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Style Tommy Hilfiger explains how social media is driving the fashion industry today

Pablo Lobato/The Globe and Mail

Social media is changing just about every aspect of the retail experience, from how brands try to get our attention to how we shop. The Globe sat down with fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, recently in Toronto as the keynote speaker for the annual Audi Innovation Series, to discuss how that change affects retailers and consumers, and how to keep up in an age of instant gratification.

How is social media changing things for retailers?

It’s going direct to the consumer – and it’s going to the consumer in very interesting ways. Obviously, influencers have a lot of social-media followers, and their followers basically listen to what they say in terms of what to wear, what to eat, where to go. They’re advisers in a sense.

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How do retailers adjust to that landscape?

Retailers have to embrace change. We have embraced social media from the very beginning and I think it’s been very successful for us as a result of being a part of the conversation and making it work for us on a global scale. To give you an example, Gigi Hadid became a collaborator with us. And when she started working with us she had three million [Instagram] followers. After two years she had 35 million. So I think we helped each other, but we tapped in to her fan base in a big way. We always made it very exciting – the experiences, the product. We also opened the doors to a lot of fans who had really never seen the design process work and had never been backstage to fashion shows. We basically were able to broadcast a lot of what the consumer had never really seen before.

How else do you think social media changes things for consumers?

Consumers want to be in on the secret. They want to know what’s going on. They want to be advised. They want to see what this person looks like waking up in the morning. The fans want to see where she goes at night, what she’s wearing, who her friends are. It’s quite complicated in a sense, but it’s like a galaxy.

Mr. Hilfiger was in Toronto for the annual Audi Innovation Series.

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Do you think social media now has to be a brand’s "storefront”?

You may not call it a storefront but in a sense it is, because it’s another store. We used to think of a store as brick and mortar. But omnichannel [a brand selling its products across multiple, integrated platforms] presents many different options for the shopper. They could go to Tommy.com, our e-commerce site, and see everything. They can go to Instagram and see special items we’re doing or a new release or something we co-design with a celebrity. They can go into a store.

The shopping experience is in a way much simpler, and yet more complicated than it used to be.

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It’s changing rapidly.

How do you keep up with the change?

You have to stay ahead. You can’t fall behind because if you fall behind catching up is impossible. You have to be very savvy when it comes to the digital age. We have a team of people of who are completely focused on what is new, what is next.

I still like shopping in stores, especially for clothes because I like to try things on.

Feel and touch. That’s why stores will always be here. They may change, and they should change. They should become more experiential, more modern, more fun, more exciting, more unique. But I think stores will never go away.

Since we’re here at an innovation conference, I’m curious to know how you keep abreast of social media and what drives the innovation of social media for you?

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Various ways to post. We’re not really looking at a lot of static photography now. We’re looking at motion picture. So that is really exciting.

Why are you going with more video over still photography?

Videos are taking over. Any kind of video is much more interesting to look at than a still shot. But if you’re thinking of new ways to shop it’s not only via social media. We’re doing runway shows all around the world with what we call see now, buy now. Years past, you would go to a runway show and see models strut up and down the runway. The buyers for the stores would place their orders and receive the clothes six months later. Our see now, buy now allows the consumer to click and buy from the runway and it’s delivered the next day to their home. That’s yet another way to retail product. It’s another sort of store of the future.

It’s the age of immediacy.

Exactly. Instant gratification. And an experience.

Visit tgam.ca/newsletters to sign up for the weekly Style newsletter, your guide to fashion, design, entertaining, shopping and living well. And follow us on Instagram @globestyle.

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