You might be thinking — what does marketing have to do with “Fashion Week”? We’re about to take you on an exciting journey to show you the very close and intricate connection.
In fact, regardless of what type of business you have, fashion season has many insightful lessons you can draw from and use in your marketing strategy.
Too good to be true? Hardly.
Today, fashion shows are no longer about clothes — they’re about wowing people, marketing fashion brands, and generating buzz on social media.
Isn’t that what we, as marketers, are after? To impress you a bit more, check out the latest statistics from a report by the PR and image agency Karla Otto.
The SS23 fashion season generated 10% more Earned Media Value than in the 2022 season:
- Paris Fashion Week: $284 million (274.5 million Euros)
- Milan Fashion Week: $117 million (113.09 million Euros)
- New York Fashion Week: $75.06 million (72.5 million Euros)
- London Fashion Week: $11.1 million (10.73 million Euros)
All of this became possible thanks to marvelous marketing and unconventional creative decisions.
In this article, we’ll deconstruct SS23 fashion week to learn what has made it so memorable and draw fashion marketing takeaways you can apply to your non-fashion brand.
Lesson 1: Build anticipation
The very concept of a recurring fashion show is a way to build anticipation. Even before the show ends, the attendees are already thinking about the following year, trying to guess what the brand will surprise them with next.
However, some brands take it a step further and create a series of experiences to excite their customers and make them crave the event months before it takes place.
For instance, every season, Balenciaga sends out quirky invites to their guests. Last season they distributed cracked iPhones with the details of the event laser-engraved at the back of the phone. A few seasons before that, they blessed the attendees with racks of fake cash.
For the SS23 show, Balenciaga surprised its guests with beat-up leather wallets filled with credit cards, receipts, and IDs. The location of the event and its title, “The Mud Show”, were revealed on the back of the wallet.
Naturally, the Balenciaga wallet got posted on social media a lot, driving attention to the brand’s upcoming event.
And still, it wasn’t the most unconventional, controversial invitation of the season. This award goes to Diesel, which surprised its guests with a NSFW parcel:
Needless to say, the recipients were perplexed and intrigued, not knowing what to expect from the show.
The marketing takeaway: Tease your audience with sneak peeks to keep them excited. Create a funnel with multiple marketing touchpoints. Regular reminders about your brand and the products you offer will keep you at the forefront of your customers’ minds.
By the way, you shouldn’t feel like a lavish gift is the only kind of invitation to wow your audience. Sometimes, sleek design is all it takes.
Make sure to check our VistaCreate’s library of ready-made invitation design templates to delight your customers.
Lesson 2: Generate conversations around your brand
Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful marketing strategies. So, marketers from different industries — fashion or not — seek to generate as much buzz around their brand as possible.
We’ve already established that the primary goal of many haute couture shows is to leave people awestruck, mesmerize them, and keep them talking about their experience long after they leave the show’s venue.
From year to year, designers ditch wearable garments and dress their models in complex, hard-to-wear clothes.
High heels, face covers, and other movement-restricting contraptions — combined with the stress of presenting clothes in front of thousands of people — turn the runway into an ordeal. Hence, almost every season, we inevitably see models slipping, tripping, and falling during their catwalk.
And every year, these runway mishaps raise heated discussions on the internet. In fact, if you Google “runway falls,” you’ll see plenty of videos, articles, and lists covering it.
A Florence-based label AVAVAV got the memo and decided to take the idea to an extreme. At their debut Milan Fashion Week show, every single one of the models stacked it.
I wanted to do a parody of a fashion show to go with the pathetic theme of this collection, and of fashion’s extreme superficiality, at a time when so many fake richness but risk to fall down hard.Beate Karlsson, Creative director of AVAVAV
The Internet took the bait, and a couple of hours after the show, everyone and their dog were talking about how AVAVAV took “the fall collection” a tad too literally.
The marketing takeaway: Analytics is key to successful marketing. Understand what performs well and scale it. Oh, and do think outside the box — looking at traditional things from an non-traditional angle is bound to make your brand stand out.
You can always count on Gucci to make a statement with both their clothes and fashion shows. The SS23 Twinsburg show at Milan Fashion Week was no exception to the rule.
To present their latest collection, Gucci, led by Alessandro Michele, recruited 68 pairs of identical twins to model the clothes.
This, however, wasn’t obvious at first. The show began as normal, with single models walking down the catwalk, presenting the garments to the public.
But then, a wall was lifted from the middle to unveil their identical twin on the other side. All of it was accompanied by an eerie chant — “I am not a clone, I am not a copy — I am different.”
A truly spectacular show that left the audience speechless.
For some reason, in these complicated and fraught times, the simple gesture of families holding hands held a potent, immutable power.Alexander Fury
The marketing takeaway: Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to build your brand and leave a lasting impression on your audience. Make sure to make every single one of your marketing campaigns meaningful.
But the real star of the SS23 season that has outshined all the other shows was, without a doubt, Coperni.
Their Spray Dress performance featuring Bella Hadid became the week’s biggest viral hit. It took over social media, bumping Coperni’s Earned Media Value to $27.7 million (26.77 million Euros).
