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FSW: 2022 in Review
A publication of It's A Working Title LLC
This weekly publication focuses on how business and economics trends, technology, and the drive for sustainability impact the global luxury, fashion, and experience economy industries. Prepared by the staff of content strategy agency and think tank It’s a Working Title LLC, each week’s issue provides a summary of recent trends across the globe and a leader that conducts a deeper dive into content strategy.
This will be our last issue of 2022, a year that has been active in the fashion and luxury industry. There have been so many developments in the key areas of focus for this periodical: retail economics, technology, and the industry’s drive towards meaningful sustainability. Next year will bring new challenges for the industry. The post-pandemic boost that luxury sales received will trend down as we have already seen in other segments of retail. We will inch closer to more moments of truth in the industry’s push into digital immersive environments with questions over near-term ROI becoming more serious as the global economy further slows. The push to make the full fashion and luxury supply chain more sustainable and less carbon intensive will remain an area where there is a lot of activity and yet too little. New industry actions and regulations will come up against the concrete wall that stands against meaningful action that is the result of the industry’s fundamental reliance on overproduction. Yet, if we have learned anything over the past few years, it is that forecasting is at best a guess based on probabilities generated by a past that may not be representative of the future. At it’s worst, it’s just a consultation with a Magic-8 ball. Yet, the fundamental challenges that brands face in any economic environment or in any digital or analog customer engagement will continue to require good content strategy. By that, we mean aligning strategy with content, ensuring brand and storytelling consistency across platforms, and building good content governance so that you do the rights more often.
Before moving fully forward into 2023, we wanted to take a look back the main moments that stood out for us in the luxury, fashion, and experience economy industries in 2022. We do not necessarily believe that these moments are the most significant, important, or will have the most long-last impression for the future. But, they may be. But, rather, these are the moments that stood out to us when we contemplated the question over our holiday cheer.
The Fashion Strategy Weekly will be back with a new look and feel in 2023. We look forward to seeing you then and thank you all for traveling with us this year!
1. Vogue Metaverse Atelier with Epic Games
On September 22 we saw a short term exhibit of the Vogue Business Metaverse Atelier, which was created in partnership with Epic Games and hosted on metaverse platform Journee. It was a beautifully rendered experience. It showcased interesting content to see and hear. And it provided a forum to network with others from around the world alongside a tranquil sea featuring gently lapping digital waves. With our tourist hat on, we enjoyed it. With our content strategist hat on, it raised a lot of questions about the value of these experiences. We had the same questions after visiting other brands’ metaverse offerings. Clearly the metaverse (or metaverses) will be important for the industry in the future, yet this type of immersive tech would benefit from the lens and best practices of content strategy to keep brand messaging consistent, engage audiences, and improve the overall user experience. We developed several lessons from this experience that has shaped our team’s engagements with luxury clients interested in launching a metaverse experience:
Lesson 1: The metaverse is multi-dimensional, experiential content.
The metaverse requires a concomitantly extroverted and introverted methodology from a content and UX perspective. It is key to think about non-linear, multi-spatial user journeys to invite both community and shared experiences as well as to build paths for individual discovery. At what points throughout the journey do users need content to guide them or to add dimension or context to what they’re seeing?
Lesson 2: Articulate the “why” behind your metaverse event before people even walk in the door.
Whether the experience in question is content on your website or immersive, multi-sensory environments like the metaverse, establishing a value proposition for your target audiences with clearly defined calls-to-action at important touchpoints in the user journey is imperative. To put it simply, if your users don’t know the purpose or impetus behind your content or event and cannot easily figure out what they need to do, then they will lose interest quickly.
Lesson 3: The metaverse needs vision and strategy but has endless storytelling potential.
In the metaverse, brands need an articulated position consistent with their vision, values, and messaging on other channels so consumers believe they are interacting with the same brand. To get retail to work in the metaverse, brand experiences must be narrative, humanized, and, most importantly, seamless, an intuitive, even familiar, exchange of goods between brands and consumers.
What’s next for fashion in the metaverse? Only time will tell. If the Vogue Business Metaverse Atelier is representative, it will be a more experiential and democratized future, full of beautiful ideas and experiences.
2. Valentino Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2022-23 Show
It is easy for many of us to get caught up in the business and politics of fashion and to forget about the art and creativity behind it. The aesthetics of fashion, like personal style, is always up for interpretation and criticism. Not only does the debatable nature of the beautiful when it comes to fashion make it endlessly fascinating to deconstruct; but also it adds to the mystery and exclusivity of delicately crafted garments.
Fashion as an industry does not agree on many things. Over the summer, one of the things it did agree on was that Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Valentino Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2022-2023 was a moment to remember.
Everything about the show and collection was, well, epic. For one, there was the sweeping runway that encompassed all 135 steps of the Piazza di Spagna (and the Keats-Shelley House for those Romanticists among us) leading past the brand’s flagship store. Seated attendees had a close-up view of everything; but, make no mistake, all of Rome was at the show, leaning over their balconies, walking by, or just standing in awe of what was moving before them.
Then, there was the collection itself. Look, Pierpaolo Piccioli is never afraid of a grand gesture or what he calls the “extravaganza of couture” but this Valentino Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2022-2023 collection was a beautiful spectacle. Yet, all 135 looks somehow felt incredibly wearable even as they were ethereal and artisanal. The show itself felt like it was concomitantly a tribute to the history and culture of Rome and a vision into the future of fashion and the changing nature of luxury itself.
