NYFW: A Call For Community

Every New York Fashion Week spectators look to the runway for the next big trends for the upcoming season. Editors select their key looks to feature, buyers identify the next big retail statement, and influencers blog their favorite designer’s looks to their heart’s content. Many designers strive to set themselves apart, but every so often there is a message found during fashion week that transcends a single designer or trend and communicates a unifying theme impacting the entire fashion community. Did you notice NYFW’s message this season?

The message was loud and clear – the empowerment of women is here to stay. Just like many other industries, fashion has been rocked by the #timesup and #metoo initiatives and designers have come out in full force to show their support for women. They are focusing on positive, and sometimes shocking, messages that draw attention to the women’s movement and celebrate all women for their inspiration and contributions.

(So to stop you here, I want to level set the balance of this post. This blog post is not to make a political statement. Regardless of how you feel about these movements, it would be a miss to not address how they are shaping NYFW and the effects on the greater retail industry.)

IN CASE YOU MISSED THE MESSAGE

Let’s catch you up on a few of the big moments you might have missed from NYFW that are delivering inspiration and messages of empowerment.

Prabal Gurung featured a Fall 2018 collection inspired by matriarchies like the Mosuo tribe and Gulabi Gang. The designer shared his thoughts on the collection with T: The New York Times Style Magazine,  

“What I found really fascinating- especially in today’s time when we’re talking about solidarity and women coming together - is that in parts of the world, it’s been an existing part of life that we don’t even think about”.

The bold use of color and texture was to show women in “their full feminine glory” because back home in Nepal, “color and texture was kind of unnerving for men”. And for the finale, the show ended with the models coming back on stage together with white roses to show their support for #metoo.    

At DVF, aside from naming designer Nathan Jenden’s new muse, Diane von Furstenberg’s granddaughter Talita, Diane herself made her feelings known.

“I just wanted to say that with everything that's happening with women right now ... I personally am more committed than ever to the empowerment of women," she said. "And this is really important and the DVF woman through the generations has always been about being a woman in charge — in charge of her life, in charge of who she sleeps with, in charge of what she does. She's in the driver's seat."     

Brandon Maxwell’s show ended with him bringing out his entire design team, of mostly females, giving them the chance to shine and showing respect and admiration for all their hard work.

Tom Ford and his Pussy Power, an aggressive but powerful play on words, that was found throughout his looks on Ford’s kitty themed collection.

On the surface, this appears to be designers and businesses broadcasting their support for a cause they believe in. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see that they are doing so much more – they’re creating a sense of community around an idea their customers feel passionately about, and connect to deeply. 

WHAT DID THEY DO?

Each designer chose a unique, yet brand specific statement, that captured their support of the women’s movement in a way that their customers would relate, accept, and support. By doing so, their support strengthens and reinvigorates the women’s movement and the entire community that is being (re)established around it. Their support is being leveraged to build a greater sense of fellowship.

If there is a silver lining to be found in the #timesup and #metoo movements it is taking a cue from NYFW and looking for opportunities to positively engage and support your customers, building a greater sense of community. 

WHY DID THEY DO IT?

Believe it or not, “sense of community” is proven to be a basic human need for survival – the same as food and water. The idea of community has undertones that can be incredibly impactful to your business. Creating a sense of community in your business allows customers to identify with a cause and provides a feeling of acceptance and belonging. It builds and strengthens emotional bonds between the customer and your business.

Find a belief, cause, or philosophy that YOU strongly identify with and create a statement that aligns with your business. It should be something you are passionate about, as well as something people can relate to. The more your customer can relate to the cause, the greater the association they will have to a sense of community and therefore, your business. 

HOW CAN YOU DO IT?

Developing a sense of community will take time and ought to be an organic and authentic experience for you and your customer. It will require planning and tact to establish your credibility. 

A few tips along the way-

  • Consider the emotion that you want people to feel when they join your community. Does it align to your business, your customers, or your goals? It might not always be a perfect fit, but it should still represent a piece of your business, brand, or yourself.

  • Once you start building your community, how will you engage with its members? Part of creating a community is starting a dialogue and in an environment that people are comfortable sharing. Utilize your eblasts and social media channels to get your conversation flowing in a casual format.

  • Remember that not everyone will want to be included, and that’s okay! Respect everyone for their own beliefs, not just those opting in to your community. 

INSIGHTS

Building a sense of community in business isn’t a new idea but has had a strong resurgence over the past few years. Customers, particularly the coveted Millennial, are looking for businesses and brands that they can relate to, make them feel included, and part of their community. But it must be done authentically. It must truly represent what you and your business are all about and elicit a real emotion. When established properly this emotional connection, you will not just create a sense of community, but loyal, repeat customers for your business.

Cover photo from Prabal Gurung 

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