Thanks to social media influencers, what used to be the painfully exclusive world of international Fashion Week is offering a virtual, front-row seat for a vast new audience.
And, whether fashion establishment magazines such as Vogue like it or not (apparently they don’t) Fashion Weeks have evolved to recognise just how valuable social media influencers are to telling stories and sharing designs.
Now, some of the biggest brands who turn up at Fashion Week think much more creatively about how their collection will not only inspire the usual editors and stylists, but also the Instagrammer with a totally engaged following.
Backing up this strategy is the fact that, according to a study by Google, 64% of women shopping for fashion on their phones are influenced to purchase something based on seeing that product in context. In other words, the fashion brands chosen and shared by the right social media influencers are more likely to end up in a lot more people’s shopping baskets.
Major fashion brands such as Rebecca Minkoff are thinking beyond the usual costly and selective catwalk show.
The US designer recruited a team of key influencers for the last New York Fashion Week, even allowing them to walk in the runway show itself. The impact of this strategy saw their ecommerce sales rise by 50% – a direct consequence of a #SeeBuyWear campaign that moves away from the traditional lag between designs debuted at Fashion Week and when people can buy them.
Designer Misha Nanoo went a step further and chose to conduct her Fashion Week ‘show’ exclusively through Instagram and a Snapchat digital lookbook.
And it’s not just the high-end brands finding imaginative ways to embrace the power of influencers at Fashion Week. TJ Maxx partnered up with ‘The Budget Babe’ and challenged a blogger to find all the branded accessories she would wear to New York fashion week from their store.
Perhaps though the biggest shift in the Fashion Week experience is just how rich and exciting the events away from the catwalk have become – an environment that influencers have transformed entirely.
Nowadays, those locked outside of the hallowed tents are creating and sharing experiences that are every bit as captivating as the supermodels strutting down the runway. Respected brands like ShopStyle are even creating dedicated influencer hubs at Fashion Week, giving social media influencers a place where they can be professionally styled and discover the most exciting trends to share.
That’s not to say that influencers are only permitted to make their contributions away from the runway. Forward thinking brands have invited influencers backstage and allowed them to Periscope the experience live and direct to their followers.
Meanwhile, a study by Launchmetrics suggests that influencers currently make up around 5 to 30% of the seating at a runway show. What’s more, this 5% of influencers in an audience can be responsible for driving 40% of that show’s digital traffic.
So, while the Vogues and ‘old world’ fashion players may be uncomfortable with this new world of style influence, the brands whose success depends on their Fashion Week performance recognise just how important the right influencer can be.
And the influencers, it has to be said, are really stealing the show.