Burberry has had a lot of firsts when it comes to blending digital innovation with the spectacle of a fashion show. Its pioneering use of live streaming, 3-D projections and Twitter’s “Buy Now” button have been part of what makes its star-studded women's wear shows among the most hotly anticipated events for millions of fans online.
Now the luxury brand appears to be at it again.
On Friday, just days after Burberry announced it would be the first in the industry to have its own Apple Music channel, the brand announced it would premiere its spring 2016 collection via Snapchat, the mobile app on which short messages digitally self-destruct after just a few seconds.
On Sunday night, the brand began sharing photographs and videos of finishing touches to the collection and of its front-row stalwarts, including Anna Wintour, receiving invitations to the Monday show.
Although show coverage will continue on Snapchat’s Live Stories feature once the models take to the runway in Kensington Gardens at 1 p.m. today in London, the early previews will have vanished.
Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s affable chief executive and creative director, has used his digital expertise, contemporary style and canny ability to blur distinctions between trade and entertainment to transform the once-forgotten British fashion house into a global behemoth. He said that using Snapchat felt like an important next step for the company.
“I love the philosophy of Snapchat and the idea of capturing a moment that then immediately disappears, unpolished and rough around the edges,” Mr. Bailey said before the show. He was perched on a table in his Pimlico design studio as a small army of seamstresses disappeared to take their lunch break.
“I especially wanted to do it as it seemed like the perfect way of capturing the reality of shows themselves: that surreal contrast in the chaos of a run-up to an event, then that moment a model comes down the catwalk, gliding serenely like a swan down the Thames,” he said. "There’s a mix of reality, intimacy and inclusivity that other platforms don’t really capture in the same way.”
A savvy way of interacting, too, with Snapchat’s 100 million daily active users, most of whom are younger than 30 and valuable potential future spenders in an evermore volatile luxury market. While Mr. Bailey said he was “less interested in over-analysis of a demographic,” he agreed that it was important to understand how people engage online and to bring the brand to them accordingly.
“Of course, I am aware that many of our fans shop, interact and express themselves socially more than ever before,” he said.
“They want to know how our things are made and the stories behind the scenes. They want more access and more authenticity, and if that’s what they are demanding, then we need to listen and find new and exciting ways of democratically bringing them into our world.”
As the hours to showtime dwindle and given his increasing emphasis on immediacy and position as leader of fashion’s digital revolution, the pressure on Mr. Bailey to relentlessly innovate must be intense. He concedes that, at times, events “veer that way.”
“Technology defines our lives more than ever before, but there is no straight line clear to anyone yet as to where products or platforms will evolve and take us in the future, nor is it something any luxury brand can or should consciously force,” he said.
“I think it’s as much about staying in the present, looking at all the little snapshots of moments all around us, and telling the story of what is unfolding in the most meaningful way we can. Who knows what is next.”