Social Media: The New Front Row of Fashion

Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and Rodarte among the brands that will live stream their shows.

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NEW YORK — What began as a tepid courtship between fashion and social media has become an all-consuming love affair as designers unveil new digital initiatives for fashion week.

Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger, Rodarte and Perry Ellis are among the brands that will live stream their shows over the coming week, while scores of others — including Oscar de la Renta, Tory Burch and Nanette Lepore — are using Facebook, Twitter and their Web sites to update fashion followers on their shows, effectively expanding access beyond the exclusive enclaves of Bryant Park.

“Ignoring the Internet is total madness,” said Diane von Furstenberg, who didn’t live stream her show Sunday but did update her Facebook page with backstage photos and tweeted from the event. “Being active on the Internet is indispensable to growth and for being relevant. It helps your business to be truly global and truly multigenerational.”

More brands than ever are embracing live streaming this season for two reasons, said James Gardner, founder and chief executive officer of CreateThe Group, a social-media focused agency. “First of all, the cost of streaming and bandwidth has come down significantly. And consumers’ appetite seems unquenchable for fashion.”

Michael Kors has proof of just that. The brand began live streaming its show two years ago and saw a 111 percent increase in page views from the spring 2009 live stream to the fall 2009 one. There was another 81 percent jump from the fall 2009 show to the spring 2010 event.

Brands are adding a few new wrinkles this time round, however. Calvin Klein, in its first foray into live streaming, broadcast its men’s show Sunday and will do the same with its women’s show Thursday. The live streams are being shown on the company’s Web site as well as on the brand’s Facebook page. The company is using Facebook to allow feedback from viewers.

Alexander Wang collaborated with SHOWstudio’s Nick Knight for live feeds of his show. According to Wang, it became apparent last season that live feeds were what all the “megabrands” were doing. He continued, “We like to push the boundaries…and we wanted it to be much more democratic, and we wanted to do something special that no one’s ever done before.” The designer took the idea of a Web site live stream and upped the ante, by broadcasting his show Saturday on a Times Square billboard. With the live feed in Times Square, Wang achieved his goal, that “everyone [be able to] at least access [the collection] and view it and experience it.”

Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez aren’t simply live streaming their show Wednesday night — they’re using it as a selling tool. For 24 hours after the show at Milk Studios, online shoppers can preorder the fall handbags straight from the runway through the recently introduced e-commerce on the site.

“Having a voice and personality on the Internet has become increasingly important,” Shirley Cook, chief executive officer of Proenza Schouler, said. “It’s a place for people to connect to what Jack and Lazaro have to say. Live broadcasting on our Web site is the closest thing to being a guest at our show. You’re seeing everything as it is intended to be seen.”

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