• 05.08.12

Why Kenneth Cole Traded Live Models For Digital Ones

For Kenneth Cole’s Fall Collection, live models were ousted for full-motion digital doppelgängers.

Why Kenneth Cole Traded Live Models For Digital Ones

The traditional runway shows of events like Paris Fashion Week are global media spectacles. Photos and video taken during those days disseminate, not just to trade press, but to magazines and TV shows. And at the end of the day, consumers get a peek into the world of high fashion.


But the very model of the runway show isn’t really structured for the global audience. It takes place in a single room–even if it’s a big room–and no print or video medium does much justice to its intent, to capture how this clothing actually looks on someone.

“Runway shows are an amazing experience, but I feel like they’re a bit removed from the consumer,” Chief Marketing Officer Amy Choyne tells Co.Design. “We wanted to do something innovative, that would not only speak to the press, but we are going to be using all this creative model interaction in our stores and online to continue the conversation.”

So for Kenneth Cole’s Fall Collection, they did something different–what they call a digital flip book. They used eight slightly-larger-than-life video installations of interactive models wearing the new line of clothing. The model would stand there, twirling their hair or looking around impatiently. When someone walked up, the video would “turn on,” the model would respond and share one of 24 looks from the collection.

On its own, the idea is a bit of a gimmick–and just like a runway show, this occurred at a press event that was clearly catering to the press. But what’s neat about this idea of interactive digital models is that it can democratize the high fashion experience. While few labels could afford to employ runway models 24/7 in their stores, Kenneth Cole plans to bring these video installations to their flagships (and maybe even include elements online), meaning that the average shopper can get the same taste of their new line as some of the most privileged members of the press.

The only challenge now is, how do you scale custom video installations to the local store level? “We’re going through the logistics right now to see what video installation works in each individual space,” says Choyne, “but it’s safe to say it’ll be a more heightened experience than a television screen.”

Even still, I can’t help but wonder if even Kenneth Cole realizes how large this simple idea could become. Traditionally, the fashion industry has digitized models in a manner that has mostly created blowback–software-skinnifying already thin bodies to fulfill some hyperreality in which even poor Barbie needs to purge.

But through full-motion video, with a component of real human interaction, the industry can create a larger than life experience that feels remarkably human, an individualized experience that can scale to almost any digital platform. Because, after all, who amongst us can say they never wanted the chance to meet a supermodel?


[Hat tip: psfk]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.