“Festival Fashion” is a Thing, and Coachella is The Place

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, held in the Southern California desert on two consecutive weekends beginning Friday, is just as much a style destination as much as a musical one — this year more than ever. As The Atlantic so aptly noted in 2015, “For the past five years, fashion houses, lifestyle brands, and beauty companies including H&M, PopSugar, Lacoste, and Kiehl's have been flocking to Coachella,” to host an ever-growing array of off-site parties and sponsored suites. There are now runway shows and even pop-up shops on festival grounds, further blurring the lines between musical festival and fashion foray.

“Previously, these events were somewhat removed from the festival itself, acknowledged as extracurricular activities that occurred before the festival grounds even opened, or as the lesser-known acts sweated it out in the brutal midday heat,” according to The Atlantic. But that is certainly not the case anymore, as fashion brands and retailers compete for festival attendees’ attention and in the case of e-commerce giant, Revolve, for placement on their Instagram timelines.

Speaking of social media, the various platforms, have “had a huge influence on everyone getting involved,” said Lisa Sugar, founder of lifestyle site PopSugar, which hosted three days of fashion events in nearby Palm Springs, California, last year, told the Associated Press. Brands are seizing the opportunity to be part of the Coachella conversation and see the festival as a place to connect directly with young consumers, she said.

“Millennials love experiences, and Coachella is just one great, big party. It’s a huge experience for this audience to really get excited about,” Sugar said. “They plan for days what they’ll be wearing … So, if a brand can offer them something organic, they’re engaged.”

Another rather recent participant to the festival season: The Council of Fashion Designers of America, which teamed up with PopSugar for a brunch during the first weekend of Coachella last year. “Music has always influenced fashion and vice versa,” said CFDA CEO Steven Kolb of the New York-based trade group’s decision to join the festivities. “For our industry to harness that was just a natural evolution.”

The CFDA joins the likes of H&M, a Coachella sponsor for the past six years, which introduced its sunny H&M Loves Coachella collection last year, and which staged an interactive installation on the festival grounds this year, including a “360-degree Selfie Station” and a temporary store selling exclusive, festival-only products.

Also very much in the mix is e-commerce site, Revolve, which invited big-name celebrities and put up some of fashion’s must heavily-followed influencers in its #HotelRevolve for its own #RevolveFestival, garnering tens of thousands of Instagram posts complete with its various branded hashtags, which, in turn, fueling traffic to its site and a spike in sales, according to co-founder and co-CEO Michael Mente.

In October 2017, Mente spoke about the #RevolveFestival at Coachella, saying that the event drew more than five billion press and social impressions were generated during Coachella, where the retailer outfitted more than 700 influencers.

“That was thousands of outfits…it’s a real fashion show. We had lines out the door…and it was, like, ‘OK, this is really working.’ People were climbing the fences to come in. Consumers are dying to come to our marketing events,” Mente told WWD, adding that while that was all encouraging, it was the analytics that proved exactly how successful the activation was.

In short: Coachella in 2017 is about much more than just the music; it is a bona fide branding gold mine for fashion companies, which is why so many want in.