Luxury clothing rental platform Rent the Runway is leveraging years worth of consumer feedback to launch a range of new clothing lines driven by data.
The “Designer Collective” lines will feature 10-15 items of clothing and be developed alongside prominent US-based designers, such as Jason Wu, Derek Lam and Prabal Gurung, with prices averaging on $350.
Rent the Runway’s business model allows customers to rent expensive designer pieces for a fraction of the retail value. Once clothing is returned, customers are asked to fill out surveys about their fit and style preferences.
“We have millions of data points that our customers provide about wear rate, where they’re wearing the clothes, fit by style and sizes, demand by hem line, sleeve length, demand by geo region etc, and all the feedback is funnelled to our designers,” a spokesperson for the company told FashionUnited.
For designers, this means access to an entirely new audience. “A reality of our business is that we sit at a luxury price point, which isn’t accessible for everyone. Partnering with RTR allows us to connect with a younger customer,” designer Prabal Gurung told BoF. “We’re able to start a relationship with this client … and when she does rent the piece that really resonates with her, that she can’t bring herself to return, we’ve seen it convert, and that’s a beautiful success.”
While some designs will be developed from scratch, others will simply feature adjustments exclusive to the platform’s customers. For example, Gurung’s first line will be entirely based on his main collection, but in colors and prints that respond to RTR’s customer feedback.
Speaking at NRF’s Big Show earlier this month, Jennifer Hyman, Rent the Runway’s co-founder and CEO, said: “Data is such a fundamental piece of what we do. We’re exchanging a massive amount of it [with designers] on how their products are being worn, what events they’re being worn to, and how their products or dresses last over time,” she says, adding that this helps brands iterate their designs to better suit customer wants and needs. “The data we have in renting clothing over time is so important to the manufacturing of clothes.”
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It was a quieter New York Fashion Week season than usual, as big-name designers including Altuzarra and Tommy Hilfiger chose to decamp to other cities – Paris and Milan, respectively – to host their much buzzed-about runway shows. Even fashion week parties, which in the past provided magazine fodder for weeks to come, have also been scaled down, with the industry seemingly more subdued in general.
That didn’t stop various buzzworthy moments however, including subtle nods to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, various more immersive runway presentations, and a dash of the futuristic with Google TiltBrush and an oversized robot.
Here we highlight some of the most interesting conversations that took place, and where there was still room left for improvement…
There was little direct acknowledgement of the powerful conversation around the #MeToo movement, but shows attempted to create a stage for female empowerment. For Tom Ford, the approach was literal and included models strutting down the runway donning shoulder pads and a “Pussy Power” handbag. For Prabal Gurung, which The Washington Post has previously described as the “most woke man in fashion”, it was a nod to the #TimesUp conversation as models closed the show as a group, carrying white roses.
Also alluding to the message of empowerment, designer Jonathan Simkhai presented a Suffragette-inspired collection, while Kesha’s song on speaking out on harassment, “Praying”, greeted guests.
Following the second yearly Woman’s March, which took place globally on January 20, Brother Vellies teamed up with a roster of labels, such as Clare V. and Rachel Comey, to design a capsule collection benefitting the march and Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile designer Rebecca Minkoff, who was due to give birth to her third child during the week, forwent a formal presentation, instead opting to showcase her see-now-buy-now on 20 powerful women online. That cast includes members of the Women’s March committee, as well as actress Zosia Mamet and fashion presenter Zanna Roberts Rassi. The designer also teamed up with networking app Bumble Bizz to host a speaker night titled “Trailblazers: Women who have started their own company or have forged their own way within their industry”.
The topic of diversity was ever-present during NYFW too, though perhaps rather positively it was less buzzed about as more designers included a variation of ethnicities and sizes on their runway. Designers such as Christian Siriano and one of this season’s favourites, Eckhaus Latta, enlisted models at each end of the spectrum. Meanwhile model Kendall Jenner hosted an Adidas Originals presentation that featured a colourful cast and the showcase of the brand’s first hijab.
In addition to the designers whose presence was missed in New York this season, many others moved away from formal runway shows to explore new ways to engage with a new, savvier audience.
Adidas teamed up with trendy New York label and lifestyle store VFiles to host a multimedia photoshoot at the Terminal 5 venue in Hell’s Kitchen, for instance. As music played for partygoers, models stood on stage posing against white backdrops, thus partaking in a live photoshoot. The immersive event aimed to respond to a community who wants to participate, rather than watch from the sidelines, said Julie Anne Quay, founder of VFiles.
