Rachel Zoe On The Evolution Of Fashion Week

I remember my first Fashion Week like it was yesterday—I was a starry-eyed fashion assistant, crashing shows and packing in dozens of events on little-to-no sleep. Nearly 20 years later, as a CEO of a multifaceted fashion, lifestyle and media brand, I am exposed to a whole new layer of Fashion Week—the business behind it.

Fashion Week has gone through a significant evolution since its inception. When I first entered the world of fashion nearly twenty years ago, it was all about the glamour and the flash. Before bloggers and social media influencers, front row was reserved for fashion editors, retail executives and buyers— it was an intimate gathering of people who lived and breathed fashion 24/7, and you would seldom ever see a celebrity attending a show. Now more than ever, there is a significant commercial undertone that encompasses the experience. Fashion Week has grown to be a huge corporate player, both as a marketing vehicle and a way for designers to expose their brand and grow their business.

Photo: BFAnyc.com

From a PR and marketing standpoint, I believe there is no better way to put my message out there than by having a strong presence at Fashion Week. It is one of the most impactful ways to open a dialogue with customers and buyers, both of which are key players in my business. Showing my collection at Fashion Week each season will always be a career highlight for me. I remember my first presentation and how much of a humbling, learning experience it was. Putting myself out there in that way was terrifying at first, but seeing people’s excitement and positive reaction to the line made it totally worth it. Fashion Week allows me to share with the world an authentic narrative that defines my brand and company.

Photo: BFAnyc.com

Media, too, plays an integral role in Fashion Week. In the new age of technology, designers like myself are able to receive instant feedback from buyers, customers and editors. Instant communication is helpful to business because you can figure out exactly what your customers want immediately. Designers are now creating pieces that are not only beautiful but also profitable; editors are covering those shows that create the most buzz in the media. As a result, designers and editors are viewed now more like businesspeople and in turn have to be able to exhibit a level of business knowledge and acumen.

Social media also presents an opportunity for brands to create an organic and intimate relationship with their audience. As a designer, I now have the opportunity to immediately know what customers and buyers are most excited about seeing from my collection. This connectivity is monumental in Fashion Week and has definitely raised the bar for the industry as a whole. Now there are live feeds from runway shows, unfettered backstage access and constant coverage on social media. These new developments invite the customer closer into the world of fashion and, for me, into the world of my company. It is due to this shift that I continue to make media the backbone and support system of my brand and company.

The work doesn’t stop there — come the end of fashion week, there is a huge business opportunity for all the major players in fashion. As editor of an online fashion destination, my editorial team and I round up the top runway looks of the week and discuss which of the beauty and hair trends to include on The Zoe Report. As a designer, I work closely with my sales team to discuss the feedback we received from buyers. We talk about the pieces they were most excited about and map out the retail landscape for future seasons. Believe it or not, the very next day after my spring presentation, my design team and I are already starting to discuss designs for the next season!

It’s a no-brainer that Fashion Week is important to me—both for my own personal growth as an entrepreneur and designer as well as for the development and evolution of my brand. As my brand continues to grow and have a greater presence at Fashion Week, I understand now more than ever why people attend from all over the world to support the billion-dollar industry that it has grown to be. I will always be enamored by the glamour and excitement that Fashion Week embodies, but now as a designer and CEO fashion week has evolved into a monumental and powerful business venture—one that continues to open doors and numerous opportunities for my brand and business.