CFDA Unfurls Runway360, a Digital Platform Serving as Centralized Fashion Hub

Lisa Lockwood

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The Council of Fashion Designers of America is unveiling Runway360, a digital platform that will serve as a centralized hub and business tool for the U.S. fashion community. The platform will enable designers to connect directly to industry stakeholders and consumers.

The portal incorporates key aspects of the designer business, from fashion shows to press, sales and consumer activations in an effort to help drive sales and showcase American fashion creativity.

The CFDA held virtual meetings with its members and press on Thursday to demonstrate how the platform works. It will be introduced right before New York Fashion Week in September, and both CFDA and non-CFDA members can participate. The abbreviated NYFW is slated from Sept. 14 to 16.

The platform is seasonless and serves as a permanent fixture and main designation for retailers, trade, press and consumers worldwide. The portal will support AR/VR, 360-degree capabilities, livestreams, e-commerce extensions, consumer shopping features and social media integration. The hub will also allow designers to host virtual press conferences and present press kits and fashion show and product images. Brands will be able to activate the integrated shopping elements on their pages to directly target consumers.

Steven Kolb, president and chief executive officer of the CFDA, recalled 20 years ago when fashion week was centralized with the tents. “This is a modern version of organizing fashion week in a digital platform,” he told WWD. He said it will be the base of presentations for NYFW, but also available year-round for other market weeks, such as bridal week, jewelry week or pre-collections.

Designers who are showing on IMG platforms will be able to plug into this platform, as well as designers working with KCD, or other production houses.

Kolb compared it to what Milan did with its digital fashion week, adding that “it’s similar to what they’ve done, building this open access, democratic, non-proprietary platform to support designers throughout the year with their collections.”

The platform is open to brands, consumers, press and trade, and everyone will have a different experience based on their user profile. If a designer wants to keep their collection private and only have 50 people see it, the platform is offering that ability to do it. First and foremost, the platform offers opportunities for brands to showcase their collections.

On the homepage, users can access the designer profile, where designers can build on commerce (NuOrder, wholesale), show off collections (360 video, augmented reality) and use channels to communicate through social media such as press kits, private events and AR/VR integration.

The Live Now page features three primary navigations: schedules, designers and collections. During fashion week, it will feature whatever is live at that moment, since they have the entire schedule on the homepage. Internally, Runway360 is being referred to as the Netflix-like platform for fashion. The categories are women’s, men’s, emerging and sustainability.

Users can mark shows they like, and they can share across social media. The designer can also show their past collections.

While the CFDA doesn’t produce any events, it will livestream the show wherever it takes place. All of the collections during NYFW will have a timed release, and they will be highlighted on the platform. Kolb said he doesn’t believe any of the designers will have full-blown live runway shows this season as they have in the past.

“Everything will be digital, we don’t anticipate any live. Designers are still interested in having a time slot,” said Kolb.

Consumers or buyers can expand the images and see various looks of a collection. The platform gives users the ability to mark “favorite” items, preorder or purchase them. This way designers will be able to see which looks in their collections, and which collections overall, are the most popular. Users can’t order an item but the information can be e-mailed or linked to the designer’s site. The platform will not host e-commerce.

Further, Kolb noted, “We’re not creating any content. The content is being created by the designers. We’re just plugging into the content. Some might want to do preorders, others may not,” he said. Designers have the ability to post their look book photos or a feature film. “It’s really a business to business tool first and foremost, we want it to be super flexible and customizable for each of the brands and what they’re capable of doing,” he said.

There’s no cost for a brand to participate, and the CFDA is not looking to monetize it.

Kolb also pointed out that Runway360 is not an editorial site. That content will stay at cfda.com and the designers’ social channels. “It’s really a business tool to provide support to designers,” he said.

Once there are live shows in the future, Kolb said designers will be able to stream their shows on the platform. Kolb said when things go live again, designers can post show notes and inspirations beyond the collection and they can be in one place.

Another aspect of the portal is that business-to-business partner NuOrder will offer a suite of services, including a virtual sales showroom to support emerging and established designer businesses, with a focus on rising talents and designers of color.

“We are excited to be able to empower a new generation of designers and brands and provide them with the technology and tools to contribute to their future success,” said Heath Wells, cofounder and co-ceo of NuOrder.

The portal is being developed by New York-based multidisciplinary design studio De-Yan. It will also be supported by mobile.

“This transformational time in fashion requires innovative business tools,” said Kolb. “Runway360 is more than a response to social distancing and restricted travel. The digital platform will help designers faced with short-term needs caused by COVID-19 and support future market weeks including live fashion shows.”

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