NEW YORK — New York Fashion Week kicks off today — and with nearly every major player live-streaming their runway show this season, tweeting up a storm and hosting interactive Facebook chats, brands are looking to raise the digital bar even higher.

Key initiatives this season range from shoppable runways to digital fashion shows to “social service,” where social media platforms help organize rides and more for busy buyers, editors and bloggers.

This story first appeared in the February 9, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

While there are several Web sites offering online trunk shows, designers and brands seem to be one-upping them. Burberry was one of the earliest to live-stream its show in 2009, and the first to offer a shoppable runway last February, but James Gardner, founder and chief executive officer of Createthe Group, expects others to follow suit this year — starting with Marc Jacobs on Monday.

Immediately after the show, which will be live-streamed, Marc Jacobs confirmed it will offer a “reserve,” pre-order functionality for the items just seen on the runway for its Collection and Marc by Marc Jacobs lines.

People will be able to reserve the products they wish to purchase once they become available, as the brand views it as a way for fans to let them know which pieces they love — and in which colors and sizes they need. The customer relations team with handle the reservations and notify customers once the items arrive.

According to the brand, they would rather consumers feel like they are part of the fashion democracy that’s only been made possible since the advent of the digital revolution, one where their voices are heard and opinions considered. That said, the brand doesn’t want fans to feel obligated to purchase once reserved pieces become available for purchase.

For Gardner, the fashion circus to ensue this week has become one targeted towards the consumer — and allowing them to shop the runway simultaneous to viewing a live-stream or directly after is just the next logical step.

“The fashion show has changed. There is a frenzy of desire to be part of this industry. It has become a consumer-facing event,” Gardner told WWD in his SoHo office space. “It’s now for consumers just as much as it is for editors and the industry.”

Gardner, who works with clients such as Marc Jacobs, Burberry, Donna Karan, David Yurman, Alexander Wang, Louis Vuitton, Nowness and H&M, believes brands that implement “shop the runway” functionalities can obtain invaluable data from viewers and fans, specifically about the products that resonate with shoppers. Customers can pre-indicate the products they’re most interested in, directing brands to produce the most popular items that will best perform at retail.

“This is not a gimmick. It provides consumers with insider access and a deeper relationship [to the company] and the brands get knowledge about what consumers like,” Gardner said, adding that this tool especially appeals to the luxury shopper who wants to both see and get things first.

Another digital trend that is fast emerging this week is initiatives targeted to the B2B audience rather than the B2C one — particularly ones that use digital mediums as a means to provide “social service.”

Several programs are popping up that intend to give some relief to industry members with the most grueling of show schedules — including KCD’s Digital Fashion Shows platform. The tool, designed in conjunction with King & Partners for press and buyers, delivers relevant information about a collection, including a pretaped runway show, high-resolution images, close ups of accessories, a run of show, a video designer preview, show credits and even a beauty section. The show is produced by Stacy Streigel at One Kick.

According to co-president of KCD Ed Filipowski, this service is for the industry and isn’t targeted at consumers, since one needs to be invited to partake in the site.

“It’s everything you would get at a runway show in one place. We’re not looking to replace the runway show,” Filipowski told WWD, adding that the platform will launch exclusively this season with designer Prabal Gurung’s premiere ICB collection for Onward Kashiyama on Wednesday. “It’s not demanding on people’s schedules and it alleviates some of the congestion. It’s on the calendar at 11:30 a.m., and we schedule it so reviews can get in that day. It’s not available before that but it’s available any time after. Any time you log in you get the same video experience.”

When asked how the platform came about, Filipowski said he just wanted to find a way to be more efficient and use the online space to “help us do our jobs a little easier.” He said after playing therapist to many an editor — who were often vocal about their jam-packed show-season schedules — he sought to devise a program that services both his clients and the press.

“I was intrigued by the idea of providing journalists and buyers with all the tools they need to report, cover and be informed about a collection right at their fingertips. That was the big idea. We developed a way to make that happen. It took six months — and it’s been totally funded by our agency.”

If the launch goes as smoothly as planned, Filipowski sees the Digital Fashion Shows platform as a viable option for appropriate designers, as well as an alternative to travelling to another city for pre-collections.

“The important thing is that it looks good — and we really worked hard to make sure it looks good. We want it to have the same quality and level that the top shows we work on have. [We asked ourselves] aesthetically, is this going to meet the discerning eye of the industry?” Filipowski said, adding with a laugh, “[And] I don’t have to do front of house.”

Made Fashion Week, formerly MAC & Milk, is now in its sixth season and boasts a roster of nearly 50 shows this month — but it’s the interactive app it unveiled earlier this week that Mazdack Rassi, creative director of Milk Group and co-executive director and co-founder of the Made initiative, thinks will streamline the fashion week process.

The app, a collaborative effort with Sonic Notify, syncs the runways looks in real time via embedded high-frequency sound waves, sending the images to the user’s device of choice. Along with co-executive directors of Made Jenné Lombardo and Keith Baptista — also founder of the consulting firm The Terminal Presents and a partner at production firm Prodject, respectively — the hope is that the Made Fashion Week app will allow viewers to have all notes, favorite images and show credit info sent to their e-mail with the click of a button.

Then there’s #FashionWheels, a transportation effort sponsored by The Promotion Factory that will be entirely run on Twitter and Foursquare from the handle @ThePromoFact. Starting Friday, the New York-based branding and communications agency will use this campaign to help shuttle press to and from shows. Editors, bloggers and buyers can track the whereabouts of #FashionWheels to catch a ride — which will also be stocked with “Survival Kits” of Prometheus Springs water, Zoya Nail Polish, Vita Coco coconut water, pretzel crisps and Six Scents (Six perfumes created by six artists for charity).

And in it’s third season, the Kmart Concierge will send its Concierge girls — outfitted in #FashionWeekProblems T-shirts, no less — to the aid of those in need tweeting to @KmartFashion with the hashtag #FashionWeekProblems through Feb. 16. The retailer partnered with Chrissie Miller of T-shirt line Sophomore to design the Ts worn by the Concierge girls. Miller calls this a “unique way of giving back.”

Finally, there is Lyst — the socially curated commerce site whose fashion week services, unlike the above, are targeted more for consumers than industry insiders. For the second time, users will be able to use the Runway Tracking device — which allows them to view collections on the site and add any piece they covet to their “lyst.” The site will let users know when the item comes into stock, anywhere in the world.

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