The Council of Fashion Designers of America is taking new measures to get the New York Fashion Week schedule for spring 2019 — 100 runway shows and presentations strong at its July 26 release — into the hands of fashion fans.
This week, the CFDA — the trade organization that owns the rights to the official fashion calendar and counts over 500 designers as members — released a NYFW campaign, delivered by geo-targeted mobile ads deployed by technology set up in vacant storefronts. For fashion weeks prior, it relied strictly on outdoor advertising, including on taxi tops, light pole banners and bus shelters.
“We wanted to better tell the story of the huge industry behind [NYFW] that makes everything run — to celebrate everything that’s going on in New York and retail, including the diversity and creativity, and show how diverse perspectives elevate design,” said Mark Beckham, the CFDA’s vp of marketing.
Fulfilling the retail side of the equation is VisuWall, a technology company working with real estate companies to convert storefronts to billboard-like advertisements that can track traffic and engagement: The technology can detect whether a passerby looks at an ad and whether they’re a man or a woman, and can do a sentiment analysis, determining if the ad leaves them happy, confused or disinterested, for example.
The campaign’s featured imagery is also a departure from the norm of a runway model in a look suited to the season. At the focus are original prints by 2017 graduates of the Fashion Futures Graduate Showcase, a program the CFDA started two years ago with the City of New York: Fifty students are selected from top fashion schools — Parsons, Rhode Island School of Design and FIT, to name a few — to meet with designers, retailers and editors in New York and get a jump on landing a job after college. Of these, three are selected to show at New York Fashion Week and receive complimentary help on production, casting and more.
The campaign prints will be featured in the selected designers’ runway collections and on 60 million bottles of LIFEWTR — a NYFW campaign sponsor — which will hit stores around the country starting next week.
The CFDA’s five VisuWall ads were posted throughout lower Manhattan — on West 14th Street, 9th Avenue, 8th Street and Macdougal, Broadway, and Bowery — and they’re set to remain intact for a month, until shortly after New York Fashion Week wraps. VisuWall established geofencing, shooting a banner-like ad to fashion fans (based on mobile activity) within a three-block radius of the ads, when they open Safari or Chrome. When they click on the ads, they’ll be taken to the CFDA’s landing page featuring the New York Fashion Week schedule.
From there, viewers can explore videos and stories on CFDA members showing collections this season. Once fashion week starts, images of the shows and designer lookbooks will also be live on the site. The success of the campaign can later be measured by pitting the traffic against the hits to the CFDA site, said Kobi Wu, VisuWall’s founder and CEO.
“Retail is so challenged right now,” said Beckham. “But we’re giving recognition to retail’s major role in [the fashion industry] and reusing these spaces to create something special.”
It’s a common belief that New York Fashion Week is just as troubled, with many designers opting out in recent seasons, in favor of showing their collections on other stages.
“There are a lot of reasons why designers show when they show and where they show,” said Beckham. “For so long, it’s been: You show in February and September, and you show this collection. To do something that has been in place for decades without stepping back and looking at its purpose would be a mistake.”
He said the CFDA is making a point to allow designers to explore new ways of presenting their collections — whether that’s releasing a video, showing in June and December (because they’re a wholesale business, and pre-collections sit on sales floors longer) or showing in Paris (because they’re trying to expand their business to Europe).
“Change is always challenging,” he said, of the evolving schedule. “You don’t know what the end result is going to be — you might go through it and come back to where you were at the beginning, or you might decide: Why did I wait so long to change?”
Whether the CFDA released a campaign in support of the designers who opted to show in June, he said, “We didn’t, though we would have loved to. We are a nonprofit, and these campaigns are costly.”