Wednesday, 31 October 2012

What to buy a fashion lover for Christmas, on a budget: the gift guide

Well, this post needs little introduction. Like those Ronseal adverts, it does what it says on the tin - find some inspiration for appeasing the fashion monster inside your loved one with these gift ideas. There's a protest t-shirt for the activist fashionista, a free exhibition worth checking out, and a designer jumper that is incredibly good value for money. It's my excuse to play personal shopper, so enjoy!

Cost: I need change from a fiver

 [Image via].

One of the simplest ways to get into style at the moment is to pick up one of the limited edition Diet Coke cans or bottles designed by Jean Paul Gaultier (for inspiration, think stripes, sailors and corsets with lashings of bare flesh and copious tattoos). Perfect for adding a bit of thought to a Secret Santa present, unless you really want to give them that Selection Box. These little JPG beauties have been selling well on eBay as collectors flock to get a piece of the action.

Cost: under twenty, please

Not only do you get a cool protest t-shirt designed by the very quirky illustrator David Shrigley, but you're actively supporting a leading human rights charity and standing up for women worldwide by promoting this cause. All this for £14.99? Yep, and it's available for men and women, so everyone's happy. Just make sure the recipient reads up on Pussy Riot before they wear it outside, in case anyone asks for an explanation - nobody likes a faux protester. FYI, two members of the controversial punk group are still in prison, despite the fact that they did nothing illegal in playing a gig at an Orthodox Christian cathedral in Moscow.

Cost: keep it under thirty

Tim Walker: Storyteller examines the work of a fashion photography legend with this huge coffee table book that ties into the Somerset House retrospective. If you know someone who gets giddy over magazine editorial and practically lives on the website Fashion Gone Rogue (ahem, me) then this will float their elaborately decorated boat and costs £24.30 from Amazon, saving you over £20 off the RRP. 

P.S. If you're utterly skint but like this idea then head up to Tim Walker: Storyteller at Somerset House and witness the free exhibition up close in one of London's best fashion exhibition venues. It runs until 27th January 2013 and promises to be a treat for fans of set design, creative photography and theatrical style.


Cost: under fifty but looks like I spent a lot more

Michael Michael Kors Stripe Sweater

This Michael Kors jumper is a bit of a bargain at £43.75 reduced from £125, so you can keep label lovers happy without going bankrupt yourself. The sort of woman who'd wear this could be anything from a Nirvana fan who has recurring dreams about meeting Kurt Cobain, to someone who wants to add a bit more of a casual edge to their girly wardrobe.

It's also not one of those blatantly branded items that can leave you feeling a bit jaded (if you come out in hives at the thought of Juicy Couture tracksuit bottoms, you might know what I mean); this is versatile and wearable, but certainly not naff enough to be consigned to the 'dodgy Christmas jumpers' pile in the attic.

Smythson is known these days for producing nearly as many fashion accessories as stationery items, so if you're struggling to afford the latest bag from the brand (at least a few hundred quid, in case you're wondering) then downgrade to one of these journals instead. At £45 it isn't small change to most of us but it will definitely make an impact on anyone who appreciates the prestige behind the name and the cheeky slogan on this leather notebook.

Hopefully these ideas will help you cut down on pre-Christmas shopping angst and leave you more money for spending in the Sales.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Fashion Calendar: November and December - Maison Martin Margiela, iPhoneography and Refinery29

So, Christmas is coming and your downtime is suddenly thin on the ground, right? (I know mine is). It can be mind-boggling trying to stay on top of what's going on in the fashion world at the best of times, but I find that we all seem to go into a state of tunnel vision from now until December 25th, possibly due to an overdose of Wham! and Slade, and time just disappears. So I've put together this quick guide to three of the hottest fashion and culture events over the coming weeks - just cherry-pick your favourites.

