With an entire show shot on an iPhone 5S and beamed around the world, Burberry leads the way in Fashion Week access, but it’s still not a public event.
Crosby Noricks, a brand strategist and fashion PR maven, said something poignant to us about Fashion Week — “These days, the runway show is but a single component of an entertainment and marketing machine.” With Paris kicking off the last week of the Spring/Summer 2014 shows tomorrow, we’ve been thinking a lot about that statement, and subsequently, the varying attitudes regarding publicity and privacy at the shows. As an example, London Fashion Week was more public than ever this time around; concomitantly, it’s registering more highly on international buyers’ to-do lists. But is the open door policy, however incrementally wider it may be, contributing to the event’s elevation on fashion insiders’ radars?
In reality, the two factors are probably unrelated. Noricks points out that “while turning Fashion Week into a public event certainly provides more marketing fodder for brands eager to engage with consumers, and even makes sense now that runway shows are more spectacle than functional, exclusivity drives interest.” In other words, if you give anyone who wants one a seat at a show, all those livestreams and social media blasts and street style photos will lose a lot of their appeal. Looking at instant online updates isn’t necessary when you can watch the thing in person.
“The requisite PR stories include not only the trends, but who sat front row, who posed outside the show, and which designer broke the seal on the latest digital technology,” notes Noricks. In order for the story to have any traction, there needs to be at least one barrier to direct access — and that’s keeping the runways themselves invite-only.
More far-flung Fashion Weeks can and do embrace the public, but they have other agendas to meet. Australia, for instance, livebeams its runways, opens a temporary bar near the Fashion Week venue, and generally invites all of Sydney to get in on the action. But without the perennial crush that, say, New York faces, cultivating a wider audience and getting its brands on the international radar are more important than keeping people out.
With the big four — Paris, New York, Milan, and London — in order to retain some kind of mystique for outsiders, the event still has to be appealing for insiders. And not just any marketing team, but the editors, buyers, photographers, and other players who have the most legitimate, career-related reasons to be there. Noricks says, “If Fashion Week becomes nothing more than a date on an eager marketer’s calendar, the magic of the event becomes diluted and eventually, those clamoring for access will have their cake, and move on.”