Over the last few years, New York Fashion Week has become an important stomping ground for musicians looking for greater recognition and more fashion clout. Designers, for their part, have welcomed them into the front rows and after-parties with open arms, eager for the street credibility and untapped fan base they often provide.
This fashion week has already made that abundantly clear, with Kelela and Tinashe seen at Opening Ceremony’s presentation; Diplo, Aluna Francis, Lil Yachty and Cardi B snapped swinging by Helmut Lang; and Justine Skye, G-Eazy and DJ Cassidy sitting front row at the Public School show.
And the performances have not been restricted to shows. They’ve ranged from an intimate acoustic session by the Dever Sisters at Prabal Gurung’s post-show dinner to The Weeknd’s serenade of the crowd at Harper’s Bazaar’s Icons party.
Tinashe at Opening Ceremony’s spring 2018 show
Of course, fashion and music have long gone hand-in-hand, said Lily Golightly, the founder of No Big Deal PR. “A lot of my artists are really interested in that world because it’s an extension of what they do,” she said, adding that their interest only increases when they have something specific (like a new album or single) to promote.
Weeks before the event kicks off, talent agencies like hers send out email blasts to press, listing all of their clients who will be in town for the shows, as Golightly did in early August. “They can come to your office and do an acoustic track, review a fashion show for you, play at an event, or do something creative and out of the box!” she offered in one of those mailers at the time, next to a roster of visiting clients that ranged from Fetty Wap to Maggie Lindemann.
While their presence may read like nothing more than a party pit stop for these artists, there tends to be more strategy behind it than that, said Golightly: “It’s really good to introduce them to other press outlets that wouldn’t normally cover them.”
The Weeknd performs at the Harper’s Bazaar Icons party
Kasturi Shan, a publicist at The Chamber Group, agreed: “Music press and the music industry can feel very oversaturated, so you have to come up with different ways for clients to stand out,” she said.
Each year, Shan has a list of clients — including Future, Tinashe and Chaka Khan — that she advises to make the NYFW rounds. “Fashion week helps to show that they’re more than just singers,” she said, adding that many of these artists are keen to keep supporting the designers that have given them clothes in the past for events.
What today feels like “another SXSW” to Shan was merely an afterthought for artists and their agents just a few years back. While at her last agency, for example, she had zero clue how — nor any need — to navigate the fashion week chaos. Now, she finds herself fielding calls from record labels and booking agents, hoping to have their artists seen (and sometimes heard) at the coolest parties.
The explanation, Shan said, is the dynamic, overlapping tastes of today’s young consumers: “You kind of know what music an Opening Ceremony fan will be into; it’s all tied together.”
Bridging both worlds can also lead to new and exciting partnerships, not just with fashion designers (see: Lil Yachty x Nautica), but other musicians, as well. “NYFW creates a moment in time when lots of people can congregate in the same place, and really cool collaborations can happen,” said Shan, citing two clients that met this fashion week who are already in talks to work together.
Mady Dever and Kaitlyn Dever perform at Prabal Gurung’s post-show dinner
For many people in the music industry, especially those based in New York, it can be as crazy a week as it is for those working in fashion PR. “I’ll see someone from KCD or Black Frame at the shows who I’ve been emailing with all day about getting clothes for my client, and we’re both worrying about different things,” said Shan, who has spent the last seven days running from show to show with the buzzy singer Tinashe. “For the fashion teams, it’s usually about getting people into the venue at the right time. For me, it’s making sure that my client isn’t standing outside too long.”
Getting her clients photographed is key, too, said Shan. At the same time, she was trailing Paper Magazine’s website to see if any of her clients made its party coverage. Luckily, brands like Opening Ceremony are usually willing to help facilitate the shots for their own benefit.
“That visibility is mutually beneficial,” said Steven Trachtenbroit, the CEO of Caravan, a public relations firm that works with Vintage Trouble (the latest faces of John Varvatos) and the Backstreet Boys. “It’s a symbiotic relationship.”