A front row seat at London Fashion Week is a coveted place most people can only dream of, where celebrities and the fashion elite rub shoulders and get a close-up view of the new season’s trends.

While the world’s hottest celebrities vie for a ticket, new technology is introducing the intimacy of the catwalk to a new audience of aspirational buyers.

Over the past year, the fashion industry has seen the biggest decline in sales since the financial crash, and with London and Paris Fashion Weeks upon us, it is the perfect opportunity for widespread fashion revival.

When put to good use, social media and digital technologies can work wonders on sales and performance. From Instagram to holograms, prepare for a truly ‘access all areas’ Fashion Week season.

Right here, right now

Technology across all industries is allowing companies to amplify their audience and appeal to a different demographic. This year, digital and social channels have catapulted London Fashion Week into a world much larger than its physical presence. From drones showing backstage and 360-degree videos of the catwalk to holographic projections, technology is allowing luxury brands to reach beyond the front row.

Taking into consideration that we spend an average of over two hours per day on social media, which translates to five years and four months across our lifetime, we cannot underestimate the power of content.

It is how brands across all sectors reach consumers today. Sharable and engaging content can increase a brand’s popularity within the market place, and fashion brands around the world are having to cater to a new demographic that wants instant gratification. To come out on top, they need to be hyper-engaged with their audiences. Recognising this, last year Tommy Hilfiger filled his front row with social media stars for his first ‘see-now, buy-now’ show.

In this new world, increasingly dominated by digital influencers, speed to market is now a Fashion Week priority. New technology like chatbots with ‘buy buttons’ on Instagram and Facebook are closing the gap between the runway and the retail world.

For example, at this year’s New York Fashion Week, designer Rebecca Minkoff introduced a line of connected handbags. The ten limited edition bags included smart tags that, when scanned, offered tickets to a 2017 runway event. Not only does this cater to customer satisfaction, but the data collected from these tags can glean insights on customers that will help drive sales and marketing decisions.

But this is not the only time technology has boosted the shopping experience for Rebecca Minkoff’s customers. Last year, she used technology to make it easier for consumers to virtually try on the brand’s clothing with help from Zeekit, an app that lets users preview what clothing pieces would look like on their own bodies.

It might sound like a gimmick, but numbers do not lie: after the first Rebecca Minkoff “#SeeBuyWear” fashion show in mid-February 2016, retail sales were up 213 percent during the two-week post-show period compared to that of the prior year. With serious money to be made, we expect to see much more of this ‘see-now, buy-now’ model being used this year.

Access all areas: democratising high fashion beyond the catwalk

The use of technology does not stop there. Chanel made headlines at last year’s Paris Fashion Week as two robot-dressed models opened the 2016 show, paying homage to the growing influence of technology in the fashion industry.

The growing popularity of Augmented Reality through devices such as Microsoft’s mixed reality headsets, has the potential to launch runways beyond the physical realm.

At the moment the Hololens projects static images of life-size models, but we should expect to see the technology used to capture images of the models walking down the catwalk in London, and project those images through periscope, via Facebook, or their own channels anywhere around the world.

Taken one step further, customers could use holograms to customise the looks they see on the catwalk before going on to purchase them. Holographic technology has the potential to transform the way luxury brands connect with consumers. Coupled with the use of drone video footage for example, customers will get a fully immersive fashion week experience, from ‘meeting’ the models backstage to getting a bird’s eye view of the catwalk.

And it is this content that is king in luxury retail today. Luxury retailers are using technology to grow their audience, to be more accessible. For instance, if we assume that only a small proportion of Chanel’s 23.9 million Instagram followers actually buy their products on a regular basis, the remainder could be classed as aspirational customers, perhaps spending their bonus on that handbag they have always wanted.

Whilst they are not regular customers, they form a significant demographic. Used effectively, social and digital channels can open up new revenue streams for luxury brands.

As Chanel demonstrated, technology has an undeniable presence in today’s fashion industry. From runway shows to physical stores and the wider supply chain, retailers have gradually allowed technology to seep into every aspect of their operations. The fashion world is in a constant state of flux and innovation, and technology firms are just as eager to work alongside these luxury powerhouses.

Those who win will be the fashion and technology brands which work in partnership to engage new audiences, deliver more convenience and engagement for shoppers and provide a seamless and personalised experienced for consumers around the world.

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