Meanwhile, Nicole Miller teamed up with AI and image recognition company RevelGlam to pilot their software on her runway show. The software analyses insights from fashion shows as well as celebrity sightings and influencer activities in order to predict trends.
Never one to shy away from the spotlight, it was German designer Philipp Plein who became a major topic of conversation however; giving the week a much-needed injection of futuristic tech. In a display of extravagance he has become known for, model Irina Shayk entered the runway from a spaceship and strutted alongside a giant bot with the designer’s logo plastered all over it.
In a week where most designers arguably played safe on many fronts – from not taking a truly clear stand on serious conversations to engaging with new technologies – Plein’s stunt may have trumped the collection being shown, but it simultaneously provided an irreverent and timely take on the future.
Fashion week might be a means to showcase new collections, but this season’s New York shows have also proved a key platform for political messages.
According to social data intelligence company Talkwalker, the big conversations across both social media and broader internet platforms tied to New York Fashion Week, have surrounded causes close to the issues currently dominating broader US headlines thanks to President Donald Trump’s incoming policies.
The CFDA’s Planned Parenthood campaign, which encouraged the industry to wear “Fashion Stands with Planned Parenthood” pins in protest of moves to defund the organisation, saw more than 34,000 mentions over the week for instance. In doing so it beat out individual leading brands like Calvin Klein (11,000 mentions thanks to Raf Simons’ debut), Alexander Wang (8,300 mentions) and even model Gigi Hadid (4,300 mentions).
Those stats specifically relate to the use of the name tied to NYFW (e.g. Gigi Hadid references at large are likely higher at any given moment in time given her fanbase). These are also direct mentions, not impressions, which will clock in significantly higher also. Talkwalker compiled the data from 150 million global websites, including access to 850,000 news sites and more than 10 social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Weibo, and YouTube.
Celebrities helped push the Planned Parenthood campaign further, with actress Olivia Wilde’s Instagram post about it garnering 64,000 likes alone, and Chelsea Clinton’s Tweet on the eve of fashion week similarly drawing significant attention. Key hashtags attached to the campaign, including #IstandwithPP and #PP, peaked at noon on February 11.
Further focus on such social causes followed suit throughout the week. Christian Siriano’s People are People runway show, which celebrated diversity, body positivity and self-acceptance, was mentioned over 3,700 times, for instance. Top references alongside included “Planned Parenthood”, #representationmatters and #voiceofthecurves. His “People are People” t-shirts saw all proceeds going to the ACLU.
Mentions of Prabal Gurung’s initiative, meanwhile, which saw models in the finale wearing t-shirts with slogans including “The future is female”, “I am an immigrant” and “Break down walls”, hit close to 2,500.
Beyond “t-shirt” as a key word alongside, the top hashtag referred to in this instance was #tiedtogether, which links to The Business of Fashion’s campaign encouraging those at fashion week to wear a white bandana as a form of unity. The models in Prabal’s finale were all wearing one.
In fact, the #TiedTogether campaign has been mentioned over 12,700 times since the start of NYFW in total, with an Instagram post from Tommy Hilfiger (at its LA show) leading engagement with 35,600 likes. Talkwalker was also able to reference the top emojis people are using tied to this term, which included hearts, hands and cameras.
Further politically-charged shows this season included Mara Hoffman, who invited the organisers of the Women’s March on Washington to participate in an opening discussion; Public School, who also showed t-shirts, this time with statements like “Make America New York”; and Jonathan Simkhai, who gave out “Feminist AF” tees.
Said Talkwalker CEO Todd Grossman: “All of the above shows us that these campaigns are all truly tied together. In conversations about Siriano, you find people also mentioning Gurung’s t-shirts. In conversations about Gurung, you find mentions of #TiedTogether. In conversations about #TiedTogether, you find mentions of Planned Parenthood. Each politically driven campaign on the runway does not stand alone during NYFW, rather each individual statement becomes part of a much larger dialogue – each a piece of fabric making up an (oh so stylish) quilt stitched with freedom of speech.”
Better yet, out of the 708,200 total mentions of NYFW, the hashtag #hope proved a main theme, with 19,300 references.
There was a time when a retailer launched a limited edition collection with a big name designer, advertised it then watched it (hopefully) sell out.
But this is a new age and social media is where it’s at, so the process of letting people know about your hot new collaboration is much more complicated. Nonetheless, the first step is putting the news out there, which is where stories and blog posts like this come in.
Plus size specialist Lane Bryant revealed yesterday that it’s linking up with Prabal Gurung next March for a limited edition Prabal Gurung Exclusively for Lane Bryant label.
