Fashion Week used to be an event purely for people in the industry, as well as those ‘important’ enough to bag an invite.
Thanks to digital media, the average consumer can now get a front row seat, too.
Well, sort of.
From New York to London, here’s how brands have been making new-season collections more accessible than ever before.
Making shows shoppable
Consumers used to have to wait approximately six months before the designs showcased during Fashion Week made their way into stores.
By the time they did arrive, cheaper copycat versions would have been selling like hotcakes on the high street, meaning less interest and fewer sales for designers.
In a bid to make Fashion Week more consumer-focused, retailers are beginning to cotton on to the ‘see-now, buy-now’ trend – selling clothes and accessories immediately after a runway show.
During this year’s New York Fashion Week, the likes of Ralph Lauren, Rebecca Minkoff and Tom Ford all embraced the concept, making specific items available to buy both online and in a select amount of stores.
Last February, Burberry, a brand always at the cutting edge of digital and social media, announced it will be doing the same at London Fashion Week.
Likewise, high street favourite Topshop has also decided to make items from its latest ‘Unique’ collection immediately available.
Converting social media buzz into sales
So why are designers so intent on creating this sense of immediacy?
While Fashion Week was once a chance for press to preview collections, digital media has turned it into a full-on content marketing opportunity.
From who is sitting in the front row to what’s being shown on the runway itself, consumers can directly find out what’s going on from social media and online news sources.
But despite the buzz occurring online, brands were struggling to capitalise on it.
By making runway collections shoppable, everyone can get involved in all aspects of the runway experience, taking away the frustration of waiting months to buy.
Is this always a good thing?
Some suggest that a focus on the ‘experience’ is beginning to overshadow the clothes themselves.
To celebrate his see-now, buy-now collection, Tommy Hilfiger threw #TommyNow – a funfair popup complete with ferris wheels, hotdogs and celebrity guests.
It was arguably the most Instagram-worthy moment of the entire week, and a world away from the traditional catwalk set-up. But while fans were able to watch a live stream online, I imagine it must have felt like being on the outside of a party you haven’t been invited to.
It certainly succeeded in creating a stir, but whether it will result in any real long-term gain remains to be seen.
Creating a seamless experience across all channels
As well as allowing consumers to access new-season collections, many brands are using technology to create a seamless experience from catwalk to purchase.
Last year, Rebecca Minkoff introduced VR technology for a 360 degree-view of its runway show.
In physical stores, Minkoff has also introduced interactive dressing rooms, complete with touch screens and a tracking system that sends emails to visitors after they’ve left the store.
Along with the see-now buy-now phenomenon, this is a further example of how fashion brands are re-thinking the consumer experience across all channels.
Of course there’s no guarantee that those who consume content about Fashion Week will want to buy into it straight away.
However, with the industry becoming more immersive and immediate than ever before, it means that you don’t have to be a VIP to get involved.