NEW YORK, United States — Conferences are officially in vogue, especially for media brands looking to tap the experience economy. But what do conferences mean for Vogue magazine?
The American edition of the Condé Nast title entered the world of consumer-facing events on Thursday with “Forces of Fashion,” a jam-packed day of panels held at Milk Studios and featuring some of the industry’s most influential creatives.
“We wanted to do something that is different, and which speaks to the world today; the collective desire for experience and connection,” said Anna Wintour, Vogue editor-in-chief and Condé Nast artistic director, in a statement in August.
It certainly demonstrated Vogue’s ability to get top talent to turn up. John Galliano, Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, Demna Gvasalia, Virgil Abloh and Rihanna were amongst those who took the stage between two arrangements of autumnal foliage for wide-ranging conversations. Wintour welcomed guests in the morning and often supervised from the sidelines.
“I enjoy fashion; it’s a thrill, it’s a challenge, you can only keep learning,” said Rihanna, dressed in dark denim and thigh-high boots, in a conversation with Vogue editor-at-large Hamish Bowles before to a rapt audience towards the end of the day.
At $3,000, the price of admission was steep but the audience was a mix of students, subscribers and other fashion fans — many of whom gained entry thanks to tickets sponsored by brands such as Michael Kors. Audience members had the chance to submit questions for speakers via text message and mix with Vogue editors and industry leaders during breaks, a sandwich lunch (presented in elegantly branded wooden boxes) and a final cocktail hour.
Galliano, who spoke with editor-at-large André Leon Talley, was one of the highlights of the conference, garnering a round of applause as he discussed the impact of his controversial fall from grace six years ago. He also described his last meeting with the notoriously reclusive Martin Margiela, founder of the house where Galliano has been creative director since 2014. Mr Margiela told him: “Take what you will from the DNA of the house, protect yourself and make it your home.”
The format was standard conference fare, but many were riveted by the opportunity to see and meet top fashion figures in person. Cornell student Jackie DeVito gushed about having had the chance to chat with Wintour. DeVito was one of several who took advantage of a student discount (tickets at $150). So did aspiring stylist Akua Kwakwa, who was eager to see Virgil Abloh and Rihanna. “They are two people who have made strides in fields that aren’t necessarily theirs,” she said.
“From John Galliano to Michael Kors to Virgil…. everyone has the same concern right now: the street, the young people,” said Miami-based stylist Ana Alfonzo, who bought a ticket to the event because she was looking for inspiration for her clients and editorial work. “For me, this is an experience and an investment.”
The investment came with more perks than the chance to see and interact with top creatives, however: while a selection of special merchandise was available for sale on site — including Hood by Air’s Vogue anniversary t-shirts, which read, “NEVER TRUST A VOGUE GIRL” — guests were sent home with goodie bags full of items both Vogue and sponsor approved.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article misstated that the student ticket price was $300. This is incorrect. Student tickets to the conference cost $150.