New York Fashion Week said it will be opening up its notoriously closed-door events to the public.
The program — called “NYFW: The Experience” and led by IMG, the official show runner of NYFW — is designed to give luxury consumers access to fashion shows for those not able to score an invite. Interested individuals can select from one of two packages that include access to shows, as well as varying levels of experiences and amenities. Think: backstage tours, premium seating, gourmet food and salon treatments from runway stylists. The effort points to the continued evolution of NYFW — which was originally open strictly to buyers, sellers and press — as the rise of social media has made consumers privy to the event in real time and led to an influx of influencer and blogger attendees.
Permitting public attendance is one of many recent evolutions to NYFW, including the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s decision to cut the event by one day this September. The move was based on feedback from buyers and sellers that were growing frustrated by the logistical challenges and cost of traveling to and from each international fashion week. It also comes on the heels of recent announcements from designers opting to show abroad that have traditionally participated in New York , including Joseph Altuzarra who announced this week that he will present in Paris. (Likewise, Proenza Schouler and Rodarte also decided to set their sights on France this year.)
“We’ve had incredible demand from brands, designers and people who recognize NYFW and global fashion weeks are changing and evolving,” Mark Shapiro, co-president of IMG, told WWD. “Fashion shows are the ultimate mega-marketing event, and historically, the consumer has been outside the door.”
While the announcement marks a significant step to increasing accessibility to the exclusive experience, it still requires an application process and a fee. (Costs vary depending on the package, and IMG did not respond to questions about the estimated price.) Ashley Paintsil, editorial director at FashInvest, said despite the likely prohibitive price tag, IMG made a smart business decision in offering up tickets to consumers that wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to hobnob with front row attendees.
“On one hand, IMG is capitalizing on the spectacle and celebrity that fashion week has become,” said Painstil. “But on the other hand, there’s so much data showing people want to buy experiences, so why not capitalize on that.”
Paintsil said she anticipates the program will continue to aggravate press members that have been outspoken about frustrations with designers inviting bloggers to runway shows, voicing concern these influencers will replace their jobs. A recent example of this was an incident last fall when Vogue editors wrote they were growing exasperated by the practice of “paid appearances and borrowed outfits” among influencers they referred to as “pathetic” and desperate.” The bloggers fought back in a series of social media posts decrying Vogue’s criticism.
She also warned the pay-to-play model runs the risk of brands coming off as inauthentic. “It’s a little fake,” she said. “You’re paying to see something that’s supposed to be an authentic extension of a brand, rather than be invited by a brand that actually has a relationship with you.”