Fashion shows are expensive productions, so for the designers still investing in them, it’s critical to make the most of those 20 minutes on the runway.
On Tuesday, the buyers, editors and influencers attending the Badgley Mischka fall 2018 show during New York Fashion Week will be asked to download an app, powered by SAP, ahead of the event. Using beacon technology, the app will surface every look that’s on the runway as it appears, displaying more detail around each outfit including a breakdown of every piece in a look. Attendees using the app will be asked to mark if they “like” or “love” a look through prompts on the screen.
The brand’s designers, Mark Badgley and James Mischka, plan to then use that feedback following the show to gauge popularity for each piece and inform decisions around inventory investment and production. Most importantly, it’s a way to get a jumpstart on production for a few key items that receive the best feedback from the show.
“We can immediately see the top looks based on direct feedback not from just anyone, but from the buyers who will ultimately be placing orders for these collections and the editors who review them,” said Badgley. “Buyers already come in with a notion around what colors and styles they’re looking for for a season. This will be useful to both sides.”
The app has clear setbacks: It requires that attendees download a separate app for one purpose, and the “like” and “love” options provide limited insight into why exactly a piece works. It provides no insight as to whether or not a piece doesn’t work, landing on the assumption that no reaction is a negative reaction. As one person from a fashion agency (who spoke anonymously) put it: It’s essentially a digitized version of the old-school show cards that were passed out to buyers and editors, who could then share feedback on each look and turn it in at the end so designers could review. The difference being that those were physical cards, and there was room for more in-depth feedback.
“It would be hard to tell whether or not there’s much weight that can be put on a ‘like’ or ‘love’ reaction in the moment,” the agency exec said.
It’s an imperfect system, but the designers are eager to capitalize on the attention that a runway show attracts, specifically to speed up their move to production. Buyers place orders typically six to eight weeks following a runway show, which, according to Badgley, feels like a stall on the momentum of a successful show.
“Fashion shows are very expensive to produce, so instead of a show that’s just a show for entertainment, this enables us to get more out of it,” he said. “We’ll share immediate feedback with our design staff, who can then get the production process started on our most successful pieces. We need to work ahead today.”
Badgley said that while the brand has considered a see-now-buy-now approach to the fashion show, the strategy doesn’t make sense for a brand that primarily sells hand-sewn occasion wear. The brand plans to use the feedback to inform fabric orders, silhouettes and style trends, not just for the current season, but for the future ones the team is working on. After the initial app test is over, the team also plans to customize it further in order to get more in-depth insight.
Badgley Mischka’s approach aims to get the benefits of a runway show (marketing materials, social media engagement, buyer and editor attention) while still gathering some immediate feedback. Other designers, including Rebecca Taylor and Diane von Furstenberg, are choosing to stay off the runway and instead host private appointments with buyers, in order to have a more personal conversation about trends, styles and forthcoming orders.
But for those who still find the runway valuable, immediate feedback is essential for both order planning and market research. Another way to glean insight from a fashion show is through a pre-order option. Alice McCall, the Australian-based designer who is showing on the NYFW runway for the first time, is putting all of her collection on pre-order through Moda Operandi and her site in order to gauge what customers are interested in actually purchasing. Other designers, including Kanye Wes and Nanushka, have used pre-orders to plan inventory and production schedules.
“The runway is a spectacle today, but you have to dig deeper than that because, ultimately, product matters. Customer behavior matters. What sells matters,” said McCall.