Facebook Holds Its First-Ever Fashion Forum


What if you could test drive a Bentley or see yourself in a dress from Saint Laurent’s latest collection, all from the palm of your hand? That might soon be a reality, following Facebook’s inaugural forum for luxury brands in Palo Alto. Among the major players in attendance were Barney’s, Maserati, and Louis Vuitton. Each were eager to gain the tech giant’s perspective on how social media’s relationship with the fashion industry will evolve. Digital platforms have already caused a tectonic shift in how brands communicate with their customers and many well established companies are still sorting out how these changes will take shape.

Traditionally, luxury has been about experience. In order to evolve, brands have maintained tactility as essential to survival. Even in the digital age, virtually trying on a dress is more powerful than simply looking at a flat, 2-D image of one on a screen. As a visual platform, Instagram has been useful for raising awareness for brands, but the app has proven to be ineffective at actually driving customers into brick and mortar stores. So while, yes, a photograph of Bella Hadid wearing Gucci on Instagram will boost the brand’s relevance, it can also foster an appearance of unattainability.

Facebook’s argument to the audience of industry insiders in Palo Alto was that they can and must create more meaningful engagement with potential customers. Key speakers drove home the point that Facebook has the potential to be a testing ground for more immersive technology, like virtual reality. The dilemma that luxury brands face is eroding their exclusivity via social media, but they have no choice but to adapt.

Karin Tracey, who heads up Facebook’s beauty content development, gave the assembled luxury luminaries a stark warning: “It’s about you all shifting the way you think. This is the moment to be bold, because whoever moves the fastest will have the competitive advantage in the space we’re living in today. We’re living our lives in the speed of feed,” she said.

That shifting relationship has been something luxury retail has been grappling with for a good number of years now. Massive department stores have been shuttering locations across the nation, while influencers and ecommerce rule the day. Facebook wants its role to be somewhat of a middle ground between these two extremes, by encouraging “digitally influenced sales.” In other words, the tech giant wants to help luxury consumers discover products and then allow them experience that said product to some degree. Facebook positions that by doing so, consumers will be more inclined to go and purchase that product in a physical store.

During the forum, Tracey quoted a report which states that about 20% of time the average persons spends on their phone involves actively engaging with Facebook and Instagram. In light of that, she argued, it seems only logical that brands find increasingly creative ways to tap into this time and bridge the gap between the digital space and its need to drive foot traffic into stores.


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