To close the show, Bella Hadid entered the runway in nothing but nude underwear. She approached a lit platform and stood there still for 15 minutes, while the Fabrican team sprayed a white substance onto her body to form the outline of a dress.
As the spray fabric solidified on the model’s body, creating a body-fitting dress, Coperni — minute by minute — was securing its place in the fashion history books, and Bella Hadid — her title as “this generation’s uber model.”
There are several interesting things about Coperni’s SS23 spray-on dress.
First of all, Coperni aren’t the mastermind behind the formula. The inventor of the liquid fabric sprayed on Hadid’s body is Manel Torres, the head of Fabrican Ltd. He was the one who invented and developed the Spray-on fabric©, a patented technology which dries instantly on impact with any surface, including liquids, to create a non-woven fabric layer. The brand just partnered with Torres for this collaboration.
Secondly, the design of the dress isn’t particularly revolutionary. Futuristic fabric aside, it’s just a body-fitting dress that traces the silhouette of a super model. At the same time, this is something the haute couture world hasn’t seen for a while as fashion houses strive to layer and create strong, multifaceted silhouettes.
Finally, the rest of Coperni’s collection is very different from the viral spray-on dress. It features more down-to-Earth, ready-to-wear pieces. And this leads us to the next marketing lesson.
The marketing takeaway: If you want to reach a wider audience, make sure you invest in brand awareness marketing campaigns. While they won’t necessarily help you increase sales, they’ll introduce your brand to the world.
Lesson 3: Collaborate with influencers
Since we’ve already touched on the subject of Coperni’s show at the SS23 fashion week, it’s only fair to note that $13.47 million (12.99 million Euros), almost half of the show’s Earned Media Value, can be traced back to postings on the Instagram accounts of Bella Hadid and… Kylie Jenner.
Even though the youngest KarJenner sister wasn’t a part of the runway show, her stream of it live on Instagram Stories made a huge impact on Coperni’s success.
This brings us to the next big fashion marketing principle, which can be applied to marketing brands outside of the fashion industry, too.
One word, Influencers.
Partnership with influencers — both social media stars and A-list celebrities — is a fool-proof shortcut to boosting your business overnight.
This statement has been proven multiple times at the SS23 fashion weeks.
For instance, Cher’s runway appearance became the subject of numerous media headlines. The veteran superstar surprised the audience, and her fans, by walking down the runaway in a V-neck latex bodysuit with bold shoulders to the sound of her 1999 anthem “Strong Enough”.
So, here’s the marketing takeaway: Find out who your target audience trusts and follows, and partner with those people to boost your brand.
➡️ Learn more about influencer marketing in our article.
Lesson 4: Bring people closer to the brand
Only the elite get invited to fashion shows — celebrities, editors of large fashion magazines, influencers, etc. Right?
While it was true in the past, today more and more brands are stepping away from this idea, making haute couture more accessible to the public.
For instance, at the SS23 show, the fashion brand Tibi opted for a larger venue and put on a grand multi-row show. Instead of only providing seats to top influencers and editors, the brand also invited its loyal customers to join.
Another brand that went big and chose a huge location over a secluded one was Diesel. Months prior to the show, Diesel decided to give away free tickets to brand supporters, allowing up to 3,000 Diesel fans to secure a seat at the show.
I wanted to open Diesel up to the public, for people who may never have been to a fashion show before. They deserve a spectacle…It’s what I believe about the fashion and the state of mind — everybody can be part of Diesel.Glenn Martens, Creative Director of Diesel
Finally, one of the biggest American fashion brands that regularly headlines NYFW with its super-exclusive shows, Michael Kors, brought people closer to the brand by adding an extra section to the runway.
At the SS23 show, models would walk outside, allowing the general public to witness the collection at the same time as industry insiders.
The marketing takeaway: Focus on building relationships with your audience. Let them feel like a part of your brand, involved with whatever you’re doing.
Lesson 5: Create phygital experiences
It’s obvious that the world is becoming more and more digital by the day, and the lines between digital and physical experiences start to fade.
Brands that don’t fight the change but embrace it are the ones that win — both through social media exposure and the public’s hearts.
Here are two examples of brands that have blended the physical and the digital to create blended experiences during the Fall 2022 fashion week season.
The American fashion brand orchestrated not one but two fashion shows to present their recent collection. One in New York, at a giant event space on a Brooklyn waterfront, and one in the Roblox universe.
As the models were entering the runway in real life, their digital avatars were entering the runway on Roblox, wearing the same clothes physical attendees saw in real-time.
But this wasn’t the only peculiarity of this phygital show. The Roblox Tommy Hilfiger guests could buy the pieces to be shipped to their physical addresses.
At Revolve’s fashion show, the walls at the venue were covered with humongous QR codes. Scanning those would take the attendees to a virtual space, where they could see the collections in super-camera-culture spaces and immediately shop the garments.
The marketing takeaway: Keep up with the latest social and marketing trends. Digitize your brand and create unconventional experiences for your audience in the metaverse.
While not every principle of fashion marketing can be applied to non-fashion brands, fashion week can still teach small business owners a few valuable marketing lessons.
Make sure you keep up with the latest trends, think outside the box, and communicate with your audience. Lastly, look for inspiration in the most unexpected places. The VistaCreate library can be a start.