Fashion Week Plus Influencer Marketing

In honor of the most fashionable week of the year, brands and bloggers alike jump at the opportunity to be involved in some shape or form. Truth be told, Fashion Week is ripe with kick-ass opportunities for brands of all shapes and sizes. You just have to know how to work this week to your advantage.  

And...for the sake of clarity, let me tell you who will most likely find this post interesting:  

Group #1

Fashion Week aficionados who are attending/presenting at Fashion Week this year… who want to up their game in influencer marketing. 

Group #2

Fashion brands who love the idea of Fashion Week, but feel as though it’s out of their league. Not to worry; I've got your back.

Group #3

Fashion brands who are totally clueless about Fashion Week. It's time to catch up, guys! You might be missing out on epic opportunities.


How To Do Influencer Marketing During Fashion Week

Let’s jump in with a quick history of Fashion Week.

And...If you’re already a self-proclaimed expert on “F-Week” - that’s what we insiders call Fashion Week - you can probably skip the history lesson.

I’m kidding. No one calls it F-Week.


Before there was Fashion Week.

Hokay so...you probably won't be surprised to hear that Paris was the forerunner in fashion. The French were the first to invent the concept of "the high-fashion house" with their brand : House of Worth, founded in 1858. 

The French called this fun new high-fashion concept "haute couture”. And with it, a very exclusive scene began to emerge. Top secret fashion shows were being held to lure in clients who had deep (and fashionable) pockets. These secret fashion shows were called “défilés de mode,” a French term translated to mean “parade of fashion” because of the single-file line that the models would stand in while showcasing the newest designer duds.

Fashion shows made their debut in the US in 1903. And by the 1920s, they were pretty much a mainstream thing, typically being held in department stores as one-off events where a designer would showcase his or her collection.

Then, in 1943, Eleanor Lambert (a very disruptive fashion aficionado) decided to lump all of these shows together into a one-week span because the one-off nature of the shows was turning into a scheduling nightmare.

This eventually lead to Fashion Week as we know it today.

And that pretty much brings us up to speed on the high points.

 

The Logistics of Fashion Week

When is it?

Today, there are hundreds of Fashion Weeks going on all over the world. The most well-known and heavily publicized Fashion Weeks are known as the “Big Four”, happening in the fashion capitals of the world: New York, London, Milan, and Paris.

Fashion Week is a bi-annual event for each of these cities, and the weeks are essentially staggered, one after another, so that the die-hard fashion nuts don’t have to choose between them. This, in effect, becomes known as Fashion Month.

Here is what the schedule looks like for those who might be inclined to participate in an intercontinental Fashion Week Hop. #stamina

  • New York : Sep 8 – Sep 15 2016…   Feb 9 – Feb 17 2017…   Sep 7 – Sep 15 2017…
  • London : Sep 16 – Sep 20 2016…   Feb 17 – Feb 21 2017…   Sep 15 – Sep 19 2017
  • Milan : Sep 21 – Sep 27 2016…   Feb 22 – Feb 28 2017…   Sep 20 – Sep 27 2017
  • Paris : Sep 27 – Oct 5 2016…   Mar 1 – Mar 8 2017…   Sep 28 – Oct 5 2017

 

How Much Does Fashion Week Cost?

An article on Fashionista walked through the cost-breakdown of Fashion Week and found that the average runway show will cost a brand $200,000 + any fees associated with celebrity appearances. 

This is above and beyond the marketing budget for many brands out there. So we'll jump into some out-of-box ways to participate in Fashion Week that are more cost-effective in just a sec. But first, here's that runway-show-cost breakdown...

  • Venues range from $15,000 to $60,000.
  • Stylists (who are less in demand) will cost around $10,000 for the week. Top-tier stylists could be as much as $8,000 per day.
  • Production runs $10,000 - $20,000.
  • PR costs range from $5,000 to around $15,000.
  • Hair and Makeup don't usually cost anything (yay), because beauty companies usually pay to be the sponsor of a particular brand (allowing brands to make back some of their money).
  • Models come at a range of costs. They start at around $150 per person (for smaller brands) and go up to $800 - $1,000 (for bigger brands).
  • Celebrities appearances can run $100,000 a pop for A-listers.
  • Livestreaming is typically $20,000 - $50,000.

Larger brands typically spend far more than an average-sized brand. The president of Marc Jacobs told the New York Times that their 2011 show cost at least $1M.

Extravagance ain't cheap, yo.

 

what do brands TRADITIONALLY do at fashion week?

