Backstage Pass: How Social Media Makes Fashion Accessible

Looking back at NZ Fashion Week, the underlying marketing trend was enabling fans direct contact. The stand out in my view was designer Kathryn Wilson’s use of social media. Through a Facebook event, she cleverly allowed fans from outside the industry direct access to her new collection.


Kathryn Wilson NZFW 2011 Show
Traditionally fashion weeks are shrouded in mystic and exclusivity, but Kathryn Wilson embraced the chance to engage with a wider audience. She held a public fashion show and allowed Facebook fans to RSVP for the event. In a NZ first, 2,225 guests RSVP’d through the FB event, if all attended then the public made up close to 75% of the audience! Those who RSVP’d were updated with teaser videos detailing behind the scenes of producing a fashion show – everything from music selection to model castings.
Another key difference, unlike other public shows, Kathryn Wilson’s was 100% free!
WORLD Made Me Do It
Another notable use of social media was WORLD’s launch of “WORLD Made Me Do It” with Number 1 Shoes. The launch gained publicity through it’s joint unveiling on New Zealand’s Next Top Model finale. Show preparations and teaser photos were uploaded on the WORLD Made Me Do It Facebook page.
After the TV show aired the full collection was unveiled on Facebook with pricing and purchasing locations. My only complaint was the over 2 hour wait between the show and the shoes being released on the page. Fans were told that the shoes would be immediately released, and judging from comments people were eagerly awaiting the upload. Apparently this was due to their internet being overloaded. Given that this was an exclusive shoe launch supported by the live final of NZNTM – surely high traffic volumes would have been predicted?
On a positive note, after many comments from fans wanting to get hold of the shoes in their local No. 1 stores, they can now be ordered in from the stores stocking the range. 
Social Media/NZFW Recap
For a good overview of social media during 2011 NZ Fashion Week is covered by Social Media NZ Special Edition of “The Social Life”. The video includes interviews with Colin Mathuras-Jefferies, Kathryn Wilson, and NZFW’s Social Media Manager Julie Roulston. To view the video click here.
New York Fashion Week

In the 30 days around NYFW 2010, blogger FashionablyMarketing.Me.com (Macala Wright), calculated that 15,996 online articles, blog posts and tweets were created. From this she was able to find out:

45% of NYFW participants used Twitter to discuss events. From models to designers, PR gurus to celebrities, people tweeted and twitpic’d their experiences.

53% of the coverage came from online articles and blog posts occurring between 2/13/2010 to 2/20/2010. As magazines posted photos and commentary of shows, bloggers were hot on the heels, reblogging, writing and linking to photos and trend information as they were released.



NYFW 2011 is currently in progress and social media look set to be the trend with designers like Marc Jacobs live tweeting from his shows. To see how this compares to #NZFW 2011 stats view this report – Source: @Commonroom
Fashion Media Forced to Adapt
It is no longer acceptable to print fashion week content three months after shows – so how are fashion magazines keeping up with the ever quickening pace of social media?
The key challenge is to satisfy the appetite of fashionistas with breaking news and exclusive coverage – without cannibalizing magazine sales! An excellent example of this is Elle Magazine who expands on hard copy content online with videos, additional photos and interviews.

“People fear what they don’t understand, but trust me, magazines, designers ad retailers are getting to understand what social media is faster than they say ‘that’s fabulous'” ~ Joe Zee, Creative Director ELLE Magazine

On top of this ELLE has created strategic partnerships to create additional content and value for readers. They produce a e-zine called Lux for Valentino – the content features well-known fashion bloggers, Susie Bubble (Susannah Lau,) Catherine Kallon of Red Carpet Fashion, and Leandra Medine of Man Repeller. The e-zine features Valentino’s latest ad campaigns and runway shots along with commentary on individual pieces by the bloggers. For those who can afford to purchase Valentino’s gowns (without trying them on!) e-commerce options are woven into the e-zine.

For advertisers the online medium allows an effective tool for converting lust into real sales:
 “It can be a far more effective selling tool than putting the clothes in a printed editorial and hoping a reader in Kansas will take the time to go online, look for the piece, and purchase it. You never want to give consumers that much time to think; impulse, excitement, inspiration – these are the feelings brands wants to cultivate in their consumers because these are the feelings that make them purchase.”
~ Andri Antoniades, Fashionably Just

Global Fashion Listens & Learns
“Innovating through social media is crucial… those that are hidden and guarded will not progress.” ~ Kelly Cutrone, owner of People’s Revolution
Like WORLD/Number Shoes changing their distribution policy, social media allows brands a vital chance to listen to and respond to feedback. A great example of this is Marc Jacobs CEO Robert Duffy, impressed by the number of Twtter feedback from consumers requesting larger sizes. He tweeted “We gotta do larger sizes, I’m with you. As soon as I get back to NY I’m on to it”.
Another example, LOFT by Ann Taylor, posted a photo of a new pair of pants on its facebook page and recieved a number of compliants that they would only look good on a tall skinny model like shown. The negative feedback was listened to and turned into a positive. The next day the retailer responded “You asked and we listened” posting several new photos of employees of a variety of sizes and shapes wearing the same pants. The response recieved many comments of support, with fans seeming to trully appreciate that they were listened too. These examples are evidence that fashion designers and retailers can no longer operate from an ivory tower. And those who continue to do so risk losing consumers to brands that listen to them.
Too much of a good thing?
The positivity of the fashion world embracing social media has been meet with reservation from some designers. Luca Luca president Yildiz Blackstone says “luxury breaksdown when access in excess”. Will brands be able to maintain their exclusivity and desirablity when they open their doors to the public? I think Benny Castles of WORLD makes a good counter argument:
“Fashion doesn’t exist unless people are buying the product and wearing it and loving it”

While there may always be a place for niche brands tailoring to the top-end, generally the advantages of providing greater access outweigh the negatives. It’s about creating fans and then turing them into consumers; this requires longer term thinking and patience.

Social media allows fashion brands to engage with a younger demographic, current customers and future consumers alike. Brands can build connections and grow desire for the future, even if they cannot afford to purchase right now!

Congratulations for making it all the way to the end! This is different to my usual posts – please let me know your thoughts or share with other if you’ve enjoyed it. 
~ Nicole


Author Profile: Nicole Williams

 
A self-professed geek with an insatiable appetite for learning. While completing a BCA in Marketing and Commercial Law at Victoria University, Nicole worked her way up from an entry-level position to Marketing Manager (in just 3 years). She created The Envy Collection to showcase clever and inspiring advertising and marketing ideas.  
 
Connect with Nicole on Twitter – @envycollect

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