London designers target fashion-hungry shoppers with 'tech firsts'

By Reuters

Sep 14, 2014 10:46 PM EDT

Fueled by the boom in online sales for the latest trends, London's designers are finding new ways to deliver instant gratification to fashion hungry shoppers, amid high hopes of boosting growth in the sector.

British retailer Topshop, whose website attracts an average of 4.5 million hits a week, launched a new digital "first" on Sunday by letting shoppers buy six ready-made items from its latest collection immediately after its show at London Fashion Week.

"As we know, everyone spends all their waking moments on all these new platforms, gadgets, Instagram and Twitter," said Philip Green, the owner of Topshop brand and retail conglomerate Arcadia.

The speed of things reaching people is key to our business. You guys see it, wear it, buy it - that's what it's all about ... it's sort of us being there, being first to market - that's our job," he told Reuters.

The collection, which featured brightly colored striped dresses, cycling jerseys and lame dresses in cotton, satin and leather, was live-streamed globally and unveiled exclusively on social networks Instagram and Facebook FB.O. It will be delivered to shoppers globally in the next few days.

Topshop's initiative is one example of "tech firsts" the British Fashion Council (BFC) hopes to champion as part of its efforts to encourage all of its designers to get online and grow their international sales.

After enlisting Google GOOGL.O UK Sales Director Peter Fitzgerald to help designers understand the importance of social media strategy, the BFC said it saw the number of brands with an e-commerce site rise to 43 percent from 33 percent in 2013.

"We're showing designers that the Internet is truly borderless and many of them are getting over half of their sales now from outside the UK," Fitzgerald told journalists via video link on Friday.


Online clothing sales in Britain are set to reach 10.7 billion pounds ($17.41 billion) this year, an increase of 14.5 percent year on year, according to market research firm Mintel.

This season also saw youth label House of Holland team up with 3D-imaging tech firm Metail to allow shoppers to try on and buy clothes from the spring/summer 2015 collection in real time through a digital avatar.

British luxury brand Burberry BRBY.L has partnered with Twitter TWTR.N to sell the nail varnish that will feature in its show on Monday, through a "Buy Now" button that the social media website is currently trialing.

The 158-year-old firm already runs a made-to-order service for customers after it has shown its latest collections.

It's a move that many other leading and emerging designers in London like Jasper Conran, Holly Fulton, Emilia Wickstead and Richard Nicoll said they may consider adding to their business in the future.

Conran, who showcased a collection of cotton and silk printed dresses on Saturday featuring printed paint strokes and abstract designs, said he embraced the options that technology offers to connect to consumers directly.

"People can watch this show, they can see it on the website live and it begins to make more sense. You see it, you want it, you buy it. I like the logic surrounding it," he told Reuters.

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