What A Handbag Designer Can Teach Sponsors And Properties About Social

By Morgan Lathrop Oct 15, 2013

What A Handbag Designer Can Teach Sponsors And Properties About Social

I am fascinated by how brands are constantly creating innovative experiences to connect with target audiences. We find many great examples in sports, but I have been keeping my eye on the fashion game, specifically designer Rebecca Minkoff, a leader in casual luxury handbags, accessories and apparel who has become one of the savviest marketers around.

In the last few years, she has used social media to break down barriers that traditionally separate a fashion designer from her customers, creating plenty of examples that brands in other categories could follow.

IEG has identified using social media to create consumer participation as one of the key ways to successfully activate partnerships. It became very clear during last month’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York that apparel and accessories brands are also trying to optimize participation.

From live-streaming and crowd-sourced coverage to debuting collections through social sites, Fashion Week is moving from an event for traditional media, buyers and celebrities to an event for consumers. Social media alone has broken down the barriers that made Fashion Week exclusive by allowing consumers to connect with fashion brands and participate in their creative process. By letting consumers participate, Minkoff and other designers are giving consumers a reason to care and share their experience, ultimately creating more buzz for their brands.

What A Handbag Designer Can Teach Sponsors And Properties About Social

Minkoff engages her target consumer—“the strong feminine woman”—via social media to gain insight into what her consumers’ likes and dislikes are, and to ultimately create products they want. In an interview with Mashable, Minkoff said: "We believe in a different approach. We believe the consumer is part of [Fashion Week], and that their inclusion is going to grow. The consumer has a voice and say in [our] brand, they should get special perks even if they can't attend the show."

Specific examples of the designer’s usage of social media include:

  • In February 2012, to celebrate Minkoff’s first New York billboard, the brand announced a contest asking fans to take a photo of themselves in front of the billboard using hashtag #rmsoho. The first 10 people to do so received a $195 Mini M.A.C. handbag.
  • At Fashion Week in New York this February, Minkoff put social media and the consumer front and center by creating a prominent Twitter backdrop for her runway show. Minkoff encouraged consumers to “join the conversation” by tweeting with the hashtag #RMFALL. Minkoff also released Vine videos on Twitter showing the behind-the-scenes action prior to her show.
  • During last month’s Fashion Week, Minkoff made the unique move of debuting her looks on Snapchat before they hit the catwalk. Although the previews were only 10 seconds long, Minkoff wanted to make the debut of her new line inclusive to all of her consumers, and Snapchat had the appropriate, organic, “just for you” feeling to it.
  • To create additional buzz and encourage consumer participation, Minkoff teamed up with Tumblr and Nordstrom in a crowd-sourcing initiative that invited Tumblr artists and photographers to submit a T-shirt design inspired by the brand’s favorite type of women: strong and feminine. The winning design made its way down Minkoff’s runway and is now available for purchase at Nordstrom stores.
  • Minkoff also partnered with American Express and its Unstaged live-stream platform. AmEx created Unstaged as a means of delivering premium music experiences to fans everywhere. Previously, Unstaged matched musical artists with renowned film directors, but Fashion Week marked its first collaboration between fashion and music, pairing Minkoff with musician (and CoverGirl) Janelle Monáe. Unstaged transformed the typical runway experience through behind-the-scenes prep shots and insights shared on Instagram and Twitter leading up to the show. During the show, there was a live feed of photos and videos capturing the candid action in real time, as well as an exclusive backstage camera angle giving fans at home a sneak preview of each item before the models walked down the runway. Host Kelly Osbourne conducted exclusive interviews with Minkoff and Monáe, giving fans at home unparalleled, instant access to the entire show. To complement the partnership, AmEx cardmembers who connected their card to a Facebook or Twitter account could receive an exclusive offer to receive a one-time $25 statement credit at

Sitting in the front row at Fashion Week is a huge deal, but perhaps the best seat in the house for Minkoff’s show was actually behind a computer screen. Which begs the question: With fashion designers utilizing social media more and more to give the consumer inside access, and runway shows being live-streamed, has the traditional catwalk lost its relevance? If more designers like Rebecca Minkoff are shifting the focus of the conversation from traditional media outlets and buyers directly to the consumer, do we even need Fashion Week?


digital media fashion social media activation


About the Author

Morgan, senior director of client leadership, specializes in sponsorship activation and has led a variety of successful experiential marketing campaigns, connecting brand partnerships to their target audiences in a meaningful, memorable way.


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Prashant Menon 4/25/2014 2:02 AM
Intresting...consumer participation and involvment will define this industry in the coming years..and social media provides the prefect platform to enable that..great read

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