Fashion Week replaces sponsor clutter with strategy

At the height of the recession, designers were all about the creative, and oftentimes more affordable, alternative presentations and show-less digital promotions.

At the height of the recession, designers were all about the creative, and oftentimes more affordable, alternative presentations and show-less digital promotions. Now, 2010 spring Fashion Week has arrived at the new Lincoln Center location, and while the aforementioned promotional tools are still in play, designers and sponsors are investing in longer, more meaningful collaborations.  

In the past, online discount retailer ideeli has found success in sponsoring individual designers, so it decided to “take a bigger presence and investment” with an official Fashion Week sponsorship and online promotional campaign, explained Christopher West, VP of business development at ideeli. 

The outlet is hosting feature sales for various designers on the days of their shows and presentations. It will also capture and push out runway content, as well as background information and visuals on collection inspirations, via the site and other social media platforms. The program also includes an editorial series called “My First Fashion Week,” for which it's partnering with blogger Noel Duan as well as bringing on a “first-time” correspondent.

“Things on the runway don't end up in stores for six months,” he said. “We're able to capture content of fashion events and deliver it immediately, via the power of the Internet and social networking.”

Of the timing for this season, he added, “Everyone's looking for a success story right now. The move to Lincoln Center is a link that enhances the event itself.”

Long-term, though, it's all about “creating dialogue about the fashion community” and establishing credibility amongst its consumers.

For the sponsors, it's about maximizing the ROI of the high-profile event. And for the designer, it's about staying top of mind amongst fashion-hungry consumers until the actual looks they're seeing online and in shows are available months later.

Peter Levy, SVP and MD for IMG Fashion Worldwide, explained that like ideeli's program, 90% of which is online, “technology allows the experience and the story about what's happening in fashion to come together in a way that it never did before.”

He added that technology aside, sponsors need to associate their brands with designers in relevant ways that “don't live and die in eight days.”

“There are only so many times we can carve out a time and place for a sponsor to own that,” he said.  

For example, instead of doing its expected backstage lounge, W Hotels is underwriting a number of exhibits in the new Lincoln Center presentation venue and working with a few of them on longer-term programs.

In a similar approach, Fiji, the main water sponsor that returned to the event after a five-year departure, partnered with designers Charlotte Ronson and Christian Siriano to create looks inspired by the Fiji bottle.

Like ideeli, the brand had partnered with designers outside of Fashion Week and wanted to leverage the Lincoln Center buzz with an official sponsorship.

“It's a huge event, and we need to find ways to stand out,” said Amber Eyerly, manager of corporate communications at Fiji. “I also think that a lot of brands are doing things to extend the life of their sponsorship beyond what they're doing in the tents.”

Paul Wilmot, president of Paul Wilmot Communications, noted that this season he's noticing fewer visible promotional stories and sponsorship deals that “don't make sense” for the brands. As with his Payless and Christian Siriano clients, for whom he's inked an ongoing Fashion Week partnership with in-store capsule collections and online promotions, he explained that the collaborations are more strategic and long-term 

“They keep honing it and get better at doing it,” he said. “There's an opportunity to re-promote [the designer-sponsor collaboration] and they can link what they've done with stuff that can drive sales.”

Despite the promotional elements that help to finance a lot of the shows, he said that this year, at Lincoln Center, “people are focused on fashion.”

“It's New York at its best.”  

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