Is Digital Live Streaming the Future of Fashion Shows?

Is Digital Live Streaming the Future of Fashion Shows?

September 17, 2020
5 min read

With more than 70 of the world’s biggest designers showcasing their upcoming collections at New York Fashion Week —just one of the big four global fashion weeks— it is no surprise that digital innovation is creeping in. Semi-annual fashion weeks are some of the most eagerly awaited events on the planet, in any creative industry. With so many fashion houses and hosts looking for ways to innovate their shows using technology, these events are highly anticipated. One of the most prominent advance of technologyi in these fashion showcases has become the digital live stream. Let’s dive in and look at how fashion brands are using live streaming and other innovate technologies in fashion shows.

Virtual Fashion Week

During the COVID-19 pandemic, through national and regional lockdowns, major fashion houses were unable to go ahead with their fashion shows as usual. This mainstay of the fashion industry was suddenly impossible, but fashion brands innovated to showcase their latest pieces to the world using virtual technologies.

At New York Fashion Week in 2020, major fashion houses like Prada. Saint Laurent, and Zimmermann opted for prerecorded online fashion shows in lieu of their usual exclusive in-person showcases. This was the beginning of a major shift in fashion show technology. What was once necessary for survival, this distruptive new trend is shaping the future of fashion shows, as digital live streaming and virtual showcase are set to become a cornerstone  of the fashion industry.

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Fashion Brands Utilising Live Streaming

Burberry was one of the first to integrate streaming into their fashion show scheduling, with their Spring/Summer 2021 fashion show which was streamed via the digital service Twitch. The luxury fashion brand said that the partnership with Twitch was designed to give guests an immersive and interactive experience. Burberry used Twitch’s Squad Stream option to provide guests with multiple perspectives on the show as well as the ability to communicate using the chat function.

Burberry announced their live show with a trailer. Source

Burberry chief marketing officer Rod Manley said that the partnership with Twitch was the “next step in Burberry’s journey to continually engage with its community through curated content and experiences.”

The runway can be previewed through Burberry’s digital lens experience on Instagram Source: Instagram/@burberry

Although the Burberry/Twitch partnership was novel, fashion has been experimenting with digital formats for some time now. Shanghai Fashion Week in March 2020 was one of the first to go fully digital in a partnership with Alibaba’s Tmall. Visitors to the live streams were able to purchase clothing from the current season via Tmall. The week was branded a success although the mass-market nature of Tmall led to a more consumer and retail-focused event.

Preview of Digital Shanghai Fashion Week. Source: Media Brightcove

The Potential of Technology in the Fashion Industry

This inspired trend shows how brands are using live streaming to share experiences and foster a sense of community with their customers. The ability to reach new audiences all around the world with live, engaging, and interactive content is what makes this channel such an exciting opportunity. There are high risks for these rewards, however. As with all live content, things can go wrong and often will. These can range from small technical hitches to more serious matters. 

It seems like these digital innovations are set to become more typical and recurring in the fashion industry, especially as metaverse technological developments promise more lifelike virtual reality experiences accessible to a wider audience. Virtual fashion shows have proved successful in creating an environmentally sustainable, immersive and accessible alternative to the physical runway where designers are no longer bound by the limits of what is physically possible. Already we’ve seen Dolce & Gabbana’s cats showcasing their digital wearables at the first Metaverse Fashion Week in 2022!

Mintel’s recent report on Fashion Technology & Innovation in the UK showed that more than 1 in 10 people would be interested in attending fashion events using the metaverse. Interestingly more than a quarter are interested in using virtual reality stores to shop. This signals an opportunity for fashion retailers to utilise technology that can improve the shopping experience by providing digital fit solutions or even using technology solutions to remove some of the barriers to shopping in-store such as queues to pay for or returning items.

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In a world with developing innovative technologies, we expect to see a blended approach in the near future. A mix of digital and physical content will offer groundbreaking accessibility and reach whilst safeguarding traditional success. Much like the fashion designs themselves, these digital shows are an opportunity to test concepts and see what works going forward.

Is your business responding to the evolving landscape of the fashion industry? With Mintel’s leading independent market and consumer research, you can focus your strategies to align with the latest trends and developments in the fashion industry. Explore our Fashion Market Research, or fill out the form below to sign up to Spotlight, Mintel’s free newsletter for exclusive insights.

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Piers Butel
Piers Butel

Piers Butel is a researcher and writer for Mintel’s UK Retail Reports.

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