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Brands Must Decide Whether to Treat Fashion Week Like the Super Bowl, or a Trade Show

Leveraging editors and buyers to target niche audiences remains a relevant strategy even as mega-labels turn their shows into marketing spectacles.
Proenza Schouler Spring/Summer 2022 New York Fashion Week show.
Proenza Schouler Spring/Summer 2022 New York Fashion Week show. (Getty Images)

New York Fashion Week is upon us. And despite fewer overseas attendees, the schedule is packed. The shows, however, are more intimate than in the past. Some designers, including Proenza Schouler and Peter Do, are holding two smaller shows in lieu of a larger event. Covid is part of the reason, but rapid tests and vaccination checks aside, it feels like a return to the fashion week of the past: a trade show for editors and buyers, rather than a marketing spectacle for consumers.

Pragmatism is a key reason. Many of the smaller designers showing in New York are coming out of the pandemic grateful to still be in business and more wary of blowing their budgets on a splashy show. But leveraging editors and buyers to target niche audiences remains a relevant strategy even as fashion’s mega-labels turn their shows into digital marketing spectacles.

Independent labels might draw inspiration from the world of sports. In a sense, most of the designers who populate the New York (and London) schedules are like the curlers, freestyle skiers and figure skaters currently competing at the Winter Olympics. All are at the top of their respective games, but only a lucky few will become international stars. And even if they enjoy a brief moment in the spotlight, their true audience will likely always be the niche group of obsessives whose passion perhaps can’t mint global celebrities, but can support even obscure winter sports, especially if they have infrastructure to lean on.

To bring it back to fashion, even young designers who are savvy with social media are finding they still need fashion retailers and media outlets to advance. A show during New York or London fashion week remains an effective way to grab the attention of all those tastemakers.


For bigger brands, the Winter Olympics aren’t the relevant sporting reference. The mega labels which dominate fashion weeks in Paris and Milan are more like American football teams meeting in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

The National Football League has seen viewership spike this year — even as other big events, from the Academy Awards to the NBA finals have struggled to win back their pre-pandemic audiences. Buoyed by an enormous marketing budget and a powerful grip on American culture, the NFL has managed to monopolise the attention of millions.

Ditto Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Whenever and wherever these brands show a collection, they can command a sizable audience on social media, both via the brand’s own channels and through the social media feeds of influential attendees.

But more big brands are going direct-to-consumer.

As Coach’s Stuart Vevers put it, “Now, I definitely consider the digital audience very much as I’m creating the experience. Perhaps, before, I would create almost everything for the live audience hoping they would help me storytell, and get it out there. Now, I definitely think, ‘How am I going to connect with the digital audience?’”

And yet, even for big brands staging their very own Super Bowls targeting online viewers, it’s difficult to give their content meaning without the live action of a show.




Vaquera Autumn/Winter 2020
Vaquera Autumn/Winter 2020 | Photo: Andrew Morales, Courtesy of Dover Street Market The Row, Vaquera to show in Paris. (Andrew Morales)

The Row, Vaquera to show in Paris. Paris Fashion Week organising body FHCM released its provisional calendar Monday for the Autumn/Winter womenswear shows set to run from Feb. 28 to Mar. 8. In addition to the two American newcomers, French labels set to show for the first time include Ester Manas, Germanier and VTMNTS, Vetements’ gender-neutral spinoff line.

Sotheby’s auction of Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton x Nike sneakers smashes expectations. The online sale of 200 pairs of sneakers brought in a total of $25.3 million, Sotheby’s said, with most pairs selling for more than $100,000. One pair in size five — the first lot for sale and among the few sizes where only a single pair was available — reached $352,800.

Tapestry lifts annual forecast as luxury demand booms. The Coach and Kate Spade owner now forecasts fiscal 2022 revenue of about $6.75 billion, compared with prior estimates of nearly $6.6 billion, as consumers splurge on luxury handbags and apparel in the United States and Europe.

OTB returned to pre-pandemic level of sales in 2021. The Italian fashion group, which owns Maison Margiela, Diesel and Jil Sander, among others, saw net sales reach just south of €1.5 billion ($1.71 billion) in 2021, up 18 percent compared to 2020 and about in line with 2019 levels. Its growth was driven by stellar performance in its luxury segment, including Maison Margiela, which grew 107 percent between 2019 and 2021.

