Change could be the season’s hottest new trend, as one company debuts a refashioned take on industry tradition.

This fall WMG/IMG, an international entertainment and sports management conglomerate, unveiled its reinvention of New York Fashion Week, which began Thursday, September 10. Owning and operating 13 fashion week concepts worldwide, the mass media company is treating the event as what it handles best:

Content… à la couture

Despite fashion week’s notoriety as an event “by the trade, for the trade,” WMG/IMG is replacing exclusivity with accessibility in a variety of ways.

“Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week” no more; the affair has been renamed “New York Fashion Week: The Shows.” Other new features include temporary screens on 14th Street to publically show the week’s events, special hours during which consumers can visit official venues alongside industry crowds, and a free NYFW app, which live-streams exclusive event content like runway shows and other behind-the-scenes footage.

Additionally capitalizing on the television airwaves, WME/IMG is producing a two-hour NYFW documentary with ABC Family, and in October launching its first full-out network: Made 2 Measure. The channel will stream on-demand fashion content exclusively through Apple TV—a first for the tech giant as well.

Coupled with a new logo and relocation from Lincoln Center to venues on W. 33rd Street and SoHo’s Clarkson Square, WMG/IMG is shifting event focus from commercial to creative.

The redesigned logo - via hypebeast.com
The redesigned logo – via hypebeast.com

Though supportive brands may be desegregated on the surface, rest assured associative implications are still abound.

Presences of sponsors, such as Intel, Lexus and Maybelline, are distanced from showrooms but have separate, remote headquarters to host discussions and art displays throughout the week. TRESemmé hair products are still highly visible in the event’s official SnapChat featurettes, and deals with major media names like Apple subtly show NYFW’s commercial prestige is still kicking.

Cloaked but considerable…at least that’s the company’s hope.

As expert packagers of content and strategized messaging, WMG/IMG is opening communication in ways fashion week has never seen before. Promoting two-sided industry/public relationships and taking feedback into account, the company’s reputational management (so far) could potentially speak wonders for rejuvenated images of the event, as well as its own.

Although WME bought IMG in 2013, this is the first season it’s taking effect. With the high-profile conglomerate’s reputation on the line, a lot is riding on the makeover.

Attempts to centralize fashion week festivities have been a historic flop, so there’s sensible cause for potential concern.

Fashion Week began as a loose collection of independently arranged designer showcases throughout New York City; however, it took a definitive, communicative crisis turn when in 1990 Michael Kors (literally) brought the house down. At the start of his show in a Midtown loft, music caused plaster to fall from the ceiling onto heads of models and audience members.

From that point, the Council of Fashion Designers of America decided to remedy the disjointed system. Executive Director Fern Mallis teamed with mass media moguls Conde Nast and Hearst to put a more “organized and modernized” approach into action. Coupled with famed designers like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein on board as well, the first NYFW as we know it was born.

Despite legendary stature, the chic soirée has prompted a rollercoaster of reputational pros and cons throughout the years.

Making its Bryant Park debut October 1993, NYFW began drawing major attention, eventually reframing New York as a token fashion capital. In 2010 the iconic tents were exchanged for a bigger and more technologically accommodating space—Lincoln Center.

The expensive move forced promoters to seek more sponsorship, which some industry figures felt began deeply cheapening the brand. Although many fashion week cities are facing “designer diaspora,” the increased commercialization has been a growing turn-off for many participants.

Collection by Jason Wu - via The LA Times
Collection by Jason Wu – via The LA Times

In light of this year’s changes, not all designers are on board with the re-envisioned approach. Marc Jacobs and Diane von Furstenberg pulled out of the event to independently show, while others like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger signed on as simply “district associates,” appearing on the official schedule/app but not showing at official venues.

Some at WMG/IMG speculate designers are leery about the first year, opting to wait and see how the reconfiguration works before jumping in again.

Understandably so. With the power of social media making designers more accessible than ever to their audiences, WMG/IMG must prove there’s still value in being part of the fashion week flurry.

(Featured image via CBNC)

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