It’s fair to say that Kinvara Balfour knows a thing or two about fashion. Having worked for Vivienne Westwood, Conde Nast and held the role of style editor at Saturday Telegraph magazine, the playwright, creative director, writer, public speaker and Lady has quite the CV.
With a back catalogue of interviews including the editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, and a range of designers from Tom Ford to Manolo Blahnik, Balfour was an ideal speaker for this year’s Affiliate Window Fashion Focus event.
PerformanceIN caught up with Kinvara following her presentation at Fashion Focus to find out her thoughts on quality content, social media trends and the brands excelling in digital marketing.
How important are style and lifestyle bloggers, not only to the fashion industry, but to advertisers and brands?
Kinvara Balfour: There are so many of them out there and [blogs] are a brilliant way of connecting an audience and promoting things, but I think the ones that are really important are those that have a clear voice and a really strong sense of their own identity.
I think among the increasing noise that is out there on social media and generally on the internet, and in the world outside, in order to matter and have an effect you’ve got to be really clear about your own identity, what you want to say, what your beliefs are and what your views are. And I think [bloggers] are important if they’re consistent and if they’re really clear.
If it’s waffle, it serves nobody and it’s amazing how easy it is to see the clarity versus the waffling - it really does stand out.
We’re very lucky now to have the internet as way to connect with everybody globally within millisecond, whereas in the olden days you had to have a print publication which went to a certain number of people in a certain country, and that was the only way you could really communicate your brand and your message. Now, with a blog, you can say something to the world, and that's incredibly powerful.
What have been the best examples of brands linking online and offline marketing in your opinion?
KB: Burberry for me is a really, really strong one that is doing everything so well because it hasn’t neglected its standalone stores. Those stores are still packed with merchandise - the sales assistants are really on it.
It also has a very strong web presence and the company spend a lot of money on photographing its web really beautifully, as it would for its ad campaigns in its stores and in magazines.
Burberry also has all the product online that is in the store, because so often you can have plenty of choice in-store and then you go online and the choice is a quarter of that.
They have a lot of extra-curricular content on their website, so it will live stream their shows, which is obviously very wonderful. You can shop directly from that show for a certain time, but you can also shop from the show within the actual physical store if you want to as well. Burberry also sponsors a variety of musicians and new talent and they showcase them on the website.
So for me, it’s kind of creating a movement, as opposed to just building a brand and it’s doing that really well. By not abandoning the physical store experience, it’s making both work together.
If you actually go into a Burberry store and you ask a sales assistant for a different size, they will look on their iPad while they’re still with you, rather than nipping downstairs for hours to check a stockroom. So they’re bringing technology into that physical experience but it’s still a face-to-face transaction which I think a lot of people do want.
I know for me I can see something online, but especially if it’s quite expensive or even if [the item] is cheap but it’s from a brand I don’t know, I may see it online but I so often think if there’s enough I like online, I’ll probably go into the physical shop on a Saturday afternoon and actually see it.
I think that Burberry are really brilliant at that - it uses its website to enhance the shopping experience but haven’t completely robbed the shops of their budgets and their luxury and exciting experience.
Are there any examples of companies that have succeeded in working a lifestyle element into their offering?
KB: Net-a-Porter, which isn’t actually a brand in itself, it’s selling multi-brand, has created a movement with its online shopping experience which is beautifully done.
It also has an online publication, The Edit, which is a weekly online magazine, which runs alongside their website, but [Net-a-Porter] spend, a lot of money and a lot of time on this. It’s not some afterthought or little sideline editorial, it’s a beautifully well constructed and very precise marketing tool that shows what is available online and helps to build that idea of creating a movement.
You could read The Edit without shopping on Net-a-Porter ever. You don’t need to do both. But it’s creating a world to which I want to belong, rather than just having lots of pictures of pretty clothes on mannequins, reel after reel after reel, page after page.
It’s giving me something more and a dream to aspire to and a world I want to belong to and they’re spending money on it - it costs.
People used to think if you’re doing something online, that it’s cheaper and can be done on the side as an afterthought. Companies like Net-a-Porter or Burberry are spending serious money, serious time, serious energy on building an online world and I think it pays off hugely.