Peloton surges on reports of buyout interest from Amazon, Nike. The potential offers come at a time Peloton’s shares are trading near two-year lows, down over 84 percent in the past year, as demand for its stay-at-home exercise equipment faded faster than expected due to easing curbs.

Paul Andrew relaunches namesake brand. The former Salvatore Ferragamo creative director’s shoe line will be back on the market this autumn, with images set to be released in March.

Guess activist investor calls for removal of Marciano brothers. Legion Partners Asset Management, which owns about 2.5 percent of the business, sent a letter to the board Monday, arguing that Guess remains at risk while co-founders Paul and Maurice Marciano are still involved, according to a statement released Tuesday.

Report: activist investment firm Macellum nominates 10 to retailer Kohl’s board. The activist investor firm is seeking to take control of the retailer’s board, people familiar with the matter told Reuters. Macellum, led by Jonathan Duskin, has criticised Kohl’s for not doing enough to improve its business and has publicly called for the company to consider putting itself up for sale.


IMG and racial justice organisation Color of Change to unveil an ‘inclusion rider’ to promote diverse hiring. The partnership, which also includes professional networking group In The Blk and model Joan Smalls, will release a template for fashion companies to use when they’re hiring on-screen talent, stylists, makeup artists, publicists or any creative role both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. The goal is to facilitate hiring from under-represented backgrounds.


Coty website.
Coty’s revenue disappoints on Covid hit. (Shutterstock)

Coty’s revenue disappoints on Covid hit. Though US sales rebounded, stringent Covid-19 curbs in some markets hurt demand in its prestige division. Revenue from continuing operations increased 12 percent to $1.58 billion in the quarter ended Dec. 31, while analysts polled by Refinitiv were expecting $1.6 billion. The conglomerate also said on Tuesday that it would withdraw its planned IPO of its Brazilian unit.

Kim Kardashian West’s Coty-backed skin care line set to launch this spring. The move comes as Coty — which acquired a 20 percent stake in her KKW Beauty brand in June 2020 — is doubling down on skin care to build momentum.

Estée Lauder makes minority investment in Haeckels. The investment in the British natural beauty label specialising in products made from seaweed, mushrooms, coffee grounds and other unconventional materials is expected to fuel international expansion — including setting up supply chains for waste materials outside the UK. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Shiseido sees double-digit sales growth in ‘challenging’ year. The cosmetic giant’s net sales were up 12.4 percent year-on-year in 2021, and EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, rose 141.7 percent, to 172.56 billion yen ($1.5 billion).

Dolce & Gabbana takes perfumes and cosmetics business in-house. The move to bring in-house a multi-million dollar business, which is key for many fashion houses but often managed through licensing, is the first by an Italian luxury group.


Ahmad Swaid is the new editor-in-chief of GQ Middle East.
Ahmad Swaid is the new editor-in-chief of GQ Middle East. (Paul Scala)

Ahmad Swaid appointed editor-in-chief of GQ Middle East. The former head of content at Dazed Media will become the second-ever editor-in-chief at the twenty-first edition of the men’s media brand when he takes the helm on Mar. 7. The title’s inaugural editor has been promoted to deputy global editorial director for GQ.

PVH Corp. appoints chief financial officer. Jack Coughlin, formerly CFO and chief operating officer of DFS Group Ltd. (a subsidiary of LVMH Group), will serve as executive vice president and CFO of the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein owner, effective Apr. 4. He will report to Stefan Larsson.

Sephora names global chief digital officer. Marc Abergel will lead the LVMH-owned company’s digital strategy and transformation with an eye on e-commerce growth in the newly-created position, according to WWD. Priorly, Abergel has worked with Apple, Tencent and Deloitte Digital.


Shipping containers boat
Shopify, Andreessen invest in Flexport at $8 billion valuation. (Getty Images.)

Shopify, Andreessen invest in Flexport at $8 billion valuation. The San Francisco-based company said it had raised $935 million in the late-stage funding round in which SoftBank Vision Fund 1, Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify Inc and DST Global and Founders Fund also participated.

DotDash Meredith suspends print of six magazines, including InStyle. The titles will move to digital only, eliminating approximately 200 jobs, mostly supporting print operations, according to a memo from Dotdash Meredith chief executive Neil Vogel.

Compiled by Joan Kennedy.

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