November 15th = Maison Martin Margiela for H&M

Maison Martin Margiela for H&M Blue Dress
 Over-sized draped dress, £99.99, Maison Martin Margiela.
Sam Taylor-Johnson shot these images, which have a beautifully crisp finish.

Maison Martin Margiela for H&M Black Dress
 Draped dress in black, £99.99.
I'd style this with Vivienne Westwood suede ankle boots and a statement over-sized earring.

Maison Martin Margiela for H&M Plexi Wedge
 Jacket, £59.99; trousers with front seam, £59.99; wedge shoes in nude with plexi detail, £149.99.
 Having recently picked up very similar shoes from Office, I can definitely see the allure of the nude shoe with a plastic heel. They look challenging but would be fun to wear.

Maison Martin Margiela for H&M Bodysuit and Sweet Clutch
That sweet wrapper clutch bag, £34.99; nude body with bra print, £29.99; oversized jeans, £39.99.
If I had the washboard stomach I'd be adding this bodysuit to my shopping basket.
In the mean time, the pop art-style clutch will do nicely, thanks.
[Images via British Vogue].

You might have read recently about American eBay mysteriously gaining some MMMxH&M merchandise ahead of the official product launch, seemingly from the recent celebrity-laden press event. Light-fingered stars aside, you can't truly get your hands on any of the goods until 15th November, in selected stores from 9am. I'll be attending the exclusive preview event on 14th, courtesy of Vogue and one very lucky ticket draw, and I will be reporting back on the blog about what I find in Regent Street.

This is something of a dramatic contrast to H&M's previous collaboration, which was with the fashion editor du jour Anna Dello Russo, who is top fodder for street style bloggers around the world. Maison Martin Margiela is the opposite of fashion chameleon Anna, as the company's inner workings aren't well documented and the mysterious figurehead actually left the company several years ago. The brand itself continues to be enigmatic but always strives to push the boundaries of convention and conceptual thought. If you think fashion is art then you will love this collection. What's more, a mainline piece of Margiela will set you back hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds (case in point: a camel coat for men costs over a grand), so this is the one time us plebs have a chance of affording it. Thank you, MMM.

November 17th - December 15th = iPhone Photography Workshop, The Photographers' Gallery, London

This is a five week workshop that would be perfect for those of you who own an iPhone and want to be more than a casual snapper (I'm still on an utterly terrible Blackberry with a shooting capacity that looks like every photo is taken through a keyhole, but I will grit my teeth and not be jealous of you lot...). The Photographers' Gallery is an excellent place to learn new skills and they really are passionate about all forms of making and sharing photos. I participated in one of their projects several years ago, which was a magazine project and live art installation in Selfridges, and it was a fascinating and fun experience that pushed me out of my comfort zone.

If you want to participate in the iPhone workshops then clear your schedule for five Saturdays from 2pm-5pm and make some room for new apps on your phone. It sounds like a great opportunity to learn a new skill that you'll be able to use all the time in daily life, especially if you're looking to create more shareable images.

December = Refinery29, leading US fashion website, comes to the UK

I'm already a fan of Refinery29, the website that scouts for the best deals and trend updates in fashion and beauty, so I was pretty pleased to discover that a UK branch of the site is being launched in December (exact date unconfirmed). Just in time for Christmas, you'll be able to discover what fashion is like behind the scenes, with an emphasis on sneak peeks at the hottest designers and nightlife, but also a personable feel that gives you localised knowledge about the shops near you.

I've also read that there will be Brit It Girls, though there's no word as to who they will be. I'm praying it's not the 'stars' of Made in Chelsea and hoping for insiders who we can see as role model-esque figures - maybe more along the lines of Lily Cole (who is equal parts model/History of Art graduate/actress/charity and environment campaigner). The website sees itself as a 'global style hub' and I am looking forward to seeing who its Brit ambassadors will be; hopefully people with a unique insight and sense of what the trends mean to them.

