Make it Instagrammable, and they will come.Saks Fifth Avenue’s theory for its New York Fashion Week Spring 2019 presence — a West Village townhouse outfitted with a DJ booth, a mirror tunnel and rooms designed to hype Saks’ top fall trends (the Wild Wild West room, for one, is decorated with cacti, and styles including Givenchy cowboy boots hang from lassos) — wasn’t uncommon, but it was a safe bet. Posting images to show off events attended and inspire FOMO among followers has become a common objective of NYFW attendees. Consider the start of every runway show: It’s lights out, phones up.
The retailer’s “It List Townhouse,” which takes a page or two from Refinery29’s 29 Rooms, is one piece of a multi-part collaboration between Saks, American Express and Harper’s Bazaar. For Saks, the three-day experiential retail activation is a chance to bring to life its bi-annual “It List,” a curation of the season’s must-have styles, usually promoted in a catalog, on the website and in store.
“It’s a service to our customer,” said Emily Essner, svp of marketing and digital at Saks Fifth Avenue. “We put everything she needs now, in a really easy-to-follow list.”
Fashion items featured are available for purchase on a basement level, but Essner said the house is more of an awareness play than a means to generate quick sales.
The Animal Instincts room in the Saks It List Townhouse
On Thursday night, the brands held an exclusive preview party for insiders, press and celebrities — Katie Holmes and Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey hosted, Hannah Bronfman DJed, and Caitlyn Jenner and Coco Rocha were spotted taking photos.
For American Express, the Townhouse plays into its “By Invitation Only” program for its Platinum card members, providing access to exclusive events throughout the year — around 15 of which are fashion-focused, said Chris Cracchiolo, American Express’ vp of global membership rewards and loyalty benefits. During this fashion week, those events include a fireside chat between Bailey and designer Jeremy Scott at the It List Townhouse and a showing of Kith’s newest styles hours before their debut at the brand’s official presentation.
Events are chosen with the guidance of American Express’ “Platinum Collective,” a group of influential leaders across industries appointed to ensure perks, services and experiences offered are in tune with members’ interests. On the fashion side, that includes Opening Ceremony founder Carol Lim, Jennifer Fisher of Jennifer Fisher Jewelry and Outdoor Voices’ Tyler Haney. The Collective is often incorporated into events — Kith founder Ronnie Fieg is also on board.
Harper’s Bazaar no doubt sees dollar signs. As part of the deal, Saks and American Express took out a multi-page ad to showcase the It List in the glossy’s September issue.
And for Saks, it’s an obvious way to try amp up a hitherto missing cool factor.
Other shopping opportunities being created for NYFW
In 2013, Fashion’s Night Out shuttered, eliminating an event based on encouraging shopping in NYC during New York Fashion Week. The September-based event — launched by Vogue, the CFDA and NYC & Company, NYC’s tourism marketing agency — had its fair share of problems, which may be why it took five years for a company to pick up where it left off. Enter Fashion Week Store Tours, officially launched this week by Daniel Hodges, the CEO and founder of Consumers in Motion Group, which has been hosting store tours around retail events — think NRF and Shop.org — since 2013.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FASHION WEEK STORE TOURS
Interested parties can choose from one of six tours — ”Soho,” “Madison Avenue,” “Sustainability in Fashion,” to name a few. At the start of the tour, an expert gives an overview of the tour topic — the sustainability expert from Princeton University kicks off the sustainability-focused tour, for example. Participants are then led from shop to shop, with the retailers manning the conversations in-store.
It’s designed to engage all shoppers, even retail experts.
Hodges and his team can spend a week visiting up to 1,000 stores in an area to pinpoint those that will have an impact on a group and challenge their ways of thinking about fashion and retail. The themes, locations for the stores and content featured are based on market research, survey data and interviews from professionals in the fashion and luxury industries.
It often translates to sales.
Tour members often come back to the store and spread the word about what they learned about the brand, Hodges said. After one tour, a shopper went back to Michele Varian and spent $14,500 on jewelry. After another, someone dropped $800 on perfume.
It gives brands a chance to tell their story.
The main benefit to the retailer is they get an engaged group, Hodges said. 3×1 is among the retailers featured on the Soho tour, which also includes Stella McCartney, Rebecca Minkoff and A Bathing Ape. The brand’s head of the bespoke program gives the tour, explaining the different available denims, why styles are set up in store as they are, and the custom and ready-to-wear assortment. “This is not a regular shopping excursion,” said Rebecca Schwartz Smith, 3×1’s communications director. “It’s an opportunity to have a deep dive into the brand and what it stands for. We’d do it every season.”
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“Retail is so challenged right now. But we’re giving recognition to retail’s major role in [the fashion industry] and reusing these spaces to create something special.”