ICB announced that it would reveal its Fall/Winter 2016 collection on Instagram. The Japan-based, New York-influenced brand, which is currently under the creative direction of a semi-anonymous design team after some directorial shakeups, “showed” (what does that word even mean anymore?) 13 looks consisting of cable knits, maxi twill skirts, sumptuous shirtdresses layered over similarly luxe-looking trousers and then there were the asymmetrical designs details, which were quite compelling, as well. And this is all up for viewing to everyone from industry insiders to fashion fans, alike.
ICB is not the first brand to opt for the interwebs, as opposed to the catwalk. In fact, designer Misha Nonoo took it to Instagram to debut her Spring/Summer 2016 collection in September. Speaking of her motivations behind the S/S Insta-show, Nonoo said last year: “It’s so strange to me that [fashion] touches everyone yet we have these location-specific events that touch just a rarefied few. To me that doesn’t make sense. I love the inclusiveness of Instagram.”
And far from just a romantic gesture of inclusion, the Instagram-only show format brought results: It reached more than 15.1 million followers on the Facebook-owned app and resulted in an 80 percent increase in new visitors to the brand's e-commerce website, a Nonoo spokeswoman told WWD. In addition to the Instagram show, Nonoo held a launch party and her regular appointments with buyers, such as Barneys New York, in connection with the S/S 16 collection.
Interestingly, Fast Co. reported that Nonoo’s Instagram show didn’t save her money. This is likely because of the cost of producing the Insta-show in addition to the launch event. However, compared to a larger runway production, such an alternative format could save money, something most emerging designers do not tend to have much of.
THE COST-BENEFIT ANAYLSIS OF STAGING A SHOW
In case you have not read one of the countless articles dedicated to how expensive it is to stage a fashion show, here’s a brief missive:
Venue: “Venues, on average, can range from $15,000 to $60,000. The latter is what it costs to show at the Theater at Lincoln Center (its largest venue). Lincoln Center's other venues range in price from $15,000 for The Hub, to $47,500 for The Stage. Off-site venues can in some cases cost less, say, if it's a small off-the-beaten path gallery space. Or it can be more if, for example, it's a custom space at Skylight Studios, which Ralph Lauren spends two to three weeks constructing every season,” per Fashionista.
Hair and Makeup: up to $100,000
Stylist: $5,000 to $20,000
Public Relations: $10,000 to $25,000 for a monthly retainer
Models + casting direction: roughly $200,000, assuming the brand is not paying the models “in trade” (aka giving them clothes instead of money), which is strongly frowned upon as the only form of payment these days. International mass brands might pay as much as $1,000/model.
Production: Typically in the $10,000 to $20,000 range, though sometimes that is included in PR, or a designer's PR company hires a producer.
Lighting: $10,000 on up
Invitations: $5,000 on up
Celebrities: It costs to have a celebrity or two in your front row. An A-lister exclusive can cost a company as much as $100,000, whereas a lesser-known fashion darling, who isn't an exclusive will charge $15,000.
In short: Staging a runway show or even a smaller scale presentation is not cheap. But it is not without takeaways. In the most conventional sense, such shows allow designers to preview their new collections to press and buyers, and to evoke some greater sense of theme or vibe for the season at issue. For lesser-known designers, in particular, the shows are a direct source of income. And although the more expensive shows may cost upwards of $500,000, a columnist for the Independent noted that “they still work out cheaper than advertising campaigns shot with big-name models and superstar photographers and have a much more immediate and mainstream audience.”
This model has evolved a bit over the years with brands welcoming celebrities (legitimate ones and reality television stars, alike) and creating additional photo-ops as a way of establishing their brands in the minds of consumers. This is, in part, for the purpose of allowing brands to build out their licensing businesses (which commonly come in the form of fragrances and eyewear) and/or more accessible products, including mass-market diffusion collections.
Still, this has evolved further, as brands have come to compete with each other on the fashion show front, as well as for consumers. With shows becoming increasingly more spectacle-driven (think: a makeshift lagoon for Tommy Hilfiger’s S/S 2016 show, a September 11th performance art-fused Givenchy show that same season, a new music debut for Kanye West during his adidas presentation, etc.), the question of just who they are meant to reach is being increasingly raised. This is unclear to some extent. However, we can say with certainty that the public is definitely in this camp. Tommy Hilfiger has given us an inkling, as for F/W 2016, his show will host a special photographer pit for Instagram-only photos.
