On the final day of New York Fashion Week, Telfar invited guests to a press conference at the top of a concrete loft space overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, where an escalator lit up in digital signage teased “Telfar TV, it’s on then it’s gone.”
An hour after the scheduled start time, 13 speakers (plus a dog) — including artist Kandis Williams, musician A$AP Ferg and the designer Telfar Clemens himself— took their seats at a long table facing the room full of editors, friends of the brand and celebrities. The primary agenda was to introduce Telfar TV, a “public access channel” — an intentional emphasis on public — 24-hour stream where the brand’s new accessories will be released, including a duffle bag that debuted at the event on Sunday.
Viewers who download the Telfar TV app can watch video footage from both the brand and the public — anyone can upload their own videos featuring Telfar products through a QR code that, if selected, will appear on the channel. People must select a category — “funny,” “sexy,” “hood,” “voyeur,” and “hijab” among a few of them — for their video to appear on Telfar TV.
But many of the brand’s customers will be tuning in for one reason: Telfar TV is the only place where customers will be able to find QR codes to shop the brand’s new accessories.
For Telfar, the app is the latest attempt by the brand to grapple with — and capitalise on — the immense popularity of items like the signature shopping bag known as the “Bushwick Birkin.” Starting last year, new releases were routinely snapped up by bots and flipped in the resale market, frustrating regular customers. Telfar introduced increasingly tricky tests to weed out the bots. Forcing customers to watch Telfar TV and wait for QR codes to appear could theoretically make it even harder to game the system.
But Telfar TV is more than an enhanced security measure. The app is a bold effort at community building, creating a digital enclave intentionally separate from social media platforms that “sell bags and clothes, not human beings,” said Babak Radboy, Telfar’s creative director.
“I really want to see syndication, I want to see a place where we can directly show members of the community and skip the violent means of capture,” said Williams.
Many brands try to inspire the sort of devotion in their customers that leads them to hang outside the Aimé Leon Dore storefront on Mulberry Street, or immerse themselves within the eccentric world of Gucci. Telfar has a similar hold on its customers, and after ramping up releases of new iterations of its signature accessories, is expanding into new categories as well, including activewear.
Telfar doesn’t have a store of its own, and only a fraction of Gucci’s resources. But with Telfar TV, it’s betting it has something just as important: customers who buy into the brand, not just the bags.