On the Runway: Lessons From New York Fashion Week

What the recently wrapped New York Fashion Week can teach meeting planners about creating experiences, experimenting, and getting the next generation involved.

Yeezy Season 4. The Tommy x Gigi Collection. Serena Williams Signature Statement.

If you’re familiar with fashion, you know these three collections were on the runway at New York Fashion Week (NYFW), which wrapped up a day or so ago.

But, no matter how fashion forward you are, you may be surprised to learn that the event is a major economic boost for the region. According to Women’s Wear Daily, NYFW generates almost $900 million for the greater metropolitan area. That’s more than the U.S. Open, the New York City Marathon, or the 2014 Super Bowl.

NYFW also draws approximately 232,000 attendees to more than 500 shows, and there’s more than 300 events—including presentations, appointments, and parties—on the calendar. In other words, it’s a huge event with lots of moving pieces—and one that meeting planners, even those who work at associations, can learn from.

Here are three fashion-focused takeaways:

Realize it’s about more than the clothes. Yes, the clothes matter, but Fashion Week hits on something we’ve written about a number of times before here at Associations Now:  Your attendees aren’t looking for an ordinary meeting, with speakers talking at them in sterile conference rooms. They want an experience and to feel like they’re a part of something.

NYFW is a good reminder that experience counts. In an article posted on earlier this week, contributor Jim Joseph made a similar point.

“The more sophisticated marketers are realizing that you can’t just walk a bunch of models down a runway and expect that you’ll get attention. Instead, you have to create an immersive experience that will set your brand apart from the sea of sameness,” he wrote. “You need to build an experience that will separate you from your competition and that will stand out amidst the noise in all of our very cluttered categories.”

Remember the value of experimentation. One of the things that makes NYFW memorable is designers taking risks and putting unexpected things on the runway. Whether the critics love the looks or hate them, there’s something to be said about experimenting with new and different things.

While NYFW is huge and has an audience that is likely much larger than your attendee count, taking advantage of a time and place where a good number of your members are gathered—say your annual meeting—to gauge their interest in a new program, product, or service will likely be worthwhile and insightful.

For example, at this year’s NYFW, tech giant Google experimented with “search carousels created and curated by catwalk brands, sitting front and center atop Google’s usual list of links generated by a computer algorithm.”

According to BizBash, this experiment allows “brands themselves to manage what consumers see first when, say, they plug the term ‘Marc Jacobs’ or ‘Burberry’ into their search engines.”

Get the next generation involved. On the final day of NYFW, the Council of Fashion Designers of America holds an open house for the designers in its Fashion Incubator program to showcase their clothing and accessories to consumers and the fashion elite.

The program helps grow the businesses of the 10 participating brands over the course of two years. Selected participants receive low-cost design studio space, business mentoring, educational seminars, and networking opportunities to help them become an integral part of the New York fashion community.

With this in mind, consider how your association can not only attract but also showcase its young-professional or new-to-the-industry attendees.

Now it’s your turn: How do you think you can make your conferences or meetings runway-worthy? Please share in the comments.

Model Gigi Hadid presents a creation from Tommy Hilfiger's Spring/Summer 2017 collection. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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