Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Social media in the apparel industry

If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time on Facebook. By now you have probably seen or have heard of the Kony 2012 movie that has gone viral. The movement is striving to create awareness about Ugandan warlord joseph Kony, mainly by using social media. Although there was a lot of negative backlash toward the campaign, they did do a very good job of getting the message out there. The YouTube video was viewed over 74 million times in it first week, and my Facebook news feed was littered with people sharing the video and other Kony 2012 related content.

The Kony 2012 movement got me thinking. Social media is such an effective way of spreading a message, so is it being used to its fullest potential by the apparel industry? The apparel industry is a stubborn one in the sense that it likes to do things the way they’ve always been done. It certainly wasn’t the first industry to take advantage of the use of internet advertising and E-shopping, which has proven to be hugely profitable. Are they approaching social media any differently? Yes and no. apparel companies definitely weren’t the first ones to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging, but these days you are hearing more and more about company’s and designers throughout the industry who have launched very successful social media campaigns.

It seems to be the designers and retailers who are having the most success with social media, probably because their side of the business is so creativity oriented and they are also the ones who communicate with end consumers the most.

Charlotte Russe has had success using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in her social media campaign. The campaign is described as being centered on “user generated content and social engagement”. She uses a weekly trivia contest to draw people to the twitter page, and according to wright lee, she is running a t shirt design contest called ‘Be the next charlotte Russe design star’ where the winner will have their shirt produced and sold online.

Diane von Furstenberg has attracted over 368 thousand followers on her Twitter page with the help of the re-tweeting capability. According to retail industry expert Hitha Prabhakar, “within the last year of having a major online and social media presence, von Furstenberg’s online traffic has increased by 13%”. 13% is a significant increase when you consider the relatively low cost of establishing and maintaining a social media presence.

Louis Vuitton was a little late to the social media party, but they have still managed to establish an advantageous campaign. According to communications marketing specialist Dana Gears, “Louis Vuitton broadcasts its spring 2010 ready-to-wear show live exclusively to Facebook followers, offering a big incentive for recruiting new fans and a reward to its most passionate customers”.

Norma Kamali took an outside the box approach to social media by unveiling last year’s spring collection using an 8 minute 3D film. The film needed to be viewed with special glasses to get the full 3d effect. To get the special 3d glasses, fans had to join Norma Kamalis Facebook page. There were also multiple games to be played for prizes.

Banana Flames website really pushed the boundaries of social media with their ‘Social Shopper’. The goal of the ‘Social Shopper’ is to allow you to try clothes on at home. You simply position yourself in front of your webcam and then adjust the clothes on the screen to fit your body. The really cool part is that you can share the images of what the clothes look like with your friends online and instantly receive feedback.

The aforementioned individuals have put a lot of thought and creativity into their social media campaigns, which begs the question; what are social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook doing to facilitate their use as media outlets for the apparel industry?

Facebook has developed engagement ads that allow for more communication between advertisers and Facebook users. Things such as Facebook’s the fan page have already proved to be very advantageous for apparel companies. Now Facebook users can comment on, like, and share content that they see on a certain page which causes the content to spread faster than it ever could if only being delivered through traditional media outlets such as TV ads. Companies can also be confident that their message will be reaching their target market because users will only be sharing content with people who they are connected to on Facebook, their peers.

As page administrators, apparel companies can track and measure the viral effect of their content. They can see how often content is being shared, the total number of likes and wall posts, page views, and click through rate, among other things. This makes it easier for companies to see their return on investment, which is very important. The same sort of measuring tools are offered on YouTube.

Blogs provide smaller designers or companies with very low budgets the freedom to express themselves in the manner that they feel will attract the most attention from their niche target market.

Online retailers are benefitting from the many apps being developed by social media developers, specifically for the apparel industry. A perfect example is luxury discount E-retailer, Gilt group. Gilt group now has an app designed specifically for android powered devices. So now people can shop Gilt group from the comfort of their Android powered cellphone, and can see the current days sales even if the app is not open, which is important since Gilt groups buying window is only open for 15 minutes every day at noon.

