Spring/Summer 2022 fashion shows may have been back in real life, but the real change this season was how marketers sought to lure millions of viewers on social platforms with mega-influencers and out-of-the box formats.

Moncler created a “Mondogenius” social media universe and live event; Hugo Boss leaned on Tiktok stars with an NFT challenge; Balenciaga collaborated with The Simpsons on a custom episode; Balmain held a ticketed stadium-filled “festival” with thousands of guests and a celeb-strewn show; and Gucci (which is planning an off-season show in Los Angeles in November) launched an online store mixing vintage and young brands called Gucci Vault.

The fashion show is morphing at speed. So what worked? 

Dior ranked in first place with the highest social media visibility of the season, according to influencer intelligence platform Lefty, which determines the shows with the most reach by analysing impressions and engagement on Instagram feed posts from influencers with over 10k followers that post about a show. Dior — whose Tuileries Garden show was broadcasted on several platforms in Asia for those who couldn’t travel to Paris including Weibo, Douyin, Tencent, Wechat, Miui and Line Taiwan — alone generated in excess of 130 million views, according to the brand. Known for their big influencers including Blackpink’s Jisoo and digital prowess, they also broadcast on YouTube’s Masthead Live and teased the show on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter to heighten anticipation.

Lefty, which is owned by The Independents Group, calculates 1,000 impressions are worth $15 dollars to a luxury brand in earned media value (EMV). CEO Thomas Repelski says Instagram feed posts are a good barometer for overall performance; the platform also breaks out other social media for its clients to enable comparisons.

Before Covid-19, the fashion show was about balancing online and offline, says a Dior spokesperson. Now, with a limit on the numbers who can personally attend the show, Dior says it can offer increased access — even to those who attended — through behind-the-scenes content, savoir-faire and conversations between Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri and Anna Paparatti, the artist with whom she collaborated on the scenography. “While this democratisation is something other houses might now be embracing because of Covid-19, this was already well established at Dior,” says the spokesperson.

Others see a changing of the guard. “The fashion show done in the traditional way has been seen,” says Daniel Grieder, CEO of Hugo Boss. “Brands need to come up with something new… It just needs to be a different experience.”

Influencers are down, celebrities are up

Influencers and key opinion leaders (KOLS), once a must-have at fashion shows, have since dwindled. The number at shows across SS22 was 42 per cent below pre-pandemic levels (the comparison is specifically with Autumn/Winter 2020). However, social media visibility of fashion week content was up 20 per cent across the season, per Lefty (all data is calculated from September-October, up until the time of writing). This is linked to luxury’s focus on mega-influencer musicians with over 1 million followers from K-pop stars to Gen Z favourites like Dua Lipa, replacing pure fashion influencers with smaller reach, Repelski says.

Blackpink’s Jisoo alone represents 64 per cent of Dior’s $7 million in earned media value – evidence that K-pop stars continue to be among the most powerful ambassadors for brands today. At Versace, showing in Milan, Dua Lipa alone drove one-third of visibility, walking the show and attending its star-studded afterparty. In London, Cardi B generated one third of the visibility of Richard Quinn this fashion month. Despite not even attending the show, her endorsement made it the highest-visibility London brand from September-October, over more longstanding brands such as Vivienne Westwood. As for New York, music star couple Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes made up 51 per cent of the total $4.34 million in earned media value for Michael Kors — the highest of NYFW, after wearing the designer at the Met Gala three days after the show.