Are you ready to hear Cobra Starship? asked Tommy Hilfiger at the opening of the Tommy Hilfiger American Express Cardmember-Only Runway Show with music by Cobra Starship. In response, the audience at the Lincoln Center Theater tent began cheering wildly. American Express has made a tradition of offering card members a special runway show featuring a prominent designer as the very last show of the season in the tents at Lincoln Center, a few hours after the last official shows of Fashion Week have ended. But the atmosphere at this exclusive, card members only show, is quite different than during the week, with high energy and excitement instead of the long lines and fatigue that often accompany fashion week show-goers. The audience for American Express fashion week offerings run the gamut from dedicated fashionistas who may have previously attended one or more sessions in the American Express Skybox during Fashion Week, to locals and visitors seeking a once-in-a-lifetime glamour experience at this one-night only show.
This season, the Tommy Hilfiger runway show also featured the fashion week debut of the popular band, Cobra Starship, It was hardly the first time around for Tommy Hilfiger, however, who has been in business since 1985. He showcased his Fall 2012 collection earlier in the week for buyer, editors and other fashion-related people, but for this consumer oriented show, the focus was his Spring 2012 collection. He mentioned in his introduction that everything seen on the runway was already available in the stores. With the generous, $100 gift card given to every guest, they could board special shuttle buses immediately after the show that would take them directly to the Tommy Hilfiger flagship store on 5th avenue so they could party and shop!
While during Fashion Week, “outrageous” fashion reigns, at the Tommy Hilfiger show, guests were mostly dressed in their “cocktail best, ” obviously very eager to see Tommy Hilfiger’s unique runway show featuring the fictitious Hilfiger family, complete with hound dog and Jr.. Many of the guests were probably past the age where they would have been instantly familiar with the chart-topping band, Cobra Starship, but American Express tapped this fun, electro-pop band to perform live during the show. According to Tommy Hilfiger: “Having the Hilfigers walk while Cobra Starship performs live will be a once-in-a-lifetime show...Our brand has always been inspired by music so I’m thrilled that when introducing the Hilfigers in person to our customers for the first time, it will be to the backdrop of great music.”
Cobra Starship’s most recent album, Night Shades, includes a now double-platinum hit single called: “You Make Me Feel…” featuring Sabi (formerly part of the Hip Hop Girl Group The Bangz).
At rehearsal, the models seemed to really enjoy walking to the lively music including You Make Me Feel,” along to riffs such as “Beat It” and “Freeze Frame” and other former pop hits. Normally, the runway music is recorded, so the electricity generated by live artists seemed to make the models even more animated.
Backstage, I asked Cobra Starship’s front man Gabe Saporta what the connection was for the band, to fashion week. After jokingly saying: “We just wanted to see pretty girls walk up and down the runway” he seriously added: “Fashion has influenced us, and Our audience is into fashion. Kids like clothes and can connect with both music and fashion. Music and fashion are totally connected.” Saporta also credits social media with a large part of Cobra Starship’s success, helping them sell their first single.
Interviewing Tommy Hilfiger before the show, he also told me that social media was very important for his business. “It’s the way I connect with the customer.” he said, emphatically. “Social media is a tremendous benefit because it puts us directly in touch with the consumer and for my sake, being in touch with the consumer is very important. ” When asked if he blogged or personally used social media he smiled and said: “We blog all the time — of course I’m on Twitter and Facebook. How else would I stay in touch with the customer!? And, as I began to walk away he grinned and said: “Follow us on Twitter!” (for the record, Tommy’s Twitter handle is @TommyHilfiger).
Just a few minutes later, sitting in a director’s chair right on the runway, introducing the show (with host Mary Alice Stephenson), Hilfiger seemed really eager to connect in a more personal way, with the packed theater audience. He once again explained that while he gave his Fall 2012 runway show for the fashion press a few days earlier, the clothes that he was going to showcase now were from Spring 2012 and available in stores right now. He hoped these fashions would inspire people to be excited about the Spring line. He also noted the Tommy Hilfiger logo box on each seat containing a $100 credit voucher for purchases at select Tommy Hilfiger stores. He also talked a bit about the “Meet the Hilfigers”advertising campaign, calling it “brilliant.” He explained that the fictitious Hilfigers go “glamping” (a mix of camping and glamour).
This American Express card members-only runway show takes the best elements of the authentic, Fashion Week experience and makes it fun, easy, accessible and actually affordable to the average person. Cocktails are served in the tent lobby before the show, along with little nibbles. The Daily and other fashion publications that editors pick up during the week, are also available to pick up as mementos. While the American Express Skybox didn’t seem to be available for this particular show (perhaps due to logistics), the theater is the largest venue of the four in the tents, holding hundreds of guests. As with every runway show during the week, it was filled to capacity. But the main difference between this show and others during fashion week is the vibe. It’s one of pure excitement and energy, not exhaustion. Guests look well groomed, not wilted. There was more spontaneity and a lot more cheering (and some outright hoots when a sexy male model walked shirtless down the runway).
But in the end, all good things come to an end. The guests retrieved their coats and walked out of the tents into the rainy night, satisfied that they’d experienced something amazing. More than a few boarded the buses to the Tommy Hilfiger Flagship store on 5th Avenue, so they could purchase some of what they liked off the runway, and bring home even more than just fabulous memories.
For many, the Tommy Hilfiger American Express Cardmembers only runway show was priceless, but with ticket prices of $95- $150 and a generous $100 voucher to use in-store at select Tommy Hilfiger locations (good for a couple of weeks) it might also be a bargain! To learn more about American Express’ special access to the world of fashion and other exciting entertainment offers, follow @AmericanExpress on Twitter or become a fan of American Express on Facebook. While all of the fashion week events that American Express offers sell out nearly instantly, American Express card members can visit americanexpress.com/entertainment to purchase tickets when another Fashion week season rolls around again in September.