Brands are making the move from seasonal fashion moments to real-time influencer launches

This week H&M announced that it would forgo its seasonal appearance on the Paris Fashion Week show schedule, which it’s held for five years, instead debuting its SS19 Studio collection on a three-day trip to Sedona, Arizona.

The trip will involve key influencers and press from around the globe in which they will be cast as active participants in a series of immersive events. While it is the first time that a brand has made the theatre often brought to life through catwalk shows fully immersive (turning the viewers into the participants) H&M is not alone in its migration to a more time-relevant show schedule or, in fact, its influencer model as a way to showcase the newest collections.

Credit: The Current Dail

Press trips are nothing new and have been a keen part of brand’s PR strategies for years, but the introduction of influencers into those strategies. However, the use of their social media handles as a broadcast platform for brands, has made them a voyeur’s dream insight into what goes down on these trips and opened the doorway for newer ways to utilise them. Now the influencer model is not just a way to allow influential people to preview the new collections, but also to showcase it to their followers and create content for brands to use on their own channels as well. In particular, the luxury market is no stranger to these trips, but what used to be reserved for the elite and a way to convert relationships with editors into coverage is now a way to create immediate hype around products that can then be bought in real time or soon-after – resulting in sell-out collections. It seems the high-street are catching on too and democratising the experience further.

Revolve have pioneered this model and are known for being the biggest player in this space in the industry thanks to their ongoing campaign #RevolveAroundTheWorld (unsurprising since the word “influencer” appeared 79 times in their IPO filing). Each year they host a whole host of various influencer trips in luxurious locations, where they clothe reams of their most engaged influencers with the newest launches, brands and collections. The trips are packed with parties, activities and impressive resorts as the backdrop for these collections and all of it is documented over the course of a week-long splash of Instagram content. Plus, it’s working, with influencers reportedly generating up to “70 percent of current overall sales at revolve.com” according to WWD.

To the same effect, other luxury brands are catching on, with the likes of Net-A-Porter and Zilingo launching The NETSET/Jet-A-Porter and #ZilingoEscape respectively. The former is an ongoing holiday edit for NAP’s ‘constantly travelling clientele’ and a trip-model used to take their most influential content creators and editors away. Similarly, Bulgari also launched its new #Fiorever collection in Dubai at the end of last year with a three-day trip to the desert to try out the new collection and create content while wining and dining.

The move on from traditional press trips is not overtly innovative, but it does symbolise a significant shift in the way brands – and customers – are consuming fashion. In terms of shop-ability, there is a definitive move to be more reactive and commercial, less seasonal as the immediate desire that is created once something has inundated followers’ feed is soon followed with the ‘old-news’ mentality when they have to wait six months to be able to buy it. It demonstrates the power of meaningful influencer relationships and finding true advocates for your brands, who’s community and their loyalty equals serious spending power. It also shows how many high-street brands yes, but also luxury brands are beginning to favour sales over aligning with high-end fashion credentials and finding the balance of ‘reality’ i.e. influencers, while maintaining elevated.

Expect to see this play out over the next 18 months as the next big thing in influencer marketing, but while it’s something that can result in huge sales and a lot of great content for both you and your engaged network, you have to be prepared to front the cost. Influencers are getting offered these trips tenfold so make it exciting, make it engaging, and find ways to differentiate yourself as a brand that ‘gets’ their customers and their most influential fans.