In a (London) fashion week notably quiet in terms of fashion-tech innovation, British designer Henry Holland broke the silence via an inspiring future payments partnership with Visa Europe Collab – the explorative Europe-based technology hub of multinational financial services company Visa.
Tapping into Holland's exuberant brand personality and renowned marketing savvy the initiative, dubbed the Cashless Catwalk, revolved around a tiny NFC (near-field communication) chip embedded inside a specially designed enamel ring, which was given to a handful of VIP guests (including Stylus). When bumped onto a 'reader' brooch worn by selected catwalk models, it instantly transferred payment – effectively allowing the user to 'buy' the piece in real-time.
Adding a vital sense of showmanship, British celebrities Alexa Chung and Daisy Lowe trialled the concept in front of the crowd during the finale; when the ring made contact, a small light flashed, spotlighting the transaction.
While ostensibly a visibility-raising exercise, according to Steve Perry, founder and co-creator of Visa Europe Collab, it's very much designed to spark payments innovation via cross-sector experimentation. "What you saw today is absolutely just the beginning, primed with ideas that will certainly filter into retail environments including store spaces and loyalty systems," Perry told Stylus.
Perry's comments reflect the fact that the initiative was developed as part of the lab's 100-day 'proof of concept' turnaround process - a fail-fast, learn quick remit designed to push the team to deliver against real brand deadlines.
According to Holland, generating that sense of immediacy and a thrilling sense of connection is critical. "Just look at what Givenchy has done by opening its catwalk to the public," he said (see our blog post for details). "Digitally savvy shoppers want to be able to shop instantly, but also generally just get closer to their favourite brands."
It's not the first time Holland has experimented with innovative technology to enhance the consumer experience – his partnership with British avatar specialists Metail enables consumers to virtually try on selected items when browsing the House of Holland website. See Decoded Fashion Tokyo Summit 2015 and Virtual-Fit Tech for Fashion for more.
For a full round-up of the most innovative tech tools and partnerships at the S/S 16 shows, look out for our Social Media & Tech report, publishing on October 22. For last season's round-up, see A/W 15-16: Social Media & Tech.
For more payment innovations, see New Transactions Technology, Lyle & Scott's Wearable Payments, Redefining Consumer Loyalty, Retail Business Technology Expo 2015 and Breaking Banks: Wired Money 2015. See also Reactive Retailing.
For more on how leading brands are nurturing internal experimentation hubs to innovate from within see Innovation Culture: Directional Brand HQs.