For his first New York Fashion Week runway collection after a four-year hiatus, fashion designer Phillip Lim of 3.1. Phillip Lim partnered with shopping platform Rakuten with the aim of making his collection more accessible.
Along with Rebecca Minkoff and Joseph Altuzarra, Lim is part of Rakuten’s “Wear the Runway” sales event happening throughout NYFW, from September 7-13. The event allowed Rakuten users to shop an exclusive piece from the collection after its runway debut on Sunday. Lim created a black denim cargo jacket to exclusively sell on the Rakuten platform. For all three designers involved, the event has served as a pre-sale of exclusive runway pieces, making them shoppable before they hit other retail channels. Lim’s entire brand is on Rakuten, and his current collection is available until September 13 for 10% cash back.
Also as part of the event, Rakuten is offering 10% cash back on purchases from more than 40 other fashion retailers. Typically, Rakuten offers cash back rewards for purchases in the U.S. The promotions will remain active for a week after the shows wrap.
“When we started the brand almost 19 years ago, one of the main pillars was to make it accessible, not only in price point but also [in terms of] value and [shopper] demographics,” said Lim. “It was important that the brand and the ethos of the collection reflected my values and my business partner’s values, as we are both the product of first-generation immigrants.”
Lim said his approach to his show and model casting was more intentional this season, after four years away. The model lineup was more diverse and representative of Rakuten customer groups. According to data aggregate Similar Web, Rakuten’s shopper demographics show that its shopper base is 46% female, mostly based in the U.S. and mostly in the age group of 34-44. The collection’s themes are the return to New York and a reinterpretation of the “New York uniform”.
Rakuten’s sponsorship spotlights the NYFW commerce opportunity. “As much as I believe fashion should be steeped in craft and artisanal skill, the reality is that we live in a modern world,” said Lim, pointing to the importance of sales. Lim said that the last four years away from the runway have led to a “healthy” business.
The Rakuten Group, which includes Rakuten.com, recorded its highest revenue to date in the second quarter. Consolidated revenue reached 497.2 billion yen ($3.36 billion), up 9.7% year-over-year. The company declined to share the details of its New York Fashion Week: The Shows sponsorship. When Lowe’s sponsored New York Fashion Week in 2020, it helped to fund its partner designers’ shows.
Rakuten has been working to bring awareness to the luxury offerings available on its platform. Its partners include Neiman Marcus, Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Moda Operandi and Farfetch, among others. “We’ve been very focused on building our luxury offering,” said Vicki Wagner McRae, svp of brand, creative and communications at Rakuten. “Luxury is more relevant than ever before. Consumers are looking for investment pieces, whether that’s about long-term value or sustainability consciousness.”
Rakuten’s focus is offering shoppers cashback discounts on purchases, as well as exclusive offers and rewards. For the first time, through the NYFW designer partnerships, it is also offering exclusive products. Each designer created a product that will only be sold on Rakuten.com for a limited time. Their prices range from $350-$1,000.
“We were looking for partners that have some shared values around the concept of accessibility and bringing fashion to everybody,” said Wagner McRae. All three designers sit at an accessible price point, compared to high-luxury brands, and have made a point to feature a diverse cast of models in their shows.
Rakuten’s move into designer brand partnerships comes as more brands seek support and new audiences. “Luxury retailers have had to rethink their affiliate marketing strategy because of the Covid, “ said Wagner McRae. “Before that, they were more precious about their digital offering and wanted to control the experience. With the adoption of e-commerce, brands have had to think about new ways to reach consumers that are less traditional.”
She added, “We’re giving these brands the value of telling their story on Rakuten through the exclusive product offering, while also driving business. They’re also delivering savings to customers without degrading their brand, as [the savings are based on] cashback discounts offered through us; they don’t have to put their items on promotion.”
Rakuten also sponsored Fashion Week in Tokyo in August, and on August 31, it hosted the first A Bathing Ape (BAPE) fashion show in Tokyo — this partnership was secured through Rakuten’s “By R” project that backs Japanese fashion brands. In May, Rakuten also runs an eight-day event called Big Give Week, where members get 15% off selected brands.