It’ll be Lane Bryamt’s fifth collaboration after its deals with Christian Siriano, Lela Rose, Sophie Theallet and Isabel Toledo. So far, so straightforward.
But this time it’s different because, for the first time, the company will document the process from the design studio until the time it merchandises in-store through a series of ‘taped’ webisodes that will be available on all Lane Bryant social media.
It’s a big move for the retailer, which has previously Tweeted, Instagrammed, and Facebooked its designer link-ups like crazy, but hasn’t shown the ‘insider view’ in quite such depth.
It’s a sign of the times of course. Designer collabs are hardly the rarity they once were and buzz, these days, is created not just by the fact of their existence but by an ‘insider’ insight into the creative and practical process of turning designer inspiration into affordable fashion.
This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday
The New York City Ballet put fashion at the centre of its Fall Gala tonight by showcasing three short documentary films about the designers it has collaborated with, live on stage.
Prabal Gurung, Iris van Herpen and Olivier Theyskens (pictured above) each designed custom costumes for three new ballets premiering at the event. Respectively they were “Capricious Maneuver” choreographed by Justin Peck, “Neverwhere” by Benjamin Millepied and “Spectral Evidence” by Angelin Preljocaj.
Films were created showing the designers discussing the concept and vision for their looks, providing a sneak peek at what they look like as they’re being developed, and even trialling the creations on the ballerinas to ensure they are suited to the movement they need. Van Herpen’s is all about hundreds of individual pieces of PVC plastic, Gurung’s complete with leather harnesses and Theyskens’ embellished with giant silicon scars.
Each spot (embedded below alongside some still shots) was aired ahead of its corresponding ballet via a giant screen on the stage – giving the traditional gala a bit more of a modern spin.
The ballet iself was attended by stars including Natalie Portman (in support of husband Benjamin Millepied) and NYCB’s chairperson Sarah Jessica Parker.
Choreographed by Justin Peck; costumes by Prabal Gurung; music by Lukas Foss
Choreographed by Benjamin Millepied; costumes by Iris Van Herpen; music by Nico Muhly
Choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj; costumes by Olivier Theyskens; music by John Cage
The move for online-only catwalk shows is continuing this fashion week with See by Chloé, ICB and Pierre Balmain all taking to PR agency KCD’s “Digital Fashion Shows” format.
First launched in February, the initiative enables invited press and buyers to view the collections from their computer, iPhone or iPad. Each show has been pre-recorded – See by Chloé in Paris, ICB in Brooklyn, and Pierre Balmain in Beijing.
They include a full catwalk experience, still images of the clothing and accessories with detailed information on each piece, and a complete write-up on the inspiration behind it. There is also beauty coverage from backstage.
“New York now sets the pace for newness between digital and fashion,” said Rachna Shah, managing director of KCD Digital. “From business-to-business platforms, like Digital Fashions Shows and Fashion GPS, to live-streaming and runway social media applications, the American industry is pushing the digital envelope further and further each season.”
The See by Chloé show was available to view from 9am EST today (as shown in the pictures above). Pierre Balmain will take place at 9am on Monday, September 10, and ICB at 10am on Tuesday, September 11.
It’s great to see the Digital Fashion Shows initiative from PR company KCD is continuing. Hot on the heels of ICB by Prabal Gurung during New York Fashion Week, comes news See by Chloé will be presented online on February 29 (which falls in Paris Fashion Week).
The collection will be shown on digitalfashionshows.com via invite-only, at 10.30am CET. As with ICB, it will feature a full catwalk show, detail shots of every look and behind-the-scenes beauty coverage.
The video footage will then be available to all on Chloé’s Facebook page a mere 30 minutes later.
Although the fashion industry has been quick to use digital media to become more accessible to consumers, certain designers are using the same tools to keep catwalk access exclusive.
While I watched the ICB by Prabal Gurung show at New York Fashion Week it struck me that although the fashion industry is embracing the openness digital media provides, the backlash against it is also beginning.
I wasn’t at the Lincoln Center; or any other grandiose venue across Manhattan, but rather in front of my computer screen.
However, the difference to any other live-stream of a show during a fashion week, was that this one was online-only.
I am a strong proponent of watching shows from the comfort of my own home or office anyway. As media editor of an online trends service, my defence is that I’m actually the geek that prefers being able to more easily tweet while still focusing on the collection. The biggest bonus of all is that you get a far better view of the garments first time around via the stream, than you often ever do when you’re there next to the catwalk.
As Christina Binkley, style columnist for the Wall Street Journal said on Twitter: “Watching the ICB by Prabal Gurung online fashion show is like watching football on TV. You’re not there, but you see more than if you were.”
