March 15, 2012

Don't Live In Your Inbox

Right now we feel the biggest constant is change – so let’s have a look at how social media in fashion conscious platforms has evolved and how it is affecting the apparel industry.

As marketers continue to develop new social media outlets and expand on digital marketing tactics, industry observers suggest that there is a gap between browsing and buying. Are these social media developments even stimulating sales? Gap, J.C. Penney, Gamestop, and Nordstrom don’t seem to think so as they have all opened and subsequently shut down their facebook stores.

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On the contrary, a spawn of virtual closets, personal digital lookbooks, online style advice platforms, collaging websites, and shopping communities have recently multiplied into fashion cyber space. Among them is Pinterest, the hottest new social media scrapbooking tool that allows users to "pin" images to create their own digital bulletin boards. So what sets Pinterest apart from the rest you ask? Well, not only is it one of the fastest growing websites in history growing quicker than both Facebook and Twitter, but it's a visual dream diary that organizes, collects, and categorizes one's favorite inspirational images all in one place.

Without doubt, Pinterest is the next big thing! With an exclusive invitation only acceptance, Pinterest appeals primarily to women as an update to collaging magazine clippings for wedding ideas, personal style, one's dream house, or DIY projects. What's most interesting is its primary users are not the early adopters because to use the outlet there is simply nothing to adapt to. Instead, it represents how technology is evolving and how we are evolving using it. Anyone and everyone uses smartphones, iPads, blogs, etc. Technology is no longer just for the typical "geeky guy."

Retailers are also starting to "pin" products on these virtual cork boards to try and get new product approval, promote contests, and communicate between the brand and its customers. Etsy, Urban Outfitters, Gilt Groupe, and American Eagle are just a few retailers hoping to profit from these virtual pinboards as well as promote their brand identity as the lines between social interaction and e-commerce continue to blur. However, how to actually increase profitability and whether or not it can be done is still under question, as these brands continue to experiment.

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Speaking of blurry lines, the fashion magazine has been under some major fog since the rise in popularity of the internet in the mid 1990's. While many fade out of print and go digital, some like have brought authenticity back to readers in a 100-page printed booklet that can be read in under 5 minutes to compete with the fast paced speed reading online versions. Not to mention, the blog,, has moved in the same direction as it now has evolved to include a quarterly issued user-generated fashion magazine and one of the first of its kind! Blogging as a platform and pretty much anything online is becoming increasingly saturated as well and it seems that leading innovating bloggers are starting to bring back a more tangible format in response.

Both InStyle, Ahalife and also have a similar idea as they have taken the digital experience and brought it to the storefront. InStyle opened up shop on 5th Ave to showcase six spring looks through the use of touch screen technology, Net-A-Porter launched a pop-up shop in the West Village where customers could shop the site on iPads linked to the exclusive KARL collection and in Beverly Hills Ahalife expanded its website to include a "virtual showroom" boutique.

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From the physical world to the digital realm and back, companies can’t make up their mind on how to capture the attention of consumers in an oversaturated marketplace. Social media is supposed to make things easier and more convenient, but instead everything is just getting more complicated. Between Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Youtube, Foursquare etc, when is enough enough? When will we stop wasting time posting every little detail of our lives and actually live them? And more importantly, how did we live our lives before? We went to the movies, we used maps, telephones, answering machines and wrote letters. We were on time. Our penmanship was better. We "accidentally" ran into people and it was an actual surprise rather than noticing they "checked in" somewhere. We had real skills. We had real coincidences. We had real lives. All because we had to.

As the world gets bigger (both reality and the virtual interface), our problems grow too. In a way, we are all living in our own digital comas. Our experiences are no longer authentic. On one hand, the entire world is at our fingertips, but at the same time our grasp on our immediate world is disappearing. Sooner or later we are going to have to learn to maintain a healthy balance of both worlds or we will never wake up. We strongly believe that there is a balance between offline and online in the apparel industry. Brick and mortar operations will definitely co-exist and remain an important part of our lifestyle despite the drive for newness in the social media sector. It's just going to take time to find the balance through experimentation, and most importantly, the process of trial and error. Today, we challenge you to disconnect, close your inbox, and grasp a little bit of reality just long enough to write a handwritten letter. Do you even remember how?

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