The bi-annual fashion month is upon us (just in case you hadn’t noticed) with the main fashion weeks to watch being shown in London, New York, Paris and Milan. London Fashion Week started on Friday and runs until the 22nd of September. Today we’re looking at how brands in multiple sectors can maximise the online engagement opportunities available to them by incorporating London Fashion Week (amongst others!) into their digital strategy.

Affiliate Marketing Executive, Natasha Maddison (who, as you’ll read in her team biography is well-versed when it comes to fashion marketing!), explains all…

Once upon a time fashion weeks were an expert-only event, reserved solely for designers to showcase their collections to buyers and editors enabling them to plan their upcoming seasons. The guest list was limited, the media coverage modest and the interest generated relatively minor. But now with the rise of digital media, the event has become increasingly consumer facing.

The catwalk shows and their surrounding frenzy, are now freely accessible online via live-streamed shows, real-time commentary and behind-the-scenes footage. Celebrities and bloggers are just as important as the designers – elevating the importance for businesses (and not just fashion brands!) to join the conversation.

Our very own British brand Burberry is a notable supporter of this digital revolution; the first luxury brand to live-stream a catwalk show to the global public and now recognised as a global leader in embracing technology and innovation. Now, big names from other sectors have got involved with this fashion/digital marriage too; Vodafone, Mercedes-Benz and Toni & Guy are all London Fashion Week sponsors, targeting a wider audience through association.

But how can smaller brands and businesses benefit from this, without spending a fortune? We have looked at the two main areas for SME’s to take into consideration when planning their digital calendars around Fashion Month and beyond…

Fashion Week & Partnerships

Fashion partnerships result in an enhanced image with an overall sense of modernity and coolness to the brand. Fashion, like music, is globally one of the most popular categories in terms online interest as it too transcends culture and breaks down barriers. In effect, it allows businesses to be seen in a different light, by a different type of consumer; a following that is enthusiastic and eager to engage online.

Opportunities are actually available at a wide range of fee levels (very affordable to very hefty!). For most businesses, sponsoring LFW is going to be a financial step too far, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get in on the LFW action. Why not look into partnership with a celebrity who is attending the shows, or bloggers there covering the shows, or even a new up and coming designer?

The actual promotion itself usually depends upon what type of business you are. For example if you are a high street level fashion brand, you could offer to dress a blogger for Fashion Week. You don’t have to be gracing the catwalks to get exposure for your brand’s clothing. A beautiful example of this is a stunt pulled by US waterproof footwear brand Bogs at a previous New York Fashion Week back in February.

Samantha Slaven Publicity who does their PR, explained, “I’ll never forget getting stuck in a blizzard one NYFW, and lamenting my poor (LA girl) shoe choices! We’re integrating Bogs into key fashion bloggers/influencers wardrobes this fashion week so they have warm, cosy, stylish footwear to wear around town, especially in case of any snowy/icy/rainy weather. No one wants to ruin their $1000 designer boots”.

Fashion Week & Social Media

Take advantage of your access to the social media masses by connecting runway trends with existing inventory. Fashion brands should be jumping at every opportunity, to show how to get all the favourite catwalk looks for less. Or you could simply show a bit of your brand personality by posting popular runway images alongside quirky comments or humorous captions. There are various social channels to engage with consumers on – so experiment and find out which channels suit your business best.

Pinterest now has a Fashion Week photo hub, which includes over 100 influencers such as key designers, savvy bloggers and fashion royalty. In the fashion industry, Pinterest is a core focus for many businesses. The British Fashion Council openly embrace social media and want LFW to be not only for the ‘fashion elite’ and celebrities. They want to encourage consumers to contribute and share their opinions about the latest fashions and key trends.

Targeting the online fashion week crowd could call for quite a different approach, so think through best how to capture their attention. In February 2014 during NYFW there were more than 115,000 images shared on Instagram, and over 10.8 million engagements with those images. The top 10 images shared during this time not only came from designers’ Instagram accounts, but also from TV shows’ and bloggers’ accounts.

Aim to use trending hashtags, engaging comments and don’t forget when it comes to Instagram, the golden rule is strong imagery. Beauty is also big news on social media during Fashion Month, with Aveda and Maybelline outperforming all other brands in terms of engagement rate during NYFW in Feb 2014. Last week, Beats by Dr.Dre had a sponsored Facebook post reading “Get the gear straight. #LFW lands on Friday” complete with a link to their website and an image of their new model headphones sitting by a Chanel perfume bottle and lipstick.

Image shows an example of brands getting involved with London Fashion Week

The key term here is ‘trend-jacking’ – jump on the bandwagon and get involved with all that fashion month brings, in whatever way you can. Retweet or regram your influencers, integrate their posts into your own digital assets, and push it further.

Fashion Month only comes around twice a year, but don’t forget about what that means for your digital profile for the rest of the year. Businesses that enjoy the best engagement are the ones that maintain the quality, volume and speed of posts long after all the catwalks ends. You don’t just want new customers at this time of year; you want them all year round, after all.

The Evening Standard has been involved with London Fashion Week since 2004 and head of fashion and luxury goods Maurice Mullen says that while “it is still a trade event, it generates a lot of publicity” which means there is a need for consumers not to “feel excluded”.

Make sure your business is seen to be taking an active interest in Fashion Month, to avoid letting your customers feel left out. “Interactivity is an ever-more important aspect of London Fashion Week”, says Mullen. So fashion and digital now stand hand-in-hand, use this to your advantage – whatever your business sector.

If you feel like you’ve pretty much missed out on 2015’s London Fashion Week action, fear not. Next year’s fashion shows will for sure be bigger and better and even more social media focused, so get planning now for 2016 and don’t let opportunities pass you by.

Thinking of incorporating fashion week/influencer marketing into your digital strategy? We’d love to hear from you with any experiences or thoughts about getting involved. Just add your comment below or drop us a tweet at @silverbean.