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The current landscape for luxury fashion
High fashion grapples with the impact of coronavirus
2020 has potentially been the fashion industry’s toughest year, as the pandemic leaves the industry in a state of flux and uncertainty. Coronavirus disruption exists on every level from manufacturing and the supply chain, to the in-store retail model, even affecting marketing delivery and strategy.
High fashion is an in-person experience: ads on billboards and public transport, retail models centering flagship stores in busy cities, and of course the all-important shows Fashion Week. With 80% of fashion transactions happening in-person, its unsurprising that Spring season sales fell 70% this March, and the UK fashion industry is forecast to lose 25% of it’s 2020 revenue. It gets worse: up to 50% of luxury fashion purchases are made while abroad, making the industry heavily reliant on global tourist shoppers. These sales have become almost entirely obsolete thanks to travel restrictions in crucial markets like China.
An essential shift to digital
So, it’s clear that both fashion marketing and retail are in dire need of alternatives. Fashion shows focus on ‘storytelling’ through immersive in-person experiences. Since these can’t happen in person: enter digital storytelling. Enter TikTok.
Why is Dior SS21 on TikTok?
Storytelling is core to TikTok and fashion
At the core of fashion marketing (and TikTok) is creativity and storytelling. Fashion Week relies on immersive experiences. TikTok’s unique community and deep video engagement opportunities make it the natural alternative to in-person shows.
Dior premiered its ready-to-wear collection by Maria Grazia Chiuri live using TikTok’a new streaming feature during Paris’s fashion week. What’s more, before the show began, they broadcasted an 8-minute visual experience directed by Alina Marazzi.
Dior’s SS21 virtual catwalk show stands in good company with Saint Laurent, JW Anderson and Louis Vuitton who have all held their shows on TikTok. McKinsey calls digital shows essential, specifically highlighting TikTok’s support for in-app purchases as an ideal asset for luxury brands.
Deep, genuine consumer connection
However, TikTok isn’t just there to hold online fashion shows. Remember that luxury fashion relies heavily on the experience – the shiny, beautiful flagship stores in the heart of busy cities. You’re not just there to buy a new Prada bag or Gucci scarf, you’re there to take part in the brand’s narrative and culture. The lighting, the store assistants, other shoppers and even the architecture of the store contribute to the luxury retail experience.
Since this avenue of connection is lost, brands need an equally immersive channel to communicate their aesthetic, culture and of course, showcase products. Gucci realised this early on, creating the ‘Accidental Influencer’ challenge on TikTok and even inspiring memes referencing the brand’s signature color palette and aesthetic. This ‘Gucci model’ meme went so viral, it was covered by British Vogue.
Earlier in 2020, Celine appointed TikTok star Noen Eubanks their new face in recognition of TikTok’s wider influence on pop culture. They took this one step further with their 2020 fashion show ‘Celine Homme – The Dancing Kid’, featuring clothing choices popular on TikTok, as well as TikTokkers themselves.
So, TikTok is a powerful channel for both direct connection and brand awareness. Where else can you reach the world’s most diverse Gen-Z consumer base, with a combined spending power of $140 billion?
The takeaway? If luxury brands aren’t on TikTok in 2020, they’re behind. We shouldn’t be asking why Dior SS21 is on TikTok, rather why other brands aren’t.
The future of fashion marketing
A ‘digital recalibration’
High fashion houses have been late to the party in terms of jumping on digital – consider that print magazine ads still make up 55% of total fashion ad spend. However, with Coronavirus far from gone, even fashion marketing has to adapt. Digital is increasingly the best channel to reach people, and video remains the most popular format.
Knowing this, and considering the average user spends 46 minutes a day on TikTok, it no longer makes sense for high fashion brands to exclude this channel from their marketing mix. China is a particularly crucial market for high fashion and TikTok is one of the only ‘native’ Chinese social networks, with over 400 million active Chinese users. It’s not just high fashion – high-street fashion has recognized the crucial importance of digital connection on TikTok too.
Fashion marketing in 2020 is set for what McKinsey calls a ‘digital recalibration’ where brands will need to offer unconventional online shows and direct-to-consumer retail experiences.
The Future looks bright
Coronavirus disruption has been significant, with some worrying whether fashion marketing faces an existential crisis: have our shopping habits truly changed (Browns’ loungewear sales are up 70%)? Will we want to dress up and stay home?
As it turns out, we will. Unicorns brands like Amina Muaddi have consistently sold out $800 glitzy shoes throughout lockdown. TikTok propelled a $400 tulle dress to sell out and go viral earlier this year, when lots of us weren’t even able to attend dinner parties with friends. Rest assured, fashion marketing has a bright future ahead, especially as the coronavirus impact eases.