The traditional fashion week structure is fracturing as designers ditch New York Fashion Week in favor of their own events. So third-party apps and sites that collect every look from every show in one location are aiming to be the go-to source for runway content.
The breakdown of fashion weeks is OK for big brands like Michael Kors that can run their own shows and get plenty of attention. But one of the benefits of an organized event like NYFW is that smaller designers would get the halo effect of showing alongside big names like Kate Spade and Tory Burch. It’s the reason designers from smaller brands like LaQuan Smith have said it’s worth it, even though the costs are high. But as more structured events fall off, digital hubs featuring collections of runway images and videos could be a chance for smaller brands to get seen. This season, they include the CFDA’s Runway360 and Vogue Runway, as well as slideshows on sites like Elle.com.
Apps and sites that collect this content are all, in some way, modeled on the original online source for browsing looks from the big fashion shows, Vogue Runway. It was built in 2015 out of the ashes of another Condé Nast property, Style.com, which had been the go-to source for 15 years.
On Monday, Vogue is relaunching both the Vogue Runway mobile app and its online coverage. Previously, Vogue Runway covered only the U.S. while 11 disparate other Vogue sites and verticals covered fashion shows in other parts of the world. As part of the relaunch, Vogue Runway will now be a single destination for coverage of all global fashion shows.
Nicole Phelps, who was named the global director of Vogue Runway prior to the relaunch, said it was challenging relaunching amid so much disruption to how fashion shows are being organized and what purpose they serve. New features include a live-streaming service, which was already used by Saint Laurent last week, and a Pinterest-like ability to save and pin looks from different collections into personalized boards.
Phelps said she’s confident that Vogue Runway can stand out against competitors like Runway360 because it has a 5-year head-start on and an existing user base: It has more than 2.4 million users and sees more than 2.5 million visits to the site during a typical fashion week. In 2019, all of Vogue’s runway sites across geographic markets saw 29 million visits in total.
As of 2019, Vogue was charging some designers up to $20,000 per year to be listed on Vogue Runway. A rep from Vogue said that, now, most featured collections will be editor-chosen. Twice a year, however, designers can pay a fee to have their collections uploaded without a review. The rep declined to specify the exact amount of the fee.
That revenue stream will no doubt prove helpful — ad spending among fashion brands was down 45% in the second quarter of 2020, according to Mediaradar. For its part. CFDA is not charging designers to be a part of the new Runway360 platform, and it won’t charge in the future, according to the company. On Sunday, the CFDA announced American Express as a founding partner of Runway360.
Getting on these platforms can be critical for making expensive fashion shows worth it, since one 15 minute show could cost at least $200,000 and the returns are bound to be lower this NYFW — every show will be running at a maximum of 50% capacity.
“Fashion shows are about more than just connecting with retail buyers,” said Melissa Jackson-Parsey, chief strategy officer at creative agency B-Reel. “They can serve as valuable catalysts and stages for brands by helping assert their place in culture, driving engagement with customers across social and generating assets that can elevate e-commerce. All of these elements working in tandem are critical as brands look to build and grow their own digital ecosystems and sales channels.”
Phelps said centralized locations like Vogue Runway and Runway360 will remain important as brands shift to a direct model and away from the need to court wholesale buyers. Their shows will become more public-facing as they are streamed over the internet, and more directed toward consumers.
“We are definitely in a moment of fracturing,” Phelps said. “There’s a substantial number of designers who are looking for ways to realign their fashion shows to be more about the delivery of clothes for consumers. Almost like see-now, buy-now, but not necessarily. Michael Kors, for example, is showing in October, both to give its fall collection a little more time to breathe on the shelf and so that its spring collection is shown closer to the time where customers can actually buy it.”