New York Fashion Week has just started and it's being streamed live on two new direct-to-consumer streaming video platforms, giving fashion fans unparalleled access to the runway shows and the buzz around them.
International Management Group and Endeavor Streaming has its NYFW: All Access, a web-enabled live streaming service available online and through an app, which will cover 60 runway shows, accompanied by designer interviews and other fashion-related content hosted by IMG model and YouTube personality Emily Didonato.
Then there's YouTube.com/Fashion, helmed by fashion journalist Derek Blasberg and debuting this week to coincide with NYFW, which runs through Sept. 11. Afterward, the fashion hub, nicknamed Slash Fashion for the backslash in its web address, will round out Fashion Month covering fashion weeks in London, Paris, and Milan.
In addition to live streaming from the runway, Slash Fashion will feature Stories of Style videos hosted by industry figures such as designer Alexander Wang, model Naomi Campbell, and model/designer Alexa Chung.
And when Fashion Month is over, the Google-owned platform will keep rolling as a fashion news center where YouTube creators and brands collaborate on content. Until now, Instagram (owned by Facebook) has been the main destination for play-by-play, year-round fashion coverage, with a fashion partnership department overseen by former Conde Nast editor Eva Chen.
According to Blasberg's blog post announcing the project, YouTube's ongoing fashion coverage will focus on style content from high-profile YouTubers, content produced by YouTubers with brands, Fashion Week coverage, and exclusive content from fashion professionals, publishers, and brands.
"We’re not competing against Instagram, we are a complement to Instagram," Blasberg told the New York Times.
Both of these streaming platforms show how brands are increasingly focused on communicating directly with consumers. In turn, fashion weeks around the world are seeking to boost their brands through digital consumption.
"In the good old days, [a] fashion week was the one place where all luxury and high-fashion brands would present their new collections," said Achim Berg, McKinsey's global leader for apparel, fashion, and luxury.
Fashion weeks are still constructed largely as forums for retail buyers to get a preview of designer styles for upcoming seasons from which they'll place orders. But since the dawn of social media and cell phone videos, fashion weeks have been doing double duty digitally as direct-to-consumer venues. Gone are the times when fashion magazine editors would be the main channel of information for consumers about fashion trends.
"Social media communication with the consumer is more direct," Berg said. "You need much more frequent interaction with the consumer. You need at least monthly, if not weekly, product drops, and much more content to interact on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, whatever it is."
Fashion weeks are also about the pageantry of the fashion industry, including the preparation for the shows, behind-the-scenes content, and social content from afterparties.
"The fashion show is a brand's biggest public spectacle of itself," said Phillip Picardi, editor-in-chief of Out. "Even though the relevance of magazines and retail may be fading, fashion week is an opportunity for a brand to put all of its might and visual branding on display. That's why in the wake of this decline in media advertising and in the retail space, you've seen brands go bigger and better with these shows, almost to a laughable extent."
Picardi describes the time Chanel chartered a private jet to Cuba for editors, models, and influencers, and cited Viktor and Rolf's meme-able tulle gowns from Paris Haute Couture Week as an example of a brand's peacocking: The gowns were inspired by and designed for digital consumption.
"The people who go to these shows may not be the general public but the general public is still watching them," Picardi said. Back in the day, before the influencer class filled seats at runway shows, attendance was limited to buyers, editors, industry professionals, and designers' best customers. "In a way, fashion is more accessible now than it ever has been."
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