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Brands look to unusual sponsors for Fashion Week | Intelligence, BoF Professional

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NEW YORK, United States When the guests arrived at Jason wuOn the parade earlier this week, they were introduced to his vision of Tulum through Lowe’s, the home improvement chain that has provided nearly a thousand tropical plants to line the runway, as well as aged wood chairs for them. guests.

The fact that a big box store best known for its selection of plumbing fixtures and power tools sponsored one of the flagship events of New York Fashion Week is a sign of the depth of the pandemic that has upset the usual formula of how designers pay for shows. Typically, automakers, airlines, premium liquor distributors, and other adjacent luxury brands are lined up months in advance to pay at least part of the fashion week bill. . This year, with shrinking marketing budgets and few live events on the calendar, it was more of a last-minute rush.

For Wu and Lowe’s, it was also an opportunity.

With many American fashion heavy hitters sitting in September or showing video previews of their collections, Wu more or less had the limelight to himself. Meanwhile, Lowe’s, eager to capitalize on the pandemic nesting craze, has stuck to a credible name in the fashion world. The goal: Convince buyers Lowe’s is a design-centric shopping destination, rather than just a place to buy a new lawn mower, said Marisa Thalberg, chief marketing officer.

Even if corporate sponsor marketing budgets rebound and features of the usual fashion week schedule return, some of the quirks of the pandemic era could endure.

“The unlikely collaborative partnerships are where the most interesting things happen and the most exciting things happen,” said Graham Baldwin, founder of the Graham Tyler brand, who has appeared on the official New Fashion Week program four times. York. “There can be more humor and less hate … It’s a huge white space that’s being overlooked.”

Redefining business as usual

Lots of traditional fashion week sponsors were in the mix this week. Maybelline invented the models for Wu, while Oribe and Bobbi Brown worked with Cinq à Sept. Klarna, the payment platform that has become a frequent sight of fashion events in recent years, in partnership with the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which publishes the official calendar. IMG, fashion week organizer alongside the CFDA, helps negotiate contracts with designers (like Lowe’s partnerships, but also a collaboration between The Blonds and Moulin Rouge, The Musical) during fashion week and the rest of the year .

But the usual array of automakers and luxury airlines, which have often negotiated seven-figure sponsorships for several seasons, are sitting in September. For these brands, the value of a sponsorship comes from the show itself, whether it’s influencers tagging brands in frontline selfies or behind-the-scenes snaps that can be used in campaigns. advertising months later. Digital shows are making a splash on social media.

“Because you don’t bring these … stellar brands, you’re not going to have the same audience quality as a result,” said Marc Beckman, founder and CEO of DMA United, an advertising agency that has helped brokers fashion week referrals for years.

BoF contacted several former NYFW sponsors who declined or did not respond to requests for comment.

A new sponsorship model

In their absence, unlikely new business sponsors have offered a liferaft to cash-strapped brands who want to show off this season. But they also expect more than the maximum billing on a press release.

In addition to including Lowe’s furniture and foliage on his tray, Wu curated a selection of home decor items on the chain’s website. In an emailed statement to BoF, Wu said, “I am always grateful to my sponsors who help me realize my vision every season. As a mid-sized company, we should always be very aware of which we can afford, but through these mutually beneficial collaborations with our sponsors we are able to execute my creative vision and stand out in the midst of much bigger brands.

Lowe’s had similar arrangements with designers Rebecca Minkoff and Christian Siriano. The company broadcasts the creators’ shows live on Twitter.

“We knew NYFW wouldn’t work the same way it did years past, so we thought it made perfect sense to contextualize the fashion experience into what people go through every day by bringing the shows home.” Lowe’s Thalberg said in an email, adding that the sponsorship was an opportunity to change the way consumers view the retailer.

Designers and their sponsors need to have connections to avoid confusing consumers. When Tara Subkoff relaunched her Imitation of Christ brand this year with a bicoast show in Los Angeles and New York on Monday, the collection – comprised of upcycled hand-sewn sportswear and straight silk dresses – was offered as a buy-in. immediate. now collection for sale exclusively on TheRealReal, which sells used and recycled clothing.

Other small designers have struggled to attract sponsors this season. Baldwin, who won the 2019 CFDA Elaine Gold Launch Pad award, showcased his latest collection on CFDA’s Runway360 web platform, which is free for designers. He still spent between $ 7,000 and $ 10,000 on equipment, an assistant, a publicist, and production costs for the video and lookbook, he said. The cost was significant given that the wholesale partners canceled and postponed orders placed before the pandemic, robbing him of revenue he would have funneled into the show.

Baldwin said he would be open to working with a wide variety of brands, pointing to the collaboration between designer Telfar and fast food chain White Castle as an unconventional example he admired.

It’s important to let big companies know that even a few thousand dollars for a small designer can completely change their collection.

Brands are also exploring ways to extend sponsorships beyond the runway. Audio brand Skullcandy helped pay for Collina Strada’s February show. The label also created a pair of branded headphones which were showcased at the event, as part of an ongoing relationship between the two companies. Unlike a simple cash payment, a product can generate fashion brand design fees, royalties, and a percentage of sales, said Amanda Carter, founder of Mode PR who worked with Collina Strada.

Despite the constraints of marketing budgets for the foreseeable future, it’s the smaller brands – those with loyal and engaged audiences – that could offer sponsors the most surprising value, not to mention helping keep bootstrap designers in business. .

“It’s important to let big companies know that even a few thousand dollars for a small designer can completely change their collection,” Baldwin said. “I hope they would consider looking and sponsoring brands and working with them to create some really exciting and interesting things not just during fashion week but all year round.”

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