Tuesday, 1 October 2013

#ESPspotlight REVIEW: #PURE34 LONDON (DAY TWO), KENSINGTON OLYMPIA, 05 AUGUST



Festive activities were well underway by the time I touched down on Kensington ground, for #Pure34 London - Day Two. Greeted by the same lovely welcoming committee as the day before; I was hardpressed to think of what more this jampacked event could offer me, after the flashing lights of 24 hours prior - but I was soon about to learn.

Philip Frau, Co-founder of Frau Blau Clothing
Planning to devote my day to the seminar programme, slotting zone exploration and the Footwear & Accessories catwalk around the advertised talks; I hit the ground running, finding Frau Blau's stand too great a distraction to ignore. Full of sexy bodycon dresses and separates with unique panelling, engineered to emulate the female shape in it's most flattering form, I was as drawn to the collection, as the Israeli co-founder; who was as flamboyant as the designs on his clothing rack. Philip Frau talked me through the mechanics of his creations and more importantly - his focus on using layered aesthetics to encourage slimming, but realistic lines, that hoodwink the eye, and encourage his female clientele to feel, and look their best from every angle.

I unwillingly broke away from my entertaining host, just in time to snag a good spot at the Grand Hall stage for the WGSN SS14 Trend Seminar, delivered by Head of Retail & Strategy, Lorna Hall. Arguably my most educational moment of the year to date; Hall taught her audience how to breakdown what we were seeing on the catwalks, by explaining precisely how macro-trend forecasts translate to the ensembles that stylists are already putting together.

WGSN's Lorna Hall delivered arguably the #1 seminar of the entire event
Her advice on  the 'Retro Tropicana' trends for instance, was to expect fruit and floral, tropical foliage, and botanical leaves to make a surprisingly welcome return in oversized placement prints, along with beach graphics. The unusually long, cold winter of 2013, prompted designers to look at light knitwear for 'Pre-Summer 2014'; opening up canvasses of lush, bright, colourful yarns, and Summer marl ombres in unconstructed silhouettes. The crash course proved invaluable, enabling me to take in the Womenswear catwalk that followed with a completely new, analytical eye. The fact that Ms Hall was able to pack so many points to note into the short, 45-minute session were a factor to marvel at, in and of itself. 

On an enlightened high after trying out my new knowledge 'in the field'; I was only too ready for more guidance by the start of the next seminar. 'Untold Possibilities: Unleashing  the Potential of Online Marketing', was led by Google's New Business Development Officer, Kamil Tavas. After an awkward bumpy start with a failed live demonstration of G+ photo backups, and a sketchy Hangout demonstration with a colleague at her desk in our favourite search engine's HQ; we got down to more reliable content - case study examples from some of the most successful brand marketing techniques in recent times, and the roles that Google's newest features played, in bringing the intended goals  to fruition. The logistics of Ann Summers' paid search campaign by iCrossing proved meaty food for thought; whilst the Burberry Kisses campaign demonstrated the successful introduction of, and innovation behind, themed apps - both of which led cleanly into Mobile rich media content, designed to interact with your audience, and enhance your brand experience for followers on the move.

Zara Rhodes' SS14 collection debut
A short, leg-stretching interval later, it was time to pull up a pew for Zandra Rhodes' new collection debut. Interviewed live for the audience by the Daily Mail's Fashion Editor, Laura Cox; Rhodes spoke of finding inspiration in sketchbook doodles that she affectionately described as "wiggles", as well as coordinating patterns. When asked what inspired those 'wiggles'; Rhodes explained that the creative sparks could come from any interesting burst of activity that caught her eye; even citing the clouds through an airplane window as the influential example for her 'Cloud' dress; and a beach sketch as the whim behind a beautiful orange number that went unnamed. Although her latest pieces formed part of an entire collection, the veteran designer was also keen for each to "stand strong as individuals". 

Fresh from the Chinese manufacturers, her new shoe samples arrived in the UK that morning, with mocks having only been made in a size 3 so far. As the beauties modelling her collection were firmly within the Country's size average, they had no alternative but to resort to hand-modelling the heels, barefoot on the runway - an alternative that would have been completely unorthodox in any other designer's debut, yet somehow came across as so normal that it was mundane, in the world of the ageless, funky designer.



