoor furniture collections with accessories that cater to the plant lifestyle, like Yves Klein Blue and millennial pink planters (in fact, artist Lotte van Baalen founded @plantsonpink, a whole account dedicated to leafy green and millennial pink combos from around the world), brass watering cans and brilliant plant stands and shelves that bring the plant #shelfie to new heights – literally. It is safe to say that these leafy friends have overshadowed the previous green lover of the gram: the avocado brunch.

Green Escape

“However, where the trend was initially popular with interior design lovers, the current Covid-19 crisis has definitely led to a broader audience. Most people have been forced to spend more time at home which makes us more aware of our living space. We have the urge to make that space more comfortable and inviting and the home has become a place to escape the everyday craziness and insecurity more than ever”, says Lina.

In Belgium, where citizens could hardly leave the house if not for essentials like grocery shopping, the government went as far as to open garden centres alongside supermarkets. Several online plant retailers have seen the pandemic cause a sales boom, and local businesses say they ramped up their deliveries.

Plant Pandemic

In the US, in a matter of two days back in March, online sales jumped 25 percent, as ABC News reported. Online grocery shopping was the main driver, but a rise in sales of homeware contributed to the increase too. Unfortunately, a global brand like The Sill that was born online and noted a 5 million dollar revenue in 2018 with 70 percent of its sales coming from online purchases, is not the norm. “Garden centres and furniture designers may have been the categories that were the least prepared for a near-total switch to e-commerce, but these recent developments might just be the push they needed for digital innovation and realising this growth potential”, Lina says. We already touched on the urgency of digitalisation in the fashion industry in a previous article, but it is clear that other categories like home interior would benefit from such innovative solutions too.

Whether the pandemic will have a lasting impact on people’s growing love for houseplants is but the question. “Big trends are born from big events, like what happened with the important American trends post 9/11. Now, we will speak of the post Covid-19 trends in the consumer world. However, it is too early to say what those exact shifts will be”, Lina concludes. “Will this crisis be long and deep enough to sustainably integrate these new habits? Or will we just return to our old ones?” As we previously wrote in our DNA of Trends article: Brands need to keep their finger on the pulse of societal developments in order to evolve. Read more about the world of trends and how to implement change here.

 

Photo credits: Unsplash.

Wided is the Lifestyle Researcher for the Belgian and Dutch markets at VOCAST. She’s a Belgian editor and author with a background in journalism. In London, she established a career in digital marketing for fashion and interior design brands. When she’s not working or studying for her Master’s, you’ll find her in front of a canvas, paint brushes in hand.

 

 

Embracing the green lifestyle, our researchers have handpicked plantfluencers, experts and media with green fingers as well as a passion for sustainable living for seasonal home interior lists in Denmark, France, Germany, The US, The UK, The Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden.

Find them in our database and ready to use for your press send-outs.

 

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Rise of the Plantfluencer: Bringing the Great Outdoors Home

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The DNA of Trends: Where Do Trends Originate And How Long Do They Last?

The DNA of Trends: Where Do Trends Originate And How Long Do They Last?

The DNA of Trends: Where Do Trends Originate And How Long Do They Last?

What is trending in 2020? Fashion Weeks in Paris, Milan and New York? European Championships in football, the Olympics? No. Today, one of the most searched topics on Google is “how to make a face mask”.
From one day to another, a global health crisis can impact our lives in a way we would have never expected. Things that we thought would never happen can all of a sudden become a reality. For design brands this means one thing: they constantly have to act on current developments. But, how can they implement, or even forecast, those changes in our society? Here is an insight into the world of trends.

The fact that the athleisure trend has established itself as a comfortable, but fashionable style is not new. But, when designers and fashion brands began to work on their Spring Summer 2020 collections, they could have never predicted that a pandemic would be making the WFH (working from home) outfit the fashion trend of this season. Women are dressing in comfortable, baggy sweatpants paired with chic blazers and men with home-made “stay at home” buzzcuts. American Vogue has even established the WFH Style to inspire its readers with various quarantine outfits of its editors and to give advice on where to buy stylish face masks.

“A Trend Spreads Like A Virus”

In times like these, the impact of trends on our society, our world, is more present than ever before. Every day, new happenings that influence our daily lives lead to more (or less) creative and innovative ideas related to people and businesses and one thing is clear: trends have the power to let us focus on the perception of “here and now”.

But, what exactly is in the DNA of trends? Where are they born? How are they implemented and when are they over? We have spoken with two trend consultants, Anja Bisgaard Gade and Christiane Varga, about everything you need to know about trends – especially in the lifestyle industry.

 

What is a trend?

Anja Bisgaard Gade: “A trend is the beginning of a new direction, taking a turn or a twirl or a twist to something that already exists. It starts something new and then over time, will become more normal before something else will become a trend.

What is the origin of a trend?

Christiane Varga: That something becomes mainstream and reaches its so-called tipping point has something to do with when and where it happens, also socio-historical wise. A trend originates in a specific context and then it almost spreads like a virus.”

How fast do trends fade?

Gade: I always distinguish between trend and style: what is a trend and what is more of a stylish look? There will be trends that emerge, such as athleisure or sports influence, that are going to stay for a long time because they have such specific characteristics that people will have a preference to buy it. That also has something to do with the more overarching societal direction, that we are looking for more comfort. We have a more high-paced daily life and are becoming more informal. Athleisure, however, is not a trend anymore. It is a style.


Varga:
Today, trends are going viral very quickly due to social media. There are fashion and product trends that are associated with a lot of hype. They appear quickly, but are also replaced very soon by another one. There are socio-cultural trends that question how society is changing, and then there are mega trends, such as individualisation or urbanisation. All those trends have something to do with each other, but the mega trends are the most durable, they will last between 30 to 50 years.

Who sets trends?

Gade: There is no one who has to decide that something is a trend, that is simply just something that happens. If you only have one person wearing a specific kind of shirt, you cannot say that you have a trend. You need to have consensus and you need to have several touch points to where this trend is allocated, where it has been seen or where it happens. It needs to be more without being too much. There are two ways to look at a trend, you either think: “oh, here is business”, or you consider it as purely inspirational.” 


Varga: “In large corporations, there are trend scouts who deliberately deal with trend issues. These people also try to set trends themselves. They get inspired by others and are asking themselves what is happening in the world and what they can adapt from other industries. Logically, a large global corporation has more opportunities and power to place trends consciously.”

How do fashion trends emerge?

Gade: Before the internet and social media, we had an Avantgarde, where super high-profiled brands from the fashion cities of London, Milan, New York and Paris were coming out with the new season at their haute couture shows before those collections would trickle down to the more mainstream perspective. That is where trends began. Today, you have to look both at the Avantgarde in fashion and on the streets at micro influences.” 


Varga:
A trend in the fashion industry is what established people say, such as the fashion trend researcher Lidewij Edelkoort who expresses her opinion over and over again. These are conscious things that are announced regularly. On the other hand, there are also trends that appear all of a sudden, that no one can really explain. It just happens.

____

Meet the Experts

Christiane Varga

 

Christiane Varga is a trend consultant at Zukunftsinstitut, the German institute for researching future trends. She hosts workshops as well as lectures and provides different methods and concepts for companies in the area of trend forecasting.

 

 

Anja Gade


Anja Bisgaard Gade
is a lifestyle trend researcher and developer from Denmark. For more than 20 years, she has observed and analyzed trends within the retail and fashion industry. In 2014, Gade founded her own trend consultancy, SPOTT. “It is a huge, complex trend world – and the difficulty is navigating through those trends,” she says.

 

 

Fast Facts:

  • “Fashion Week 2020”, “Paris Fashion Week 2020” and “Fashion 2020” are the most used keywords on Google related to fashion within the last 12 months.
  • In general, one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram is #fashion with more than 793 million posts worldwide. Other hashtags are #style (461 million), #fashionblogger (115 million) and #fashiontrends (4.4 million).
  • Influencers have become more relevant than ever, especially in the digital way of promoting trends. In general, business are making between 5 and 6.5 US-dollars for every dollar they spend on influencer marketing.


The Digital Trend Influence

When it comes to setting trends, the emergence of digitalisation plays an important role. Everything today happens online in shares, clicks and posts. It happens so quickly that everyday there is something new that is trending, that is the main topic of conversation.

