Every year, New York Fashion Week is increasingly jam-packed with events on and off the calendar, making it difficult for smaller brands — who often have fewer resources and less name recognition — to garner attention. This has some companies questioning whether it’s worth it to spend time and money on the usual route of a presentation or an over-the-top event. Below is an exploration of three different ways these brands, across categories, are approaching this season.
Getting product in the right hands
As influencers continue to dominate the scene, lending product to them affords smaller brands what’s essentially free advertising. “Many of our smaller brands are focusing on product seeding and product loans for fashion month [instead of events] — especially those who utilize a see-now-buy-now model,” said Rebecca Schwartz, a senior account executive at Wetherly. “We are getting new product out there, to key influential and established brand fans — the reason being that, one, it’s a nice gesture to show appreciation for these individuals’ ongoing support, and two, between Instagram, Snapchat and street style photography, the product will be seen.” And if followers can search for the product and buy it right away, all the better.
Other publicists pointed out that this is a good tactic for international brands, as well, who won’t necessarily be on the ground during the week — they can still have a presence. For example, the lesser-known Finnish design house Marimekko doesn’t show during NYFW, but the brand’s bold pieces have increasingly popped up on Instagram feeds and in street style shots during the timeframe, likely due to increased sample seeding.
Blogger Fer Medina wearing Marimekko last February during NYFW.
It helps that this tactic is budget-friendly, but the payoff can still be less than desired. “It is never guaranteed that the recipients will wear the pieces, be photographed in them or post [them] to social,” said one PR executive, speaking under condition of anonymity, “but it is still helping build a relationship between the brand and the influencer, [as well as] with those in their network.”
Opting out entirely
Some brands are simply taking a break. Although local womenswear brand VEDA, launched by Lyndsey Butler in 2008, has put on occasional presentations in years past, they’ve decided to sit this season out. “We feel that for a brand our size, it is hard to make a ‘dent’ in fashion week — we just get overshadowed by the larger fashion houses,” explained Kim LoCicero. One of the main reasons they held presentations in the first place was to sell to their retail vendors (including Saks, Nordstrom and Need Supply), but with buyers always scheduling showroom appointments on top of attending shows, the events began to seem unnecessary.
The team also feels that taking the non-traditional path is simply in their DNA. “We aren’t a commercial runway brand — a lot of our actual consumers know us as being a downtown NYC brand that has a cult leather jacket following,” said LoCicero. In other words, opting out of the set fashion schedule can deliver its own cache of cool. Nevertheless, she didn’t rule out a future return — but said the situation would have to be something different and “badass.”
As for giving in to the current vogue of seeding out new products, LoCicero said, “We do a bit of gifting, but we [already] have a core group of influencers who have followed the brand since Lyndsey started it years ago, and we have preferred to focus on being more organic.”
Syncing regular events and launches with fashion week
Beauty brands often try to make their presence felt at fashion week, as well. For fragrance startup Abbott NYC, which didn’t fully launch until November of last year, this will be the first New York Fashion Week they can take advantage of.
“Our strategy this year is to be part of the energy and opportunities created by NYFW without the need to directly participate,” said co-founder Michael Pass. As such, they’re aligning their bi-monthly Scents & Spirits event (wine-tasting and scent-sampling in a Brooklyn loft) with fashion week so they can court buyers, editors and influencers who would not otherwise be in town. They’ve also planned to debut one of their newest fragrances this week at Maison 10, a concept boutique in NoMad that’s popular with the fashion set and bound to see more foot traffic in the coming days.
When asked what the payoff might be for fashion week initiatives like these, Pass said, “At least for our first NYFW, we’re seeing the value in connections and brand exposure more than the bottom line.”