With the calendar complete, which events are tempting you for the next month or so? Share them around and spread the word - let's make the run up to Christmas about doing something different and squeezing in more fashion than festive panic.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The 99p Dress by OMG: A Fashion Marketing Masterclass

OMG Fashion 99p Dress
Raising eyebrows but ticking the trend boxes, this dress costs just 99p.
[Image via OMG Fashion].

If you dig beneath the glossy surface of retail, one of the most obvious marketing tactics to draw people in is to offer certain products as 'loss leaders'. These are the heavily discounted items that you're not making money on - in fact, you'll more than likely be selling them at a loss - but they drive new customers into the shop who then end up buying a shed-load of items along with that dirt-cheap t-shirt or DVD, so everyone goes home happy. One of the most obvious cases of this is the newly available dress by OMG Fashion (nope, I hadn't heard of them either) which was put on sale for just 99p today. No, that's not a typo. I want to explore the positives - basically their marketing strategy - and the negatives, as well as the best counter-argument that I believe charity shops and environmentally-friendly retailers could launch. 

Marketing Gold

So much traffic was generated to the website that it crashed and the item is now marked on the homepage as 'Out of stock until further notice'. Although many of the shoppers may have only snapped up the bargain and not been tempted by its much pricier neighbours, such as the bandage dress for a grossly inflated £59, the majority probably stuck something else in their virtual basket too, so the loss wouldn't have been astronomical to the company. What's more, they've managed to generate a heap of publicity with their marketing tactic, generating traffic and purchases. It's blatant and obvious and a bit cheap, but you can't deny that it works.

Financial Issues - Fair Wage vs. The Recession

Strangely, one of the biggest gripes that the public had was that the dress was likely to have been made in a sweatshop by impoverished children; something that shoppers don't normally worry about when they buy from notorious sweatshop labour abusers like Gap and Nike. Somehow it's only when the price we pay is low, rather than grossly inflated, that we are exposed as buying into the exploitation of workers, as if the 99p dress is the source of all evil. Well, I don't think it is (though it may be symptomatic).

The thing is, though Britain may have been labelled as being 'out of the recession', for many of us we are really, really not. If someone offered you a Christmas party outfit for less than the price of Heat Magazine, well, it might be quite tempting, especially considering the amount you'd be spending on the rest of your evening. Although I do like to be ethical where I can, such as being a member of Amnesty, and I've worked with several ethical labels in my career, I'm not going to deny that I shop in H&M and Primark too. I can certainly see the financial appeal of this piece, whether it sits comfortably with me or not. It's fun and flirty and it would suit young girls who want to let their hair down and forget financial issues. However, I do think it presents a golden opportunity for ethical organisations to get their own back.

Sweet Charity - How to Challenge OMG

The way that charity shops should tackle publicity such as this, which emphasises the convenience of throwaway fashion, is to take on the 99p challenge. I think a great counter-argument would be to up-cycle dresses in charity shops, spending 99p on the materials to engineer the up-cycling, such as second-hand buttons, remnants of fabric, sequins, vegetable dye, wax for a batik effect, etc. Meanwhile, ethical labels could blog about the dress and its negative impact, then create pieces that make the wearer feel a million dollars rather than under a quid.

As you can see, the dress really did spark a lot of mixed thoughts for me. I won't be buying it, though I'm not going to pretend that I'm some kind of ethical goddess, because I'm also partial to the lure of the incredibly cheap high street and online retailers. Whether you go and buy it or not, you have to admit that it's a controversial move and one that is undeniably interesting to both fashion lovers and haters.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Fashion Postcard from Berlin

Berlin landmarks
 A snapshot of Berlin from my travels.

I've just got back from a whistlestop tour of Berlin, Colditz and Dresden (yep, I don't do holidays by halves) and it seemed only fitting to share some of the sights of the German capital which is known for being a gathering point for hipsters. 

