Saturday, November 28, 2009

Did you know?

Okay, since my presentation last week at the IHT's Technoluxury conference, I've received numerous emails from participants (those physically present and the 'virtual' attendees who followed the event on blogs, Twitter and other social media) mainly asking for two things: a copy of 'the presentation' and a link to 'the videos'. To save my fingers from temporary disorder as a result of responding to so many emails, I've decided to share the key aspects of the presentation here.

But first let's see the opening video that I heard 'woke people up'. It's a striking rendition of the change our world is undergoing thanks to technology and I took it from from the Meeting in Rome on the progression of information and technology researched by by Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod and Jeff Brenman. It was a relevant intro that had everyone hooked on the screen while the avid "Bloggers and Tweeters" sitting aptly on the 'front row' at the conference sent the video link through Tweeter and their blogs while I was still speaking! Tech is beautiful.. And the audience gave the video clip (not me) a resounding applause at its end. Sit tight, brace yourself and watch it and you'll not only be moved but you will become a different person afterwards.

The second video I shared was actually at the end of the presntation and I used it to visually demonstrate what would be 'next' in the near future of luxury in the context of technology. It's a video clip unveiling Miim, the cool  Japanese humanoid robot that is able to express human emotions and will likely be showing up on fashion runway shows and store windows in the near future (watch this space and keep an eye on Club e-Luxe). By the way Miim also happens to be one of my latest best friends...

And for the presentation itself, Suzy Menkes gave me a real challenge to ''shake things up'' so that luxury brands can see the beauty and opportunities of technology. I tried. Maybe I tried too hard because I was told by some execs that their hearts were in their throats as I spoke on how late and confused luxury appears to be online. When I asked why, I was told, "we were praying that you won't use our brand as an example of a worst practice...'' Hmmm...

Anyhow, I approached the talk from three main angles that I felt the varied crowd would easily relate with.
- To Know   
- To Know How
- To Know How to Be

''To Know'' has to do with moving beyond what luxury knows (creativity, craftsmanship, appeal, desire etc), to what luxury should know about the digital world (inclusion, participation, interactivity, personalization, connection etc), particularly since the internet has been around for twenty years.

Then I had to address the reason why luxury doesn't yet ''know how'' online and why the majority of luxury brands are still strugling with technology. The reasons range from the well-known apprehension of the past years to the current bandwagon trend and the lack of knowledge, orientation, organisation, skills and expertise in this new challenging area. Other reasons highlighted are the challenges of transiting from image to text communications and of selling a ''dream'' online; the speed of technology evolution; the excitement and misplaced focus on tools and applications; the lack of appropriate internal operational structures and the wrong focus on the small picture instead of the extensive picture of what luxury e-business really comprises of.

Suggesting how luxury ''should be'' in the digital world is quite a challenge especially if you're addressing a room full of smart and talented people. I had thirteen suggestions and as I went through them I couldn't help noticing the flash bulbs from people taking photos of the screen... good sign. My suggestions included having a clear-cut Strategy, focusing on 3-D Immersive website and e-boutique design, personalizing the e-shopping, the mobile applications content, integrating the three core channels (store, web, mobile), adopting Artificial Intelligence tools and evolving with Applied Technology.

I also presented Luxury Online and explained my reasons for writing the book and how I approached its contents. Club e-Luxe is another answer to ''de-confusing'' luxury in the digital context that I also highlighted, as cameras flashed on the screen.

One of the most interesting part of this presentqtion was the conclusion and the anticipation for the answer to the question, ''What next?'' Well take a look at the image below for a hint and you'll find the rest in Lxuury Online

And by the way I found so many other speeches and presentations interesting and inspiring and I'll like to share a few quotes that particularly moved me. Enjoy!

''Luxury needs vision to succeed in the world of technology'' - Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, Publisher, IHT 
''Luxury on the internet today is like a silent movie in the age of the talkies'' - Suzy Menkes
''Our team has great flexibility in marketing and digital initiatives'' - Claus-Dietrich Lars, CEO, Hugo Boss
''It's difficult to be different and better'' - Ross Lovegrove, Designer
"You don't win a race by looking over your shoulder but by looking ahead"- Nathalie Massenet, Net-A-Porter
''A generation has grown up with technology and without the aura of distance linked to luxury'' - Suzy Menkes
''Today's smart phones are as powerful as the PC was five years ago'' - Perry Oosting, President, Vertu
''We don't compete for attention on the web, we participate'' - Jefferson Hack, Founder, Dazed & Confused
''The economic crisis has exposed to us who we can trust (as in brands) and who we can't. All the masks are down'' - Maximilan Büsser, Founder MB&F SA
''What used to be a monologue has become a conversation'' - Suzy Menkes
''In the past, you were what you owned. Now, you're what you share'' - Jefferson Hack
''I'm not interested in working with people whose only interest is selling more and more'' - Ross Lovegrove, Designer
''Technology in the design world is a question of culture. It will take some time...'' - Matteo Cordero di Montezemolo, CEO, Charme Investment
''Men are more tech-savvy than women''  (?!?#!???) - Kim Jones & Jason Beckley, Dunhill

