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.

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