This afternoon I attended Portable Presents Refinery 29, at The Edge in Brisbane, where the founder Philippe van Borries and style director, Piera Gelardi of the site, discussed the future of online retail, the role of social media and the new direction in fashion reporting and business.
Refinery 29 is one of New York's most forward thinking online fashion publication's, it's one part global fashion guide and two parts fashion editorial. With over one million unique visitors each month, the site is no small fry in the fashion world.
Listening to Philippe and Piera was so incredible, the way they dissected their business and carefully explained how they built their site to what it is today was so inspiring for me and has only fuelled me to work harder on Wikifashion.
With only $5000 to launch, they managed to introduce their site to the cream of the New York fashion world, interviewing Alexander Wang in his apartment and partnering with YSL and the Gilt Group.
They have managed to create a unique and dynamic dialogue with consumers and their audience, shaping their content to them and being able to envisage trends. Their out of the box approach to content and editorials have allowed them to forge an important place for themselves among online fashion publications.
They understood the way in which fashion is consumed was changing and designers would no longer have control over their brands if they didn't participate in the online conversation. Part of their success was their championing of independent stores and designers like Alexander Wang and Erin Fetherston, their ability to develop unique relationships allowed Refinery 29 to not only report on fashion but to allow designers to truly communicate and listen to their customers. In short, they created a higher level of personalisation and customisation.
Their discussion of upcoming trends in the online world was fascinating. Content, mobile, crowdsourcing and location based services are the next wave of technologies that brands and publications must come to grips with. It seems that fashion is only getting more fast paced and if you are not adapting you will miss the boat.
One of the most important pieces of advice I have taken from the night came from Philippe, all you need is one idea everyday and risk is more important than experience.
I'd urge anyone who is interested in social media and fashion reporting to snap up a ticket or two for the Sydney or Melbourne events, it's invaluable for brands and communicators alike.
edit: The above photo is actually of Piera and Philippe, it was used on their wedding invitations.