Campaigns like the Kony 2012 movement are inspiring more and more apparel companies to jump on the social media band wagon every year, and as the technology and services available improve, so will the benefits for the apparel industry as a whole and the consumers like you and I.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Interview With Reg Dennis

“Who is your favourite designer(s)?”

“Karl Lagerfeld is still my favourite designer and also Zac Posen at the moment.”

“How do you feel about celebrities getting all the free goodies when they are the people who can afford all the free goodies they get?”

“No. They should not get any freebies at all; they should receive it and give it to charity as a gesture of good will to people who can not afford it.”

"What do you think is your strengths and weaknesses in the art of fashion?"

“The industry itself can be both a strength and weakness; right now it’s just a piece of junk.”

"Do you try to send out a message or theme in your clothes in any way at all or no?"

“Yes I do. All of my garments are wedding gowns, I try to incorporate colour within the garment with beadings, colour thread, fabric, lace, and many other stuff like accessories”

“Where do you get your inspiration from to create unique designs for your client’s desires?”

“My first inspiration starts with the Oscars awards on the red carpet every year since it starts the trend, especially with evening wear. And street wear is also an inspiration for me.”

“What is your favourite fashion season(s) and explain why?”

“Spring is my favourite fashion season just because it’s more colourful, fun, vibrant, fashionable and also it’s a lot easier design and outfit and too sew it.”

“Where do you see your brand going in the near or far future?”

“Well, my brand is all custom designs, so it usually tends to start with the client them self just to get an idea of what their needs and wants are for the garment being made is. And it’s the reason for that it’s designed especially for them.”

“When did you start to experiment with getting into the fashion industry for fashion design?”

“In 2000 I started with sketching out garments, mainly 3 dresses on a piece of paper, and then I presented to them to my colleague I was working with at the time. We further discussed them to whether I was good enough i was good to pursue a career fashion and design. I then proceeded in a course just for sketching alone. And then after discussing with the teacher of the program we determined that my progress from the start of the program to the end of the program had gone from stick people to full sketches in colour and proportionate figures, I started my career just after.”

“In your spare time besides designing and making garments, what do you like to do?”

“My main focus is on clothes, I go to check retail and bridal stores and get magazines, to see what the latest styles, colours etc are popular to make sure I’m on top of the trends and make sure what information I’m giving my customers are accurate.”

“Do you plan to extend your business/line in the near or far future and why?”

“No, it’s all going to be custom design. And the reason for that is that there’s no room for inventory to be kept and it also cuts down on cost in a way.”

“Do you have any educational background for fashion design at all?”

“Yes I do have an education. I have a certificate for fashion design, from Algonquin College in Ottawa.”

“When did you first realize that you wanted to design outfits and enter the fashion industry?”

“I always had an interest fashion decide I wanted to design and create garments, and decided that I wanted pursue career in it, and a totally different industry.”

“How do you become inspired for a certain design you create?”

“I start by looking at other designs for inspirations, while following other designers’ lines as well.”

“Do you try to keep with the latest trends or do you create your own?”

“I look at the latest trends but I try not to focus on them a lot.”

“Do you come up with concepts for designs first or is it more of an unplanned thing?”

“The client and I come up with a concept of a design and we create it together to conform to the clients’ needs and wants for the outfit being made for them.”

“How long does it take to draft out pattern pieces for and outfit and to sew it?”

“The actual outfit sewing part only takes 3 weeks to a month the most. The whole fitting process can takes up to 4 months, since most clients try to lose weight and be in shape for their wedding, so their weight because of this goes up and down, which means a lot of adjustments has to be made in the time period for each of the fittings.”