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sounding the Techno bell in "L" land

At last! These were the words that went through my mind when I was informed earlier this year that the IHT had decided on the theme of "Technoluxury" for the 2009 version of its annual luxury conference. At last, the luxury industry was paying attention to technology, a phenomenon that has been reshaping the luxury domain for the last twenty years. Yes, it may have taken time but more than that, it took the vision and clout of Suzy Menkes to congregate the industry's leaders and literally oblige them to confront this issue that has almost become a state of emergency in luxury land.

Rightfully choosing Berlin, the emerging artistic and digital hub as its venue, the IHT Technoluxury conference brought together both the business leaders and the creative forces that are responsible for the outputs of some of the world's most respected luxury brands. Of all the issues discussed, one topic was on everyone's lips - the new democratic communication style of digital media mainly through social networks. Incidentally this is the theme of our next Club e-Luxe Breakfast seminar to be held in Paris on January 8th. Designers Christopher Bailey of Burberry and Frida Gianini of Gucci demonstrated their adeptness and passion for technology and it was clear that they are playing key roles in driving the adoption of innovation in their respective brands. Other speakers like Vivienne Tam, who teamed up with HP to create a unique haute-couture lady's mini laptop-clutch, also explained her vision for moving onto the tech highway. Nathalie Massenet of demonstrated what keeps her company ahead and Sonji Lee presented the idea behind (which I'm still struggling to 'get')

However of all the high-profile talks by both speakers and participants, the óne that accelerated my heart beat was Jefferson Hack's take on the future of media and publishing both in the virtual and real contexts. It was point on, particuarly his summary that the future was about "Smart Media" and that meant a meshing of the real and the virtual to what will eventuall become virtual reality. This means portable devices, digital paper, augmented reality and the like. Through his publication Dazed & Confused, Jefferson will likely be showing this in practice.

And speaking about presentations, I was told by many, including Jefferson, Mark Dunhill, Rosita & Otavia Missoni and Laudomia Pucci, that my 25minute presentation (Luxury is Online but is it In Line?) turned out to be the wake-up call that luxury brands have needed for so long. I guess this means that I will no longer feel like I'm hitting my head against a brick wall when I speak to brands about digital technology.

One of the beauties of this conference was the use of tech tools to infuse interactivity among the audience (questions for speakers were sent via Twitter and SMS) and to encourage virtual participation (people connected through live Twitter feeds). These were manned by the IHT team and the 'front row' bloggers - Imran Amed of Business of Fashion, Oliver Walsh of Wednesday and several others who connected with and updated thousands of people on the web via Twitter, Facebook and their websites. This goes to say that action always speaks louder.

IHT's Publisher Stephen Dunbar-Johnson perfectly summed up the event in his concluding speech by reminding delegates that technology without vision and strategy was unlikely to yield sustainable results, in other words, without a strategy, you're going nowhere.. Same thing we've been preaching at Luxe Corp for years and highlighted throughout Luxury Online, which by the way will be ariving in your mailbox soon, if you've pre-ordered the book.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ready, Set, Tam!

There is something about technology that makes people think more of "boring", "geeky" and "gadgety" - all related to function, than "desire" and "allure", which are of course linked to beauty. When we come across the latest tech product, whether it's an MP3 player, sound system or even a computer,  the word "sexy" hardly crosses our minds, yet we expect the product to take us to new heights of enjoyment, at least through its performance. It looks like things have changed. 

Vivienne Tam, one of the brightest designers of our times has teamed up with HP to bring what I'd call the sexiest and coolest tech product that has shown up since the computer was born. Fusing her distinct feminine, offbeat and refined style with HP's innovation and vision, the result is the Peonis HP Mini 1000 Vivienne Tam , a highly portable "mini" personal computer that is a delight to behold. Using elements from her Spring Summer 2009 collection, including the print motifs found in her pret à porter pieces, the  result of the first laptop is a real proof that style and tech can equal "chic and cool".

The technicalities don't disappoint either. Weighing just 1kg with a 10" screen and 10.3 x 1 x 6.6 inches  in dimension, the mini pc holds like a clutch and can easily slide into a handbag. Its lacquered coating makes it scratch free and its rounded shape gives it an air of well, "airness". Its 1024MB memory, 60GB hard drive, and 1.6GHz processor means that its size hasn't undermined its performance.

The second edition is inspired by Tam's 2010 Spring Summer collection and reflects the breezy and floaty spirit of the pieces, using a bold orange butterfly to tease and entice.

Who says technology should be boring? As discussed in Chapter 8 of Luxury Online, there are multiple ways of fusing the wonderful opportunities of technology with the allure of luxury and fashion. But it takes vision and committment to make it work. Go Viv!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Luxury Online in the IHT!

