Google Finds a Fashionable Champion in Diane von Furstenberg

On Thursday evening, Diane von Furstenberg’s studio in New York’s Meatpacking district underwent a temporary transformation. Gone were the large pieces of furniture on the east-facing wall; in their place were cameras, studio lights and a half dozen production people, in addition to representatives from Google, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), public relations firm KCD as well as her own design company.

The occasion? Von Furstenberg was hosting the first shoppable Google+ Hangout, one in a series to be held by CFDA designers. (von Furstenberg is the president of the CFDA.) From 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. ET, von Furstenberg, along with co-host and Lucky magazine editor-in-chief Eva Chen, answered questions from guests about her career and inspiration, alternately touting various clothes and accessories from her fall collection. Those who watched the Hangout online saw photos of those items to the right of the Hangout video, which they could click to buy.

It was an impressively well-orchestrated affair. All of the Hangout participants and their questions had been prescreened in advance, and asked their questions on cue. Once von Furstenberg finished answering a question, a model, wearing some combination of coat, dress, blouse, skirt and shoes, immediately appeared on screen. Von Furstenberg selected a handbag for each model and talked up each garments’ fabrics and technical details, prompting viewers at home to buy.

It’s not clear whether those viewers did buy. A spokesperson for von Furstenberg declined to provide live viewing figures or say how many products were sold. Google and von Furstenberg did drum up considerable interest leading into the Hangout, however: The promo trailer, released a week before, attracted 2.3 million views on YouTube.

This isn’t the first time von Furstenberg has lent her face and her brand to Google. During New York Fashion Week in fall 2012, Google Glass made a surprise appearance at von Furstenberg’s runway show. Von Furstenberg, who had been wearing Glass to record preparations in the weeks leading to the show, also put them on models. She even took the hand of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who was sitting front row, and led him down the runway to share the audience’s applause.

Von Furstenberg told Mashable Thursday that her relationship with Google goes way back — that she was, in fact, using Google before it was even released to the public. The relationship really kicked off when she was invited to speak to the company a few years ago, she said.

Google Glass happened somewhat by accident. Von Furstenberg ran into Brin at the annual high-profile Sun Valley conference in the summer of 2012, where he showed her Glass for the first time. “I thought they were amazing,” she said. She also learned that Brin had never been to a fashion show, and so she invited him to hers. About two weeks later, he called her with the idea of putting Glass on the runway.

Von Furstenberg laughed and said she didn’t quite know what he meant at the time, but she agreed to it and had “a lot of fun.” The initiative helped develop a strong relationship between the marketing teams at both companies, making it easier for one to bring new ideas to the other, and vice versa. According to von Furstenberg, Google approached her about doing the Hangout, and her team had the idea to make it shoppable.

Von Furstenberg has no illusions about their relationship: Google lends extra publicity to von Furstenberg’s runway shows and selling efforts, and von Furstenberg makes an attractive case study for Google’s marketing products.

“I love the idea of looking at all the products they have, and using it, and they love using me because I get it out there,” says von Furstenberg. “It’s a nice relationship.”


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