Local residents are so sick of trendy gangs of youths - think Dalston but with Euros instead of pounds being dropped on achingly cool fashion and overpriced cocktails - that they've told them to leave Berlin alone. Having managed to avoid most of the scenesters on my trip, I can safely say that the city is fascinating enough without paying them much lip service.

Berlin autumn leaves
 The leaves were beautifully rusty around the city centre.
If you want a style reference, think Christina Hendricks' hair.

Berlin mime artist
 A mime artist reclines by the Brandenburg Gate.

Humana Vintage Clothing Berlin
 If you want to buy authentic vintage that gives back to charity, go to Humana.

Humana Vintage Clothing Berlin
 The Humana store in Alexanderplatz is an affordable treasure trove. I loved the coats!

Berlin Street Style
 The woman on the left had some amazing baggy harem pants that caught my eye.

MiuMiu Nails Berlin
 Someone should tell Miuccia Prada that a nail salon in the U-Bahn rather likes her name.

Berlin Street Photography
 A short walk from Potsdamer Platz, I spotted this man deep in hipster thought.

Berlin Traditional Costume
 How to do brand awareness, German style: dress up your workers in lederhosen and other traditional costumes. Add copious amounts of Schnapps and some fake gold bars.

Berlin Wall Art - Chewing Gum
 I'm pretty chuffed with how this photo of the Berlin Wall turned out.
This particular section had an almost pebble-dashed chewing gum pattern.

Film Museum Berlin
The poster art promoting the film museum was really interesting.
[All photos my own. Please ask before reproducing].

This is just a small portion of what I got up to on my travels, but I hope you'll excuse the absence from blogging. I did take my iPad and intended to blog but the Wi-Fi costs in hotels still remain ridiculously high (and I refuse to pay them) and also my trip was utterly packed with little down-time, so I decided to focus on photography for a bit. 

If you're thinking of going to Berlin then I'd thoroughly recommend it, whether you're into fashion or not; there's so much to see and I certainly don't feel that I've done enough.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Wool Week 2012: I Wasn't Born, I Was Knitted

Sister by Sibling Knitwear S/S13 Wool Week
The knitwear genius of Sister by Sibling at London Fashion Week, working a toile print (S/S13).

You may not be aware of the dearth of 'national/international [insert common theme, such as toilet paper, embarrassing medical condition or random emotion] week' publicity drives that take place throughout the year, but this time around there's a pretty worthy one that should be on your agenda: Wool Week. It's a global event that puts this 'most versatile and natural fibre' (thank you, official website) in the spotlight. 

As I've grown up surrounded by knitting - no, not in a strange wooly commune, but in the midst of my mother's favourite habit and a much-loved Jemima Puddleduck pullover from my childhood - it's become second nature to me to seek out the perfect pattern. I will lust over knitted designer delights or pure wool coats from COS and try to save up my pennies. Sadly I haven't inherited the family knitting gene and I cannot work out how to 'purl one' or 'cast off', let alone 'cast on', but I have a deep-seated envy for those who take to it naturally and can churn out a jumper or two in the space of watching one series of Downton Abbey.

To celebrate Wool Week 2012 and to cope with my inability to join a knitting club, here are three reasons to love wool even more:

1. You can be any age and get away with wearing it; there's no such thing as 'slutty wool' (good grief. Well, maybe a woolen mankini would raise a few eyebrows, but thankfully I haven't spotted one yet) and you can't really get called 'mutton dressed as lamb' (yup, sheep jokes, wool, enough said) for putting on a nice jumper. Anyone from babies to geriatrics can make it look good.

2. Back in the days of university, I learned that woolen cloaks were something of a staple item during the Renaissance and they were something to be feared as well as utilised. You could turn your cloak into a fairly respectable tent or rain shield if you needed to, and it was great for keeping out the cold, but also you could hide behind it and disguise your appearance. A group of people wearing cloaks and approaching you commanded the same level of fear as a bunch of teenagers in hoodies does today.

