Why an online retailer hosts a fashion week in Silicon Valley

October 11, 2016 10:49 AM

Online retailer Betabrand Inc. is putting its own twist on fashion week with its upcoming event Silicon Valley Fashion Week? on Oct. 20-22.

The question mark in the title is a key ingredient to the show, says Chris Lindland, the retailer’s founder and CEO, because it prompts consumers to anticipate the unknown or the what’s-next component of the show, such as replacing models with drones flying the garments down the runway.

Unlike New York City’s Fashion Week, where designers debut upcoming looks, Betabrand’s fashion weekend is only 40% about fashion, Lindland says. The remaining 60% of the show is a mix of a variety show, dance party, audience interaction and technology, he says.

Most of the designs featured on the runway at the tech fashion week are available for immediate purchase online, which differs from New York Fashion Week, where typically there is often a lag between the runway show and when the outfits are available to buy. The tech week outfits, however, are more costume-like and tech-centric—a cocktail dress made out of photo reflective prints—rather than high-fashion apparel, Lindland says.

This is the second year of the Silicon Valley Fashion Week? show, which debuted in May 2015. About 500 people attended the show on each of the three nights last year, and this year Lindland expects about 700 people to attend each of the three evenings.

Attendees are technology’s early adopters from the San Francisco area, and average  30 years of age, he says. The show offers attendees a chance to meet face-to-face with the creative people who design and invest in Betabrand products, Lindland says. Betabrand uses a crowdfunding model that lets consumers decide, based on what they buy, which products make it to market. Betabrand designs, manufactures and sells goods based on beta tests shown to consumers who visit its e-commerce site.

“The world of internet retailing is incredibly quantitative, and that’s the world we live in 99% of the time,” Lindland says. The fashion show fits into the 1% of time when an online retailer wants to build a community, he says.

Although the show is not designed to boost sales, it does boost web traffic, he says. Between selling tickets on its site, social media buzz and news articles, received a notable bump in traffic during the 2015 fashion week, Lindland says. In May 2015 (the month the show took place), received 953,182 visits to its website, up 28.4% compared with its average monthly rate 742,149 visits, according to data from digital analytics firm SimilarWeb Ltd.

Search engines take note when dozens of articles from reputable news sites refer to, and it helps boost the retailer’s credibility and land higher in organic search traffic, Lindland says.

The tech-savvy audience is spreading the word about the event on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, Lindland says. “We’ve designed a show for mass social media posting,” he says, and he expects audience members will stream the event via Facebook Live, the social network’s live video streaming tool.  

Shoe e-retailer Zappos Inc. (part of Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide) is co-sponsoring this year’s event. Betabrand’s chief marketing officer previously worked at Zappos and still has many personal ties with the retailer, leading to the co-sponsorship, Lindland says.

Betabrand is No. 640 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Second 500.






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