Is The “Phygital” Boutique The Future Of Shopping? Riccardo Tisci Thinks So

Originally posted at Vogue UK

Riccardo Tisci is about to transform the way we shop luxury with the creation of a new “social retail” Burberry store in China — is this the phygital fashion solution we’ve all been waiting for?

Over the past few months, the fashion industry has been forced to adapt to a rapidly changing world, where both the clothes we wear and how we purchase them are undergoing a seismic shift. With more luxury shoppers migrating online than ever before, Burberry’s chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci believes our social media habits may hold the key to the future of retail — but what would a phygital boutique look like?

Designed to create a truly interactive experience, the British fashion house is launching a new “social retail store” in Shenzhen, China, which will bring the world of social media into IRL shopping, and allow customers to find out more about the brand’s designs via their phones.

“Our social retail concept is just the next step in giving our community a truly personal, luxury experience,” Tisci tells Vogue. “What I find so exciting is the ability [for our customers] to experience the Burberry world both physically and digitally.” 

Tisci says the value of the in-person shopping experience remains critical, despite the shift towards online shopping. “Particularly in fashion, you need to be able to see and understand the texture and movement of clothes. You need a grounding to what is real and tangible,” he comments. “I believe there will always be a place for physical stores as a space for customers to come and to feel like they are in the heart of a brand; it is about establishing and nurturing an emotional connection.” 

With fashion content on platforms such as TikTok booming during the pandemic, it’s clear that younger luxury customers are eager to consume style content online — and the designer hopes this new in-store concept will appeal to this generation in particular. Using WeChat, customers can collect “social currency” to unlock exclusive content and personalised experiences in-store, as well as sharing these with friends. 

Shoppers will also be given an insight into the brand’s history via the Trench Experience, focusing on Burberry’s famous trench coat. “More than ever before, I think customers, especially the younger generation, want to buy into and believe in the identity of a brand,” Tisci explains. “Technology is an incredible tool that allows us to use yet another way of communicating with our community.” 

Is the 'Phygital' Boutique the future of shopping?

With sustainability increasingly becoming a major concern, Burberry has ramped up its environmental initiatives in recent years. In April, the luxury brand introduced sustainability labelling that outlines a product’s “positive attributes”, which will now be incorporated into QR codes featured in the new social retail store in Shenzhen. The fashion house has also committed to becoming carbon neutral in its own operations by 2022, as well as setting targets to reduce emissions across its supply chain.

Ultimately, the pandemic has given Tisci time to reflect on how to communicate his creative vision, with Burberry set to show its spring/summer 2021 co-ed collection virtually in September. “This has been a really interesting time for me to re-think how I work creatively,” he explains. “I have loved seeing how artists from many disciplines have used this period to express themselves so uniquely, and how, thanks to social media, the voices of many are being heard. This democratisation of expression will be a path forward for the industry as we look to emerging talent and the community to inform, inspire and collaborate with us.”

More than ever, the industry has a crucial role in creating change. “Fashion has a voice in our society, and a voice that I hope will be used to push boundaries together,” Tisci concludes. “We are an industry of dreamers and we have the tools and the responsibility to use our platforms to unite communities and action change. I truly believe in renaissance, and I believe that the time is coming for a re-birth in the world.” 

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