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Since introducing “Fashion University” in 2006, Teen Vogue has looked for ways to expand the experiential marketing platform and further engage its young audience. The three-day education-focused program, which consisted of more than two dozen seminars, several activities, and a couple of events, brought 500 readers between the ages of 16 and 22 to New York for a crash course in fashion-related careers. The college-style curriculum began on October 21 and ran through Sunday, and employed the Millennium Broadway's Hudson Theatre and the Condé Nast offices as the campus and names like Jason Wu, Linda Fargo, and Peter Som as professors.
Planning for the event, a yearlong endeavor, is a collaboration between the marketing team, which looks to integrate key advertisers into the schedule, and the editors, who help select speakers invited to participate, identify key topics for seminars, and act as moderators for the panels. The group includes special events director Lauren Eisner, editor in chief Amy Astley—for whom Fashion University is a passion project—and associate publisher of marketing Lauren Bogad Jay.
“With any program, as you build momentum, it becomes more wanted not only by the consumer, but by people, like designers, who want to participate. And we're always trying to mix up the talent, but what's been really important over the past few years is mixing the breadth of what we've been covering,” said Bogad Jay. “In the beginning, we focused very much on design specifically, but we really want to give girls the opportunity to understand fashion holistically, every different facet of the industry, and beauty comes into that as well.”
In that vein, this year's Fashion University included two seminars on beauty as well as classes on costume design for television, blogging, styling photo shoots, and how to build a jewelry business. For those unable to travel to New York, Teen Vogue debuted a Web version of the initiative via Fora.TV.
“The other really exciting way that we've expanded this year is for the first time we're streaming the seminars online,” said Bogad Jay, adding that this was only done for the main discussions held in the Hudson Theatre. “I guess this is sort of our way of democratizing Fashion U for the readers.” Participants who registered for the Webinars, which cost $24.95 before October 15 and $34.95 thereafter, could not only watch the seminars live, but on demand, streaming the videos whenever they liked for 60 days.
Activations for advertisers also extended the schedule. New to Fashion University this year, Topshop hosted a shopping event at its Times Square store on Saturday night, inviting the program attendees to shop with a 20 percent discount, get styling advice from Teen Vogue staff, and pose for photos that were posted to the retailer's Tumblr account. Sharpie was also integrated into the lineup of activities as the focus of a D.I.Y. workshop hosted by Teen Vogue senior associate accessories editor Sheena Smith on Saturday afternoon.
Although the platform provides a good deal of exposure for Teen Vogue and its advertisers, the marketing and editorial team always aim to provide relevant and appropriate content for the teens that participate. “For us, it's about giving them access to the designers and information, executing it with authenticity—especially in this market where they can spot a phony a mile away—and provide them with connections, ways to network with themselves and the designers,” said Bogad Jay. “Our feeling is that when you hit on all those things, that's when you get the best action. It's sort of our model for success.”