Not long ago we heard the current buzzword “phygital”, which translates into uniting physical and digital experiences. Almost every fashion event has gone hybrid in the last one and a half years, embedding the digital element in the creative process to craft unique experiences for viewers. For this issue, WeAr asked various experts working closely with the fashion industry to share their views on the way forward for fashion events, and to tell us which innovative practices they want to see in events further on.
2 March, 2022
FLORIAN BRAUN (1) CEO UNGER FASHION
Luxury fashion is probably one of the few industries where pure digital will never
replace physical events. Our business model is mainly based on desire and exclusivity. Therefore we will see a comeback of the spectacles taking place in Paris,
London, or Milan.
For our buying, particularly in the high price segment, it is crucial to see the whole
picture, how the collection is merchandised, and which stories are the right fit
for our curation.
Nevertheless, on some occasions, it makes sense not to travel to Milan for a denim
order and instead use digital order platforms. In terms of digitalization, there is
space for improvement on how the brands present themselves in digital showroom
formats. Live shopping tools could be a helpful addition to digital showrooms as
they could improve the customer experience.
TONY PINVILLE (2) CEO AND CO-FOUNDER HEURITECH
The digital world has opened new paths to connect with audiences in unimagi-
nable ways. Recently, the “Metaverse”, where brands can interact with consumers
through avatars in a virtual world, hosts digital events such as music festivals or
new product launches. It enables consumers worldwide to attend physical events through an avatar
digitally, interacting the same way physical attendees are, merging both worlds,
what is referred to as “phygital”. Others are experimenting by adding a layer of digital enhancements to the physical event; for instance, designers create AR filters of virtual representations of
collections after-shows for consumers to try on garments they’ve just seen going
down the runway.
ANITA TILLMANN (3) MANAGING PARTNER PREMIUM GROUP
“Phygital” events are the future. Purely physical trade shows, conferences, or runway
shows are no longer appropriate. Nonetheless, trade shows thrive on face-to-face
meetings, on feeling and seeing the fabrics and materials, on exchange. Therefore,
the elimination of physical formats is just as unthinkable as future fashion events
without digital elements. I’m hoping that the fashion industry will dare to be even
more open and to show courage. We live in a fast-moving world – the fashion
industry is no exception and needs to move with the zeitgeist.
PAKWING MAN (4) CREATIVE TECHNOLOGIST UXUS
Virtual identities are the new social currency, and video games have proved
immersive, engaging, and an excellent way for fashion houses to cultivate broader
audiences. Over the last year, Balenciaga raised eyebrows by dropping their collection on Fortnite, Gucci partnered with multiple gaming platforms to offer digital
clothing and accessories for avatars, and Nike launched Nikeland on Roblox. All
were hugely successful in doing so. Meanwhile, Lil Nas X logged more viewers for
his virtual-only concert than all his live concerts combined. Fashion houses must
seamlessly combine virtual and physical spaces if they are to enjoy continued
growth and success. “Metaverse” is the buzzword of the moment, and while at a
nascent stage, we’re already seeing NFTs emerge as a new trend that could trigger digital fashion collecting frenzies. Brands should consider minting collections
with NFT counterparts to extend their hype in the virtual world.
RAFFAELLO NAPOLEONE (5) CEO PITTI IMMAGINE
In the last year and a half, collections have been presented digitally to connect
exhibitors and buyers who could then confirm production orders in the months
to follow. Many buyers confirmed that digital showrooming is an informative tool, complementary to the physical part, but not decisive. In our “phygital” concept, digital is indispensable for the fair organization offer and
for providing visitors with preliminary information. Still, for the actual business
operations, collection orders, and new business possibilities, the physical aspect
remains a key element.
REGINA TURBINA (6) FOUNDER ARTISANT
The digital side of fashion is more creative, more inclusive, more sustainable, and
more fun. Digital is becoming a big part of any fashion event, and this trend will
only evolve. We love to see how people and brands interact with digital fashion,
and our main focus is on NFTs and blockchain. We can also see great opportunities in integrating AR/VR technologies into fashion – so you don’t just own an
NFT fashion asset; you can also use it in a “phygital" world and the “Metaverse”.
KORHAN MULCAR (7) E-COMMERCE DIRECTOR DEMSA GROUP
Digital showrooms are the new experimental and streamlined experiences that will
open a new era for fashion events. With the upcoming “Metaverse” and advancements in AR technology less than a decade away, average fashion enthusiasts will
wear a VR headset at home and attend fashion events in the front row or shop
clothes from a fashion house in a digital country they have never been to. We
began to see full-featured VR fashion shows with VR gadgets and mixed reality
fashion shows where the audience interacts through a custom-built application
on their mobile device. VR technology will open a whole new dimension of fashion
possibilities and innovations, allowing fashion companies to present their digital
garments to their customers, such as virtual browsing, virtual try-on, and virtual
payment through a virtual cashier.
