|giorgio armani by andy warhol via interview magazine|
Better late than never. The Armani Group has just announced an interesting new social media initiative: a series of moderated live fashion discussions with hand-picked panels of industry notables, to be published on Twitter. Called Armani Tweet Talks, the first will take place on June 1st as part of the One Night Only in Beijing event and the focus of the discussion will be the growing importance of China. The inaugural panel will consist of: moderator Peter Howarth, who is described on the release as an "editor and author"; Angelina Cheung, editor in chief of Vogue China; Hung Huang, "publisher, blogger, tv commentator and tastemaker" (who is elsewhere described as “China’s Oprah”); fashion journalist Godfrey Deeny; Yoox founder and ceo Federico Marchetti and bloggers Susanna Lau aka Susie Bubble and Tommy Ton from jakandjil.com. There is, naturally, a hashtag: #ArmaniTeetTalks and if you want to view the discussion in a live chat forum, the company has created a dedicated live space: ArmaniTweetTalks. You can also ask the panel questions – starting now. The release describes Armani Tweet Talks as "a truly pioneering initiative". We're inclined to agree.
Because beyond any number of fashion industry panel discussions initiated by digital media specialists in recent years – notwithstanding a number of long-established industry seminars such as WWD's regular summit series, The International Herald Tribune's Luxury Conference series, Fashion Group International's regular panel talks and the L'Oréal Melbourne Fashion Festival's annual Business Seminar - frockwriter is at a loss to recall any individual fashion or luxury brands that have attempted to enter the social media space via similar.
To be sure, Louis Vuitton has a dedicated online magazine called Nowness and Dolce e Gabbana has Swide. Burberry has attempted to further up the digital ante each season by not only live streaming its runway shows, but live streaming in 3D and selling a percentage of merchandise straight off the runway and also documenting its entire collections moments before the models hit the runway and posting the photos to Twitter.
A fashion brand engineering/facilitating a live panel discussion of industry experts takes things into new territory.
It remains to be seen just how off-the-cuff the discussion is.
The release notes that "Armani will act as facilitator, steering the discussion". By "Armani", one must assume this refers to the company proper and not Mr Armani himself, who has noted that his English isn't the best and that he needs to avail himself of the services of a translator for interviews in English. There is so far no mention of any simultaneous Chinese translation of the discussion.
According to the Armani press office in Sydney, any members of the panel who don't reside in Bejing, who would be attending the event in person, would be attending as guests of The Armani Group. Are they also being paid appearance fees? The Sydney office was unable to clarify. Just how the remaining nuts and bolts of the live discussion play out, also remains to be seen. Traditionally, a panel "moderator" merely guides the discussion, throwing questions to the panellists and audience. But in this case, are the panellists' Tweets to really go live unmoderated?
As two of the world’s most high profile and best-remunerated fashion bloggers, the Armani gig would be just another day at the office for Lau and Ton.
As for moderator Howarth, the former editor of UK Esquire and Arena magazines, on closer inspection it emerges that in 2003 he co-founded a UK custom publishing company called Show Media. In addition to producing magazines for The City of London, The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal, Show Media has a separate division which, according to the Show Media website, produces “advertising campaigns, brochures, websites and strategic marketing initiatives” - for clients including Armani. Talk about a full-service agency.
Deeny, meanwhile, is described on the Armani release as a “globetrotting fashion critic”, with no mention, curiously, of online fashion news website Fashion Wire Daily. Fashion folk would know Deeny as Fashion Wire Daily's European editor - who regularly reports on the news of companies such as Armani.
Armani Tweet Talks will join The Armani Group's burgeoning social media portfolio that already includes Twitter (68,000 followers), Facebook (3.1million fans), Instagram (1064 followers) and YouTube.
Live streaming is one area in which the company has been dragging its feet. According to the Sydney press office, the first runway show to be live streamed was the Emporio Armani menswear show in January 2012, followed by the Emporio Armani womenswear show one month later.