Time-a for a Changement!

It’s not nice to poke fun at fashion icons, but I had to chuckle every time Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana referred to this digital era as a time for “changement”. It’s cute, OK? And yet so true – this is an exciting era for fashion: we’re able to access high fashion, and we’re able to buy from anyone, anywhere, any time. D&G have been credited with beginning the digital revolution that’s opening the fashion industry to the everyman; and in a 12 July 2011 interview, they spoke specifically about their adoption of digital media and the way it connects them to their audience. http://bit.ly/qinD2i A day later, the brand finally opened ecommerce on their site: www.dolcegabbana.com. Now you, too, can have a $1700 dress from the comfort of your La-Z-boy or your Eames (whichever).

The duo comically have opposing personal interests in technology, with Domenico Dolce admitting that he’s ignorant to it while Stefano Gabbana is personally involved in the company’s tweet strategy–tweeting his every day life and fully embracing the way the media allow him to connect to his audience. But they agree that,“to walk forward, you need to change,” as Gabbana put it. This “changement” is the need to say ‘thank you’, to do it for the audience, to open things up and “give the audience exactly who we are.” And, realistically Dolce adds that the Art of it is still in real life, that we need to get out from behind our computers, that “we need the blood, and we need the computer.” Poetic. And yet this is the reality of fashion goods — that we have to balance the digital with the fact that this is about a feeling people have, a want, and an expression, not to mention the actual hand of the goods themselves; indeed this is about people.

D&G’s first big digital move was being the first house to open runway shows to a web audience in 2009—allowing anyone with a web connection into previously painfully exclusive events. Many lux brands have followed suit and you can participate in fashion week from your hotel room in Biloxi if you choose. Now, it’s a two-way dialog: Gabbana sites the value of Twitter as being the ability to be directly in dialog with his audience, to consider their ideas.

Our digital world gives us the ability to get inspired, to see what’s coming, and to get our hands on thousands upon thousands of products anywhere in the world from vintage to main stream to high fashion. And as consumers we expect to control and customize everything. We can assemble style from anywhere—and we do. I think this era of “changement” has to see the evolution of better tools to bring it together for the busy customer—with a lot more product and a lot less time, how is a shopper to muddle through? We are, after all, doing it for the audience, as Gabbana says. For those of us out here who can’t make fashion a full time job, but who want to own some style, what will be next in connecting all these dots?

About selling on Facebook, Gabbana says (almost as if he’s never thought of it), “that’s a good idea!” The verdict’s out on that, but the bottom line is that for the fashion industry, getting connected to the customer is changing the way the industry and style-making work. As retailers we have to change the way we compete for her attention and the way we allow her to shop. It’s time for a “changement” — one that puts fashion more fully in her hands.

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