Via Sarah Styles Seattle's post on NY Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2016

Via Sarah Styles Seattle's post on NY Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2016

I would venture to guess that when most people hear the words "Fashion Week" they conjure up images of tall, thin, expressionless people taking long strides down runways wearing interesting design choices (anybody remember Zoolander?) 

Anyway, most brands will present their new lines in one of two ways – either on the runway (see above), or in a presentation.  

A lot of people aren't even aware of presentations because the runway show has become synonymous with Fashion Week. And this is partially true because, back-in-the-day, presentations were considered to be the low-budget option. But, presentations have quite a few perks over the typical runway, which has lead larger designers like Faustine Steinmetz, DVF, and Ralph Lauren to begin experimenting with them. Presentations really allow these brands to raise the bar in terms of creativity, because this type of setup gives them command over the entire space and experience.

Presentations typically last for a couple of hours, during which models stand around a room, allowing fashion influencers and editors to get up close and personal with the designs. Attendees can even talk to the designers about their new lines, snap pictures, and really examine the new collections. Plus, the photos that come out of a presentation tend to be of much higher quality because the models aren't strutting down the runway at dangerous speeds...which is a huge perk in this Age-of-Instagram.

A really fun example was Nanette Lepore's presentation for Fashion Week SS 16, which was covered pretty extensively over on Caroline Volz's Style Squad. "Lepore cleared out her Broom street shop for a dance party/fashion presentation/photoshoot hybrid. Partygoers sipped on cute cans of wine with black and white striped straws, and danced to a house music DJ." 

Nanette Lepore's Presentation covered by Caroline Volz on Style Squad.

Nanette Lepore's Presentation covered by Caroline Volz on Style Squad.

A slightly more normal approach to the presentation can be seen in the Banana Republic Presentation for Fall 2016. See below. It was covered really nicely by Velvet & Vino.

Velvet & Vino : Banana Republic Presentation : Fall 2016 

Velvet & Vino : Banana Republic Presentation : Fall 2016 

If you're craving more inspiration, you can head over to Fashionista. They have tons of photos documenting the secret doings that happen within the big bright tents. 

 

How Fashion Week and the Fashion Industry Are Evolving

social media is disrupting the status quo

Bloggers, vloggers, and social media influencers have become a much more prevalent fixture during Fashion Week. And they don't just sit around. They are busy doing what they do best - posting content to social media about the shows. 

Innocent enough, but this small shift in how information is delivered to those of us who do not have VIP status has caused such a disruption that fashion insiders are saying that Fashion Week has run its course.

Why?

Timing. In the fashion world, there are essentially two seasons per year - Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Brands will usually showcase their upcoming collections six months before those collections are actually available for purchase.  

With the influx of social media stars posting the runway in real-time, the whole world can see these new lines way before they are ready for the exposure (six months before they hit stores). That’s enough time for manufacturers (who like to play dirty) to replicate the designs and put them on the market. By the time the original items hit the stores, the designs are months old, as far as the general public is concerned.

I recently read an article in the New York Times called "How Smartphones Are Killing Off the Fashion Show". 

In the article, Scott Galloway (founder and chairman of the digital consultancy L2), said, “Social media is the laxative of the fashion system. It makes everyone digest everything much faster: trends, product discovery.”

And while the lag-time between the debut of new collections and the public availability of those collections is causing a stir in the fashion community, I think there's a very positive side effect that's happening...it's introducing a renewed vigor and creativity into an industry event that’s grown stale.

A number of brands have started experimenting with showcasing collections that are available immediately after they debut at Fashion Week. Rebecca Minkoff was one of the first major brands to showcase "on-season" clothes during Fashion Week.

Burberry followed suit soon after. Tom Ford...same deal. In fact, he'll be showing both men’s and women’s collections for Fall 2016 during the September Fashion Week, after skipping over their February 2016 show all together.

Other brands have chosen to deviate from the Fashion Week tradition to create innovative experiences that fall outside of the borders defining the standard location. 

During the February 2016 Fashion Week, Diane von Furstenberg created her own, very unique experience, showcasing her collections from within her Meatpacking District headquarters in New York. She invited guests to drop in and view creative vignettes, all featuring top models who were basically acting out real-life, choreographed sequences while wearing pieces from von Furstenberg’s newest collection.

The exhibit combined art and theatre with her collection, in a party-like setting in which guests could mingle and chat up von Furstenberg and her team. Plus, this more intimate style of presentation allowed guests to get up-close and personal with her designs.

Other designers choose to go even more rogue. Misha Nanoo presented her entire line exclusively on Instagram, using a special handle: @mishanonoo_show.

A number of brands weren't down with the devil-may-care approach though. Take Nanoo, for example. They opted instead for the more dialed-back option of putting together online presentations designed specifically for Instagram, which allowed them to tell their own story, rather than relying on the blurry Instagram shots posted by show-goers. 