Being an influencer in this online world is its own discipline, a 24/7-job. To be a successful influencer, you have to establish a huge fan-base. You need to know how to put things together in a creative way and how to communicate to people, so that they follow your lead. You must be a social media expert. 

Using influencers as ambassadors is, therefore, a great potential for brands – especially when it comes to establishing trends. Fashion brands can profit from established influencers who promote their products and set new trends with them.


Fashion Influencers You Must Know

Do you know Caro Daur, Emili Sindlev and Helen Owen? They are some of the most influential personalities in the global fashion world. E-meet them here.

 

Caro Daur@carodaur

Caro Daur is probably the most well-known fashion blogger from Germany. She has already collaborated with high-end brands, such as Dolce & Gabanna, Fendi, Dior and Valentino for global campaigns, and has been featured for her fashion savvy street style in Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazar, InStyle and Grazia.
____
Website: carodaur.com
2.3 million Instagram followers

Credit: Instagram

 

Emili Sindlev

@emilisindlev

As the hottest style icon in Denmark, Emili Sindlev is a world-known fashion influencer and stylist. She is one of the main front-runners in transforming Scandinavian style into being more playful, colorful and daring.

____

409k Instagram followers

 

Credit: Instagram

 

Helen Owen


@helenowen

Helen Owen is an LA-based model and a social media favorite. She sees herself as a travelling creative and works as an influencer, model, blogger and designer.
____

Website: helen-owen.com
1.6 million Instagram followers

 

Credit: Instagram


What Are The Up-Coming Trends
?

Christiane Varga:This decade will be a lot about climate, ecology and neo-ecology, which is always somehow reflected in fashion. Sustainable fashion will definitely be a topic, but more in a way that it differentiates itself from its staid eco-image, and will become cooler and more exciting. I am convinced that an even greater awareness of fair fashion will be established.

Anja Gade:Trends like sustainability, space sports and heritage will merge into new variations and combinations. We do not necessarily change the colors overall, but we bring new things that are put together. Things change a little bit over time. So you do not even notice it that much, you feel that something is standing still.”


The Impact of Trends 

Trends alway occur at a certain time and in a certain place, driven by specific events and reflected in different areas, such as in fashion. We express and communicate something with what we are wearing, regardless of what it is we are communicating.

Alternatively, fashion is also a product in the lifestyle world, something that we touch and have in connection with our body. Fashion can be superficial, yet it is also deeply meaningful because it is linked to our core identity. It is what we put on the surface – and that is where the difficult choices come, when we stand in front of our wardrobe. 

Change is the core DNA of trends. As consumers, we have the urgency to buy new things and we become bored if things are the same all the time. The message is clear: there is a strong potential for brands to act on trends and digitalisation offers new ways to support that.

 

annika

Annika is the German Lifestyle Researcher at VOCAST. She is responsible for the fashion, design, as well as interior research for the DACH market.
When not working for VOCAST, Annika can be found on the field hockey pitch or on her bike in the luxurious cycle streets of Copenhagen.

 

Our lifestyle researchers constantly create and update curated lists with handpicked media, experts and high profile contacts from the fashion, home interior and lifestyle industries in 10 different markets. We provide contacts from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, The UK, The US, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.

SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER

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Update – Lockdown status in Scandinavia, Europe and the US

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Rise of the Plantfluencer: Bringing the Great Outdoors Home

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The Digital Showroom Boom: Reinventing the Fashion Experience

The Digital Showroom Boom: Reinventing the Fashion Experience

The Digital Showroom Boom: Reinventing the Fashion Experience

The luxury fashion industry has been pressured to adapt to the digital age for some time now. VOCAST supports hundreds of brands by setting up their digital showroom, but the current COVID-19 pandemic might just have created the ideal circumstances for a long awaited innovation boost. Now that the physical aspect of the shopping experience is indefinitely suspended, fashion brands can take the opportunity to re-imagine it within a digital-only space. Here are some best practices pushing the industry forward.

