Ahead of the brand’s September 22 fashion show in Milan, Boss’s marketing and set design teams leveraged AI and technology to pull off their vision for a “Techtopia” setting.
In Milan’s Allianz MiCo conference center, the brand presented its collection as part of an immersive, futuristic experience inclusive of holograms, robots and semi-transparent screens. The office-style autumn/winter 2023 collection, along with the technology-led set, were meant to represent the workplace of the future where AI, nature and humans will work together. The brand shifted to doing of-the season collections since the rebrand last year. The catwalk featured Gigi Hadid, Ashley Graham, Anthony Joshua and Khaby Lame.
“Going back into an office, experiencing physical retail and going out to eat all fall into the categories of tangible things that give you a sense of normality and moments to experience things in a more concrete and physical way,” said Nadia Kokni, svp of global marketing for Hugo Boss’s Hugo and Boss brands, explaining the importance of the show’s tangible aspects. The office served as the foundation for the Boss brand, which has made workwear for nearly 100 years.
For six months prior to the show, the Boss team worked with Hong Kong-based Hanson Robotics to bring three of the company’s Sophia robots to the show. The Sophia robot, which combines robotics and AI, was created in 2016 and has since become the innovation ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme. The Sophias were dressed in full Boss looks. They sat in the audience, at the work desks around the runway and in a centrally located Boss hub. They were able to interact with guests, thanks to their ability to recognize faces, hand gestures and even human emotional expressions.
“The intention with Sophia was to bring in this idea of humanizing robotics in a form that we feel comfortable and familiar with, yet that is still engaging,” said Kohni. “We’re looking at technology as something that’s going to push us forward, helping us in our day-to-day, which led to this world of Boss Techtopia.”
The robotics were only the starting point for showcasing the season’s theme. Six technology-filled rooms were housed within the show space, with some being interactive. They included the Brainstorm room, where showgoers could try out light-therapy headphones, and the AromaSynth lab, where people could discover the brand’s Bottled Eau de Toilette and Elixir scents. There was also the Imaginarium, meant to encourage people to conceptualize the future. Two additional rooms served as plant-filled meeting spaces, and the last one showed large-scale displays of robots and technology-related imagery.
“People entering the show felt like it was an exhibition,” said Kohni. “They really wanted to linger, stay and interact.” The brand is now considering repurposing the rooms as pop-ups within its retail locations.
The goal of the set was to showcase the collection, of course, but it was also made to be used as a background for social media content. Invited celebrities and influencers included “Tube Girl” Sabrina Bahsoon, Tommy Cash, Dixie D’Amelio and Meredith Duxbury, among others.
“’Tube Girl’ blew up [on TikTok] the week prior to the show,” said Kohni. “Our social media team knows what people we should be working with, from an influencer perspective, and how to get the best out of our partner platforms. ‘Tube Girl’ [Bahsoon] is a brilliant example of that, because she has a relatively small but incredibly engaged following, with content that’s spot on for the audience that was watching the fashion show.” Bahsoon has 687,000 followers on TikTok. The brand filmed four TikTok videos with Bahsoon, with one receiving 141.1 million views. Its other TikTok videos from the show also outperformed its average video, in terms of engagement. Boss has 2.1 million TikTok followers.
Social media is a growing opportunity for the brand, which uses the “see-now, buy-now” selling model for select styles. This season, that included three limited-edition outerwear styles in HeiQ AeoniQ fabric. This material serves as a substitute for oil-based filament yarns, such as polyester and nylon, for a lower environmental impact. The video of Boss’s spring 2022 show, held in Dubai, received 30 million views on YouTube.
Boss has also focused on TikTok for commerce. Its fall 2022 show, held at the Milan Velodrome, was the first-ever fashion show to be shoppable live on TikTok, though only to U.K. shoppers. “The livestream has become an integral part of our shows, people expect it,” said Kohni.
In addition, Boss’s fall 2023 show, held last month, marked the first time a fashion brand hosted a TikTok Rewards program. During the week of the show, users received points for completing engagement tasks on a dedicated Boss-branded page within the TikTok app. These points were redeemable for exclusive Boss rewards, such as an AR look via DressX or a Roblox skin. Top fans, based on points, were also invited to take part in experiences. That included in-store screening events where LED walls live-streamed and re-streamed the show, alongside DJ entertainment and photo-moment opportunities.
“When we launched the TikTok Rewards program, we gained 202,000 new followers in less than three weeks,” said Kohni. “We know that the people who interact with Boss are looking for newness, innovation and technology, and we wanted that to be clearly [evident] in the show.”