LONDON, United Kingdom — As the fashion industry continues its march into the digital age, London — always known for its raw creativity and emerging talent — can now add digital innovation to that list.
This is no overnight story. To the contrary, it’s taken ten years for fashion players here to plant seeds which are only beginning to bear fruit now, as fashion’s digital tsunami really begins to take hold.
The British capital, after all, is home to revolutionary fashion website SHOWStudio, e-commerce pioneer Net-a-Porter, and online hub of youth culture Dazed Digital — all of which were founded many years ago. These seminal businesses have created a foundational and fertile seedbed for other digital businesses and attracted and developed digital talent that has gone on to shape and inspire other online companies here including mywardrobe.com, Fashionair and farfetch.com. And, while American Vogue is in the midst of setting up its website now, British Vogue has had its own website for fifteen years.
London-based mega-brand Burberry, widely considered to be the most innovative fashion company in the digital space, was one of the first to stream its catwalk show live on the Internet last season. Having decided to show in London again this time around, Burberry is not content with resting on its digital laurels. A few weeks ago, the iconic British brand announced its plans to stream its show in 3D to a host of cities around the world, from Dubai and Tokyo to Paris and New York, creating the world’s first truly global fashion show.
But it’s not just big brands and websites that a digital capital make. The East End of London is a hotbed of fashion creativity and digital innovation. Emerging fashion creatives like Ruth Hogben, digital art directors like Jaime Perlman, and independent film production studios like Pundersons Gardens, have been working with independent designers like Gareth Pugh and Richard Nicoll to show the fashion world what is possible when creativity meets digital technology.
And, the British Fashion Council is the first of the major organising bodies in fashion to fully embrace digital technology, having set up its own digital schedule for fashion films and live-streams of selected on-schedule shows, accompanied by live commentary using curated tweets from fashion insiders and fans alike via Starworks Conversations.
As for the designers themselves, they are going digital too. Following in the footsteps of that giant of fashion whose shadow is looming over this London fashion week, designers like Mary Katrantzou and Erdem Moralioglu are using digital techniques to create out-of-this world prints, which have become defining, technology-based signatures of their work.
As Naomi Attwoods said in her review of Katrantzou’s A/W 2010 collection shown on Saturday, “Katrantzou’s strength is her eye for a print. The digital technology that has revolutionised and regenerated the trend for colourful, printed clothes gives designers so many possibilities but with Miss Katrantzou’s pieces, the source material is clearly visible and this sets her apart.”
And so, as London Fashion Week hits full tilt on Monday and Tuesday, the city seems poised to leapfrog Milan, Paris and New York as the definitive digital fashion capital, furthering the nascent comeback of London Fashion Week after years of struggling in the shadow of its fashion capital brethren.
Imran Amed is Founder and Editor of The Business of Fashion