How has mobile technology changed London Fashion Week?

London Fashion Week is no longer an exclusive tradeshow. Every fashion consumer in the world now has the chance to participate, whether that’s via live-streamed shows, Somerset House street-style snaps on blogs, fashion editors on social media, or blurry runway shots on Twitter.

And what’s made all this possible? The advent of mobile computing.

The ‘always-on’ mindset that comes with smartphones and tablets mean that instant access is not just possible, it’s almost mandatory.

For fashion professionals

Having a smartphone available at all times is now essential for fashion show attendees, as demonstrated by Vodafone’s placement of chargers under every seat in the front row at LFW. Everyone wants to be the first to tweet pictures of a key runway look. But mobile is also now being used to connect fashion professionals to each other, as well as to potential customers.

 

The key innovators in this area have been Fashion GPS, who’ve been working at London Fashion Week for 10 seasons now. They provide what they call a ‘central nervous system’ for fashion week attendees, via their GPS Radar platform. This is an invite-only app that gathers together a top notch press list of editors, buyers, journalists, bloggers, stylists and so on.

The Radar app brings together tickets to shows, seating plans, directions between venues, sample requests, even the ability to access show images and share them to social media.

According to Eddie Mullon, Founder & CEO of Fashion GPS, mobile is increasingly important. She says that “A huge amount of the industry is migrating to mobile technology, which has made the iPhone almost a fashion accessory. As a company that strives to streamline and concentrate the fashion week experience for industry insiders, we’re proud to have led the industry’s embrace of Apple and its intuitive products. “

For designers

Mobile technology means that images from shows are instantly available, and to keep up, designers need to be able to shape their own online narrative using innovative technologies. Two of the stand-out shows at LFW AW13 did just that.

 

 

Topshop teamed up with Google+ to livestream their Unique show, with lots of interesting add-ons like the ‘model cam’ and a ‘Be the Buyer’ app where viewers can vote for their favourite pieces. It’s not a mobile-specific initiative, but it’s coming from that ‘instant access’ mindset that mobile helps to create.

 

Matthew Williamson used the new Vine app from Twitter to great effect with the ‘#MatthewMagnified’ campaign. Short 6-second videos were used to show full-length and then detail shots of Matthew Williamson clothes. This is a smart way to use new technology, as a means of conveying the quality and workmanship of the product, something that’s often lost in the usual blurry catwalk images

Could mobile be damaging to emerging fashion brands?

The faster pace that mobile brings is both an opportunity for emerging fashion brands, and a problem. It gives them a larger platform for their work, and the opportunity to reach more people, but the sheer amount of fashion week coverage also means it can be a struggle to get noticed.

The instant access to shows also makes it a lot easier for the high street to assimilate and reproduce the trends before the original inspiration is even available for purchase. This is something Burberry are attempting to tackle this with their  ‘made to order’ service, but for smaller retailers this is not always feasible.

As ever, resources are a key issue. To stay on top of the latest mobile innovations, you need savvy staff and time to spare, both of which cost money. A recent report from Draper’s highlighted just how much the fashion industry is having to re-group as a result of new technology, with 38% of brands surveyed saying that online innovation has led to the need to train staff in new skillsets.

The solution for emerging brands is to make sure they stay on top of their online presence – a mobile-optimised website and Twitter account are the minimum requirements nowadays.

The future

With Vodafone set to sponsor London Fashion Week for at least the next four seasons, the focus on mobile looks sure to continue. As Eddie Mullon says, “With all of the content being shared right now, I think coming up we’ll see an emphasis on people’s immediate reaction through mobile technology, and how important that is. To stay competitive, Fashion GPS will work to provide our clients with an accurate picture of how people are responding to designs that have just debuted.”

Early-adopters always get the most press, but the real test will come as these technologies become commonplace. As more and more brands get mobile, they’ll be able to track the effect on their bottom line, and the most useful mobile strategies will become mainstream.