Philip Ellis
News & Views
Google Plus finally finds a purpose at London Fashion Week

Last week was the much anticipated London Fashion Week AW13, that special time of year when Twitter and Facebook feeds become clogged with blurred, hastily Instagrammed snapshots of shoes, coats and emaciated runway models. This year, London Fashion Week was the backdrop to a number of exciting new partnerships. Global superstar Rihanna launched her clothing range with retailer River Island, guaranteeing that young women will be able to dress like they are on holiday in Barbados throughout the remainder of the icy British winter months. But a far more curious and unexpected alliance was that between high street favourite Topshop and underdog social network Google+.

This story really started last year, when Topshop’s chief marketer Justin Cooke originated the “Customise The Catwalk” experience in collaboration with Facebook, which enabled viewers to change the colour of Topshop Unique designs as they watched models strut their stuff in real time. That particular effort gained an online audience of over 2 million. This year, Cooke wanted to go even further in transforming London Fashion Week from an elitist event into an accessible, interactive user experience.

It might seem odd at first that Topshop chose to partner with Google+, the one-time laughingstock and little lost lamb of the social network world, to enhance their offering during LFW, an event that is dedicated to showcasing the cutting edge of vision and design. But there is no denying that together, these strangest of bedfellows pulled off something pretty special.

Speaking to Fast Company, the Head of European Marketing at Google+, Cristian Cussen, described how his previous experiences in the film industry ended up being a huge boon to the project; “Two of the movies I worked on were James Bond movies… So much of what we had to do in the Bond world was bringing things down to Earth. You had the special effects director or you have the director who wants to do 10 explosions sequences when you can actually do two. Even though we’re not blowing anything up in this partnership, a lot of it is ‘how do you achieve the magical, but ground it?’ We looked around at what had been done in the past, and looked at our suite of tools, and sort of just threw everything on the table, literally just looked at all the potential elements, and then went through the process of first, taking things away, and then making sure that there was a very clear through line, that there was a clear story.”

The entire LFW enterprise is chronicled in a two minute YouTube video entitled “The Future Of The Fashion Show”, and the result is a fully immersive experience that catapults the user into every aspect of the fashion world, and combines the social functionality of Google Hangouts with brand new ideas including the ground-breaking “Model Cam”, which shows what it is like to hit the catwalk from the model’s perspective.

It is precisely this kind of innovation that we’ve been waiting for the beleaguered network to demonstrate since its decidedly average entry into the social sphere. Maybe now, flush from the success of its recent foray into the fashion world, Google+ will have finally learned what all good fashionistas already know: it’s not enough to simply keep up with the Joneses, when you can be a trendsetter.

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