The following post initially ran on Huffington Post.
If you've shopped through Gilt Groupe, bought a Groupon for a local boutique or The Gap or used online reviews to help make clothing purchases, you've experienced the revolutionary ways that technology has impacted the fashion industry.
I have done all three, but it has actually been two recent events that I had the privilege of taking part in that have shed even further light on just how important that connection is today and how much more important it will be in the future.
The first event was a panel at Style X, South by Southwest's first-ever fashion showcase. The panel was titled, "Technology Is Cool, But Technology+Fashion Is Cooler," and featured Kelly Framel, the woman behind popular style blog TheGlamourai.com, fashion crowd-sourcing startup Go Try It On's founder and CEO Marissa Evans, and half a dozen other bloggers, designers and tech startup leaders.
As the moderator for the panel, I had the opportunity to solicit questions from the audience. Amongst all the answers came one steady stream of insight: whether you're a legacy brand with millions of fans and customers like Louis Vuitton or an emerging brand like eyewear company Tortoise and Blonde, you better be going social.
What I mean by social is not just Facebook fan pages, Twitter feeds and blogs; it also means actually being social with your brand. Fashion has long been exclusive and unattainable... something you strove to attain and identify with. To be successful today, fashion brands must work so much harder to be inclusive and accessible.
This is why bloggers like Garance Dore are sitting down in front at major runway shows and those same shows often end up on YouTube. This is why shopping sites like Gilt and Jack Threads are thriving. This is also why local boutiques seem to be sprouting up more and more; social is more easily managed locally.
Before Facebook, if someone told the head of a fashion label to "be more social" that meant they should go to more parties, host more events, write more emails and make more calls. After Facebook, it means all that plus the online stuff.
That last point was backed up when I decided to take on a role with ratings and review software company Bazaarvoice and attended their annual Social Commerce Summit. Bazaarvoice's fashion-based client roster is impressive, including Coach, JCPenney, L.L. Bean, Levi's, Macy's, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Urban Outfitters.
Geared with the things I'd learned from the Style X panel, I was able to speak with marketing leaders for each of the aforementioned brands and retailers. Turns out some of these once-exclusive, standoffish fashion types get it!
They're building more accessible, user-friendly websites. They're using Facebook and Twitter to help customers buy products and get answers to product questions. They're creating events and making sure to invite style bloggers regardless of whether or not their readership rivals a Conde Nast publication.
What these two events illuminated for me more than anything wasn't that fashion is now dependent upon technology, but that technology is enabling fashion to be more dependent upon customers like you and me.
As I walked the halls of Style X and the Social Commerce Summit hearing from upstart designers like Larry Luk from We Are the Process and Urban Outfitters' head of marketing Dmitri Siegel, I realized that the revolution of the fashion industry won't be televised nor will it be Tweeted.
Honestly I'm not quite sure how the revolution will reach you directly, but I do know that the growing use of technology within fashion will allow the art form of making accessories, clothes and jewelry to get back to its stylish roots.