NYFW Briefing: How Revolve took over fashion week, one social post at a time

Looking back on New York Fashion Week, it’s hard to believe that it was mega-e-tailer Revolve’s first time participating in the event. The company’s take on modern fashion (extreme cutouts, body-con dresses, strappy sandals that recall the ’90s) was so prevalent among attending influencers, it became a joke among TikTokers — which is, perhaps, a mark of success in 2021. 

Revolve showed up at fashion week in a number of ways. First, it hosted a runway show on the roof of Casa Cipriani for its collaboration with Peter Dundas, former creative director of Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci. Then, on Thursday, it opened its press preview of The Revolve Gallery, a sprawling 17,000-square-foot at Hudson Yards. It opened to the public on September 10. 

Revolve Gallery was an indoor and mostly maskless fashion show of a different kind. The retailer partnered with corporate sponsors (Afterpay), and with brands including GHD and Charlotte Tilbury to do the featured models’ hair and makeup. The 13 fashion brands “showing” at the gallery included Bronx and Banco, Eaves, Farai London, For Love & Lemons, House of Harlow 1960, Lovers + Friends, LoveShackFancy, LPA, Ronny Kobo, Set Active and Tell Your Friends. Cotton had a room displaying its curation, which was also available to peruse on Revolve’s site. And certain influencers, like Lindsi Lane (253,000 Instagram followers), were tapped as ambassadors. For her part, Lane spent time in Cotton’s room and posted on her Instagram tagging @discovercotton and #shopcotton. Hims & Hers, the personal care brands that count Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Lopez as spokespeople, also took up a dedicated space.

“We wanted to be diverse — not just with the background of the [featured] designers, but also in: ‘How long have you been selling on Revolve?’ There are brands [here] that we’ve had on Revolve for 10-plus years, but also brands like Farai London that we’ve only had on the site for one season,” said Raissa Gerona, Revolve’s chief brand officer. She did not specify if brands paid to sell at the Gallery.

Upon entering the Gallery, celebs and influencers posed on a pink carpet that was flanked by a floral wall. Those photographed include Kylie Jenner, in one of her first appearances since announcing her second pregnancy, Emily Ratajkowski, Megan Fox and Paris Hilton. Influencers included Tinx, Remi Bader, Bretman Rock, and Camila Coelho, whose namesake clothing collection is produced in partnership with Revolve. 

Though the clothes featured in the rooms appeared on live models on Thursday, when Glossy previewed the Gallery, they appeared on mannequins after that. Everything was shoppable via QR codes. Gerona said thousands of customers had signed up to attend through Revolve’s website. The Gallery was promoted through social media and press. 

Previously, Gerona said, Revolve had stayed away from fashion week. “The influencers we work with are doing a million things a day [during NYFW], so it’s harder to get their attention and also have that space on their social media platforms to capture what we want them to capture,” she said. An event like the Gallery had been in the plans for years, she said, but had been delayed due to Covid. “We felt like New York needed a new sense of energy,” Gerona said, of what inspired the Gallery. “Revolve is able to provide that with [this] different experience. It’s for everybody, not just if you’re famous or have X amount of followers; it really is this experience where we want our customers, followers and community to come and enjoy it.”

In looking at the hashtag #Revolvegallery, it’s clear that the activation gained influencers’ support. There are over 1,500 Instagram posts using the hashtag. Gerona said the company works with over 500 NY-based influencers, though some, like Coelho, flew in for the occasion. On September 9, Jenner posted an Instagram which received over 6 million likes. Her caption read: “So excited to support my friends @revolve on their amazing New York Fashion Week presentation #revolvegallery.” That was the only hashtag she used. Revolve did not confirm whether or not it had paid partners to post. It seems likely, given the proliferation of content posted by big influencers and celebrities. Paris Hilton posted a video that used the tag #RevolvePartner.

Revolve’s NYFW takeover did not go unnoticed: How it became so ubiquitous has become a topic of conversation on social media.“It wasn’t New York Fashion Week, it was Revolve Fashion Week,” said Melissa Tovar, a social media creator with 140,000 followers on TikTok and 14,000 on Instagram. It’s unclear how Revolve worked with influencers to execute its takeover, but Tovar said that many of her friends (and fellow influencers) had been gifted $1,000 gift cards by the retailer and asked to shop from a selection of set options. They were gifted clothing, but weren’t paid to post. According to Tovar, this contributed to homogeneity in street style this season. She broke it down in her TikTok.

@xomelissatovar

here’s the tea 🐸 🍵 what are your thoughts? screenshot from @mariely.co #NYFW #nyfw2021

♬ original sound – Melissa Tovar

People are saying that influencers are not ‘giving’ what they’re supposed to be giving at New York Fashion Week. And although I agree, here’s the tea: Revolve is literally throwing money at influencers and giving them a budget to spend on their website. They can’t buy anything that they want, they can only buy from the selection that they’re given. I know this because I’m hearing a lot of my friends got that budget. If you’re seeing outfits that are repetitive and lots of basics, this is why. And you know what? You would do it, too, for a check. If someone gives you $1,000 to shop on their website, you’re going to shop on their website. So although these outfits were not giving what they need to be giving, they were free. And Revolve is a genius, because they basically took over all of New York Fashion Week. That’s marketing.”

According to Tribe Dynamics, from September 6-11, the hashtag #revolvegallery generated $7.9 million in EMV (earned media value); ambassadors Madison Pettis, Alexis Ren and Kylie Jenner drove the most EMV around the hashtag. 

Of the Gallery, Gerona said: “That’s what Revolve has done well. In the last eight or nine years, with all these events that we do, we understand what makes an influencer or customer want to pull their phone out and share that experience.” Setting the stage via a huge, highly photogenic fashion paradise-slash-gallery — and offering up free clothes — clearly works.

4 questions with Patrick Janelle (@aguynamedpatrick), founder of Untitled Secret talent management

How has the role of influencers at fashion week been different this season?
“Where I’ve seen it differ is within the activations surrounding the actual shows, like at the parties. There’s actually still a long way to go, [in terms of] brands being creative about how they’re introducing influencers within the space of the brand. They still tend to be a little precious about prioritizing traditional press over influencers, which I can understand from a legacy perspective. But there are a lot more opportunities in [the ways] brands can be utilizing influencers at the shows, specifically.”

How would you recommend brands do that?
“Tory Burch, for example, brought on [our client] Davis Burleson. He has a TikTok show called ‘What’s Poppin With Davis,’ and he was brought on to do red carpet-style interviews at the show itself, which I think is super, super smart. It’s about leveraging the talent’s natural or native ways of interacting, as well as social media, and figuring out how to best incorporate them into the shows. Ultimately, the value of having influencers is that they have a strong audience; you can get super high visibility on whatever it is that you’re activating. To not be bringing in creative, smart people on social media to document your show is a bit of a missed opportunity.”

So, do designers need to do more than just seat an influencer at their show?
“There are maybe two options: One is to do traditional seating so that people can document the actual show. But there are other creative ways to use [influencers] beyond just [setting them up to] dress well for street-style cameras. [You can] use their skills and [allow them to] be creative about how they work on social media, and think about [other] ways that they can be incorporated. “

Did anyone use influencers particularly well this Fashion Week?
“Kate Spade did. They set up a public apple orchard that served as a backdrop for their show. But it also gave back to the city of New York and the public, and it provided another way for talent to interact and document their experience. That was interesting. It doesn’t always have to be an over-the-top activation, though brands love to spend a lot of money to create something that’s Instagrammable.”

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