London’s fashionistas look to social media in tech drive


London Fashion Week (LFW) has always been known for cutting-edge clothing, but designers are now using Facebook and Twitter to lead the industry's digital revolution and feed consumers' appetite for fast fashion.

With U.K. sales of online fashion expected to hit £10.7 billion ($17.4 billion) in 2014, the industry's elite has leveraged social media to tap tech-savvy shoppers.

British retailer Topshop, which is set to open a store on New York's iconic Fifth Avenue this fall, released six exclusive items of clothing on Facebook that were available to buy as soon as the LFW runway show finished on Sunday. These garments were not modelled on the catwalk.

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Topshop, owned by Philip Green's Arcadia, also created an interactive window in its flagship London store, in which fans could use a hashtag on Instagram and be featured in the mosaic-like collage of images.


Nearly half (43 percent) of designers at London Fashion week have ecommerce sites, up from 33 percent in February 2013, according to industry body the British Fashion Council (BFC). And one in five online consumers buys clothing through a tablet.

The digital drive from fashion brands is an attempt to take advantage of a more socially plugged in consumer to drive sales, according to analysts.

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"Increased participation in shopping via smartphones and tablets has helped to bolster sales as consumers look to shop for clothes anytime and anywhere," Tamara Senders, senior fashion analyst at Mintel, said in a press release on Friday.

"Today's Brits are increasingly moving between devices when shopping online, as well as using mobile devices to help them shop whilst in-store."

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Twitter is currently trialing a "buy now" button that allows users to purchase an item from the tweet, without being redirected to another page. Burberry used this feature during its Monday runway show. The British brand, considered to be an innovator in fashion's use of technology, partnered sold nail varnishes in-tweet as soon as they appeared on a model.

Britain's fashion industry has been striving to become a leader in the digital world. Industry body the British Fashion Council has been pushing a digital agenda which Chairman Natalie Massenet said would transform London into "the most tech savvy fashion capital in the world", during a speech on Friday.

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Designers are also using social media to drive buzz around their brands, with Hunter, known for its high-end wellington boots, using short real-time videos to tweet to fans. The company partnered with video platform Grabyo, which allows a user to clip a video in real time, seconds after something has happened. Hunter used this to tweet several small clips from its show and sell adverts in different regions of the world, providing another revenue stream.

With designers looking to stand out from the crowd and shoppers desiring quick access to the latest clothing, technology will continue to play an increasing role to ensure fashion is always on trend.

- By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal