Welcome to Glossy’s New York Fashion Week newsletter, bringing you on-the-ground insights and analysis from straight off the runway. All week, we’ll be sending behind-the-scenes glimpses and interviews with industry members straight to your inbox. Sponsored by Shopify Plus. 

Like fashion apparel brands, fashion modeling agencies are finding they need to act like media companies to thrive.

This New York Fashion Week, leading global agencies IMG and Elite World Group are leaning into their potential as media companies. Both are making focused efforts to grow or develop newer arms of business that incorporate their vast networks and, most importantly, work to diversify their revenue streams. The relevance of the pure modeling agency is being threatened, as social media both expands the model pool to influencers and offers model talent more power over their career trajectory.

The concept is nothing new to IMG, which started a modeling agency in the ’80s and has since expanded to several new areas of business, many resulting from its merger with entertainment agency WME in 2013. IMG now stages and produces the official New York Fashion Week event, which this season is showcasing more than 50 designer collections. As such, it owns and manages the Instagram handles @NYFW and @FashionWeek, which have a combined following of more than 4 million and are among the top five fashion accounts in engagement (measured by likes and comments). They’re the top two during fashion week. Last fashion week, in September 2019, IMG drove 2.1 trillion press impressions, according to the company. 

Now, much like a fashion influencer, IMG is leveraging that audience to sell NYFW-timed sponsorships to companies including BMW. What’s new about the partnerships are the key deliverables of Instagram posts, in the form of videos directed at IMG’s fashion-savvy audience. BMW’s videos feature NYFW designer Christian Siriano talking about breaking barriers. BMW will be promoting the videos on its own social channels, which will help IMG reach new audiences. IMG will also post the videos, but it doesn’t promote posts. 

“What we can offer is very holistic,” said Leslie Russo, evp of IMG’s fashion events group. “Rather than just do events or just do digital, or just to experiential, we do all these different bites, with a focus on storytelling.”

“And authenticity is key,” said Kristen Hammond, IMG’s fashion events group’s senior director of digital content and strategy. “We’re being very selective about the content we create and the content we’re including. It’s not just product placement.” 

Hammond said she built up IMG’s social following by offering followers a unique insider perspective to fashion events. In addition, IMG’s talent — including photographers and videographers, as well as models — share and engage with the content throughout the year, which drives follows. During NYFW, IMG features model takeovers on its Instagram Stories. Its Instagram handles are also posted in the lobbies and corridors of NYFW venues.

“New York Fashion Week is the ultimate media platform,” said Russo. “When it comes to reach, I always say that if sports is broadcast, then fashion is definitely digital. That’s where the audience is, and that’s how you reach them.” 

IMG sees opportunities to gain from its social following beyond fashion week. Earlier this month, it sold a Super Bowl street style sponsorship to Visa.

“Fashion is a common thread that goes through every other pillar: music, sports, food,” said Russo. “Fashion is equally the NBA team walking down the tunnel in Thom Browne suits as it is models in a runway show.” 

Likewise, Elite World Group is throwing its hat into a new ring, with the launch of its first fashion brand, e1972, which will debut in a runway show on Saturday night. 

The brand, named after the year opened for business, is designed by Elite’s CEO and creative director, Julia Haart. Haart, whose fashion background includes launching a namesake shoe brand and serving as the creative director of La Perla, has tapped many of the agency’s partners and resources to make a go of it. Each of Elite’s 32 brick-and-mortar agencies will have an in-house e1972 store, where shoppers can get measured and make a purchase. Plus, models who wear the brand and post about it get a piece of the pie via a rev-share program. Haart said the head of each agency will attend the e1972 show on Saturday. Its model talent, including Lindsey Wixson and Isabeli Fontana, are slated to walk. 

As for the clothing brand, it uses scanning technology through an app to develop made-to-measure styles for each customer; sizing is not part of the equation. What’s more, the process eliminates waste via overproduction. To create the styles, Haart has teamed with small, established ateliers needing business. Orders are ready four to six weeks after they’re placed. 

