Expanded Sense of Community
Encouraging Sales via Social Media
David Vs. Goliath
While front row seats at runway shows have long been the most coveted seats in fashion, many designers have added a live streaming component to their shows, allowing their latest collections to be viewed by consumers around the world. This type of access gives consumers the feeling of being involved in this exclusive scene while also encouraging them to share thoughts with other fashion-focused connections on various social media platforms. Conversations which were once dominated by fashion editors and bloggers are now driven by consumers, ranging from huge fashion fans to the casual observer. In addition, rapidly growing platforms like Tumblr, which partnered with Milk Studios and Pinterest, add a visually appealing layer to online buzz. Joining in on the Pinterest craze, The Wall Street Journal created event-specific Pinterest boards with its favorite looks and leveraged its Instagram account, creating a more holistic social experience for WSJ.
Social media gives consumers a powerful voice, which requires deft management of messaging and content strategy from a brand perspective. Luxury brands, such as Oscar de le Renta, are best-in-class examples of building on an already established community while making an effort to seek out prospective purchasers through innovative efforts via social platforms. To reach a broader audience, the brand launched OscarPRGirl on Pinterest and Tumblr to interact with consumers who may not be within the target demographic, but are still interested in fashion and style. The demographic of Pinterest and Tumblr users doesn’t skew toward the average Oscar de la Renta consumer, but it asserts the brand as a valuable resource for all consumers, not just an elite few.
While much of the focus of Fashion Week is placed upon the latest looks from the most sought-after designers, the models participating in these events are likely to be active on social media platforms as well. Much like working with bloggers or spokespeople, these models represent the labels they are working for in the social space. Sharing backstage photos, tweeting updates from the makeup chair, or updating Facebook with video from the backstage area, the models can be utilized as brand ambassadors. For example, Coco Rocha essentially used social media to transform herself from runway model to fashion event ambassador over the last few New York Fashion Week seasonal events. Her Facebook and Twitter feeds are the go-to source for runway show gossip, news, and looks, and she is ramping up her use of Vimeo and Pinterest. By garnering a large online audience, she has catapulted herself into the digital realm while remaining a sought-after runway fixture.
Brands are encouraging attendees to tweet, photograph, blog, and engage on a variety of networks to close the gap between the hype of a new collection and the time it actually takes to hit the store. Labels such as Burberry, which launched a pre-shopping experience called “Runway to Reality” on its website, are embracing a digital “Shop the Runway” concept, allowing consumers to dictate what lines end up on store racks. Harrods, an upmarket department store, has gone one step farther by posting images of runway designs to its Facebook page and purchasing those that receive the most “likes” for its shop floors. As social media outlets offer consumers insight and access to the fashion world, companies are benefiting from free publicity and a gained understanding of purchasing preferences.
While New York Fashion Week tends to place a great deal of emphasis on the most powerful brands, this is also an opportunity for fledgling designers and fashion houses to showcase their work to a highly influential crowd. To maximize this opportunity, designers like Prabal Gurung deftly leveraged their social media presence to amplify chatter about their collections, allowing their names and designs to resonate beyond the usual suspects of the fashion world who may not be as adept at tapping into their online communities for support and feedback. The ICB by Prabal Gurung show presented the first online, invite-only runway show allowing viewers to easily discuss the line via social platforms and experience the show from all angles, as well as from backstage, while getting a better view of the garments first time around via online-embedding capabilities, high-resolution photos, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage. The end result was an increase in online conversation about the brand, whether well received or not, by offering something different from the norm.
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