New generation of influencers steps up at Fashion Week

Bloggers are infiltrating the front rows at New York Fashion Week runway shows, changing the ways brands market their collections.

The best seats at New York Fashion Week runway shows have long been filled by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and other members of the fashion media elite. However, bloggers are infiltrating the front rows, changing the ways brands market their collections.

“Fashion Week has always been for a very specific crowd of editors who would build stories around the collections, buyers who would stock the collections at retail, and VIP clients,” says Karen Robinovitz, chief creative officer of agency Digital Brand Architects. “It then became a playground for celebrities and bold-face names. But as the media has shifted and the online space has become more vital and viral than ever, we have been experiencing the rise of the digital content creator.”

The 2012 edition of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week kicked off in New York's Lincoln Center earlier this week, with more than 90 designer runway shows and presentations featuring upcoming fall lines. More than 100,000 guests are expected to attend, including 4,000 registered editors, photographers, bloggers, and other media members, according to IMG Fashion, which produces the event.

Besides hitting the Fashion Week runways, apparel and accessories brand Rebecca Minkoff is hosting events that support its blogger-relations efforts, adds Daniel Saynt, a marketing consultant for the company and chief creative officer at Socialyte.Collective, an influencer marketing firm.

“For our show, we'll be premiering our fall 2012 collection with our favorite street-style bloggers,” he says. “We've selected three bloggers to wear pieces from the collection and are working with photographers and a videographer to shoot these looks for fall 2012. We also plan to have some of our biggest blogger supporters at our show. Every year, our blogger front row grows and grows.”

This Sunday, Socialyte.Collective will launch a blogger lounge to help fashion enthusiasts describe the event in a different way than traditional journalists do.

“Bloggers communicate a lifestyle while editors communicate trends,” Saynt continues. “The drive in the trend is due to bloggers' ability to convert customers. I believe that, more and more, brands will move to blogger and influencer marketing as a focus because it's a medium that offers trackable ROI, generates the highest profit since it affects direct-to-consumer sales, and generates premium content, a major driver in social media efforts. Content is still king and bloggers provide it without the need for an ad buy.”

Bloggers and social media curators are also valuable to fashion brands because they give consumers virtual access to the exclusive, invite-only events that take place, explains Pam Morris Schlichter, VP at Alison Brod Public Relations.

“Through blogging and social media, people can see exactly what's going on at shows, what the designers are showing, and what will be blowing up six months later,” she notes. “But with that said, the fashion editors are still super-important. They are the decision makers for the collections, so both weigh as important in terms of invitations and seating.”

Alison Brod is supporting client Mercedes-Benz USA, as well as its Jill Stuart and Pamella Roland clients. The firm is handling pre- and post-show press, celebrity wrangling, front-of-house seating, backstage interviews, sponsorships, and managing hair and makeup, says Schlichter.

“[Bloggers] are taking pictures on the runway, and posting them on their blogs and Twitter,” she explains. “Whereas the magazine editors, they'll see the collection, and then they'll say, ‘We want look No. 3 for the September issue,' which is obviously six months out.”

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