Elizabeth Canon is the founder of Fashion’s Collective, an independent marketing resource for fashion and luxury brands. With a background in digital marketing, Canon recognized early on that brands had new opportunities in the digital space and launched the ‘Collective’ in response. Canon and her team are sought after as consultants for luxury brands, TED speakers, and South by Southwest panelists.
Describe Fashions Collective and everything the ‘Collective’ has to offer.
At Fashion’s Collective, everything we do focuses on empowering the industry by providing perspective on the opportunities technology poses. We do this through our editorial, the workshops we teach and the events we produce.
What made you make the switch from creating digital marketing strategies to teaching the importance of a digital marketing strategy?
Before starting Fashion’s Collective, I was a partner at an interactive agency, in charge of our fashion and luxury clients. It was at the time when our industry was just beginning to experiment in digital and social media. Back then some of the most iconic brands didn’t even have websites that were anything more than a splash page, while others were dabbling in social media. In these meetings, it became clear that you couldn’t take a blanket approach, that each brand really had to analyze the opportunities in digital based on their own unique identities, content, ability to produce assets, etc. But the problem was that the in-house marketing teams weren’t familiar enough with digital to weigh these decisions and vet different platforms appropriately. That’s when it became clear that what the industry needed most was informed perspective so that they could better lead their brands into the future.
When did you realize how important technology could be for fashion and luxury brands?
If I’m being honest, I don’t know if there was ever a moment of realization, it was simply the industry I was in, surrounded with technology and with a personal passion for fashion. The importance of technology in our industry is something that continues to amaze me in new ways. I would guess this continues to be the case since things change so quickly now.
In your opinion, which fashion brands have successful digital marketing campaigns? What makes them successful?
This is a deceptively simple question, which I always find very hard to answer because the standards for qualifying something as successful are never universal across, and even within, brands. While I think there are really strong isolated initiatives out there, I don’t know that any one brand truly excels across all touch points. For example, I love Louis Vuitton’s Icon campaign that tells stories of their most popular handbags, but find the most compelling video buried within their site, and without a strong way to drive to purchase or facilitate deeper engagement, even though it lives within their main ecommerce website.
I think to be successful today businesses need to acknowledge that brands across all industries, from food to airlines, have started using technology in ways that offer a high degree of service. Suddenly people are receiving “luxury” experiences where they least expect it, which means that true luxury brands need to match, if not exceed these new expectations to remain relevant. Luxury is now convenience, and that means having the ability to discover, be inspired, share and shop all in a singular, contained experience.
How did you get involved with the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences and South by Southwest?
I was very fortunate to be invited to speak at TED in Bali based on the story of how Fashion’s Collective started. The title of my talk was “The Transformative Power of Personal Projects”. Basically, FC began as my personal creative outlet and transformed into a business that became my full-time career focus. I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to, feeling like there’s something more out there for you but not quite knowing what that is. I never dreamed that, for me, it would be Fashion’s Collective, and when I got just a little bit of traction, I clung to it and made the decision that I was going to feed it with everything I could to see what it might evolve into. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
At SXSW, I was asked to speak on a couple panels last year, which was my first time going. I was totally surprised by the amount of fashion people at interactive, yet there was this feeling like we were all displaced there, swallowed up by the larger tech community. This year, I decided I wanted to create more of a hub to support our industry there. I never dreamed it would explode into the event it now is. Our Fashion Brain Bar event sold out almost immediately. I’m especially excited because we’re partnering with Projective Space and Fashion Digital Daily, who have such a grasp on the fashion startup scene, so the crowd will really be this cool cross pollination of big brands and promising fashion/tech startups.
What is the easiest digital strategy for brands new to social media?
To utilize the most popular social media platforms to provide news & customer service.
Does the value of a brand change when they become more accessible?
Absolutely, I’m not sure it would be possible not to. But more accessible doesn’t necessarily mean more diluted. Becoming more accessible could mean becoming part of a greater culture or movement. I think that’s the holy grail, and the ultimate goal of brand storytelling, to stand for a movement or culture within the your target demographic, to represent something so much more meaningful to your customer than simply a beautiful product.
Who are some of the up and coming designers you feel are at the forefront now?
For the past year or so I have had my eye on Alba Prat. I was happy for her to see H&M select her as a finalist for their 2013 Design Awards.
How do you see the fashion and technology relationship changing in the next five years?
From a business perspective, I think the gaps between technology and fashion will begin to narrow dramatically. It’s been the case that this amazing technology existed, but the fashion industry didn’t understand it enough to interpret and harness its full opportunities. At the same time, the technologists didn’t understand the inner workings of the fashion industry enough to propose solutions and initiate new programs. I think this is starting to change and the industry will begin moving forward much more rapidly.