Speaking candidly on day one of the 2015 Decoded Fashion London Summit, Hussein Chalayan explored technology's ability to connect brands with consumers in more meaningful ways, the effect of FOMO (fear of missing out) on fashion consumption, and the growth of slow fashion.
During his keynote speech yesterday at Decoded’s fashion and technology conference, the influential British designer noted how, thanks to social media and the immediacy of digital technology, designers can reach wide audiences faster and in more meaningful ways than previously thought possible.
“Technology is actually an ideal form of communication for fashion designers, who often, and understandably, prefer to communicate non-verbally,” he said. “In the traditional sense, many fashion designers are not that articulate.”
Chalayan, who is known for his creative use of tech in his fashion collections, sees technology as the key driver for true innovation in the industry. “Fashion is a regurgitation of before,” he said. “You are judged on how you combine and curate elements and how you present them. I think of technology as the only tool you have to truly do new things.”
The designer also spoke of social media’s role in fostering the connection between consumers and celebrities – noting that the upcoming collaboration between Swedish high-street retailer H&M and French fashion house Balmain has as much to do with creative director Olivier Rousteing’s 1.1 million Instagram followers as it does with the label’s clout. “It’s a unifying force,” he said. “It’s about knowing and feeling the same as other people.”
Chalayan also discussed his belief that there is likely to be a backlash against the pressure caused by FOMO in fashion. “If people don't have the latest thing that retailers tell them they need, they feel like they miss out,” said Chalayan. Katie Baron, head of Retail at Stylus, also discussed the topic of FOMO (a phenomenon catalysed by social media) and how shrewd luxury brands are deliberately tapping it to drip-feed information to consumers. This states their need for constant information, but without the inherent damage of speeding up production times. For more on this, see Virtual Added Value.
As part of that backlash against the need for instant fashion gratification, Chalayan sees himself as a producer of slow fashion. "Definitely like 'slow food', it's happening – this is the way it needs to go,” he said, before elaborating on his desire for passion and craftsmanship, and a consumer who is educated and considered about their purchases.