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For a spacious room filled with a number of people, it's startlingly quiet. All you can hear is the hum of the lights above, and, if you listen carefully, the staccato of New York City cab horns careening through the Chelsea streets outside, where a crowd of people are waiting to enter.
A wide, brightly lit floor houses platforms where fashion models stand in groups, getting the final touches to their looks. Stylists, like sculptors taking one last chip at the marble, pinch and twist pant cuffs. They adjust grips on handbags, and tucks into belts. They then stand back to critique and admire their work.
Moments later, the doors open. The crowd spills in. Music, up. Cameras, snap. Photographers crouch with their cameras to get close-ups of shoes; they stand back to get head-to-toe looks. More people — influencers, bloggers, editors, social media stars — file into the room. iPhones are out and on, clicking and uploading and tagging and liking.
And — significantly — buying.
For the fourth time in the brand's history, Banana Republic hosted media, influencers and the like to preview the Spring 2017 collection as part of NYFW. While many brands showed during the bi-annual event, the BR presentation allowed attendees to shop select looks — a grey lace off-the-shoulder top, say, or a skirt with a laser-cut eyelet design — and have it in their online shopping bags before even leaving the presentation.
This is the second year Banana Republic has incorporated its Buy Now feature at Fashion Week — producing an experience where customers can see a product from the presentation and put in their online shopping cart within minutes.
"The immediacy that customers want today is a growing trend within the fashion industry, and it's not going away," says Royce Gordon, a member of BR's public relations team that hosts the presentation. "Buy Now is our answer to that — where a person can, at a realistic price point, see a good, quality piece, purchase it for fall to wear ahead of season, and get a second season wear out of it in spring."
When Banana Republic first offered Buy Now in February 2016, there were six pieces available online. This time, there are 15 — a tribute to the responsiveness of the team to meet customer and industry demand.
"Buy Now brings the New York Fashion Week experience to our customer's closet at the speed of lightning," says Johana Ozuna, who heads up production for Banana Republic from the New York City office. "We want to meet that customer's need for immediacy. We create tight timelines and make sure we're producing high-quality, beautiful pieces that can hit the presentation and the site and store simultaneously."
In order to do this, Johana and her team work directly with mills (the businesses that create the fabric) and vendors (the businesses that sew the garments) to create timetables and production plans. Whereas production for most pieces typically occurs after a NYFW presentation (all of the other looks will be available in spring 2017), these 15 pieces were developed and produced in line with one another.
That means, in a word, speed.
"There's a shift in the way we work in order to help make this happen," Johana says. "There's speed in the way we communicate with one another and speed in how decisions are made."
That means making sure the team in place is a seasoned, well-skilled one that understands the nuances and processes of getting products to store. The team also goes through exercises that are counter to the typical way of working. For example, making a decision for color based off of chips and cutouts versus exact fabric samples, which takes extra time to obtain. Or, whereas typical collections usually have the benefit of time to get insight from multiple team members and multiple levels, cutting the decision-making process down to three key people — say, representatives from design, vendor relations and inventory management — to ensure one minute is not lost in waiting to deliver the final product.
"Trust is a big word for us here," Johana says. "In this case, we as a team have to ensure that there is trust and accountability for the whole cross-functional team."
What that means is level-setting expectations at the beginning across the team, and stating the goal in mind. And, ensuring people feel that they, as the decision maker, are capable of carving out a path forward and driving the business.
That responsiveness is what drives the entire NYFW experience — even customers speeding to get the looks they love.
"Our entire shopping experience is meant to re-create the elevated feel of New York Fashion Week," says Jen Matic, senior director of marketing creative. "We produced the brand's first shoppable video — so that you can see a look, click and buy it — that was shot during a pre-shoot and executed right away."
"Everything about Buy Now is to give the customer exactly that — an experience of 'now.'"
This includes putting some of the pieces into the Banana Republic Flatiron flagship store for purchase on the afternoon of the presentation. Attendees (or followers online) who were so excited about a particular piece could leave the Fashion Week venue for the Flatiron store, purchase one of the 15 Buy Now pieces and wear it to dinner that night — all while NYFW shows are still underway.
Having the NYFW product also live in a brick-and-mortar space — along with its online presence — is something that Johana says will provide customers with a tactical, direct contact with the NYFW experience. This is invaluable, given the direction of the industry.
"What started as a crazy idea a few months ago is now an industry phenomenon," Johana says. "And now anyone can see a look on their phone, pick up the product in store and wear it out that night. We want to make those crazy ideas a not-so-crazy reality."