Far too soon, the entertaining showcase was over, and I hop-skip-skidaddled over to the National Hall Stage, for the 'Retail in the Digital Age: Interacting with Customers through Social Media and Digital PR' roundtable. Chaired by Kate Guerney of etailPR, Kate Payne, co-founder of retail boutique Hengelo; Stylist and TV Presenter, Sonya Lennon, and Rebecca Rae, of the Creative Photolink Group, were her chatting companions, bringing the air of a Sex & The City 'luncheon with the girls' to the 30-minute panel.


(l-r): Rebecca Rae, Kate Guerney, Kate Payne, and Sonya Lennon
Giving solid, tried and tested advice to aspiring fashion bloggers, and brands without a PR budget, looking to market in-house; the ladies covered the importance of planning your company's social reach through quarterly campaign plans, strategic content, and keyword targets. Audience questions led to discussions on the frequency of social posts, and the nature of product stories - the overall consensus being that topics should be interesting to the reader, but relevant to stock. The most effective social medium for fashion-based brands was also in question, with a special focus on the growing foothold of Pinterest, the growing importance of video content, with figures proving the visual aids to be 300x more effective for sales than print media; and wouldn't you know it, rounding out the discussion with the smartest ways to include blogs in your outreach plan - including the selection of events and topics that lead back to your brands and stock. I really must give all that a try...

Back to the seminar however, and it was uncanny to see how much the experiences of the panelists and audience members who shared their backstories aligned. When it came to building social media platforms, all were in equal agreement that social media offered an expressive freedom that a standard company website cannot entertain, when trying to establish, and maintain a core company message. Performance measurement is also much easier to judge, through audience interaction, and reactive sales. An interesting twist on the discussion; negative feedback and how to respond to instances of it, incited an enthusiastic response. The ladies agreed that negative comments should never be deleted; in fact, comments should be addressed - and quickly - so that your potential clientele have a front row seat to watch you handle adversity, and potentially win their favour. Conversely, should the negative feedback be antagonistic, the incidents should be glaring beacons that you should avoid at all costs. In closing, our relatable panel collectively bemoaned the drain on time, and resources required to maintain a successful social media relationship (Amen to that, from this choir). They also reminded us that whilst social media is fast becoming the most welcome way to communicate with our buying audience, online sales to date only account for 15% of overall retail purchase - so don't get caught up in the shiny, new stuff, and shun the ways of the old school.

The very useful talk was an excellent segue into the next. What I was able to catch of 'Visually Create Your Brand: Telling Your Story through Today's Key Social Networks', with Paul Sheehy of Folk Digital, seemed to be a somewhat interesting introduction into the biggest social media tools for professional use. Tucked away in a maze that I failed miserably to master throughout the event's duration - after far too short a programme break to get one's bearings, never mind traverse between stages - by the time I found the elusive Footwear & Accessories Stage, the most important part of the session appeared to have passed, if the lacklustre attendees were anything to go by. A crash course in Pinerest served as a useful introduction to the three year-old site, that officially surpassed Twitter and Facebook for recorded referral traffic, in less than half that time. After sharing insider secrets on how to become an 'Uberpinner'; Sheehy touched on many a Kate Spade example whilst championing Tumblr for short storytelling.


DSUK London SS14
Attempting to navigate my way out of the Gallery maze and get a look at a mere few of the seemingly endless stands on the upper level; I ran into two friendly representatives from Ruby K Designs, who talked me through their reversible, 5-in-1 pure silk scarf, that included a sarong and sari amongst their versatile fashion options. DSUK London then visually accosted my eyes, doping me up on a handbag high, before I had any say in the matter, whatsoever. The variety in their selection even had me hankering after utterly impractical pieces, by shamelessly taunting me with their attractive wares.

By the time I tore myself away and found the first of Zandra Rhodes' two stands, the lady herself had long finished off her champagne reception; where she reportedly sat and chatted with visitors, after personally awarding some generous competition giveaways, leaving me with no other option but to indulge in the shoe collection presented earlier, up close, until my little heart was content. Unfortunately, even that was short-lived; as security announced the close of the venue for another day.



As always, catch the event album in full on the ESP Facebook Page; where you are free to indulge, like, and share the contents until your cups runneth over. Once you've done that, don't forget to come back and Stay Tuned for the third and final instalment in the +PureLondonOfficial series!

Until the morrows...
ES ;)