The first hint of fall is in the air, and for the glamorous, that means one thing: it’s almost New York Fashion Week. But if your mental image of NYFW is the exclusive, glossy-mag-dominated world of The Devil Wears Prada, you’re living in the past.
Like everything else on the planet, Fashion Week has been fundamentally disrupted by tech and the internet. Runway shows may be works of art, but Fashion Week is about commerce at its core. Luxury brands spend hundreds of thousands of dollars putting up shows because they believe that it will help them sell more couture. However, what happens when that ceases to be true?
Recent trends show that brands are changing how they participate in Fashion Week — or are opting out entirely. As a result, their content marketing is evolving as well.
Here are three ways that brands are changing Fashion Week in 2016 and what content marketing trends you can expect to see this year.
1.See Now Buy Now
It all started with Rebecca Minkoff. Last December, she announced that she was no longer going to show opposite the seasons. Starting with her show in February of this year, she was going to sell winter clothes in the fall and summer clothes in the spring. Seems kind of obvious, right? But it’s truly a revolutionary idea for fashion.
“See now, buy now” cuts out the “middleman” of tastemaking, the fashion editor. Traditionally, designers showed their clothes six-to-eight months before they would be for sale, giving editors time to decide what to feature in their magazines. Editors drove trends and could make or break young designers. Editors and buyers, the other power players at Fashion Week, were the gatekeepers to what the common person saw of a season’s clothes.
Social media changed that equation. When looks show up on Instagram within seconds of hitting the catwalk, they can feel dated by the time they’re available for purchase. It also gives fast fashion knockoff makers a huge lead, allowing copycat versions to hit stores before their couture “inspirations.”
Minkoff started a revolution, and now brands as diverse as Tom Ford, Thakoon, Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry, Vetements, and Madewell are showing their lines as “see now, buy now.”
Key takeaway: Expect those brands adopting a “see now, buy now” approach to ramp up their social media efforts around Fashion Week. This time, using the buzz to regain control of their brand and using their owned channels and influencer outreach programs to drive immediate purchase.
2.The Rise of the Influencers
Magazines are losing market share in another way, too. Millennials and younger (have we decided on Generation Z?) are much more likely to purchase something recommended by an “influencer”— blogger, Instagrammer, Youtube star, Snapchat celeb — than something featured in an editorial. Influencers, many of whom are not recognizable as celebrities outside their genres, can drive enormous sales, and brands have noticed.
Money that might once have gone to a more traditional celebrity is going to a beauty YouTube guru with a huge following, and front row seats for Fashion Week shows that might once have gone to the editor of a print magazine are going to influencers. Brands like Estée Lauder, Marc Jacobs, L’Oréal, and Lancome are investing heavily in the influencer strategy.
Not everybody is happy about the new pecking order and recently there’s been some chatter that the influencer trend is at a tipping point, with brands realizing that influencers aren’t as valuable as they once thought.
But, at least for now, this access is a boon for consumers who trust the taste of their favorite fashion Instagrammer or beauty Snapchatter. And it is also a boon for young designers still trying to breakthrough and become fashion media favorites. Images that were once VIP-only are available to everyone, and Fashion Week is more democratic than ever.
Key Takeaway: Influencers, at least for now, are here to stay. Expect younger brands to continue to rely heavily on their services. However, as the conversation continues to evolve, expect to see fashion brands rethink how they measure their influencer efforts, tying compensation more specifically to conversion.
3.Is Fashion Week Passé?
Even as designers like Rebecca Minkoff are rethinking what it means to show a collection at Fashion Week, others like Rebecca Taylor are eschewing it altogether. According to Taylor, skipping Fashion Week gives her time (and money) to prioritize other things: digital strategy, tech in stores, and even just the clothes themselves.
While it perhaps takes an established brand to give up the PR possibilities of runway shows entirely, smaller brands are changing the calendar to suit their needs. Public School has announced that they plan to smush together pre-spring and spring into Collection I and pre-fall and fall into Collection II.
Key Takeaway: Expect to see digital strategy tied less and less to a traditional seasonal calendar. The focus is on selling great pieces all year long. Content marketing will instead need to focus more on the timeless and seasonless qualities of a great piece — or, conversely, on the “statement-making” qualities of a single look.
So, What’s Next?
Thanks to the power of social media, brands have ability to remake the fashion schedule to fit their marketing goals and budgets. Following the pattern of disruption in other industries, tech has broken the stranglehold an orthodox industry had over what’s possible for design houses.
With all of the noise, a less-is-more approach focused on mysterious stolen moments of inspiration and behind-the-scenes content may stand out more than another stylized Instagram photo, at least for designers who already have a name.