How can brands capitalise on the opportunity and what, if anything, should they know about this new virtual landscape?
London Fashion Week first shifted from IRL to virtual in June 2020, a significant – albeit necessary – shift for an industry event which is known for in-person networking and trend watching. This year, the change has become permanent, with LFW fully virtual (and gender neutral) for the first time.
New digital mediums – from Instagram to OnlyFans – offer a myriad of opportunities to build new relationships with fans and grant them a more intimate look at a world historically characterised by exclusivity.
In a recent piece, Vogue Business observed that brands who would previously have hosted invite-only events during Fashion Month are, this year, turning to emerging social platforms such as Triller, Patreon, Twitch, OnlyFans and Discord to share their collections in new ways. These platforms not only allow designers greater exposure and authenticity, but they encourage brands to nurture a more intimate and collaborative relationship with fans.
For the first time, fashion fans, alongside influencers and editors, are being encouraged to develop personal connections with brands. This type of inclusivity is new for a traditionally exclusive industry. Many of the platforms being used by designers this Fashion Month also run on subscription models or directly rely on independent content creators.
This means content can be richer and place the brand within a wider ecosystem of creativity and dialogue around fashion. The community nature of social platforms also offers the opportunity to extend Fashion Month experiences well beyond the month itself, immersing fans more meaningfully into the brand world, and for longer too.
However, whilst this digitisation offers the opportunity to reach new audiences and embrace more democratic means of communication, brands should be discerning about the platforms they embrace and remain informed about how audiences interact and engage through these mediums.
Launching collections on subscription-based services, brands could run the risk of fostering new types of digital exclusivity, whilst issues like “shadow-banning” are likely to remain concerns across multiple platforms as algorithms and AI biases evolve.
With that in mind, luxury brands will no doubt be considering a blend of both digital and physical Fashion Month activity in the longer-term. It’s clear that, eventually, physical experiences will come back – fashion, more so than other industries, thrives on tactile moments of delight. When this moment comes, luxury should seek to leverage the most complementary elements of virtual to create truly innovative experiences which prioritise intimacy over exclusivity.