Yesterday, the International Herald Tribune published an excerpt of Luxury Online in its Special Report on the just concluded Technoluxury conference in Berlin, titles "Style online, and its all about me". The excerpt, found on page 12 of the newsprint, is the first four pages of the book's Chapter One! The business of luxury and technology, a subject that was deeply discussed, dissected and debated at the conference, is the core and form of Luxury Online particularly the the excerpt.

I was so pleased to see the article that I joined the crowd that convereged around the coffee room of the Ritz Carlton to read it during one of the breaks, forgetting for a moment that I actually wrote it. I later learnt from some people that the article wetted their appetite for reading the book as the story line ended just as they were about to take it for granted that all the answers to luxury brand's nightmares would be revealed in the IHT article.

Hope you managed to get a hold of the IHT yesterday as the article is not yet online (copyright and pre-publication issues..... sorry!), but email me...

More news and analysis on the Technoluxury conference hosted by Suzy Menkes will be coming shortly. In the meantime enjoy these eye-opening articles by the IHT's journalist elite led by Suzy, of course.

My Techno: A Designer Viewpoint by Suzy Menkes
Nick Knight : Techno King by Suzy Menkes
Watchmakers Seize the Moment for iPhone by Jessica Michault
The Highest Heels Rely on Technology to Reach the Sky by Elizabeth Hayt
From Couture to Conversation by Jessica Michault
Once Wary of the Web, Luxury Brands Embrace it by Eric Pfanner
Luxury Brands tap on Internet for Growth

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Luxury Online makes its media debut on WWD!


Luxury Online made its media debut on WWD's Nov 11th issue through Tina Isaac's candid and entertaining critique that also shows a belief in what the book preaches! Thank God the months of writing and three re-drafts have paid off.

There is no better time to feature the book in the press than now even as both the worlds of fashion and luxury show signs of recognizing the power of the social web and the next wave of evolution of the internet. I've read recent articles and reports on the importance of digital media in the world of luxury and I particularly found this one in the Telegraph interesting.

Also one of the "hot" fashion bloggers of the moment Bryan Boy picked up on the story and featured it on his blog. I'm pleased he's looking forward to reading the book. Thanks Bryan and keep the online fashion torch shinning as you relax on the front row!

So the countdown to the book's publication has began! Keep an eye on this page for updates which I promise will come sooner than later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

iPhone Apps, iPhone Apps and more iPhone Apps...

(From L - R) Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Dior, Van Cleef, Jaeger LeCoultre and Gucci all seem to have been hooked by the iPhone Apps 'gold-rush"

What is it about luxuxy that makes the word 'Bandwagon' seem to be fashionable? Why do luxury brands blindly and unabashedly follow one another in the digital media world without taking a moment to assimilate the opportunities and requirements of new technologies?

We currently see this bandwagon drama in what seems to be the 'iPhone Applications gold-rush' as luxury brands busy themselves with trying to outdo one another's image & catalogue-style applications that appear to be anything but engaging. Chanel and Chloé were among the first luxury brands to create branded iPhone apps before the rest came on board the train, from Ralph Lauren to Gucci, Van Cleef & Arpels, Jaeger LeCoultre, Dior and many others.

While there's nothing wrong with having a luxury branded iPhone app in itself, the problem arises when there is no real additional value provided by the brand apart from a repetition of the same images, videos and animations that we can very well find on YouTube, Facebook and the brand's own website. Looking through the iPhone apps created by the luxury brands, it's quite difficult not to feel that this beautiful phone is being turned into an 'image and video dumping ground' by luxury brands.

The mobile phone is the most personal communications device existing today and I think this should tell us something - the contents should be personal, in other words customized for each user according to their preferences, habits and expectations. It means using the mobile phone apps and content for client recognition, dialogue, exchanging, sharing, retail and communicating. With all manners of existing mobile technologies today, this is very much possible. Apple was smart enough to come up with the Apps, so why can't luxury brands be smart enough to come up with highly engaging and personalized mobile phone content through the apps? To go about this, here are a few tips and thoughts.

- For starters, the mobile phone is not the only possibility of creating an integrated mobile phone application. Companies like ILS have been building customized mobile phone applications that luxury brands could integrate in customer engagement programs.

- Second, the mobile application can be used to attain multiple results from client relations to location recognition, personal shopping, client preferences, client data integration, product launches, invitations, catalogue presentations, retail consultations and so much more. It's time to get over the 'image-dumping' stance.

- Luxury brands shouldn't be fooled into thinking that people will actually switch to the iPhone just to access their apps, if the content is the same as their websites. The days of blindly following brands are gone.

More on this topic can be read in Luxury Online. In the meantime how about switching to a comprehensive 'bird's view' of the core values that mobile applications can bring to the table particularly in terms of personalized content?