In a bid to stress the environmental impact of photoshoots in the fashion industry, Vogue Italia printed its January 2020 issue with illustrations only. In his editor’s letter, Emanuele Farneti mentioned how the photo production of the magazine’s hefty September issue had involved 150 people, taking about 20 flights and more than a dozen train rides, having 40 cars on the ready, 60 international deliveries, catering services etc.

 

“No photo shoot production was required in the making of this issue”

The move didn’t go without criticism, with the replacement of photoshoots by illustrations being a one-off initiative. Even though “Vogue started as an illustrated magazine”, Vogue Italia’s Creative Director Ferdinando Verderi reminded us on the magazine’s website. The first issue was drawn under the creative direction of Harry McVikar in December 1892. Not that drawing should now replace photography alltogether, but Verderi believes there’s value in looking back to move forward: “It can be an old solution to a new problem, or just open the door to more creative ways of challenging our production process.”

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated that need for the fashion industry to challenge their production processes. “Many luxury brands have their warehouses and production centred in Italy. This has definitely impacted their supply system, forcing them to rethink how they work”, says Sophie Dewaele, a London-based luxury fashion Digital Communication Manager with experience working for brands like Alexander McQueen.

 

“What are we even running around for?”

In response to the pandemic, global fashion weeks including New York, London, Paris and Milan have been cancelled. With productivity in the fashion industry feared to decrease due to stores closing, buyers being skeptical about stock purchases and struggling factories, the urgency of digitalisation becomes clear. But, as we recently wrote, these circumstances could lead to positive change rather than crush creativity.

“These are exceptional times where we all find ourselves in our rooms thinking about what we’ve done to the planet”, Sophie continues. “What are we even running around for? Do we really need collections counting dozens of different looks twice a year? Travel halfway across the world for a ten minute fashion show? These designers are now locked in, thinking about how they can continue to express themselves without overdoing it. How can we share their voice? We all need to strip back.”

 

Let’s Get Digital

That doesn’t mean we all need to literally go back to the drawing table and return to illustrated content only. “Sure enough, cancelled flights and the inability to move entire teams across the globe have affected photoshoots and events. Meanwhile, social distancing measures actually have made a thriving business out of photographers or videographers living under the same roof as models”, explains Sophie. “Add a makeup artist to the household and you’ve really got yourself a deal.”

If it was up to Tommy Hilfiger however, there wouldn’t be a need for illustrations or photoshoots in the first place. Way ahead of the COVID-19 crisis, the American label completely rethought its design processes. From sketching to sampling and showrooming: it will all be done with 3D design only by 2021, the brand vowed. A cost-saving approach for the planet as well as the brand’s budget. The global apparel company PVH Corp. encompassing brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, spent two years developing its digital library stacked with digital raw materials of fabrics, patterns and colours. The all-digital design and production process will rely on that digital library.

 

Dressing an Avatar

Thanks to this, Tommy Hilfiger will be able to design an astonishing 60,000 product options fully in 3D, writes Vogue Business. Moreover, because the designs are digital from the start, “there is no need to photograph it”, CEO of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe Daniel Grieder explained to the online fashion business magazine. “It is all there. We can use it for marketing and for the digital showroom. Everything will be possible and much faster.”

One of those possibilities is the use of online avatars in the digital showroom to be dressed in digital garments. Grieder takes it even further, stating on Vogue Business how the use of artificial intelligence can help train digital models to the likeness of their physical inspiration: “If Gigi Hadid can’t model, she will send her avatar to other companies and dress in digital clothes.”

VR can help improve the digital showroom experience.

 

Artificial Intelligence in the Digital Showroom

“The common mistake of developing the digital realm as an addition to the physical, is brought to light now that the physical aspect has been removed”, says Afef Bouchrika, EMEA Marketing and Partner Operations Coordinator at Clarabridge. The company uses AI in helping leading global brands understand customer interactions. “To start with, a digital showroom should be able to fully replace the classic version we are used to. We can then build on that basis with digital-only perks”, she continues. “What is typical of a showroom, is that you can address a person in there for advice or information. Take that presence away and you don’t have a showroom, but a catalogue.”

