Far from the madding crowds at the Bryant Park tents and the three-ring media circus, there is a different kind of fashion show going on just a few block away. This show may be the new model for fashion shows that Donna Karan was talking about last week at Parson's. Norma Kamali is putting on a unique show that uses technology, affordable fashions and garments that are available for sale today, not in six months. Even more unique, her show is open to the general public at her store on 11 W. 56th St. between Fifth and Sixth Ave in New York City until Feb. 18th. Anyone can attend her fashion exhibit this week and walk through her store to see her designs, learn about healthy lifestyle changes and take a self-guided tour of the different collections she designs.
To bring this high-tech fashion exhibit to life, Norma Kamali is using ScanLife mobile technology. Each item in her exhibit is coded with a bar code. Fashionistas can download the ScanLife technology from the web, then scan items in the exhibit using the picture taking ability on their iPhone or Blackberry. Once the picture is recognized by ScanLife, a video telling the story of the item is delivered directly to the user. It's like going into a museum and renting the headset with the self-guided tour. Except this guided tour is free, because you don't need to pay for the equipment. Ms. Kamali's cutting-edge use of technology was one of the reasons she was nominated for Style Coalition's Fashion 2.0 Award for Fashion Innovator.
There are at least three different price points for the fashions at Ms. Kamali's flagship store. The recessionista-priced lines are her Walmart collection (from $8.00 to $48.00) and her eBay collections. Her high-end fashions (OMO, all made in the USA) are also on display and for sale. These include the famous swimsuits that are several hundred dollars, and were featured in movies like the Sex & the City and Mama Mia!, and Oscar worthy gowns. The variety of price points, designs and fabrics selected for each collection make her garments uber-accessible to all consumers. There is literally a Kamali line for each consumer's budget. Soon, there will be even more choices for shoppers as Ms. Kamali is about to move fashion forward into the fast-growing plus size market. She proudly tells me she is about to start work with a size 2X fit model to begin designing a women's line. (Her Walmart collection is already available in sizes 16-18.) This is truly the democratization of fashion. Regardless of size or your budget, Norma Kamali will provide options for all fashionistas. Here are a few of those style options from my guided-tour today in her store.
After touring Norma Kamali's store today and looking at the versatility of her designs, plus learning about the story behind each one, I was amazed. I had to ask the designer, "Why are you one of the few designers embracing technology to bring your designs to a broader market?" After considering this for a moment, she replied, "I think I learned that years ago when I worked at the airlines. The airline industry was one of the first industries to use computer systems and technology to work with customers to deliver reservations and travel services. From that, I learned the importance of using technology to provide customer service." Today, Norma Kamali is moving that philosophy of providing service to customers forward via tech tools like Skype and Scanlife. Customers can talk to representatives at NK Collection via Skype about their fashion needs or the garments they want. The use of Skype makes the conversation with the service representative more personable and conversational, via audio or video. Other Norma Kamali innovations are her "try before you buy program," where you can order her designs and try them on in the privacy of your home, before buying. Getting close to customers is a winning formula in today's tough economy. In the current environment, not only price but service will become a key factor for consumers. And what better way to get close to customers, but via the Internet and the hand-held devices that we all carry now? It's a low-cost recipe for customer satisfaction.
To all the fashionistas, recessionistas and fashion innovators out there, I would encourage you to check out Ms. Kamali's exhibit this week, or her website to learn more. Everyday of NY Fashion Week, I saw "wanna be" attendees waiting out on Sixth Ave to try to access the inner sanctum of the tents. Inside, I saw more lines of press, bloggers, buyers and even celebrities waiting in line to get seated or get a "standing" ticket to view shows. With the NK Collection, the wait is over. Why wait in line, when you can breeze in, stay warm and enjoy some beautiful fashions at your convenience?