Will the Industry's Consumer-Facing Shows Lead to an Increase in Sales?

When Givenchy descended upon New York Fashion Week for the Spring/Summer 2016 season, not only did it stage a one-off on-location show, the Paris-based design house also opened its September 11, 2015 show to the general public. The Riccardo Tisci-helmed brand allotted twelve hundred tickets for the show, in order to allow “real people” – who entered and won a lottery prior to the show date – to attend.

At the time, WWD’s Bridget Foley opined on the show, noting that the public-facing show could be a “one-time wonder or could dramatically change the fashion show system for the long haul.” Judging by the shows since then, it seems Givenchy has, in fact, had a relatively long-standing effect (it has, of course, only been a year since the Givenchy show).

It is worth noting that Givenchy was not the first to stage such a show; Martin Margiela quite famously introduced a public element to one of his earliest shows in the fall of 1989. Staging its Spring/Summer 1990 show in a dilapidated park outside of Paris, Margiela “asked the kids’ parents for permission to use the playground, and they said, ‘Yes, but only if our kids can come,’” Raf Simons said of the show years later. As such, the runway show’s audience was made up of those children, their parents, and the industry attendees.

Helmut Lang, another hugely influence force in fashion, took it a step further for his Fall/Winter 1998 show. Not only did he begin showing in a different location – New York as opposed to Paris – he made the collection viewable online; he uploaded images online and gave out CD-ROM’s to press. While this is completely commonplace today (minus the CD-ROM aspect), it was completely outlandish in 1997. Lang was the first designer to ever do so.

Speaking of his Fall/Winter 1998 season, Lang said: “I felt that it was in many ways a new beginning for me, and also a new beginning for how to communicate my work. I sensed at the time that the Internet would grow into something much bigger than imaginable, so I thought it was the right moment to challenge the norm and present the collection online. It was a shock to the system, but a beginning of the new normal. In terms of the broader context of the industry, we made in the same season the entire collection available on a public platform, allowing consumers for the first time to get an unfiltered view of my work.”

Fast-forward to the seasons following the S/S 2016 Givenchy show, and other brands have adopted a more consumer-facing model. Certainly almost all brands permit imagery of their collections, in their entirety, to be posted online, as they have for some time now. Many even allow the shows to be livestreamed – either on their own websites or on those of Vogue Runway and the like. As such, the newest trend appears to be adding an IRL (in real life) element to such runway shows for consumers, in addition to the usual industry insider show-goers.

Gucci, for instance, opting to show its Resort 2016 collection in New York, had models cross the street from one building in Chelsea to another – the latter being one in which industry show-goers were seated. In the walk across 22nd Street, members of the public, who crowded on the street and on the High Line (an elevated park in Chelsea) caught glimpses of creative director Alessandro Michele’s seasonal creations.

Public School, the buzzy New York-based street wear label, staged something similar thereafter. For its Fall/Winter 2016 New York Fashion Week: Men's presentation, Public School gave the public a peek at its collection. As Vogue’s Maya Singer noted, “Local fashion students lined the block around Milk Studios, where an ersatz runway had been set up on the sidewalk; they got the first look at the new Public School menswear collection, [before it was seen by] industry insiders, who were seated indoors.”

The current season is continuing with the trend of inclusion. On day one of NYFW, Rachel Comey took to the sidewalk on Crosby Street in Soho, right outside of her store. Invited guests sat in a designated area and passers-by were welcomed to linger around to watch.

During New York Fashion Week, Tommy Hilfiger staged an extravagant carnival-themed show, which was attended by approximately 2,000 guests — half trade, half consumer (Consumer tickets to the show were made available free of charge through NYCgo.com). The brand announced that ‘Tommy Pier’ – complete with carnival food and rides – would remain open on Saturday so additional members of the public could join in the fun, and hopefully shop some of its immediately available Fall/Winter 2016 wares.

Also that week, we saw a duel of outdoor shows: The art world’s favorite eccentrics Eckhaus Latta showed their collection in Seward Park in Chinatown, while accessories queen Rebecca Minkoff closed off Greene Street in Soho (where the brand has a store) for its runway affair, which was complete with a mini-outdoor concert by BEAU and a lineup that included professional models and non-models, alike.

As for whether such additional elements will impact (read: increase) consumer spending - a primary goal in the move to show more publicly - is another matter all unto itself, which will have to be gauged at a later date. Until then, stay tuned …