An option to replace the real shop or showroom assistant in the digital world, is a chatbot. “This can allow users to click through to FAQs, receive discount messaging or add reminders to certain products in the digital showroom”, Afef explains. “A chatbot can engage in advice selling when the user has chosen to interact with it. That is how AI can make up for the lack of physical interaction you would normally get in a showroom. Chatbots are made to empathise, offer proactive guidance, remember details, and know when to escalate. Which means that, when the AI lacks the knowledge to help a customer, a real person can take over within that digital space.”

 

Immersive Experience

The luxury brand Louis Vuitton, part of the French LVMH, offers a nice example of integrating such a chatbot in its app. Through the app, users can access a digital library that acts as a marketing platform which allows for purchases as well. The overarching LVMH is supposedly focusing on the further use of chatbot customer service, visual recognition technology and more to develop customised clothing for the different individual users. 

Furthermore, Italian fashion house Gucci makes use of a Facebook-integrated chatbot. The brand has taken its digital strategy further the past years with, for example, AR and VR installations making their 2018 campaign an immersive one in-store. Or their SS17 #TFWGucci collaborative art project which featured their watch collection through memes in the digital space, strengthening their online presence.

Finally, Amazon’s Echo Look offers a good example of using AI for fashion-related digital assistance. Through the Alexa voice assistant, users can take full-length photos of their looks and request direct feedback and styling tips.

 

Social Shopping

Another important aspect of the physical showroom is how buyers influence each other through their interaction within that space. In China, e-commerce has rapidly taken over from hitting the high street with friends. There, Pinduoduo is only one example of a startup proving that online shopping doesn’t have to be a lonely feat. Huang Zheng, a former engineer at Google, started the company in 2015. The platform has cleverly integrated social media like WeChat, allowing shoppers to share products with their circle.

In an analysis of the new app, Forbes explains how users can create purchase groups and enjoy discounts. To encourage this social shopping experience in the digital space, Pinduoduo also offers cashback incentives and free products to loyal customers. Especially in communities mainly depending on social media like WeChat for information from news to shopping suggestions, this kind of platform works well, the online magazine writes.

 

Integrating Other Digital Channels

This linkage of other digital channels to the digital showroom is an example of the digital-only perks mentioned before. Those can be built on a solid basis that doesn’t rely on the existence of a physical counterpart. By allowing for frictionless referral schemes through WeChat with its 79 % penetration in the country, the Chinese third party mobile e-commerce app achieved viral growth. The platform currently counts 585 million annual active buyers and 135 million daily active users. Those numbers are likely to continue rising as improved internet access reaches more remote areas in the country as well.

Big e-commerce fashion player ASOS takes advantage of the digital realm in yet another way by using AI for image recognition. Thanks to its visual search tool, customers can upload images of items or outfits they’ve come across online or outdoors. The algorithm will then find the exact product if available or suggest similar items. An approach that leads to more product views, return visits and placed orders. With regards to the digital showroom, such an approach could allow users to search for visual assets within specific trends they might be focusing on in their (digital) displays or magazine features.

 

Embracing Virtual Reality

Another approach helping to enhance the digital experience within the limitations of physical contact, is the incorporation of virtual reality. With the launch of Buy+ in 2016 for example, the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba allowed customers wearing a VR headset to browse products and try them on through a virtual interface. No need to come in store and change clothes. Users would only have to upload body measurements and photos so virtual models can do the work for them. Moreover, that information can offer brands more insights in customer preferences allowing for more bespoke products and services.

To make up for the cancelled mass events, including international fashion shows, we can look at Dior for inspiration as well. The French fashion house already launched a VR headset in 2015 and back in 2017, the luxury brand organised its ‘I Feel Blue’ event in Shanghai’s West Bund Art Centre: a fashion show completely made up of 3D holograms.

 

Using What We Have

Brands can improve the digital showroom experience by easy additions like more elaborate product and material descriptions with the images. But, as findings recently published in Quartz show, we are 60,000 times faster at processing visual information than text which explains our natural inclination toward visual storytelling. Thanks to so-called ‘mirror-neurons’ in our brains, when looking at images, we experience the actions and the physical and emotional sensations we link to them through our imagination. It is therefore important to prioritise visual elements when strengthening our digital presence. 

