KCD, the production and public relations firm, will launch a new digital platform for runway shows during New York Fashion Week in February.

This story first appeared in the January 23, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The site, at Digitalfashionshows.com, will provide designers with a central hub to stage online shows via pretaped segments. The user-friendly interface is intended to provide a time-efficient tool for press and retailers to view shows during an increasingly demanding, cluttered and drawn-out show season.

“Our goal is to establish a significant viable alternative to live runway shows and a way for editors and buyers to experience fashion shows in a new way,” said Ed Filipowski, co-president of KCD. “With the sheer volume of shows and the speed the industry is moving, we have to find new ways to do our jobs. It’s the way of the modern world.”

KCD will introduce the site with the relaunched ICB collection, which is designed by Prabal Gurung. The show will go online at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 15 and will be viewable on a computer, tablet or mobile phone. Like a traditional fashion show, the virtual version is by invite only and viewers must log on with a password.

One Kick Productions will produce the pretaped show, without an audience, on Jan. 30. MAC Cosmetics will sponsor the show, in part.

“To me, it didn’t make sense to add one more show to the calendar,” said Gurung. “Editors have been supportive of my shows from day one, but it almost seemed a little selfish to expect people to come to yet another show. I wanted a way to make things easier for everyone.”

Last season in New York, editors and retailers faced the daunting prospect of 322 shows and presentations spread over nine days, according to a WWD count.

Digital shows provide every viewer with a virtual front-row perch. “It will be a true 360-degree fashion experience. You’ll be able to see the collection from the front, back and side,” said Gurung. “And editors and buyers can come to the showroom to see the clothes up close during re-sees — something that already happens anyway now, even after a live show.”

Gurung has been a Web enthusiast in building his label, creating a video clip for his most recent pre-fall and resort collections, the latter one featuring musician Rye Rye. However, Gurung is maintaining his customary live runway show for his own label, which is scheduled for Feb. 11 at noon.

“We are excited for ICB to be the first collection shown on Digitalfashionshows.com. The innovative use of technology is a core value at Onward Kashiyama,” said Akinori Baba, president of Japan-based Onward Kashiyama, which owns ICB.

Online runway shows are hardly an innovation at this point, with a host of brands from Burberry to Victoria’s Secret now regularly live-streaming shows to a consumer audience. As far back as 1998, Helmut Lang, the designer no longer associated with his namesake brand, presented his fall collection via a videotaped show and look book on helmutlangny.com and CD-ROMs delivered to editors and buyers. This past September, over 30 Lincoln Center designers — including Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera and Narciso Rodriguez — live-streamed their shows on a YouTube channel sponsored by Maybelline New York. Norma Kamali has even amped up the entertainment factor with a 3-D Web site at normakamali3d.com, where her spring collection debuted in September.

However, the new KCD site offers a turnkey service on a technologically advanced platform that delivers a series of features designed for press and buyers. Once a video is started, show notes scroll along the bottom of the screen in tandem with each look. A run-of-show screen provides access to still images of each look from a variety of angles. Detail shots for accessories, shoes and jewelry can also be made available, as can a dedicated tab for beauty and behind-the-scenes material. Videos and still photos can be downloaded or embedded directly from the site for use in press materials or a buyer’s notes.

Viewers will be able to tag individual looks as “favorites” and designers will be able to cull that information to discern which looks resonated most favorably with the audience.

“While the technology behind it is very advanced, the interface is very simple, clean and intuitive. The content is the hero of the site,” said Tony King, founder and creative director at King & Partners, a fashion branding and Web development agency that partnered with KCD on the project. “The goal was to maintain the integrity of the fashion show and provide a very high-quality experience.”

The use of the platform is not restricted to KCD clients. Any designer will be able to use the site for a fee, and Filipowski is currently engaged in a personal campaign to ensure key editors embrace the new digital format.

Filipowski emphasized digital runway shows are not meant to replace or replicate the experience, pizzazz and glamour of live runway shows. “We believe in the runway show. I would never want to give up the experience of a live Alexander McQueen show or a Marc Jacobs show,” he noted, speaking of two KCD clients.

KCD plans to add features to the site as it moves forward. A modified version of the platform may be utilized as a virtual trunk show for retailers, once clothes are set to hit stores. Like the runway version, the trunk shows would also be invite-only for a store’s customers.

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