This September, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week will introduce a new event to its packed schedule: the Style Awards, an annual show honoring designers, stylists, and other fashion industry professionals and figures. Through a partnership with Fashion Week organizer IMG Fashion and NBC Universal's Style Media, the eight-year-old Los Angeles transplant owned by Penske Media will make its East Coast debut on September 5 at the Lincoln Center tents and will be broadcast for the first time on television.
By moving the Style Awards from the West Coast, Penske Media hopes to increase the visibility and presence of the brand. Despite several attempts, Los Angeles has been unable to build a cohesive Fashion Week concept, whereas in New York, IMG's twice yearly trade show is considered the most influential of its kind in the country.
“New York is currently, for the United States, the fashion mecca. It's one of the global platforms when you think of fashion,” said Carter Reese, president at Hatch.IM. Reese, who was involved with the Style Awards before Penske Media acquired it in 2008, is leading the production. “We hope at one point Los Angeles can have a fashion presence as large as New York's. L.A. has such a great fashion sense and will hopefully start to rise to the occasion more and more.”
The location shift also entails new additions to the program, such as broadcasting the event on cable's Style Network and adding a full runway presentation. The combination of these two components makes for a somewhat complex production.
“What's challenging is that we're trying to do an awards show on a fashion runway. Runways are on the ground because when you look at fashion, you want to be looking at it at eye level,” explained Reese. “That doesn't really work well for TV when you're doing an awards show and 95 percent of your content takes place on a stage. It's a round holes, square pegs situation, but with IMG's amazing fashion production background, it's really able to make this all work.”
Collaboration with the Style Network is also helping to iron out the difficulties. “Our producers speak to their producers on a daily basis to make sure that things are set up properly for a TV special, because an event that's not being televised is obviously structured a bit differently than when it is,” said Nicole Sabatini, senior vice president of marketing at the Style Network.
Rather than air it live, the network plans to show the awards September 14 during prime time. “Live award shows are great and effective, but I also think live-to-tape works for us,” Sabatini said. “What we're really doing is making it relatable to a TV viewing audience. It's about how do you capture everything that will be happening in a two-hour time frame and how do you make that the most engaging special, kind of the best-of moments that are happening from the red carpet to the show itself?”
For its part, the NBC property is crafting a campaign to promote the new partnership and bring consumers into the Fashion Week fold. That includes fashion-related programming, a dedicated section on mystyle.com, working with Penske Media's digital properties like HollywoodLife, and curating Twitter conversations, videos, and Instagram posts. “We're doing a lot in the digital and social space,” Sabatini said. “We really think that the best way to make this event at Fashion Week accessible is to make our viewers and our users feel like they've got the key to the house.”