Inside Vogue’s new, inclusive approach to Forces of Fashion

The programming for Vogue’s second annual Forces of Fashion‍‍‍ conference on Thursday, dubbed “Forces of Change,” makes it clear the title has taken a decidedly more digitally-native and Instagram-friendly approach to its signature event.

It’s all a way of Vogue expanding its ever-present reach and collaborating with the reader even more, according to Mark Holgate, Vogue fashion news director, who oversaw the Forces of Fashion‍‍‍ programming with Vogue editor-in-chief and Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour. “It’s not just about Vogue’s take on things alone or for it feel like a corporate event, but Forces of Fashion‍‍‍ also has to incorporate the reader,” he said. “Whether it be print, online or social, it needs to feel authentic to our readers and that they are very much a part of it.”

Models with huge social followings, like Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser, are scheduled to speak on representation and their reach beyond fashion in a panel called “Don’t Label Us.” Direct-to-consumer eyewear brand Warby Parker co-founders Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa will take the stage to talk about how philanthropy was built into their online business model. And Kardashian-Jenner ringleader Kris Jenner will close out the day discussing her empire and the importance of the “Influencer’s Influence.”

“We had really engrossing and in-depth conversations last year with an incredible roster of designers like John Galliano, Virgil Abloh, Stella McCartney and Victoria Beckham — and we even had Rihanna, who is a pop star, a terrific designer and a cosmetics mogul. But when we came away from it, we felt like it needed more of an anchoring or an editorial point of view,” said Holgate. “We wanted to reflect on the idea, people and creators, who are a part of the dramatically changing world we live in, but also those that are shaping it.”

As such, Wintour and Holgate weren’t just looking at designers as headliners this year, though some like Givenchy’s Clare Waight Keller, Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy and Rio Uribe of Gypsy Sport will, indeed, be present. Obviously, the rise of social media and its reach increasingly shaped Forces of Fashion‍‍‍ in Year 2.

Vogue is the most followed fashion and women’s lifestyle magazine on Instagram with 20.2 million followers (the title said Instagram is its users’ preferred platform, though it has more than 60 million followers across platforms), and its website hit a new traffic record this August with 13.1 million unique visitors, according to comScore — that’s 40 percent more year-over year. Thus, a more digital-centric conference schedule helps the offline experience fuel the online even more.

“We are just starting to realize the power Instagram has over fashion,” said Holgate. “Up until this point, it’s been very much a reflector of the world, but in terms of fashion, it is now changing it.” He pointed to a recent Gigi Hadid post on Vogue.com featuring the model alongside her famous family members Bella, Yolanda and Anwar Hadid. The digital story had over 19.2 million views across platforms, including an in-feed Instagram post and Instagram Stories. Overall, Gigi Hadid content does incredibly well for the site, so Holgate suggested Forces of Fashion attendees will be excited for the panel featuring the model, who rarely does press interviews or speaking engagements.

Arranging for Waight Keller to be in conversation with Eva Chen, Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships, also suggests a changing point of view. Though the Givenchy designer is on Instagram with 360,000 followers, she is less well-known outside of pure Vogue enthusiasts. Still, she does represent more mass appeal, since the subject of Waight Keller’s panel at Forces of Fashion will be designing Meghan Markle’s wedding dress for her marriage to Prince Harry.  A May in-feed post of Markle debuting the said Waight Keller-designed Givenchy dress on Instagram is Vogue’s most liked Instagram of all time. It garnered 12.3 millions impressions and 1.3 million likes.

The price of admission to Forces of Fashion is expensive — $3,000 for the day’s events — and like last year’s event, it’s sold out. (An undisclosed limited quantity of discounted tickets were available to students.) Vogue has even upped the capacity for Thursday’s conference because of increased interest in the lineup, and an additional 100 tickets have been sold, according to the brand. For comparison, Condé Nast’s Wired25 Festival, hosted by Wired, ranges in price from $50 for a day pass to $1,993 for a summit pass, and Glamour’s three-day Women of the Year (WOTY) Summit tops out at a $1,850 ticket granting admission to the WOTY awards ceremony.

“Naturally, there are topics that resonate across the digital gamut, but we’re not interested in creating a one-size-fits-all approach and distributing something wide across all channels,” said Vogue digital director Anna-Lisa Yabsley, who is tailoring the day-of social and digital strategy based on each individual speaker.

“There are speakers such as Kris Jenner that we know will resonate not only with our Vogue.com audience, but also very much with our flagship Instagram followers, but avid TV and culture buffs are waiting to hear what [screenwriter, director and producer] Ryan Murphy has to say,” she added. Fittingly, included Forces of Fashion talent will be participating in IGTV, Instagram Stories and Snapchat takeovers with Vogue, so the title can engage with users who are followers of the magazine, but not necessarily at the conference itself.

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