And then there is the increasing amount of public access. Gucci arguably got the ball rolling recently when it staged its Resort 2016 collection in New York. Models paraded across a street in Chelsea into the building where the show was being housed – giving bystanders (there were many) a sneak peek at the collection. New York-based brand, Public School, staged something similar during New York Fashion Week: Men’s this past week. And Givenchy, of course, added 800 or so public tickets to its Spring/Summer 2016 show.
As Lauren David Penden wrote for the Observer not too long ago, “Today, runway shows are a crazy free-for-all attended by anyone and everyone—and broadcast on social media in real time for the millions of people who didn’t score an invite.” This does not come without pros and cons of its own. Penden goes on to state: “This anything-goes attitude has become increasingly off-putting to the very people the runway show was originally intended to serve, not to mention private clients (you know, the women who actually spend their hard-earned cash on a designer’s clothes season after season). Because who wants to jostle for a seat next to some C-list blogger or celebutante who expects to wear the clothes for free simply because they had a walk-on in Real Housewives of Des Moines or have 50,000 Twitter followers?” As for the upsides of increased exposure comes … well, increased exposure.
CHANGE IS UPON US
Yet, the industry is tiring with this model, as indicated by the recent shakeups in terms of how the runway-to-retail transition will work, suggesting that it simply is not working. Thus far, it has taken the form of making clothing available right after the runway show takes place. Designers, including Tom Ford, Burberry’s Christopher Bailey, and Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia, who are pioneering such changes, have spoken out about the nonsensical nature of the runway show in its current form.
According to Ford, who recently cancelled his already-scheduled February show in favor of showing in September, “In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to consumers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense.” The problem for brands supposedly stems, at least in part, from the fact that runway shows take place six months before the garments and accessories are actually shoppable. Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, recently spoke to this point, saying: “You cannot hold a customer’s attention for six months. They are following every move in fashion, which means that by the time a collection arrives in store they are over it.” As such, brands feel as though the investment they make in staging a runway show and the resulting consumer interest is lost as a result of the lag in timing.
So, following in the footsteps of Burberry, most brands will likely shift their strategies and show twice a year (thereby, combining their womenswear and menswear collections), focus less on season-specific garments, and make the runway garments and accessories shoppable almost immediately. Some have already announced they will follow suit. Nearly all of the brands that have announced plans to change up their model cite the desire to meet the needs of their consumers or better connect with consumers as the driving force.
But if we are really all planning to shift the fashion model to meet the needs of consumers, including potentially devoting more tickets to the public, maybe we should just shift it all online. Because, what role does the fashion show really play anymore? Industry insiders have lamented Fashion Week in its current form, and the sped-up pace of fashion, the ever-increasing number of seasons, and growing number of designers showing at each fashion week has resulted in a general sense of fatigue.
As for how speeding up the time between runway and retail solves this is not entirely clear, but one thing that is clear is that the runway show is no longer what it once was and it will not be terribly surprising if a number of brands – amidst the current changes – opt out altogether in favor of an Instagram show and press/buyer appointments. It certainly would make sense for many brands, whose shows the vast majority of potential consumers will never be able to attend. With this in mind, why not opt for the visibility of Instagram (or a similar platform), which could yield tens of thousands of views per photo? I, for one, would not have been tempted by the wares that ICB (a brand whose shows I have not attended in recent years) showed for Fall/Winter 2016 but for its Instagram presentation. The same can likely be said for fashion industry outsiders who may not even be familiar with the ICB name but are, in fact, searching the #NYFW hashtag. It seems like the Insta-show certainly has some significant benefits it this sense.
But back to Misha Nonoo, who has opted out of showing her F/W 2016 collection this week in favor of some sort of presentation in September, closer to when it will be available in stores. On the heels of her Spring/Summer 2016 Insta-show, she says: “I think that the show is still incredibly important when you are putting on a theatrical experience the way that Chanel does or Marc Jacobs does. I think that’s super-important. I think that theater dream of fashion is what drives young girls to dream of wedding dresses and beautiful moments and runway shows and fashion. But I think the reality is that it depends on what kind of business you have and it depends on not only where your customer lives geographically but where she lives in terms of where she spends her time.” And that’s online, where everyone resides, hangs out and shops.