Other easy ways of doing so, bearing the previously mentioned insights in mind, are the use of video next to photos, and organising streaming sessions followed by live Q&As allowing customers to still directly interact with the brand. Moreover, to make up for not only the look of the product, but the feel as well, we can learn from online-only interior design brands such as MADE.COM that offer customers free fabric samples to help them decide on their purchases.

But what the aforementioned existing examples prove, is that there is no reason not to think big. The tools and technologies are already there: from AI chatbots, over 3D holograms to virtual reality. Amazon, Apple and Google all offer specific kits that help develop AI skills and build them into apps and platforms, or help create augmented and virtual reality apps. Now, it is just a matter of putting them to good use.

Photo credits: Unsplash.

Wided is the Lifestyle Researcher for the Belgian and Dutch markets at VOCAST. She’s a Belgian editor and author with a background in journalism. In London, she established a career in digital marketing for fashion and interior design brands. When she’s not working or studying for her Master’s, you’ll find her in front of a canvas, paint brushes in hand.

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The Urgency of Digitalisation: Innovation and Sustainability

The Urgency of Digitalisation: Innovation and Sustainability

The Urgency of Digitalisation: Innovation and Sustainability

The urgency of digitalisation in the fashion industry is being fast tracked. COVID-19 is pushing the industry in a direction that it was already walking towards, only now, it is a sprint. Digitalisation can be used by companies to change up their working habits and excel in the current climate however, there are long term benefits to digital solutions that must be taken into account as well. When offices re-open, photoshoots are re-organised and fashion weeks are re-scheduled, it is likely that the industry will be re-modelled, as it endures the aftermath of this global scale quarantine. Consequently, we may truly be about to enter a new era of fashion.

 

Radical Innovation

The relentless expansion of digitalisation is becoming more and more central for the success of fashion brands and the industry has experienced a significant paradigm shift in recent years. According to The State of Fashion 2019 (1) previously stable and thriving firms are facing imminent threats from several angles, due to the rise of advanced technology and changing consumer demands. The clash between fashion and technology, driven by speed and data, has set the stage for a new revolution in the global industry. Therefore, firms must realise radical innovation and disrupt themselves, by implementing innovative digitalisation, if they want to survive this revolution which is set to be characterised by sustainability. The State of Fashion 2020 (2) reported that to thrive in the present environment, companies must get digitalisation right and address those consumers who are increasingly concerned by the climate-change agenda: “based on our executive survey, the words on everyone’s lips are sustainability, digitisation, and innovation”.

 

Creating Lasting Change

As fashion brands begin to radically digitalise during this pandemic, it is vital that companies continue to project forwards beyond the uncertainty that the next few months have in store. In order to use digitalisation to genuinely provoke lasting, positive change, there are two essential concepts to consider: innovation and sustainability. Innovation reflects how relevant a brand is, sustainability measures a brands integrity. Fashion brands have been using creative methods of digitalisation in both innovative and sustainable ways over the past few years. Brands like Dior have used augmented reality for try before you buy solutions in makeup and accessories. Additionally, virtual reality clothing has been retailed by brands, such as Carlings, which enhance their consumers’ social media presence in a more sustainable way. The industry has been dabbling in the most current digitalisation tools technology companies have to offer. Now, in light of this global crisis, we can use these modern, creative initiatives to be leaders in battling world wide challenges.

 

Climate Change: Responsibility and Accountability

The fashion industry is notorious for its unsustainable practices. The UN Environment Programme (3) reported that: The fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon emissions, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping. It produces 20% of global wastewater, and textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of water globally. As consumers continue to buy more and more, if nothing changes, by the year 2050 the fashion industry will use up to 25% of the world’s carbon budget. But, this is hardly news. The industry has been aware of these dark statistics for some years now, and numerous fashion brands across the world have already put vast sustainability measures in place.

Recent statistics from the European Space Agency (4) show how social lockdown is having a positive effect on the air pollution of major European capital cities. Factors such as a decrease in travel and the temporary closing of factories are directly linked to the fashion industry, and they are also significant reasons as to why there has been a decrease in air pollution, according to the BBC (5). The maps below show how both France and Italy have seen a decrease in pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide concentrations.