As Von Furstenberg put it, “Everyone drank the Kool-Aid for too long, but it’s just not working anymore. We are in a moment of complete confusion between what was and what will be. Everyone has to learn new rules.”

Indeed. Wise words.

Needless to say, this upheaval has opened the door for lots of brands to capitalize on Fashion Week without having to shell out tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in show expenses to participate.

Let's look at some examples so that you have some inspiration for your own Fashion Week conquests.

For the seventh year in a row, the Nolcha Fashion Show on Pier 59 in Chelsea made room for independent designers to present their designs using the same setup of a traditional runway show but at a fraction of the cost.  

There are also a number of a brands and designers hosting free events outside of the designated Fashion Week area that anyone can attend.

  • TRESemmé set up their Runway Studio in Tribeca for anyone to book an appointment to get their hair styled into catwalk-esque styles.
  • Actress and fashion blogger Katie Cassidy of TomBoyKC.com hosted a cat fashion show to promote pet adoption. Attendees could actually adopt kitties after her Fresh Step Feline Fashion Lounge and Adoption event.
  • Triumph Hotels hosted a Fashion Sketch event during this upcoming Fashion Week. Their hospitality chain partnered with Instagram influencer, Laura Kay who sketched style-selfies. 
Instagram influencer and renowned fashion illustrator, Laura Kay : @diarysketcheslk

Instagram influencer and renowned fashion illustrator, Laura Kay : @diarysketcheslk

 

What these examples show us is that there’s excitement in the air and plenty to do during Fashion Week. And the uptick in social sharing is making this formidable event even more interesting. The shift from brand-driven conversations over to consumer-driven conversations is noticeable throughout the entire fashion industry, not just this one event.

"The market is more consumer-led than it has ever been,” says Yasmin Sewell, consultant and co-founder of fashion brand être cécile. “For so long, the power has been with the press, but these days the customer can make or break your brand. There are a whole wave of brands that may get no support from major publications but who have managed to self-create huge hype and demand for their product through digital platforms and their global online following."

This evolution in the way people shop and discover products will begin to level the playing field between huge brands and the emerging designers. This is the perfect segue over to the final section of this post...tapping into the power of influencers :)
 

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

So, as I was discussing above, a lot of Fashion Week events and activities are actually taking place outside of the tent walls. This has created a scene that is much more inviting to the un-invited.

And that, in turn, has caused more and more people to flock towards the Fashion Week vicinity to participate in the fun, the majority of whom are influencers.

There was an article, The Circus of Fashion that appeared in the New York Times a few years back. 

One interesting point that was made was that “The fuss around the shows now seems as important as what goes on inside the carefully guarded tents.”

This couldn't be more true. Droves of fashion influencers go to Fashion Week with no intention of actually “doing Fashion Week” in the traditional sense. Most aren’t invited to the runway shows, but that's totally fine now due to the evolution that we were talking about earlier. 

During any given Fashion Week, if you take a few minutes to peruse the myriad of social posts that are hashtagged with the various versions of #fashionweek, you will quickly figure out that the vast majority of those posts have nothing to do with a particular show and everything to do with what’s happening on the street. It's where the best fashion show happens after all.

This creates a beautiful opportunity for fashion and non-fashion brands of all sizes to get in on the tradition of Fashion Week.

So, congratulations! If participating in Fashion Week has always been just a bit beyond your reach, consider this your official invitation to partake.

I’ve seen brands drum up the most amazing ideas to leverage influencers at Fashion Week. And I’m going to share a slew of those ideas with you right now to get your creative juices flowing. Whether you're catching this post before or after the big week, there are Fashion Weeks every six months, so you can work this into your marketing game plan for the next go-round with plenty of time to spare.

 1. OUTFIT CHANGES

Many influencers will swap out their outfits multiple times through the day. And the reason for this is Fashion Week is the place to be seen and showcase brands. There are hoards of street photographers running around, which is great exposure for influencers in the fashion space...which, in turn, makes a beautiful opportunity for brand collaborations.

Some influencers wear items straight off the runway from the show they're attending, which generates tons of exposure for the brand. Take Tommy Hilfiger, for example. The street style scene outside his show is the most exciting playground you've ever stepped foot on. BUT as a brand, there are other far less expensive ways to participate too. You could skip the show expenses and pay an influencer to wear your clothing while they're attending Fashion Week, have them post about you, play off fashion week hashtags, and see pretty significant returns.