However, what you don’t often get with either, unless you’ve headed straight backstage or you’re booked for follow-up salon appointments, is that close detailed view; a true second look. Believe me there have been many times when I’ve peered forward from my seat, or better yet hit pause and CTRL + to zoom in on the screen – it’s not quite the same.
But this is why ICB was perfect. Every look was already there in high-res jpeg form. And every detail had a dedicated picture too – the fabric textures, the handbags, the prints and the make-up choices. There were also informative notes on each piece and a video of Gurung discussing his inspirations. All can be replayed and revisited.
And what’s even more interesting about all this, is that the ICB show was also invite-only. Even my colleague next to me couldn’t login – her email address wasn’t on the list.
This new exclusive online-only strategy has made me wonder – is this a step towards an anti consumer all-access sentiment? Are Gurung’s team trying to buck the trend for offering everyone around the world a “front row seat” via the web? Could this be the beginning of a backlash to the fashion industry’s rapid adoption of burgeoning social media platforms?
We first saw it with Tom Ford, who has a strict no photographs and no reviews policy for at least three months, and Phoebe Philo at Céline, who likewise calls for no shots or tweets from backstage at her shows. Those decisions have been met with mixed reception, but both are essentially attempting to close the gap between the hype of a new collection and the time (on average six months later) it actually hits the shop floor.
ICB is adopting the same exclusive strategy, albeit with a less established brand and solely on a digital platform.
“The password is just a replacement for your seat number,” said Ed Filipowski, co-president of PR company KCD, who was behind the concept. “To me, it’s not MTV, it’s not YouTube. It’s for the industry.”
While the time lag wasn’t enforced (I for one was tweeting as I watched), it seems, if anything, at least an attempt at rediscovering a sense of authority in the industry. Enabling the likes of Vogue and the major newspapers to be the first to comment once again, rather than your dime-a-dozen blogger is an interesting step.
Likewise, the British Fashion Council is reinforcing the importance of focusing on the press and buyers who attend London Fashion Week this season. Although consumer access to the event, which kicked off on Friday, has become increasingly open over the past few seasons, and is set to be its biggest yet with 46 shows streaming live, those in the trade are being prioritised once more.
For the first time, their passes to the fashion week grounds provide a constant stream of live content, thanks to an ongoing partnership with image-recognition app Aurasma. By scanning them, they’re directed to live news from the London Fashion Week organisers. While that content isn’t exclusive, it is confirmation of ensuring the experts have easy, on-the-go access to everything they need, especially given the fast-paced nature of such a week.
But on the other hand, London is also seeing a continuing focus on consumer-first. Burberry kickstarted it with the Tweetwalk last September – offering those on Twitter a glimpse of each look seconds before those actually in attendance. The same is planned for tomorrow’s show, with a delayed version of the image-stream also being posted on the giant Cromwell Road billboard in London (Europe’s longest advertising outdoor space).
The brand’s main focus is reach; getting out to as many of the public as possible, which is why they’ll also be live-streaming to Liverpool Street Station, as well as on mobile and tablet device.
Harrods is taking it one step further again by handing the buying decision of the forthcoming Burberry collection over to its Facebook fans.
On Tuesday, the day after the designer’s show, the department store will post images of every look on its Facebook page. Those that receive the most ‘likes’ will be incorporated into the store’s purchases for the season.
The argument almost certainly is that it’s common sense those outfits proving the most popular at this stage will end up being the ones that sell once they hit the floor later in the year (although the profile of the Harrods Facebook fan versus the actual Harrods shopper could be questioned).
Similarly, back in New York and Oscar de la Renta turned to crowdsourcing, inviting consumers to become a part of his creative process by launching a virtual pinboard open for anyone to post their ideas to. The idea is similar to Pinterest, the new picture-based social network, that has been attracting lots of attention of late.
“The Board” is a call for anyone and everyone to help the designer with inspiration sources for his resort collection.
Both of these initiatives aren’t just about providing consumers with increasing amounts of access anymore then, but actually involving them in the entire behind-the-scenes process; from concept to sales rail.
Combined with ICB, the result of these conflicting digital strategies is an overwhelming sense of the fashion industry being drawn into a “whirlpool”. There is now a battle between a tightening industry grip on the one hand, and an all-access opening to consumers, on the other.
Neither side is right or wrong, but there’s still that gaping hole from one extreme to the other, and more importantly from the season we’re seeing to the season we’re buying.
The question is can the industry, defined by these biannual fashion weeks, the world over, adapt fittingly while continuing to embrace the benefits of digital media?