3. There have been some unforgettable fashion looks involving wool, and I'm sure there will be many more to come. Think of Vivienne Westwood's tartan, Chanel Tweed jackets, Raf Simons' powder pink elegant coats for his final collection at Jil Sander... How about Mark Fast's intricate woven dresses, or Markus Lupfer's sequinned intarsia jumpers? They're all made with wool. 

Wool Week 2012
 Topshop gets in on the act with this design by Henrietta Jerram. Image via the Campaign for Wool

So, fashion lovers, it's time to wear your heart on your sleeve and celebrate all things knitted.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Visual Merchandising: Browns vs. Zara, Autumn/Winter 2012

Browns London Window Display AW2012
 Browns waits for a round of applause from the audience...

Browns London Window Display
 The easy autumnal colours made this an effortless window.
The skateboard is something you don't spot until the second look.

Browns London Window Display
 Going for the yoof audience with this streetwear ensemble at Browns.

Zara Autumn/Winter 2012 Window Display
 Zara went for classic monochrome in their clothing, teamed with eye-catching facial jewellery with a sort of Ashish or Chanel vibe - gap yah meets urban street style.

Zara Autumn/Winter 2012 Window Display
 I liked the incorporation of cables into the display.

Zara Autumn/Winter 2012 Facial Jewellery
 Edgy haircuts vs. edgy adornments

Zara Autumn/Winter 2012 Visual Merchandising
 White blonde hair was the order of the day to set off black and white outfits.

Zara Autumn/Winter 2012 Visual Merchandising
 I love that winged headpiece. 

Zara Autumn/Winter 2012 Visual Merchandising
Taking dip dye to a new level, it's the poker-straight black-meets-white hairdo at Zara.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

PFW S/S13: In Paris It's Hip To Be Square (Ask Chanel)

And so Paris Fashion Week is over for another year. Arguably the most decadent of the Big Four, you can guarantee that the Parisians don't do things by halves (as my whirlwind experience of working at a PFW trade show just round the corner from the Pompidou Centre proved). Here are a few trend highlights that I've spotted so far, just from Chanel, because where this brand leads then others follow.

 You Can't Mistake My Geometry, To Paraphrase Girls Aloud
[All images via]

 I'd like to think that Karl Lagerfeld was inspired by retro gaming when he created these dresses - something between Battleships, Tetris, Simon Says (the electronic hand-held version with coloured panels you had to watch in sequence) and Scrabble - but he was probably thinking of something much more high-brow. The strapless dress on the right also reminds me of crazy paving and mosaic bathroom tiles, both of which were a major 90s trend pioneered by shows like Changing Rooms and Ground Force, but I don't think these were at the forefront of Karl's thoughts either. 

Rainbow Threads

If anyone had told me that Kaiser Karl would be waving the flag for wind turbines then I'd have laughed. They might be thin but they're probably far too commonplace for his tastes, right? Well, the new Chanel woman loves a bit of renewable energy print on her top, mixed with a buzzing colour palette that could be fresh out of an art student's mood board. When you pick out individual hues, as in the centre image with the gorgeous skinny-cut trouser suit, things really start to come alive.

 Cutting Cloth in Clashing Colours

It's a bit embarrassing how much I want a PVC raincoat in a stupidly bright colour, however naff they seem. Now that Chanel's got in on the act with this deliciously wipe-clean number in cerise then I think it's fair to say I won't be the only one wanting to splash around in puddles in something shiny, practical and yet incredibly garish. 

Meanwhile the jacket/dress (whatever it appears to be) in the middle is definitely crying out to be adopted on the high street. That shape is pure Whistles/Zara/COS and it would work brilliantly for smarter occasions when you're dying to inject a bit of personality into formal-wear.

As for the last option, it's got a very flattering drop waist that appeals to my muffin top whilst not looking dowdy. The contrasting piping detail lifts this dress and makes it a bit quirky, whilst the (obviously geometric) tweed works well. It resembles a blueprint, in a good way.

