While it's often the designers, models and street style stars that get the lion's share of the limelight during fashion week, there's an entire industry of people who work tirelessly to put together the shows every season. In a series of short profiles, we'll shine the spotlight on those behind-the-scenes talents.
Whereas the rest of us get to just fire off tweets and filter our Instagrams on the fly during fashion week, social media managers are paid to plan every post in advance, ensuring that a designer's vision during showtime is expressed as clearly and cohesively online as well as off.
Fortunately, designer Nanette Lepore has a solid team in-house. Jimmy Lepore Hagan, director of digital media (and Lepore's nephew), and Nicole Loher, social media and communications strategist, hold down the social media fort backstage both before and during the fashion show every season, making sure no major moment goes un-tweeted, no front row celeb un-'grammed.
So whether it's working with the design team to get the color on a graphic just right or making sure the right bloggers are sitting front row, this duo reveals their planning process ahead of Lepore's show time this Sunday, September 7 at 7 p.m.
When do you start prepping for the shows in September?
Hagan: I like to make sure that there's a clear separation between when it's go-time and when it's summer. I know some people like to ease into it by approaching a few different things, but I like to have a hard date. Nicole is always pushing me to start earlier, but I want people to enjoy their summer and not think about fashion week. We usually do a month out.
What does that prep look like?
Hagan: Well, first we have to get the invites, so who we're targeting from press, buyers, celebrities, bloggers, VIPs in the business world, vendors -- we have to get that list right. What we've been doing differently this year is starting to get our content earlier. What we wanted to do is mirror what was happening in the development process with the actual clothing and to get on the same page as the designers, working through the ideas, the themes and the inspirations so that we were kind of making content for a couple of different media outlets as well as for our own social media that really is indicative of the collection itself.
How do you put together your social media strategy ahead of time?
Hagan: Because we have so many things to work on in terms of collaborations with different media and bloggers, sponsors, photographers, etc., in the past I've designated that task to Nicole. She comes up with the strategy and then we review it, and she sets about executing it with interns and other people who are helping and I support throughout the way.
Loher: We start getting requests from different press outlets and bloggers, and we put it on a huge calendar that everyone shares and once we start to get confirmed, we have the live date for everything and we cross promote that. At the same time, we're pushing out all the content that's been created in house for different verticals and platforms, and going about deciding which platform is best for what. I feel more is more during this time, because there's so much content out there and so many other brands to compete with that we're constantly trying to be in front of people.
Hagan: And we want to realize that our ability to disseminate our content is not limited to our channels exclusively. We want to access all of the different opportunities, from your dot coms to your dailies and print to bloggers to social media for Revolve or Bergdorf Goodman. So we think about trying to create content for all of these different sources, and trying to get our message or our theme out there, not just through ourselves so that we're yelling into the void, but explaining what Nanette is thinking and what we're creating to as many people as possible.
How closely to you work with the design team on getting that content?
Hagan: We work directly with them. We started with a conversation I had with Nanette on the subway, where she was like, "I don't know exactly what I'm saying but let's work it out," and we had a brainstorm on the 1 Train. We came up with this idea of dreamy California meets the South of France savoir-vivre, and it's been really exciting. We've pushed it in certain ways and taken it to Nanette and the design team, and they'll say, "No, we're focusing less on blue and more on sunshine yellow." That's been good for us, because we can take it back to our graphics team and rework it and get it closer to where the prints are and where the color palette is developing.
When does it start to be crunch time?
Hagan: I would say like, five days ago. [laughs] It's a series of gears. We're in second gear here, and it will ratchet up three to four days before the show, and then goes up another two the day of the show. Our show being at 7 p.m. this year is going to create a whole new gear, because now we have a whole day before the show. [Ed note: Lepore previously showed at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays.] I don't know how I'm going to handle that, honestly.
How does the time change affect your strategy?
Hagan: I've been thinking about that, and I think it gives us more time to follow up with getting people to the show, converting attendance, which is something I focus on for the final 48 hours. I usually do that push the night before the show -- I get personalized emails for everyone, arranging cars for celebrities and bloggers, so the day of the show I'll probably just be doing that and it will free up the night before the show to allow me to focus on content and making sure the message is right. I'm hoping it will give us the opportunity to be more creative.
What does a typical day look like for you guys?
Loher: [On show day] everything has to be set up the day before, and then in the morning you have a run of show. Pretty much every 15 minutes is detailed out with what we need to be doing, who we need to be talking to, all of that, but prep days are more relaxed and it gives you an opportunity to really think things through. We get in really early, leave really late and try to cram it all in.
Hagan: I have about 30 minutes to try and interact with about 90 people [before the show]. I've learned over the years that you can't hit everybody, and I made the mistake early on that, while I was talking to someone I needed to talk to, I was thinking about who was next. So I came up with a system: I give 20 seconds to any person I'm speaking to and I don't think about anyone else and just engage 100 percent for 20 seconds and really explain what the show is about, where Nanette is trying to go and what she's thinking about, thanking them for coming, and really connecting for 20 seconds. As soon as that 20 seconds is up, I'm on to the next person. The mistake people make in this industry way too often is trying to get everyone in and not connecting, not getting the point across, and not making that person feel special for coming.
What could create an emergency for you?
Hagan: The worst case scenario would be committing to dress two celebrities in the same outfit. I think that would be horrifying, I don't know how we would resolve that. That's why we focus: We have a big board of everyone we're dressing with bloggers and celebrities. I would also say, for me, it's about being defensive and making sure people who say they're coming backstage or doing this article or photograph from seats, that all of those things happen, and the worst case would be that people just don't show up. But you can avoid that by making sure to convert them.
Do you think there's anything people misunderstand about your job?
Loher: I think a lot of people, especially for social media, think it's "easy." I guess if you work on a huge team it can be easy, but making sure all ground is covered for us is a lot more difficult than people give it credit for.
Hagan: In general, I think that social media is overplayed in some ways. Some people think it's so important and others think it's really easy. I think the most important thing for us is that we keep the message and focus on the clothing, and the inspiration. People probably don't realize how closely we work with the design team to make sure that we are expressing exactly what Nanette wants to express and that we are an extension of the show in as many ways as possible, and not something that's running in circles for no reason, but justifying why it's important and showing people how it's important to brand an entire event like this.
When are you officially done with fashion week?
Hagan: The second the show goes down. Even though that's not true -- we spend the next four days cycling through all the content that we see, all of the tweets and Instagram, and we're still pitching and doing all different kinds of outreach and making sure these stories come through -- but as soon as the show is done, it starts coming down in gears. I feel really euphoric when the show is over, I feel a big relief, and I try to encourage people to create those divisions. Be happy when it's over, don't just constantly run from one big event, one crisis, one massive event to another, give yourself time to party.