Joerg Koch, owner of the fashion brand O32c, recently spoke to London’s Financial Times about the impact of millennial culture on the fashion industry. Koch commented on the impact of the digital realm, saying: “Everything is digital. Everything is accessible. There’s no future, there’s no past, there’s just the Big Flat Now.”
But what exactly is the “Big Flat Now?” Well, it’s the idea that everything is flat. Everything is available in one place: the World Wide Web. It doesn’t matter if you’re Gucci or Tesco’s — every brand can be googled online. The internet has levelled the playing field.
Whether you’re a designer, a marketer, or a PR executive, the cultural shift brought with the Big Flat Now is going to have huge ramifications for your profession. To help you navigate your way through this digital age, we’ve compiled three top PR tips below, each inspired by the fashion industry.
Transcend yesterday’s borders
Last year, Louis Vuitton—the world’s most valuable luxury brand, and Supreme—an American skateboarding brand, unveiled an unprecedented collaboration on a new clothing line-up. The collaboration was almost unthinkable: Louis Vuitton was known for producing high-end luxury apparel, whereas Supreme manufactured urban, street-ready gear.
Koch thinks that, in the Big Flat Now, these types of distinctions are no longer relevant. “The younger generations don’t recognise these categories any more. For them, what matters is if something is interesting or not.” In the Big Flat Now, Louis Vuitton and Supreme operate off the same page.
The lesson here then is that we can’t allow our PR to defer to yesterday’s borders. It isn’t important that PR follow a formula, but it is important that it be interesting. Don’t shrink away from exciting propositions just because they run against your PR manual—old rules rarely make for new opportunities.
Cultivate your own brand of audacity
As everything is directly accessible online, everything is in direct competition. It can be difficult to cut through the noise in the Big Flat Now. Quiet, functional clothing won’t end up on Instagram, but loud, ambitious clothing will.
Helen David, the chief merchant for Harrods’ department stores, says: “the louder, the more fun, the more colourful [a product] is, the more likely we are to sell it”. The goal, then, is to create loud, audacious, exciting content, but without jumping the shark on your brand. You don’t want to generate hype at the expense of your brand story or message.
David thinks Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabanna tread this line well, noting that “they have a way of making their brand work for millennials without changing their DNA”.
Rather than employing traditional advertising strategies, Dolce & Gabanna often instead host extravagant fashion shows. The shows, which both target and feature millennials, are opulent, palatial affairs. Though they’re expensive, they generate huge amounts of attention— enough to cut through the digital noise.
As a luxury brand, extravagant fashion shows are well in line with Dolce & Gabanna’s overall brand story. Through these shows, the fashion house can create an audacious public presence, but without straying away from their core brand story.
Embrace the new
Runners currently dominate men’s footwear. According to the Financial Times, 55% of Harrods’s men’s footwear business is made up of runners, and, overall, they account for 50% of the company’s footwear turnover.
Today, runners have even been adopted by luxury brands, including Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. Notably, in 2017, chief of Prada Patrizio Bertelli acknowledged that Prada’s disappointing sales were partially indebted to the company’s failure to catch on to the luxury sneaker trend.
Prada’s reluctance to commit to this trend is understandable: in 2017, runners were not an obvious luxury item. Unfortunately, this reluctance came at a significant financial cost. The lesson here is to learn to embrace the new. Sure, not every new trend is going to be a game-changer, but—when the next turning point comes—you have to be ready for it.