 The Bold and the Shoulderful

In the two outfits either side of that unfortunately pouting model it's clear that the shoulder is definitely a new erogenous zone for Chanel; it has to be inflated, supported and dominating. Meanwhile in the centre image you can see how the un-padded shoulder still manages to upstage the ensemble, with a blank expanse of collarbone.

 Snipping Time

Definitely harking back to school with this collection (not only due to the catwalk resembling graph paper), it would be rude to ignore the pieces with more than a dash of academia about them. Firstly the shirt that looks like it's had a run-in with someone making paper snowflakes, followed by the swimsuit that adheres to the principals of a Venn diagram as well as making brilliant use of the interlocking Cs of the Chanel logo. 

Last on the register is the carefully cut-out three pocket jacket and trousers, both of which could have been crafted from Fuzzy Felt. I love the school influences and I think they make it so easily memorable, adding a personal touch because they get everyone thinking back to their time in the playground.

Just no.

However, with such a large collection to show there were always going to be duff moments ahead, even for Chanel. These three looks jarred with me because they literally had me cringing and squirming in my seat, and here were my immediate thoughts.

Left: I'm back in Tammy, circa 1999. Everything's hot and smells of Charlie and pick & mix sweets. Some twat has brought out hilarious patchwork denim pieces and for some reason everyone is going wild for them, even the ones with cowboy influences. Oh, and now there's a fad for making everything look like it's made out of denim too. Brilliant. I feel a bit sick. 

Centre: I am even younger - we're talking early 90s now. My older sister has been banned from using the scissors at her primary school as she was getting a bit violent (true story). She has had to make her collage by ripping up little squares of paper. It didn't look quite like this, but it could have done if she worked for Chanel at the time. 

Right: Ok, so now I'm about seven or eight. I haven't been banned from scissors - far from it - but I've just discovered the joys of tissue paper in contrasting colours, made into flowers. I think I will make everyone's birthday presents using bits of tissue paper or something. They will surely love it and appreciate all my hard work and not think it looks a bit scrunchy and weird. 

Now it's back to reality with a bang... so that's what I thought of Chanel. I loved the geometry and the playfulness with the playground elements and the graph paper runway. I enjoyed the puffed up shoulders and the rainbow colours; it felt like enough of an adventure without compromising on basic Chanel style. If the design team could only stop being scissor-happy right at the end or being allowed to pick up that little bit of denim then this would have been an utter triumph. As it stands, it's an almost-triumph in my book.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Social Media Week London, Part II: Data-Driven Fashion and the Death of Trends, Continued

Social Media Week London: Data-Driven Fashion
 Just down the road from the event, what should I walk past but a massive social call to action?
Urban Outfitters incorporated social into their window display with this over-sized whiteboard.

So, it's a return to looking at fashion's relationship with e-commerce and social networking in Part II of the event write-up. The remaining speakers were Natalie, Molly and Jo, all offering a slightly different take on the topic. 

Natalie Thng, Head of E-Commerce, Temperley London (@nataliethng)
  • Temperley is at that interesting point of being 'not quite couture, but closing in on it'
  • Alice Temperley is separate from the world of social and still designs for the love of it, without the pressures of Pinterest, etc.
  • Having previously worked at Reiss, Natalie has found that the difference with this brand is that you get press without asking for it
  • Reiss had the strategy of giving products away to celebrities, whereas her new role is about being selective - this perhaps illustrates the gap between high street and designer 
Molly Flatt, Social Business Director, 1000 Heads (@mollyflatt)
  • There's been a hilarious over-reaction towards social media and how it could be destroying 'the word' - Molly compared this to the way that people considered the Gutenberg Press to be sacred hundreds of years ago
  • Bloggers are just a tiny part of social
  • "We're in a sweet shop moment right now," she said, but the backlash is an inevitable part of that
Joanna Wiggins, Editor, ASOS Marketplace (@JoWiggins)
  • ASOS Marketplace is a thriving vintage community
  • One of the problems for sellers is that they might not necessarily be an expert with social - one of the biggest sellers on the site didn't know her way around it but she has a great business
  • The great thing about Marketplace is that "brand new designers can be making things out of their bedroom or become more established."
  • One of the things that ASOS has to monitor is how trends evolve over time even to the extent of colour names, so what had always been known as 'maroon' is now called 'oxblood'
 And here's a quote from Jeff, of