In addition to the incredible diversity of cultures, body types, and genders, the Valentino Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2022-2023 collection was, frankly, beautifully narrative. It was a breathtaking profusion of 102 looks, seemingly with all the colors of the rainbow and a diversity of designs that told a deeply relatable story of the history and craftsmanship of the house itself—encompassing everything from evening gowns with a profusion of ostrich feathers and sparkles to a red dance dress with a skirt comprised of roses created by Valentino in 1959.
Valentino couture always, of course, demonstrates immaculate craftsmanship. But, this collection felt personal and paid homage to the provenance of the Valentino brand even as it reinvented it.
Our favorite moment of the Valentino Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2022-2023 was neither the clothes nor the over-the-top tribute to Rome. Rather, it was the show’s ending when Pierpaolo Piccioli ended the show by inviting his entire atelier out to walk the runway and take a bow at the end, which added a wonderfully familial feel to an extraordinary collection.
3. Burberry x Minecraft Collaboration
The past year marked an explosion in fashion and gaming collaborations. One of the most anticipated was the late October launch of the Burberry x Minecraft collab, titled “Burberry: Freedom to Go Beyond.” The multi-faceted collaboration took on a highly narrative, phygital approach as it featured a customized in-game adventure, Burberry: Freedom to Go Beyond, as well as an IRL clothing capsule collection.
Within Minecraft, the new, free downloadable content (DLC) pack allows gamers to explore Burberry’s new, heavily branded, digital universe and download 15 skins, which include everything from everyday outfits to armor and elemental-themed skins. Gamers who visit a Burberry flagship can unlock a QR code that gives access to an additional five items: a Burberry Block backpack, cap, sunglasses, sneakers, and trench coat. The approach of the DLC is highly narrative, with users receiving a quest in an alternate reality version of London that has been taken over by an evil being called the Nexus. In the story, inhabitants of this AR London were scattered to the four realms of air, water, fire, and earth. The object of the quest is to travel to each realm, restoring the spirit of the wild through reviving the Nature Guardians and freeing the trapped animals. Throughout the quest, users encounter many branded references to Burberry, including an Equestrian Knight, a Thomas Burberry Monogram maze, and Burberry animals.
While some critics questioned the target audience for this project (along with the Balenciaga x Crocs collab), reception of the new Burberry x Minecraft collab has been generally positive. According to Web Tribunal, the Microsoft-owned Minecraft has 126 million day users with the majority being male, in their mid-20s, and based in the U.S. or U.K. Anecdotally, here at It’s A Working Title LLC, our in-house tester, an 11 year-old gamer, fully approved of the world. He noted that “the story was good” and “it seemed like a fun adventure.”
4. Twitter Exodus
The problems that have emerged at Twitter since its change of ownership have been well covered, but for our team it initiated a new adventure in connecting with the fashion community. Twitter has not been a central social media channel for the fashion industry, which has naturally gravitated towards Instagram (and, for a few, TikTok). Twitter is about words and for fashion words are important inasmuch as they underwrite a visual image. It is hard to control the message on Twitter while Instagram is less democratic and more about one-way interactions.
Yet, fashion is not absent on Twitter. It is a place for fashion professionals and fans to air ideas, criticisms, or even vent wildly. So, the industry is not fully immune to the Twitter exodus. Actually, it probably is not a real exodus and, anyway, there’s no data one way or the other.
Exodus or not, we took the opportunity to dip our toes into a new territory and set up the first Mastodon server devoted to all things fashion: FashionSocial.host. We had no idea whether anyone would show up to participate on the instance. But people came. And the community has grown and grown.
With only 100 or so members, FashionSocial.host is not huge so the reach is more limited than Twitter, of course. If Twitter is an Autobahn without clear rules of the road, Mastodon is a cul-du-sac. The benefits are close and regular interactions with an increasingly tight community of people who have self-selected into the discussion. Our posts do not reach as large an audience as Twitter, but our engagement is more meaningful and environment is more respectful.
The growth of FashionSocial.host shows the power of smaller, focused social media platforms. It remains to be seen how brands can or will engage with smaller scale and fragmented social media stations like Mastodon. But our ongoing experiment shows there is a place for such a community.
5. Coperni Show at Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023
Fashion is not fashion without a parlor trick or two showing up at Fashion Week, especially when it comes to fashion tech. This year, it was a spray-on dress stunt involving Bella Hadid in the finale of the Coperni Spring/Summer 2023 Show at Paris Fashion Week that had everyone riveted and proved to be one of our favorite fashion moments of the year.
Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, the designers behind Parisian label Coperni, are known for their boundary-pushing designs and interest in applications of tech to fashion. This SS 2023 collection was no different. The show, which took place in the Salle des Textiles at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris, took inspiration from an incredible variety of sources and played with excessive proportions across looks, which felt historic and current at the same time. There were nods to 19th-century bustles in padded wool trousers and leather jackets tied around waists but also squared-off shoulders that resembled Roblox characters. Fabric-wise, the collection included several impressive technical innovations, including holographic floral prints bonded onto neoprene and slip dresses held together with phone cord-like metallic rings.
Yet, the true performance occurred at the end of the show. Superstar model Bella Hadid appeared on stage in nude underwear and stood while a team, including Fabrican inventor Dr Manel Torres, sprayed her with a material that hardened to form a minimalist Coperni slip dress. For many, this futuristic spectacle marked the first time they had ever witnessed Fabrican, a patented spray-on material that hardens into a wearable fabric, in action.
While not all fashion tech has this crafting-a-dress-out-of-thin-air kind of magic, watching the literal germination of a Coperni dress at the end of the SS2023 show was an iconic moment. Literally, fashion met science on the runway and created something beautiful.