Find out how fashion doesn't stop!
With the current restrictions for public events, the fashion system is developing new digital formats to hold fashion shows without the need for the audience to be physically present.
The need to live immersive experiences, even remotely, must be fulfilled and this is leading to the spread of new technologies. These include platforms that allow the live streaming of fashion shows and the setting up of virtual showrooms, where buyers can view the products and their technical data sheets, learn more about them through interactive images, videos and 3D experiences, and even select the garments for their stores.
This formula does not exclude the Milan Fashion Week of 14-17 July, organized by the National Chamber of Italian Fashion: it will be entirely digital this year. 37 brands (including Prada and Gucci) will be presenting their collections in streaming, displaying them at the same time in virtual showrooms that can only be viewed by insiders (retailers, journalists, influencers).
Virtual Walkways: a new era?
Streaming fashion shows is nothing new, several maisons (Burberry first and foremost) have been doing it for years on Instagram and on their websites. Now more than ever, the presentation of the new creations is entrusted to digital channels, and the experience offered must live up to the expectations.
However, the overall experience is often unsatisfactory, due to a non-perfect video quality. Let’s see what problems you can encounter when streaming a fashion event:
- The network performance is not up to the task
A fashion show doesn’t last long, but it is a highly anticipated event. Most of the time it is a show to all intents and purposes, with music, lights, a set, and it is held in iconic and evocative locations. The aim is to electrify and amaze spectators, who can't wait for the new collections to be unveiled. A streaming event can be opened not only to industry insiders (buyers, influencers and journalists) but to the entire audience of customers and followers.
The corporate website might need to face millions of users connected at the same time, and peaks of traffic can affect response times. A user will see the hideous buffering circle while the connection goes hiccups; at this point, they will get impatient and could even abandon the live streaming, keeping a bad memory of the brand. Video streaming is very bandwidth consuming, and the network can easily get overloaded. The website servers can't keep up with the connection requests.
- The streaming is not dynamic, and won’t adapt to the device
A good share of the users who connect to watch the show via streaming do so on the move, with smartphones or tablets. The quality of the video depends on the speed of their Internet connection it requires high data usage (from 1GB to many GBs). An optimal system will automatically adjust the resolution and compression of the video according to the available bandwidth. For example, if the user is in an area where both the wi-fi connection and the mobile phone signal are weak, it is advisable to watch the video in 360p resolution to avoid buffering.
- In some countries network availability is lower
Recently, several initiatives involved the Chinese users, who were physically unable to move around. One was "China, we are with you" on February 18th, which saw the broadcast of the Milanese fashion shows in live streaming by Cnmi. Over 16 million Chinese viewers attended. Considering that China is the country where the largest number of luxury goods buyers - by nationality - resides, this is an opportunity not to be missed.
But there are legal obstacles to overcome: in order to stream in China with good performance, you will need an ICP license, which is issued by the Chinese government and allows you to host your website on a Chinese server.
Not only China: you must also consider the user's position with respect to the servers hosting the web application. The greater the distance between the server and the user, the greater the latency, i.e. the response time. It means that you risk penalizing those countries that are geographically distant from the servers hosting your brand's site.
What technology to use for live streaming?
For these reasons, it is necessary to rely on the right technology partners. If a fashion brand wants to ensure the best streaming experience for its users, it must resort to a cloud infrastructure.
For this reason, it is advisable to rely on a content management and distribution platform such as THRON, natively built on the cloud and accelerated by a CDN (Content Delivery Network). The advantages:
- It is scalable: a cloud infrastructure allows resources to be increased or decreased according to the demand, thus avoiding traffic peaks.
- It adapts: the streaming is dynamic and will adapt to the type of connection and the device used (mobile tools included)
- It has servers distributed worldwide and has an ICP license: the network nodes are distributed globally, so high performance is assured in any geographical area.
Of course, you can't replicate the sociality of the live show, but streaming has other positive aspects:
- it offers a higher level of detail than live events!
- it allows you to do storytelling, with live coverage behind the scenes and making of (branding elements that 10 minutes of parade and a press release can not transmit)
- it will widens your fan-base, if you choose to open events usually reserved to insiders to customers and followers as well.
After live streaming fashion show, the virtual showroom
Once the maison has presented its collections in live streaming, it will also need an exhibition space, the showroom, where retailers/distributors can select and buy the garments to resell them in their own stores.
Social distancing is pushing fashion brands to innovate, and one example is the Milan Fashion Week in July, where collections and sales will be digitized in a virtual environment.
The showroom's immersive experience is reinvented digitally, but to do that it is essential to use the right tools to manage the materials destined for buyers: detailed content that can be quickly retrieved and used to populate virtual shelves. Think of the looks, of technical data sheets, 3D models of the clothes that can be rotated 360°, but also images, videos, etc., anything the retailer might need to evaluate and select the clothes.
Having a centralized platform for both asset management (360° product view, marketing descriptions, photo-shoots, etc.) and product data (data sheets, 3D models) is the first step. These materials, imported from the management systems (ERP, PIM, etc.), are classified with the support of Artificial Intelligence, so that you can retrieve everything you need with a click.
Which operations can be done?
- create private areas dedicated to buyers (but also specific for other roles, such as journalists) in which users, after a log-in, can consult products and looks;
- customize the portal with colors and logos of the brand;
- filtering by product characteristics (fabrics, colours, categories, etc.)
- add elements to a wish-list, which is linked to the purchase system (for the collection and management of orders)
But there are even more advantages of setting up virtual showrooms:
- they are always open: a virtual showroom is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They make it possible to maintain constant contact between exhibitors and buyers, even at times not necessarily linked to the fashion show calendar.
- they offer a wider product catalog: an infinite number of clothes can be added digitally. In the physical showroom there’s a limit to the space available, you have to make a selection.
- they reduce waste: the number of physical showrooms can be reduced to a few garrisons in the focal points of fashion, while the range of buyers can be expanded even in the most distant countries, breaking down borders.
Live streaming fashion shows and virtual showrooms are the future of fashion. The current situation can be an accelerator of the digitalization of the industry: new scenarios will open up, but no less profitable.