"Things look organic online but there's always someone pushing it; repackaging the old and presenting it as the new."

Step forward, Urban Outfitters: what I'd think of as one of the prime examples of successful old-as-new branding. Why? Because they're the go-to shop for anyone from (very affluent) teens to men and women in their thirties who work in the creative industries or have creative leanings. You'll find a steady stream of kitsch homeware that is brand new but is inspired by the aesthetic of flea markets, thrift stores and car boot sales; you can get into Lomography (a type of analogue photography) instore, grab a hip flask or track down some upcycled vintage clothing.

I found it a stroke of luck that the flagship store was just moments from The Engine Rooms, where the #SMWLDN event was taking place. This gave me food for thought.

Social Media in Visual Merchandising at Urban Outfitters
The tiny issue I have with this display is that it left the VMs feeling a little lazy. 
In a shop filled with Diana F Lomography cameras and cool gadgets, couldn't they have made a more techno-friendly window for the Oxford Street flagship? 

Before I go totally VM-mad on you, it's back to the panel for the last few reflections on retail and fashion. 

Q. Is retail dead?
Natalie - Brands have become more established than retailers; with a brand you get a story and an emotional connection when you buy into something. Luxury brands can give snippets of information to potential customers and not lose what they're about.
Geoff, Editd - Some high street retailers are treating their company like a brand, such as Topshop or Reiss, but others like Debenhams don't manage to do this.
Tamara, Mintel - I do think the death of the high street is unlikely.
Molly - You have to bear in mind that 90% of word of mouth still happens offline - only 2-5% is online - and most of it comes from real experiences we've had, and we still love going to the shops. Fashion is very sensual as it's all about textures, colours, smells... You just need to give people a real emotional and physical experience in your store and they will talk about you.

Q. Is the future for social media to deliver customer service?
Jo - You have to empower your social media people to give the right answers, as reputation is everything. For example, Google Places affects your ranking on Google +.
M - There are certain expectations of customers, such as getting an answer on Twitter in a few hours or at least by 24 hours' time, and an answer from Facebook in a few days. The problem comes from Customer Services only being able to answer within office hours. One of the good things about social media is that if you build up loyal customers they will also defend you against the negative feedback.
Event chairperson - British Airways is a great example of customer service issues. Their Twitter bio said that they were available between 9-5 GMT from Monday-Friday, but what happens in between? This is a company that flies 24/7.

Q. Who has the power to say what is in fashion? The industry is elitist but suddenly everyone has a DSLR and yet they're not a photographer, and everyone has a pen but they're certainly not all writers.
J - Fashion has to be accessible.
N- Social media is great for giving everyone a voice, but not all brands give the same experience. Luxury and high street give a totally different commercial experience. Celine doesn't even sell online, so you have to go and buy it in person.
M- It's worth remembering that social media is not a democracy; it's owned by big capitalist companies. The people who use it can afford the phone or the computer to be able to use the networks.
G - The Arab Spring definitely had something to do with social media and people felt like consumers of the government.

And that was that - slightly strange that we closed by discussing the Arab Spring, but then again it's always refreshing to show how people in the industry are not just thinking about clothes all the time. Retail is massive but its links to social media are also relative in terms of how we all act as consumers.

If you have any thoughts on what the panellists brought to the discussion then feel free to add them below.
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