NYFW: Exclusivity vs. Accessibilityby Hart
The bi-annual sartorial circus that is New York Fashion Week winds down this week, and - like I’ve done since age 13 or so - I’ve been immersing myself in the non-stop style coverage. I’m down to riff on runway trends with you over a negroni any time, but the Carrot blog calls for my Strategist perspective on this global event. I have some thoughts to share, so let’s hop to it.
Once upon a time, NYFW was primarily an industry trade show where designers displayed next season’s merchandise to buyers in private shows. With the rise of social media, Hollywood domination, and fashion bloggers, NYFW has gradually morphed into a glitzy PR and marketing extravaganza. The event has been steadily changing for years, but the metamorphosis feels more pronounced this year than ever before.
One major driving factor is that NYFW has a new owner WME/IMG: the global entertainment and sports management behemoth which owns fashion weeks around the world. According to NYT fashion critic Vanessa Friedman’s recent article, WME/IMG will give NYFW a total makeover faster than you can say “Cher Horowitz and Tai.” Think less: industry trade show for insiders. Think more: branded content powerhouse for outsiders (that’s you and me, darling!).
We can expect a ton of branded content coming out of the partnerships that WME/IMG forges with brands and NYFW, including WME/IMG’s new fashion channel on Apple TV. So, it’s safe to say that NYFW SS16 has officially ushered us into the age of ‘fashion as entertainment.’ WME/IMG chief executive Ariel Emanuel explains,“When we look at the world, we see fashion, sports, movies, TV, books: They are all just different aspects of global entertainment consumption.”
And just like a sports match or going to the movies… you need tickets. Which is exactly what Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy gave to the first 820 fans who applied to attend the French brand’s inaugural show in NYC. Similarly, Kanye West granted fans digital passes to watch his Yeezy fashion show live-streamed in cinemas across the world. Up next at London Fashion Week, Ralph Lauren will broadcast his show via Periscope - Twitter’s live stream video service. At this rate, fashionistas will easily attend or tune into next season’s NYFW just how sports fans watch the Super Bowl.
Digital and social media poses an interesting question for premium fashion brands. How do brands grant accessibility and openness which digital media has trained consumers to demand from brands? On one hand, brand stewards like Tisci are smart to invite normal folks to the star-studded show. The move no doubt galvanized and catalyzed new brand evangelism that spread like wildfire on social media. But how accessible and visible can a brand get before its exclusivity erodes?
Further more, fashion moves fast. It’s all about the new-new-new. The unseen. What’s next. What isn’t everywhere. (I used to work in trend forecasting in Shanghai). So sure, when Ralph Lauren Periscopes his collection, it will be all shiny and new and exciting. But once it’s re-grammed, retweeted, and re-posted again and again… the overexposure may lead to luxury losing its luster.
Of course, digital fashion media has been circulating fresh-off-the-runway images for years. This has to led to consumers getting bored quickly. Now, instead of F/W and SS, we also have Resort and Pre-Fall collections to satiate our sartorial appetites in between seasons. As social and digital fuel even more mainstream visibility via the new model NYFW, it will be interesting to see how more brands try to keep up with the demand and strike a balance between exclusivity and accessibility.