In an age of instant gratification and social media sharing, fashion is shifting its focus decisively to accessibility and retail tie-ins. At this year’s New York Fashion Week, brands traded elite events for experiences that invited the average viewer into the festivities, while more designers than ever showed lines that could be shopped immediately.

Instant-gratification retail

This fall, fashion week sponsor IMG launched two new retail popups. The Shop @ New York Fashion Week features accessory lines from brands like Alison Lou, Jordan Askill and Yliana Yepez. Meanwhile, visitors at F. Y. I @ MADE New York could scoop up off-the-runway looks from brands including Chromat and The Blonds.

“One of the biggest takeaways that we always had every season was that the normal consumer couldn’t partake in New York Fashion Week, because those show venues are invitation only,” Katelyn Howard, a senior director of events for IMG, told the Innovation Group. “I feel like everyone knows that’s it’s fashion week. People feel the buzz, and that excitement, but you can’t partake in it. This is really our first iteration of bringing NYFW to the people.”

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The Shop @NYFW
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The carnival of fashion

Part shopping and part experience, Fashion Week’s retail pop-ups also tied in events like happy hours and Instagram-worthy artwork to create destinations with wide appeal. The Shop @ NYFW featured large-scale artwork from New York artists Bradley Theodore and Nick Thomm, as well as custom Boomerang booths.

At Refinery29’s 29Rooms, back for its second year, designers and artists curated Instagram-worth rooms where both fashion and tech were on display; visitors could also shop from the Refinery29 gift store. Lines for the Brooklyn installation were packed throughout the weekend.

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Photography by Nina Westervelt
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Photography by Ryan Kobane
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29 Rooms by Refinery29. Photography by Joe Schildhorn

Designers also tapped into experience culture to bring new life to the Fashion Week format. Tommy Hilfiger turned New York’s Pier 16 into an amusement park called “Tommy Pier,” which featured carnival rides, lobster rolls, a record shop and more. The park was opened to the public at certain times, and also hosted the debut of Hilfiger’s Tommy x Gigi collaboration with Gigi Hadid, where half the tickets were available to the general public. The collection was also made available online immediately following the show.

“We’re breaking the old-school rules of the runway and giving instant access to our Fall 2016 Hilfiger Collection and the new TommyXGigi capsule,” Hilfiger explained in the collection statement. “These are our greatest hits, remixed and restyled for the digital age and shoppable the moment the lights go up.”

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Tommy Pier. Tommy x Gigi
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Web fall 2016 tommynow set shot 05

Against image fatigue

This fall, designers fully embraced the “see now, buy now” mentality. Rather than showcase collections six months in advance, designers including Derek Lam and Kate Spade switched to private, appointment-only showcases to better align with the consumer calendar. Thakoon and Tom Ford showcased fall lines that were already available to purchase, while Ralph Lauren and Rebecca Minkoff both staged shows directly outside of their flagship New York stores, inviting customers to shop the new lines immediately at brick-and-mortar locations.

“We felt Fashion Week was broken, that there is a certain ‘image fatigue,’ where by the time the consumer sees the looks in the store, she’s tired of them,” Minkoff, who pioneered the approach at the last season of Fashion Week, told the Observer in February. “She’s been seeing them for six months on Instagram and all over the blogosphere. It’s no longer relevant in department stores. So we thought, ‘How do we reinvent the fashion show?’ Our version makes it inclusive for all parties.”

As Instagram influencers embrace rapidly shifting fashion trends and novel experiences, expect fashion brands to find more creative ways to tie experience culture directly into a retail push.

For more insight on today’s retail landscape, download our Frontier(less) Retail trend report.

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