Zombie Nation

Next time you are at a restaurant or in class, take a quick look around the room. You'd probably be surprised to see how many people are sneaking a quick look at a text message they just received, or how many are completely involved with their phones ignoring all physical interactions with others. With the digital age in full swing this type of behaviour has become acceptable to most people, who can be caught fixated on their small glowing screens as if in a trance. Yet there are some who find this excessive cellphone usage rude and unacceptable. In addition studies are constantly being completed to determine long term physical and mental health risks of excessive cellphone use.
It should come as no surprise that some restaurants are now finding ways to voice their opinions of cellphone usage at the table by posting signs or even policies on their websites to discourage customers from checking text messages or managing your Facebook account while eating. Many chefs also believe that dinner time is a very important time when one should slow down and enjoy the full experience of the meal. Some chefs disagree and believe there is always time for checking your phone, as noted in an editorial published September 5th, 2011 by Toronto star author Isabel Teotonio. The article mentions two Toronto based chefs who promote cellphones at their restaurants.
Jason Bangerter executive chef for the Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants at TIFF Bell Lightbox: Luma and the O&B Canteen keeps his Iphone along side his cooking utensils and always makes time to interact with guests via Facebook and Twitter. Bangerter and his team ensure their guest an upscale experience that satisfies even the most tech savvy diner
Aldo Lanzillotta, owner of WVRST sausage hall in downtown Toronto, also encourages visitors to update their status while they enjoy a bite to eat. Even noting that this form of advertising has helped to increase sales for the business. In fact many establishments are finding ways to join in with users. Attempting to make their overall restaurant experience more enjoyable as they seek to make their locations more acceptable places for cellphones. Some even place small plates or dishes in the dining area to keep your device safe from spills. According to a January 26, 2012 editorial by Los Angeles Times author Jessica Gelt some restaurants are even keeping a selection of phone chargers on hand for diners to ensure that every digital craving is satisfied.
Some restaurant-goers have started a new trend called The Phone Stack, a game to help deter cellphone use while at the dinner table. Each person at the table must either put their phone face down on the table or in a stack with the object being that whom ever touches their phone first must cover the bill at the end of the meal. Meanwhile others simply refuse to pocket their phones and continue to text, surf the web, and polish off a few levels of Angry Birds all before the appetizers are served
A study complied in Gothenburg, Sweden authored by Gaby Badre, MD, PhD, of Sahlgren's Academy has noted that excessive cellphone use can affect sleeping patterns in teens age 14-20. The teens all kept regular work and study hours and had no sleeping problems. Two groups were created, one group was only allowed to make five text and calls per day, while the other was able to make more than fifteen calls or texts per day. Upon completion it was noted that the group that made fifteen plus calls or texts per day showed an increase in sleep deprivation and restlessness. Where as the group making few interactions with their phones reported no change in sleep behaviour. The study also notes that excessive or compulsive phone usage could also be attributed to pressures and desires to remain constantly connected with peers. Although this information is aimed towards teens it is quite possible that anyone who over indulges could also be at risk as well. An additional study of the damage to eyes caused from cellphone use complied byprofessor Ved Vyas Dwivedi, head of department of ECE at CHARUSAT, Dean of the faculty of engineering and technology Y P Kosta, and lecturer Dhara Patel. The results had shown that the eyes absorb heat transmitted from cellphone screens and are able to effectively collect the information. However it was noted that the eyes are unable to transmit or radiate the heat created from the body. This constant intake of heat could eventually lead to early cataract in lens as well as potentially damaging the retina, cornea and other ocular systems of the eye.
In our modern society its estimated 70% of Canadians own cellphones between the ages of 16 and 60 and the rate is increasing daily. With more and more people turning to hand held devices that can complete multiple functions on demand its easy to understand why many businesses are choosing to embrace cellphones as a form of promotion and free advertisement. Customers are able to instantly update information about their experience which helps to promote the establishment, but will also assist the owners to gear their services and overall experience to suit every customer in the best possible way