Social Media in Vogue at Fashion140 Conference

Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada might have thought twice about tossing her cell phone at the end of the movie if Twitter and mobile apps had been available then. How these platforms and the real-time web are reshaping the fashion industry were the topics discussed at the Fashion140 conference in New York last week.

Many of the speakers agreed that fashion is a natural fit with social and digital media since it involves visually-oriented brands in a taste-based category where the opinions of one’s peers count. As Lauren Indvik, associate editor at Mashable commented, “Shopping is rarely a solo endeavor.”

Digital media advances have impacted many aspects of the fashion world, as evidenced by five key takeaways from the day:

Editorial and e-commerce are continuing to merge. This trend was highlighted by John Carles, VP of e-commerce at Time Inc’s StyleFind. “Fashion editors are there to help you look good, and online retailers are there to persuade you to buy,” he noted. More fashion sites have been integrating online shopping, while more e-commerce sites have been offering content.

Social media creates an ongoing relationship with customers even when they’re not shopping. As Dmitri Siegel, executive director of marketing at Urban Outfitters observed, “Social media forms a bond with customers that is deeper than shopping and will sustain them in between transactions.” The retailer hosts “Music Mondays” on Twitter to connect customers with emerging music talent and they give away free songs.

Social platforms have facilitated the exchange and sharing of fashion advice. Marissa Evans, founder of GoTryItOn created a channel to “Transform social shopping by getting unbiased, helpful feedback from a global community.” Users are able to go beyond their friends or salespeople for a second opinion. Members take photos of themselves and their outfits, ask others to comment, and feedback comes in the form of hangers pointing up (wear it) or down (change it).

The sample sale shopping experience has improved online. Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, co-founder of Gilt Groupe, described in-person sample sales as “only accessible to a few, held during work hours, and often leading to cat fights since they were so crowded.” The company’s solution was to send members sample sale email invites at noon with the shopping done online, so no bodily contact is involved. Their model has been widely copied in fashion and expanded to other areas.

Social platforms have raised awareness of street fashion and independent designers, and both have grown more popular. “The world is fascinated with street shots. They’re a driving force in the industry and are dictating trends worldwide,” according to Lilly Berelovich, president of Fashion Snoops. Social platforms are also helping independent fashion designers with no retail presence to get noticed directly by the public.

However, not everyone evolves with the times. At the 140 conference in 2009, one of the topics was why Vogue editor Anna Wintour doesn’t have a Twitter account. While this iconic fashion influencer still does not use Twitter, in her absence a multitude of other voices are using the platform to inform, advise and interact with their audiences. All the more reason Anne Hathaway’s character should have held on to her cell phone.