“I’ve expanded the definition of model talent, and I’ve helped talent build brands. Plus I’ve brought expertise — producers, directors, videographers, content creators — in-house,” said Haart. “And that’s how I’m going to give exposure to this brand: through my talent. It’s a massive, collaborative project with everyone in the media network. We’re working to become the largest media network in the world.” — Jill Manoff

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4 Questions With Rebecca Minkoff
The release of the spring 2020 collection at New York Fashion Week on Saturday afternoon marked the 15th anniversary of the Rebecca Minoff brand. Minkoff took the opportunity to launch a new collection, Little Minkoff — her first foray into kidswear and first eco-friendly line through a collaboration with tech company Resonance. The collection will be available on LittleMinkoff.com later this month, with made-to-order items delivered seven to nine days after they’re purchased. Minkoff said the sustainable line will serve as a test for bringing more eco-friendly processes to her core brand. 

Beyond the kids’ line, how will you be celebrating 15 years?
We’re looking at this as a year-long activation of different activities. As we look to the future, we’re looking at the things that are authentically important to me — motherhood, children — and also what we’re known for, which is being tech disruptors in fashion, and how to apply those to new categories. In addition, we’re reintroducing a popular version of our classic bag in March and having our customers celebrate the rollout with us, content-wise. The common thread with all these women is that it was their bag for their first job or maybe their first interview. Fifteen years is a great milestone moment, and we’re viewing ourselves as a milestone moment brand. 

How did being a mom influence this collection?
Moms want [kids’ clothes] to be easy. And I wanted it to be healthy, meaning not using chemicals. I like the idea that there’s a lot of mix-and-matching in this collection, and that it also ties back to the mommy-and-me [trend], but not in a really cheesy way. It was important to me to make that [trend] cool, so that moms can celebrate what that looks like, whether they have a boy or a girl. And I just wanted to make it happy and fun. Children are the epitome of celebrating life. 

What’s your current take on the relevance of a fashion show?
It’s a conversation that each [designer] has. Everyone is different, and there’s no one set model. But whether it’s measuring social chatter or impressions or traffic being driven to the website or sales, we’ve done enough due diligence to know that this works for us. And having tried a presentation over a show, we felt like it was a much better ROI — but we’re happy to keep testing. In this Wild West, you can’t just do what people did 15 years ago or keep doing the same thing. As the brand evolves, we will evolve our thinking.

What’s the secret to longevity in the fashion industry?
We like to approach things like tech companies do, so it’s constant A/B testing and constantly optimizing for what works and what doesn’t. There’s no emotion around it or embarrassment when something’s not working. You just have to say, “Okay, next. Let’s move on.”

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Spotted
In the front row at the Badgley Mischka show on Saturday morning was Christine Currence, president of Badgley Mischka, Sarah Fuchs, vp and gm of Covet Fashion, and a school teacher from California. The teacher had won a style challenge on the Covet Fashion app that involved styling Currence in a Badgley Mischka spring 2020 look. Part of her prize was being flown in for the show. 

The Covet Fashion gaming app, which is the third-largest driver to BadgleyMischka.com, launched seven years ago and now sees 3 million players a month, with 500,000-600,000 daily players averaging 32 years old. Around 300,000 players took part in the Badgley Mischka styling challenge, and Saturday’s show was live-streamed on the Covet app. 

“We’re providing experiences for our players that they may not have access to,” said Fuchs.  

Also at Badgely Mischka: Alec Baldwin.

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Bookmarked
Rihanna tells us her new collection refuses to play by the rules
Did Tom Ford betray fashion week? Not so fast
Fashion week begins, and so does an entire industry’s angst over its very existence

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Starred
Tonight, fans of unapologetically sexy fashion will head to LaQuan Smith’s cocktail party and runway show in NYC’s Financial District. The designer is a favorite of Rihanna, Beyoncé and Kim K. 

Image taken at the Rebecca Minkoff spring 2020 show