BETTINA BÄR (8) SHOW DIRECTOR NEONYT, MESSE FRANKFURT
The event ecosystem has been completely slowed down, and digital solutions
are progressing at an unprecedented speed. But the desire for personal contact
remains. Today, even more than ever, it's about the added value that a product,
and thus also an event, offers. It's about building a 360° brand world around
specific target groups. This cannot be done by flicking a switch but requires a
smart combination of physical and digital components and the right mindset to
create inspiring and seamless experiences.
BRENDA BELLEI BIZZI (9) CEO WHITE
In September 2020, we launched our e-commerce B2B WHITE platform. Our
digital platform supports and implements the physical trade show, which will
remain essential and has been conceived as an additional service for labels that
can benefit from continuous communication to buyers. It is a real 360° digital
service in constant evolution, which integrates both physical and digital events.
In the upcoming weeks, we will innovate our B2B format thanks to a selection of
brands made by international buyers.
THOMAS APLAS (10) HEAD OF APPLICATION FIELD GARMENT
Adding digital components to physical fairs could be more meaningful to make
technical coherences better understandable. However, can you create the same
perception only via virtual technology, without having the final result in your hands
unadulterated by photo or video technology, without feeling the haptics?
We need to achieve trust, and trust is nothing but the sum of perceptions. Can
we succeed without the most important part of perception? In our opinion – no.
Fashion, with all its components up to the final product, is tangible, you must
breathe the atmosphere to be inspired for something new to be developed.
ALEXIS FERNANDEZ GONZALEZ (11) CEO RUNWAY
Future events must always contain interactive components. Specifically, this means
fashion shows will still take place live, but online channels must also be considered
and thus commercialized for the distribution of the shows. The events of the future
must be available online immediately and free of charge for the end consumer.
Above all, preparations have to be made now so that labels can proactively connect
to consumers/viewers after the pandemic and the associated restrictions.
SOLINE D’ABOVILLE (12) FOUNDER AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR MANYMANY
My answer to “phygital” would be another neologism, “glocal”: the future of fashion events is to get closer to their audience on one hand and to use a strategy
that answers current sustainability issues on the other hand. Using digital tools
upstream and downstream is, in my opinion, a good way to go further. Augmented
reality, for example, may be used as an upstream tool to visualize and optimize
events. Online events may be an excellent tool to simplify event production and
to avoid duplication. The benefit is amplified as it forces brands to get closer to
audience expectations with local productions.
MUMI HAIATI ( 1 3 ) FOUNDER AND CEO REFERENCE STUDIOS
I think, especially now, it’s more valuable than ever to create multi-sensory experiences for our crowds – physical where possible, obviously, with a digital or virtual
extension to give access. Limitations, however, also come with opportunity – it’s
a challenge to operate progressively. I hope we will be able to maintain physicality for the future, and of course, that technology advances and becomes more
accessible so we don’t have to rely as much on exterior conditions.
AHMET MERCAN (14) CEO ALPHATAURI
A smart example of “phygital” fashion events is our Mobile Innovation Lab. At the
last Pitti Uomo, visitors were able to add a digital component to their physical
impressions. Thanks to our digital sales and studio assistant DSA-01, the Salzburg
showroom could be visited directly from the event, allowing visitors to explore
the entire collection. With these innovative solutions, AlphaTauri is driving the
connection between offline and online retail.
MARCO LANOWY (15) CEO ALBERTO
The last year and a half, with its rapid rise in digital habits, has accelerated the
merging of physical and digital spaces. We see this as a great benefit, provided it
does not turn into an isolation economy. From my point of view, we must succeed
in combining the best of both worlds in the future, i.e., the optimum mix of immediacy, interaction, and immersion. I believe that nothing can replace interpersonal
interaction and dialog, and that personal interaction is the key to almost everything.
KELLY HELFMAN (16) PRESIDENT INFORMA MARKETS FASHION
The fashion industry is a very tactile one, so having a physical platform is essential.
Digital solutions provide a powerful, year-long, complementary tool to support
the live event experience, and we see digital as a long-term engine for us. Still,
networking is not replicable in a virtual format. Face-to-face connection is powerful
and will always be important. We must support the global fashion community's
growth and innovation in productive and meaningful ways through new, inventive ways of combining the best of live events with the best of complementary
AHMET ÖKSÜZ (17) CHAIRMAN ISTANBUL TEXTILE AND RAW MATERIALS EXPORTERS ASSOCIATION
Traditional physical events, such as catwalks, exhibitions, and B2B meetings are
still the most efficient, exclusive, magical, and most requested events of the global
fashion business. On the other hand, hybrid events are getting more popular day by
day because of the current situation. We believe that digital events are integral to
physical events rather than rivals to them. Amazing developments and breathtaking innovations in recent years have improved all of our lives and will continue to
do so. In this regard, we try to combine and balance our physical events with the
digital events and would like to succeed.
Without a doubt, we live in a new age for fashion, and it is the right
time to reshape future fashion events. After the conversation with the
experts from the fashion industry, WeAr emphasizes that key fashion
players need to adapt to the new paradigm shift with immersive technologies without losing the tactile experiences of the physical events.
The trends mentioned in this Round Table shed light on the fact that a
360° approach and the amalgamation of physical and digital practices
– “phygital” – is the future for fashion events.
This article originally appeared in WeAr magazine's January 2022 issue
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