The new front row: How creators and luxury brands are redefining Fashion Week

Kellie Matzen
Kellie Matzen
September 7, 2023

Notoriously exclusive, New York Fashion Week invites have been historically extended to only the most prestigious names in the industry. That paradigm began to shatter in the early-to-mid-2000s with the rise of fashion bloggers and influencers. Today, creators have become a regular fixture at Fashion Week shows, as the front row at Fendi’s 25th Anniversary Baguette Show shows. While Vogue Editor Anna Wintour sat side-by-side with actress Sarah Jessica Parker and 90s model Kate Moss, attendees also included 18-year-old fashion and beauty TikTok creator Ellie Zeiler, who shared the event to her 10.7 million TikTok followers.

On TikTok, “Fashion Week 2023” garnered 664m views, confirming audiences’ demand for content around the events. The presence of creators like Zeiler shows how esteemed brands like Fendi recognize the value in reserving spots for gen Z creators who can showcase designer shows to new audiences and markets. This influx of a new age of creators at Fashion Week has created immense opportunity in the industry and brands are understanding the potential this offers, filling the front row with unexpected creators and forging deeper relationships with creators who uniquely speak to their brand.

The new front row

Brands are also looking beyond creators specializing solely in fashion.

Eccentric creator and Estonian rapper Tommy Cash might seem an unconventional match for luxury fashion, but his attendance has created buzz. At the Rick Owens SS24 menswear show, he wore MSCHF Crocs accessorized with a baguette. At Jean Paul Gaultier FW23, he sported a muscle suit accessorized with protein powder and resistance bands, which he offered to fellow front-row creator Emma Chamberlain in a viral moment. The search “Tommy Cash Fashion Week” garnered over 11.1m views and counting.

While Cash is an extreme example of the attention-grabbing, conversation-starting power of creators, brands are increasingly inviting creators to their shows, resulting in a wider reach on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Last New York Fashion Week, Caroline Herrera invited creators from TikTok’s Tinx to Instagram’s Nujoud Alrumaihi. Tory Burch attendees included Lori Harvey. Dylan Mulvaney attended Kate Spade. At L’Agence, Alix Earle joined the guest list.

Bottoms up

The presence of different creators throughout Fashion Week is not only a nod to the reach they can generate, and their impact on culture, but also indicates larger shifts in the fashion industry. Trends and consumer buying behavior are increasingly defined from the bottom up; by creators, trying out new styles and gaining traction among their audiences, resulting in new trends and consumer demand. Creators have a seat at shows and have become integral to the full marketing funnel which in turn has enabled consumers to have more say in which brands and trends gain popularity. Trend predictions and cycles are more immediate than in the past, leaning into consumers’ ‘see-it, buy-it’ mentality with trends predicted more quickly and locally via creators on TikTok and Instagram.

At Fashion Week and beyond, brands who see the value in strategic creator partnerships reap the benefits of leveraging creators’ ability to define and create culture. Brands looking to leave an impression on consumers can do so through unique partnerships with specific creators, with the ability to reach an audience beyond usual fashion buyers.

Gucci’s latest Menswear show in Milan saw TikTok trainspotter Francis Bourgeois sit front row, following his partnership with the brand, and enabling it to tap into a whole range of new followers not previously associated with luxury fashion. While trainspotting culture is not immediately synonymous with Gucci, the impact of Francis Bourgeois’ content on wider internet culture is immense, and through association with the creator, Gucci was able to tap into an internet ‘moment’ and raise brand awareness in new ways.

How can brands capitalize on the fashion x creator paradigm?

Creator involvement in Fashion Week makes it more representative of and relevant to people watching, and shoppers buying. This fall, creators will continue to bridge fashion and culture and offer brands the opportunity to reach new audiences on new platforms. As creators continue to revive cultural relevance for Fashion Week, the front row will continue to evolve and transform.

This offers brands the opportunity to showcase representation and relevance to audiences and consumers, in new and authentic ways. These brand partnerships offer a bridge between fashion and culture that enables brands to lead cultural moments and reach new audiences on new platforms.

By collaborating with creators, brands can build conversation and amplify their image. Relationships with creators during this key cultural moment can provide brands with the opportunity of longer-term associations with creator audiences, as well as longer-term creator partnerships, creating more synergy and connection between the brand, consumer and the creators' audience.

These strategic creator partnerships reap long-term benefits for brands that continue after the shows have ended. By tapping into these, brands can define and create cultural moments.

Using creators in a deeper capacity enables brands to continue to tap into the undeniable value in brand-creator partnerships, making a wider, and more personal impact and retaining relevancy for new and existing audiences.

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