How Who What Wear’s first multi-brand runway show came together

Designers aren’t the only ones hopping aboard the see-now-buy-now bandwagon.

In an effort to capitalize on its readers’ rapt attention during fashion month, Who What Wear organized a fashion show aligned with the start of New York Fashion Week. On Wednesday night, the fashion and shopping site made its runway debut at the Skylight Modern, debuting 30 editor-curated looks featuring items from a variety of brands, which ran the gamut from Urban Outfitters to Monse and Zara to Marc Jacobs.

In line with Who What Wear’s editorial endeavor to be a 100 percent “shoppable” site, each item in the show was made available to shop online during the live stream, as well as on iPads at the show, through an affiliate partnership with Shopbop.

“The founders [Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr] made the decision at the beginning that everything we shared on the site would have a link to shop. Editorially, we want to give our readers inspiration and utility,” said Erica Bartman, Who What Wear’s chief revenue officer. “Shopping the runway and see-now-buy-now is gaining steam, and we felt like it was our moment to contribute.”

The show, which ended with 400 RSVPs the day of, came together almost entirely in-house, with the help of Who What Wear parent Clique Media Group’s content studio, CMG Studios, the company’s development team and its editorial team, as well as third-party production agency One Kick, which took care of last-minute show details. To front the costs of a fashion show, Who What Wear recruited two sponsors: Secret, which will sell Secret Clinical Strength on the live stream and deodorize the models, and Maybelline, who will be doing makeup backstage. Both brands — even the deodorant — had items on sale in the shopping stream. Apple provided in-seat iPads for guests.

To get brands on board, Who What Wear went to retail marketplace Shopbop, which sells collections from each brand involved in the show. Mirroring its affiliate strategy on its editorial site, Who What Wear will earn a commission from every Shopbop sale made from the show’s collection. The company didn’t disclose how much of a commission it will be making from the event, but typically, article links earn 8 to 10 percent commission. Clique Media Group reported in 2016 that 15 percent of its (undisclosed) revenue comes from affiliate links.

“[The editorial team] does this every day anyway on the site, so this was a way to put it together on the runway,” said Bartman. “Our editors have curated the show just like they would our online and social content. We didn’t hire out or let brands approach us for spots.”

The clothing featured in the show (which is already available for spring, having debuted on runways last season) was selected by Who What Wear editor-in-chief Kat Collings and editorial director Bobby Schuessler to represent the trends for spring that Who What Wear readers have shown interest in. Those included bright colors, sleeve details and corset tops.

“We want to be showcasing trends that not only feel aligned with what the fashion industry is endorsing, but also reflect what real women are responding to,” said Collings. “When picking specific pieces to include, we’re also looking at data on when women will start buying key seasonal pieces, how long it takes a micro-trend to gain mass acceptance and which price points are most appealing to readers across different clothing categories.”

Collings said that Who What Wear also uses Snapchat to get reader insight by asking followers to screenshot to vote on a piece or pattern, or to message them in the app to share thoughts on a trend. For the show, Snapchat followers voted on shoes to pair with certain outfits.

Bartman stressed that brands couldn’t pay to play to be involved in the show, and that every brand included was called upon by the editorial side.

“This is actually a benefit for both parties — the brands and Who What Wear,” said Chris Merkle, founder of branding agency Razur. “For the brands, it mitigates the risk while allowing them to try something new. If they haven’t been willing to test see-now-buy-now, they could still get an in-season boost.”

To make the fashion show shoppable, Who What Wear set up a system for favorites. Those watching the show, whether live or on live stream, could double-tap to favorite individual items or entire looks on the runway as they went by. At the show, this happened via iPad experiences that coincided with each look; online, this took place through a feed below the live-stream video, built by the site’s development team. After the show, emails were sent out from Who What Wear containing each favorited item with links to shop on Shopbop (access to the live stream conveniently required an email address). The collection will live on Shopbop for about a week following the show, and the runway live stream landing page will live on Who What Wear for at least the next two months. It currently displays user-generated content from the show as well as photos.

A shoppable look from the runway show.

When deciding the show format, Who What Wear wanted to optimize for purchases. Bartman said that a widened runway was built in order to give more models time on the runway, and its length was made to fit more people in the front row. While some designers are ditching the fashion show in favor of parties and presentations, Bartman said a traditional runway show was always the plan.

“We thought the runway represented the spirit of what fashion week is, and we wanted to take that and give people the opportunity to experience a show that they can shop,” she said. “It’s the excitement of what fashion week is and what fashion week trends are about. This was the way to do it.”

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