If more evidence such as this continues to be proven, and as companies are continued to be forced to find new ways to operate during both lockdown and during the aftermath of this crisis, a unique opportunity is apparent. Digitalisation used in a radically innovative way can not only keep business running smoothly in this pandemic, but can also create a forceful push in sustainable reform across the industry. This is an opportunity to set a new standard of how we produce and consume fashion. Not only because we know we have to prioritise sustainability, but because we have no other option but to use digital solutions to operate business.

 

Sustainable Innovation in Practice: Digitalising the Cat Walk

In February 2018, Gerrit Jacob, a graduate designer at Central Saint Martins, collaborated with Three Mobile and Rewind, a London based technology company, to create the world’s first 5G runway. To learn more about how this form of digital innovation can help and inspire fashion brands in their sustainability endeavours, VOCAST’s UK Lifestyle Researcher spoke to Rewind.

As an immersive technology company, what do you believe are some of the benefits that fashion brands can gain from digital innovation to help them reach their sustainability goals?

From virtual showrooms to digital instead of physical sampling, immersive technologies—virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR)—can slash the waste generated by physical fashion both behind-the-scenes in the fashion industry, and in our future digital wardrobes.” Sol Rogers, CEO and Founder of REWIND.

Your work in fashion week was hugely successful, what do you hope this will lead to for the future of sustainable fashion innovation and breaking outdated practices?

Hopefully, it will open the eyes of the fashion world to what is possible. 5G connectivity teamed with XR devices will entirely upend how buyers, press, and consumers interact with fashion. For an industry that is highly creative, the opportunities here are endless—the only limit is your imagination. Plus, virtual reality cuts out the need to travel, so the excessive carbon footprint of the industry can be addressed too.” Sol Rogers, CEO and Founder of REWIND.

Finally, we are currently in unknown territory with many countries, communities, and companies going into social lockdown, what do you believe immersive technology can offer the fashion industry in terms of staying connected and keeping businesses running and growing?

COVID-19 has clarified the need for technology that facilitates an alternative to in-person fashion shows, presentations, and showrooms. Immersive technologies have the potential to connect us in new ways, enable effective remote collaboration in the design phase, and even offer an alternative to the traditional catwalk.” Sol Rogers, CEO and Founder of REWIND.

 

A New Era of Fashion

The way that the fashion industry has been heading over the last few years in undoubtedly towards a sustainable and digital future, but the current global crisis is forcing the industry to take digitalisation to the next level. Radical innovation is essential to continue a brands’ business growth and upkeep global relevance. Digitalising traditional practices is possible, if brands start actively working with creative technology. As social lockdown continues all over the world, the initial evidence is telling us that this decrease in a fast-paced society is beneficial for the planet. Therefore, let us challenge ourselves to use the immense powers of digitalisation to the best of our ability. The industry is currently going through the perfect opportunity to not only push sustainable fashion further than ever before, but to create a brand new era of fashion. An era where art and technology push the boundaries of what fashion represents and how we consume it, in an innovative and sustainable way.

References: Photo credit: Copenhagen Fashion Week image bank. Image credit: European Space Agency. (1) McKinsey. Retrieved April 6th. Online The State of Fashion 2019: A year of awakening. (2) McKinsey. Retrieved April 6th. Online. The State of Fashion 2020: Navigating uncertainty. (3) UN Environment Programme. Retrieved April 3rd. Online. Putting the brakes on fast fashion. (4) European Space Agency. Retrieved April 3rd. Online. Coronavirus lockdown leading to drop in pollution across Europe. (5) BBC News. Retrieved April 3rd. Online. Coronavirus: Air pollution and CO2 fall rapidly as virus spreads.

Georgina is the Lifestyle Researcher for the US and UK Market at VOCAST, responsible for both American and British fashion and lifestyle research. Along with her work at VOCAST and studies at Copenhagen Business School, she is passionate about conscious fashion reform in the industry.

Laura is the Customer Success Consultant at VOCAST. Pursuing her passion for digital marketing and PR, she leads project onboarding, guides clients to improve their communication strategies and is responsible for the fashion and interior research in the Danish market.

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