While New York Fashion Week may be a six-day commitment for some of us, the bi-annual event — with all its runway shows, parties and surrounding frenzy — is a year-round undertaking for Kristen Hammond, Senior Director of Digital Content and Strategy at IMG, the international entertainment marketing conglomerate owned by Endeavor that runs "New York Fashion Week: The Shows."
With an overlap with the CFDA Fashion Calendar, the IMG slate encompasses over 70 designers runways — showing everywhere from the official Spring Studios HQ to Los Angeles, in the case of M Missoni — plus panels, events and "experiences." Hammond and her team edit and disseminate all the relevant content and messaging via three social channels: @NYFW, highlighting The Shows through an insider perspective, the "more consumer-focused" and global trends oriented @fashionweek and @made, which focuses on the intersection of music, arts and culture. According to IMG PR, the accounts combined — reaching approximately 6.78 million — rank fourth in Instagram audience size, behind legacy fashion titles Vogue, Elle and Harper's Bazaar.
Prior to the kickoff of the Fall 2020 season, I meet Hammond in the minimalist, gleaming and unsurprisingly chic IMG offices. Befitting the cool and collected ambience, the social media exec is extremely chill, even though it's crunch time.
"It takes a village," Hammond says as we sit in a conference room straight out of "The Bold Type," surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. She graciously credits her direct team of two managers and an associate director for helping pull it all off. During New York Fashion Week, Hammond hires around 10 photographers, plus two or three video crews to capture video and photo footage of shows, designer interviews and panels. "All in all, the team covers about over 100 shows during NYFW alone," she adds.
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Below, Hammond takes us through her fashion week (which actually never ends) plus shares why her New York Fashion Week workday spans 20 hours, how she fits in some self-care during the shows and what her preferred mode of transportation is.
How far in advance do you start preparing for fashion week and what does that entail?
We started right after the last fashion week. At the end of September and October, we do a pretty extensive deep dive on performance, what worked aesthetically and from an execution standpoint, as well as engagement and growth. By then, we have a pretty good idea of how our partners and which designers starting to get engaged. We start to work with our designer relations and marketing teams about what our partners are thinking about and then we start planning and concept-ing how we can bring that to life and communicate that on our channels.
In December, we're trying to get early shoots out of the way. We just had one in January and are in full-on planning mode — really buttoning up schedules, aligning on photographers, making sure that we have templated copy and everything. So it really is a six-month prep for me.
What is a typical day like for you during New York Fashion Week? I'm picturing you as this sort of wizard overseeing 20 screens all at once.
I wish I was a wizard. There's no typical day at fashion week, but I'm a really early morning person. I start my day at about 4:00 a.m. When I have my coffee, I do a round of analytics and look at how our performance is going along from the past day and also how it performed for the past week to date. I look at our designers — because we really want to support them — and the messages that they're communicating on their channels. Obviously there are also a ton of emails to weed through.
I'm usually on-site by 6:00 a.m. We do interviews with a couple of talent between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. when it's the most quiet. The shows start between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. — that's when the wizard-ing starts. We have a lot of screens. We have a team of photographers and videographers that are coming on-site, so we're doing on-site edits. We're doing selects for every single fashion show. We're also covering all of our programming and all of the cultural conversations that are happening around NYFW around that time. That goes on through the whole day. So the team's doing everything from covering via Insta-stories to doing a full-on produced shoot.
Then the day wraps. The last show is at 9:00 p.m., but usually that means 10:00 p.m. Our day ends, on-site, closer to 11:00 p.m. and I try to do one last roundup of analytics before I go to bed because of the different time zones. I usually go to bed at around 12:00 a.m. and then start again.
What cultural conversations do you plan on covering this season?
We have an entire programming team that organizes talks. Things that are coming up in the industry that are really relevant are inclusivity and diversity. That's something important to IMG as a whole. Sustainability is definitely a conversation that's being had and our audience is very aware. Their fashion IQ is quite high. They're very socially engaged, so they know that the conversation is happening elsewhere.
There's also a playful side of things. We do something called 'Overheard at NYFW' and it's snippets of anonymous things that people say. So we want to interject a little personality, too. There are serious issues that are happening in fashion and we should be a part of that, but there's also a playful and delightful fun side of fashion that can be a nice — a little snippet for people to enjoy.