Check out the awesome pictures below by Sarah Styles Seattle. It's easy to see how photos like this would inspire tons of people to check out your brand. The outfit combination is edgy and cool while still feminine. I myself want to buy every single item she has on. Outfit of the Day (OOTD) posts are a beautiful way to market your duds. Combine this type of post with Fashion Week and you'll have a winning combination. By virtue of the long-term search optimization capabilities, you’ll be able to grab audience attention much easier and for far longer. This will allow your brand's name to be associated with Fashion Week, regardless of whether or not you're presenting or even attending, for that matter.

Sarah Styles Seattle : Blog post about NYFW Day 2's outfit.

Sarah Styles Seattle : Blog post about NYFW Day 2's outfit.

  • Here's another example of an OOTD post over on Kelly Go Lightly's blog. Her photos are lovely, and the setting has nothing to do with Fashion Week tents, or runway shows. She marked the items at the bottom of her post as "c/o" which means "courtesy of". So, those brands gifted her those products which she then posted about during Fashion Week.
  • Then there's Fashion Jackson. She featured a few gifted products within an outfit that she wore to NY Fashion Week. Her photos are huge and gorgeous, which really brings these items to life.
     

2. AUTHENTIC & ENGAGING SPONSORED POSTS

Sponsored posts can be run-of-the-mill and boring. Not at all organic. Even inauthentic. And often times, they don't provide brands with the traction needed to engage their audience. This is the primary reason bloggers tend to reel back from doing sponsored posts.

So, when you're working with an influencer on a sponsored post, it's a good idea to get creative with it and make the content more than just an overt advertisement for your products.

  • A nice example of this was put together by Lulu's in collaboration with Adriana Gastélum of Fake Leather. The post was a Fashion Week Survival Guide where she featured five big tips, each punctuated with beautiful photography and lots of fun products. She wore a dress, belt, and bag from Lulu's (plus one outfit change into a leather dress, also from Lulu's), but the overall focus of the post was not branded. The beautiful photographs were enough to inspire her audience in a very organic way.
Adriana Gastélum of Fake Leather's Fashion Week Survival Guide

Adriana Gastélum of Fake Leather's Fashion Week Survival Guide

  • Another fun themed post is the Fashion Week challenge that T.J.Maxx ran with The Budget Babe. Her post sounded very personal and relatable. She explained how they challenged her to find all of her NY Fashion Week accessories at T.J.Maxx, and then went into her philosophy on dressing "high-low"... as well as a rundown on the different purchases she made (a Rag & Bone bag, Coach ankle boots, and Rebecca Minkoff jewelry). I'd say, Mission accomplished, with that post. Who the heck knew you could find brands like that at T.J.Maxx?
     

3. CREATIVE PRODUCT PLACEMENT

TRESemmé is owning the creative product placement strategy. The brand has the Runway Studio in Tribeca that I mentioned earlier. TRESemmé is also collaborating with high profile influencers to ramp up exposure. They did a few collaborations with Rach Parcell from Pink Peonies which you can see here and here. The company also worked with Julia Engel from Gal Meets Glam. Lastly, here’s another cool example with McKENNA BLEU

Pink Peonies covering her Fashion Week collaboration with TRESemmé. 

Pink Peonies covering her Fashion Week collaboration with TRESemmé. 

  • A creative approach toward product placement can be seen in a series of Smartwater posts, who recruited a select group of fashion bloggers to incorporate Smartwater and the importance of hydration into the hustle and bustle of their Fashion Week days. Check out this post by The Fashionably Broke where she features the bottle in various on-the-go scenes. This particular post speaks to a point that we constantly preach to our clients. It's the idea of targeting less obvious bloggers. We have an entire post about how to get creative with your targeting where we encourage brands to explore working with influencers who have audiences that are not completely bombarded with products exactly like the one you're selling.

4. BEHIND THE SCENES

If you're hosting an event, backstage access and a sneak peak can be a good opportunity to generate great exposure and content. 

  • Rebecca Vallance invited Katya from Style Sprinter to actually work backstage. This allowed her produce all sorts of social media posts including one on Periscope where she shared the experience live with her audience. She got to get up-close-and-personal with the celebrity stylist, Paul Norton, from Joico and his #HairJoi team, while sharing tips from his team on how to repeat runway style hair-dos. She was also given the DL on runway makeup from the Lead makeup artist for MAC Cosmetics, Chantel Miller. This was just another beautiful opportuntiy to share with her audience. She produced elaborate, intimate, and informative posts for this project and I'm sure the brand was thrilled with the results.

And that's it! How to work with influencers during Fashion Week CAN be accessible for brands of any size. Do you have any fun ways to work with influencers during the most fashionable week of the year? Please share in the comments!