The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week's move from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center may have NYC aflutter, but the most profound move is the one its making into the 21st Century. Rather than the lavish paper invitations of yore, entry into this coveted event will be sanctioned by barcode. The event, whose fundamental mission has always been to "organize, centralize and modernize" the American collections, has expanded this core initiative, punctuating its conceptual value at every turn by implementing new digital tools to create state of the art online registration, barcode credentialing and seating systems that integrate the registration, invitation and check-in process for attendees.
Historically, all Fashion Week elite received their invitation via snail mail, RSVPed by phone or email, then waited in long lines the day of the event, clutching their physical invitation so that they could be granted their seat assignment by a staff member at the gate who checked their name off a list. Gate crashing at Fashion Week, and guests gaining entry using someone else's name, have been a part of Fashion Week since its inception. Under the new barcode system, guests will receive their invitations via email, RSVP via email or website, than receive a barcode confirmation from the designer. On the day of the event, the barcode will be scanned from a printout or smartphone at one of numerous kiosks located at the event entrance.
The barcode technology is designed to make admission to the event more efficient and orderly while reducing the number of uninvited guests. However, the true efficacy of the system will reveal itself only when throngs of couture adorned invitees arrive on the scene tomorrow with their new barcoded invitations and are expected to embrace the change. Needless to say, IT staff will be on hand to assist the technologically challenged and attend to any hardware or software malfunctions.
Fashion Week is as much about who is in attendance as what is on the runway. Under the new system, designers will be able to monitor who has arrived, and adjust seating assignments as necessary to preserve the careful balance of celebrity, socialite and fashion press, while avoiding all possible danger of an empty front row seat and the certain disaster that would certainly accompany such an occurrence.
"This is a seismic shift in the way that fashion weeks around the world will operate," said Peter Levy, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of IMG Fashion Worldwide. "The level of service this brings to the industry -- from data capture for designers on our website to event credentials being used to get seat assignments for press and retailers -- will revolutionize the industry standard and be what people come to expect in the years to come."
NYC-based technology consulting firm Control Group is responsible for the event's new digitally enhancde experience. After a full analysis, the company prescribed a plan to deploy the upgraded press registration and credentialing system that integrates with Fashion GPS, the fashion industry leader in customized digital public relations, marketing, and event management solutions.
"These new technology systems will transform the experience of virtually everyone connected to this event," said Lisa O’Neil, Vice President of Strategy at technology services firm Control Group. "Designers, PR agencies, the media and event attendees will notice greatly improved services, an improved online experience and better, faster information delivery all around.
"Since 2007, we have been on the cutting edge of fashion management technology by introducing a variety of comprehensive programs to streamline the fashion industry," says Eddie Mullon, Founder and CEO of Fashion GPS. "As the venue for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week changes so does the technology. This year we hope to bring about an overall more efficient event with a customized Fashion GPS for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week program available to all designers showing at the event."
Additionally, IMG Fashion has launched a dynamic Fashion Week website developed by Tender. The new blog stylized site will include near real time event news, downloadable schedules, social media tools, expanded designer content pages with designer runway photos and videos, profiles, retail points, links to their website and e-commerce, and the event scene featuring backstage and celebrity photos. This new site, powered by a content management system, will give IMG Fashion the ability to upload content through an almost one-click process and the option to easily re-brand and re-skin the existing website, reducing the complexity of freshening it from year to year.
The heavy, influential implications of Fashion Week make this move from paper invitation to barcode more than just a shift in event management. Fashion Week defines what is in and what is out for the season. It is a cultural barometer whose interpretation will define what the fashion media feeds us in the coming months, will barcoding be on the menu?