What tech tools are crucial for you to do your job during fashion week?
Well, coffee is number one. Obviously phones. I have two here, but I have three phones usually during fashion week. A Mophie external [phone] charger. My team is really collaborative, which is amazing, so we use a lot of cloud-based and quick messaging tools, like Slack and Dropbox. The iMovie app for editing on the fly, so I can go into a conference room, look at a video and give my notes and comments really quickly. Text message is the number one way we communicate because your email just becomes a runaway train.
You're probably trouble-shooting non-stop, too. What would constitute a crisis fashion week moment?
For me, a crisis is any time you lose your head. Like anytime you unable to concisely identify the problem, pivot and make a choice. At the end of the day, it's a human event, so the X-factor is really when people show up. Is the show running on time? Are the photographers there on time? Are we getting things up on schedule? A lot of times you have factors like weather running against you. Or a community response that isn't ideal. The best way to deal with a crisis like that is, if you have a clear head, you can really focus in on how to solve that issue. For me, the crisis isn't like the issue is coming up, because that's the nature of the job. It's when you lose your cool and you're unable to make a methodical decision after. That's the secret sauce to fashion week: just maintaining your cool and keeping an entire week of fashion in your head.
There are always surprises: performances, celebrity guests, etc. How does the chain of command for work for posting on all three channels — and keeping the messaging — in these spontaneous situations?
Our team and photographers are assigned specific shows and events they have to go to and they're responsible for covering. We do a select of moments of the show for our photographers based on what we know will resonate. Usually there's a finale that you know everyone is going to be capturing and you want to get a great image up, but also one that's reflective of [each channel's] point of view. So we usually do Stories first and then we do a select, directly, following. We have a room on-site where we have our teams, with all the screens.
A situation room.
Yeah, we have a situation room — the situation is fashion week. We can usually turn it around within an hour following the show. Our ideal is less than two hours, and we certainly see a consistent posting method throughout the day be successful. The success during Fashion Week is providing real-time updates at the highest quality possible.
What type of feedback have you received during the week that's been memorable or valuable to help you do your job?
Listen, I live for the comments. I love them. Usually at the end of fashion week, we do a 'greatest hits' of followers that said the best thing or the most pithy thing. You have to acknowledge that. We have some followers that are pretty smart and funny and we like to play that up and interact with them. I liken it to a conversation you're having at a party or at a bar.
Has there ever been a comment or general feedback that has encouraged you to highlight or change messaging?
It's more 'I want to hear more of this.' We definitely listen and respond and also hear a lot about what people are liking — not just passively viewing a video. They're liking it and they're saying, 'I'm so surprised' or 'I love this person' or 'this is my favorite model.' Those are things that we obviously pay attention to because, at the end of the day, we want to have a conversation with our audience and we want it to be an interesting one. We don't want somebody to be falling asleep just scrolling through.
For you, what is the best way to get around during New York Fashion Week?
Thank you! It's faster, right?
It depends on what I'm traveling with and, if I have to answer emails, it's for sure more comfortable to take a car. But if it really is a do-or-die situation and you have to show up somewhere on time and it's very time-sensitive, usually it's the subway. Or walking, sometimes. Running in flat shoes.
How does your job change when New York Fashion Week ends and the shows go international? You stay in New York, correct?
We have some remote teams that we work with and there are time delays that we factor in. For our @nyfw channel, specifically, it's much more focused on what's happening here and that's why people are tuning into us. A lot of the focus tends to shift toward trends because that's something that resonates throughout the fashion weeks and starts with New York.
How do you find time for self-care or take that moment during the busy week?
Prep is really important. So I work out pretty much up until the week before, every single day. Because fashion week is really a mind exercise. In order for you to operate at your peak, you need that blood flow and the endorphins. Drinking a lot of water, obviously. Health leading up to fashion week is really important. Don't drink during fashion week. I know that's an unpopular choice, but I think that really helps.
During fashion week, if you can get 30 minutes to an hour of no screen-time. Even if it's just walking around the block or the venue, that's a win. Screen-time is very tiring and if you get sucked into the 'gram, you lose a little bit of the inspiration that happens around you. So try to enjoy at least one show a day, not through the lens of your phone, really helps remind you of the magic of your first fashion show.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.