Consumer Nation

Models on Twitter: Tech Hits the Runway

Moda Operandi

Technology is having a moment this season.

Fashion, an industry known for being cutting edge in design, has decided to warm up to technology both to broaden its customer base and to boost apparel sales.

To capitalize on the excitement over the new looks being shown at New York's Fashion Week, several ecommerce-based businesses have popped up to help those watching and attending the fashion shows shop straight from the catwalk.

(Read more: Highlights from New York Fashion Week)

Since launching in February 2011, New York-based has offered customers the chance to pre-order looks straight from the runway in as little as 24 hours after the show finishes.

Among the brands that have worked with the company before are Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Oscar de la Renta, said Aslaug Magnusdottir, the company's co-founder and chief executive.

"They know there's a pique of interest around the time of the actual show," she said."One of the reasons that designers like this is that Fashion Week used to be a press event that was very expensive for them, but this gives them a way to actually sell the pieces off the runway."

For consumers, this is a game changer because some runway outfits are typically never picked up by retail buyers who may be wary of taking the inventory risk and thus the items are never produced in mass quantities.

"Many of the looks won't ever be made and even if they do, do they make the size 8 or size 0?" she added. "If a customer really wants a piece, this is the only way to do that."

The service also provides designers with another tool to compete against fast-fashion retailers, who can turn around the latest runways trends more quickly.

"Fast fashion, as you know, works on a cycle of just a few weeks," Magnusdottir said. "At least now with our model, a customer can buy that item and know that it's going to be coming rather than be tempted to buy the item at an H&M or Forever 21 in a couple of weeks."

ShopBazaar, Harper's Bazaar recently launched ecommerce branch, and designer Carolina Herrera have taken the idea of buying from the runway one step further this year. (Read More: On a Quest for Profits, Magazines Court Shoppers)

Herrera will show 50 looks from her spring men's and women's line during American Express' cardmember-only event this season. Of these, Harper's Bazaar editors will select five looks that will be available for immediate purchase on

"American Express has been creating exclusive runway shows for cardmembers for many seasons now," said Deborah Curtis, the company's vice president of entertainment marketing and sponsorships. "And one thing that we have found out, is that after seeing the beautiful fashions, our cardmembers are inspired and want to have an opportunity to actually purchase the looks that they have seen.

Are You on the Fashion 'Lyst?'
Are You on the Fashion 'Lyst?'

Another ecommerce start-up Lyst allows users to follow certain looks to track via aptly named "lysts" when they become available in stores or online. Once an item does become available, Lyst sends an email to a customer's inbox. The service is also useful for retailers, said Chris Morton, the company's co-founder and chief executive.

"This also provides great insight for retailers and designers as they can see almost immediately what pieces resonate most with consumers after their collections are shown, based on which items our customers add to their lysts," he added.

Streaming for Everyone

Fashion Week itself, previously an event synonymous for exclusivity, has also embraced technology's ability to create an entirely new customer base — the virtual one.

In a first for the event, the show's organizer IMG Fashion will be streaming every show from Lincoln Center this season.

Designers Tracy Reese and Lubov Azria welcomed the change.

"I think people want to be involved in Fashion Week," Reese said. "If they can't be here and be part of the fashion industry, they want to be a part of it still. And so streaming helps them access what we do."

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The more people who can see the shows, the better, said Azria, the creative director of BCBGMazAzria and Herve Leger.

"I think that at the end of the day, the customer has to be extremely educated," she added. "People do not buy what you make. People buy why you make it, and the whole why is very important so it's how you present yourself."

Technology Hits the Runway

Some designers took their embracing of technology one step further by incorporating it on the runway itself. Not every attempt goes according to plan.

Before her Fall 2013 presentation, Rebecca Minkoff urged guests to join the conversation using the hashtag "RMFall" with Tweets that would appear on a large screen at the show. Pranksters caught on to the opportunity to splash the designer's event with joke messages and Tweeted such things as "#RMFall I AM TRAPPED IN AN IMPOSSIBLY HUGE PAIR OF JEANS BACKSTAGE AT RMFALL EVENT PLEASE ASSIS T ME IN GETTING OUT OF THE JEANS" and "#RMFall SCREAM IF YOU LOVE ANIME."

Others were more successful in incorporating social media into their collections.

Following his seven-year hiatus from Fashion Week, designer Kenneth Cole had his models carry cell phones during the presentation's finale while Instagramming and Tweeting.

Before the show began, Cole urged guests to Tweet @KCRunway before with a certain hashtag. For each one, his company would donate a dollar to the Foundation of AIDS Research.

When the lights dimmed a message acknowledged the prominent role that social media now plays in the fashion sphere, reading in part, "Since we were last on the runway, so much has changed. Everyone today is a designer, blogger, hauler, influencer. Fashion is now consumed in different ways. Even before a look leaves the runway, we shoot it, post it share it pin it, blog it, tweet it."

Much indeed has changed, and the fashion industry is seeking to use the transformation to its advantage.

-By CNBC's Katie Little; Follow her @katie_little_

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