Fashioning the web
Bryony Moore explains how the fashion industry is using social media and the web.
Virtual changing rooms
One of the perils of online clothes shopping is not being able to try things on before you buy them. Although you can return items, the return postage is often at your own cost. Forum for the Future, looking ahead to the future of the fashion industry, predict 3-D body scanning beaming into your bedroom in the next 14 years.2 Until then, there are a few options online for virtual fitting, including www.fits.me and My Virtual Model.
Clothes shops and social media
Timberland is a great example of a company which has leapt on the social media bandwagon, with its special site www.community.timberland.com. On the Corporate Responsibility section of the site, Timberland publishes quarterly indicators and has a forum where stakeholders can comment on its performance. In the Social Networks section, consumers can connect with the brand via existing social media networks, and the Blog, written by staff, keeps readers up-to-date with all the latest news. This includes a blog by Jeff Swartz, called ‘Rantings of a Responsible CEO’. Here, the company also discusses various environmental and social initiatives.
CSR International,(1) a social enterprise founded by Wayne Visser, promotes ‘CSR 2.0’, an evolved idea of CSR. It seeks to create an online community of corporates that report on progress against targets in real-time and opens itself up to innovative partnerships and greater stakeholder involvement.
Ethical fashion and social media
Madrid-based online fashion retailer IOU uses social media to provide consumers with information on where their garments come from, enabling consumers to ‘follow the journey’ of specific garments. It also has a feature called ‘Trunk Show’, whereby consumers can promote and sell the company’s garments via their own social networks, for a commission.
And for those wanting to avoid buying new, there are plenty of social media plugins and websites to help you on your sharing way! See the Alternative Clothing buyers' guide.
What does social media mean for the fashion industry?
Web 2.0 facilitates the creation and sharing of user-generated content on the web, fostering participation and collaboration. Social media, built upon web 2.0, does the same thing, but exists purely for communication purposes.
Many brands are now utilising these new technologies to build their reputation and relationship with consumers, with almost every company now operating a Facebook page in addition to its usual company website. Blogs, keeping consumers up to date with the latest goings-on, are also a common feature.
This use of social media and web 2.0 has benefits for both consumers and companies.
For companies, web 2.0 levels the playing field – it enables small companies to have equal access to marketing to that of big companies, with viral videos spreading across the globe within hours. Added to that are the marketing opportunities created by mass-collection of personal data, which companies can buy.
As consumers we have the chance to become more involved, and be more aware of what we’re buying into when we buy a company’s product. It also creates the opportunity for us to feed back directly to brands, to either praise or express disapproval at certain practices. The visibility of this feedback, and the speed at which it can travel to huge numbers of people, means companies communicate with consumers now in a different way. This speed of communication gives great campaign leverage.
A prime example of this is Labour Behind the Label’s campaign against sandblasting, ‘Killer Jeans.’ The campaign group asked supporters to post messages on the Versace Facebook page asking it why it used the dangerous technique on its denim. They did so in their hundreds, and the company quickly deactivated its Facebook page. A few weeks later the company announced a total ban on sandblasting.
Find out more about sandblasting in our Jeans buyers’ guide.
2 Fashion Futures 2025, Forum for the Future, February 2010
3 www.labourbehindthelabel.org, Accessed 29/07/11