Designers Embrace Periscope at Fashion Week

Twitter's live-streaming app is proving to be really popular this season. Here's how we think it's going so far.
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Rachel Arthur
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Twitter's live-streaming app is proving to be really popular this season. Here's how we think it's going so far.
Gigi Hadid at Tommy Hilfiger's spring 2016 show. Photo: Randy Brooke/Getty Images

Gigi Hadid at Tommy Hilfiger's spring 2016 show. Photo: Randy Brooke/Getty Images

Gigi, Kendall, Karlie, Kim. We've seen them many times since New York Fashion Week started – not only on the runway and in paparazzi shots, but also via Periscope. 

Twitter's live-streaming app is proving to be one of this season's most popular platforms with brands and influencers alike. Tommy Hilfiger, Desigual, Vera Wang, Jeremy Scott, Carolina Herrera and Ralph Lauren all used it during New York. And Hunter Original is set to do so during London. 

Caroline Issa, fashion director of Tank and Because magazines, has been a heavy user of the app all week, too. She refers to it as a value-added tool that can be used "to gain more loyalty, more eyeballs and more outlets for the amount of investment [being put] in shows." She refers to it as true consumer access to the best in fashion month. "I would have loved to have watched my favorite fashion editor's point of view at the show when I was 17, and now anyone can. It means a wonderful inclusion and access to what was [once] truly exclusive – it's a step closer to the action," she says. 

Screengrab: Rachel Arthur

Screengrab: Rachel Arthur

For the fashion-obsessed, it's one of the best secondhand views available, especially when brands do it in detail. At Tommy Hilfiger this week, for instance, numerous "scopes" were revealed before the show began. There was a view of the Caribbean-themed set, an exploration of backstage, a chat with the designer himself, followed by another with makeup artist Pat McGrath and then with supermodel Gigi Hadid. Each stream got 300 to 500 live views, with even more watching the replays for the 24 hours they were still available. 

Those are not big numbers by any means (the average New York live stream reportedly gets circa 14,000 views), but many of those tuned in were highly engaged – the beauty of Periscope is the ability to post comments in real-time, allowing the person behind the lens (or in selfie mode) to respond, react and alter their content path accordingly, and in this case that really happened. 

Tommy Hilfiger's approach was candid, informal and effective for those super fans really wanting to be a part of fashion week. 

Screengrab: Rachel Arthur

Screengrab: Rachel Arthur

Vera Wang took a slightly different route, showcasing catwalk arrivals before the show itself. There was no running commentary on this one, which resulted in a few viewers complaining — perhaps they were used to Periscope's chatty nature on other streams – especially when a celebrity was on screen and no one knew who it was. But the real beauty of it, regardless, came in seeing how global the audience was. Those watching started posting where they were from: Bosnia, Abu Dhabi, Indonesia, Chile, Sydney, even in physics class. 

Screengrab: Rachel Arthur

Screengrab: Rachel Arthur

One of my favorite things about Periscope during fashion weeks is that if you've done the due diligence of following all the right brands, you get an alert on your phone each time a show goes live, making it hard to miss one. The traditional live stream, in comparison, has the disadvantage of having to rely on consumers remembering the start time, and more often than not, waiting around if the show starts late (which it pretty much always does). Unsurprisingly, significant drop-off occurs. 

That said, the Twitter team is keen to emphasize Periscope as an additional tool, not a replacement for the traditional live stream. Professional runway footage still has a place in the marketing stack for fashion weeks, says Georgina Parnell, head of fashion for Twitter UK. "It's all about giving people a view or an experience they've never had before."

Indeed, I'm in London and have watched nearly the whole New York season via Periscope and Snapchat, and the quality of the footage on those platforms was usually not very good. But, they provided a good feel for the atmosphere surrounding the shows, especially when preceded by some of that sneak peek content. Issa agrees it's these moments outside of the show itself that are most interesting for an audience. "[It's about] behind-the-scenes, hair and makeup tests, really exclusive content that's real-time," she says. 

However, the ability to comment and interact feels like the real opportunity with Periscope. A Periscope of the Parsons MFA show by trend-forecasting company WGSN (disclaimer: my former employer) this week was a good example of this coming together. Sam Aldenton, associate digital editor at the trend forecaster, used it as an opportunity to chat with her followers, interview people in the crowd, show what she was wearing; and when the show started, to whisper bits of information to those viewing as well as occasionally turn the camera around and give a facial expression that neatly summed up her thoughts on the look. It was playful, personable and genuinely insightful and, thus, a great use of Periscope. 

Photo: Hunter Original

Photo: Hunter Original

The next big one to watch will be Hunter Original in the lead-up to its London Fashion Week show on Saturday. It's launching a campaign called #Beaheadliner, referencing the brand's association with music festivals, which will offer fans exclusive live access to the next big acts while en route to its venue. Each of the "mobile sessions," as they're being called, will also see the musicians being interviewed and responding to viewers' comments. The initiative will continue post-fashion month, with Hunter due to use Periscope as a platform throughout the 2016 season to provide access to musicians on their way to the biggest festivals around the world.