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Behind CFDA’s Runway360 Digital NYFW Experience

With ongoing limits on in-person events, one of the country’s most influential fashion bodies is helping U.S. labels launch their upcoming collections in a virtual format.

Concurrent with New York Fashion Week (NYFW), running Sept. 14-16, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) will debut Runway360, a platform that will act as a centralized hub for everything from trade and press interactions to consumer-facing engagements.

“In-person events and travel are unlikely anytime soon,” a CFDA spokesperson told Sourcing Journal. “Runway360 allows a brand to show a collection to a global audience with these limitations in mind.”

Runway360 will allow brands to develop customizable, modular pages that can aggregate content such as press materials, show imagery and social media integrations. Designers can also host livestreams, such as press conferences, with augmented reality, virtual reality and 360-degree capabilities. Multidisciplinary design studio De-Yan, which has burnished its credentials through projects for Dior, Louis Vuitton, Google, Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger, is developing Runway360.

“It is at the brand’s discretion to choose what collection to show, when and to whom,” said the CFDA spokesperson. “Runway360 is flexible to meet the needs of designers. Runway360 will target the desired audience, whether consumer facing or industry facing.”

In recent years, the once-private runway shows have been opened to a broader audience via social media and livestreams. There has also been a push to more closely align shows with the retail launches of collections with see now, buy now lines. Facilitating this bridge between fashion shows and shoppers, Runway360 will enable labels to host a consumer-facing e-commerce experience on their page for direct selling.

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For trade outreach, the CFDA has tapped wholesale e-commerce platform NuOrder to power a virtual showroom experience. Brands can incorporate content such as videos and runway assets into their showrooms, connecting their show appearance with commerce to more easily gauge ROI. Tools specific to linesheets, catalogs and ordering digitize the market process for buyers. Additionally, an integration with Zoom enables buyers and brands to conducts calls through the platform.

The brands that join NuOrder through the CFDA program will be featured on an NYFW platform that will invite retailers to view product and place orders.

One of the focuses of Runway360 is leveling the playing field for emerging talent and designers of color. There is no fee to use the platform, and it will be open to brands in all categories, including women’s wear, men’s wear, gender non-conforming, accessories and bridal.

“What we are most excited about with our partnership with the CFDA is the support and tools we will be able to bring to emerging designers and designers of color,” said Heath Wells, co-founder and co-CEO of NuOrder. “Now more than ever, there are so many challenges with growing a business, and to be in the position to be able to provide our services and resources and empower these individuals and organizations is where we feel we will bring the greatest value, not just during fashion week but beyond.”

While it is launching during the September shows, the Runway360 platform will be a permanent hub for the American fashion industry, allowing designers and labels to feature what they want, when they want. Once physical fashion shows return to the industry’s calendar, the hub is designed to act as a digital accompaniment to these live events.

The apparel business has been pushed in a more digital direction courtesy of COVID-19. As the industry grapples with the loss of in-person trade shows and showroom visits, virtual technology has stepped in.

NuOrder’s partnership with the CFDA follows other recent alliances with Saks Fifth Avenue and trade show organizer Informa as fashion increasingly embraces a remote way of doing business out of necessity. With Informa’s Coterie, Project and MICAM shows also taking place digitally in September, NuOrder expects to see a traffic uptick for NYFW brands courtesy of the trade shows.

“Now more than ever in the absence of travel and in-person interactions, virtual market tools are essential,” said Wells. “Digital solutions are allowing the industry to work in faster, smarter, more effective ways, so while it’s great in addressing immediate needs, the opportunities for virtual ways of working will have a greater impact going forward.”