Traditional fashion weeks, such as Australian Fashion Week in Sydney, are usually targeted at media (though last year it shifted to a hybrid model, with shows for media and consumers) and show upcoming collections that can be publicised in magazines. But Mr Lewsey said this model was waning.
“Front rows used to be jam-packed full of fashion editors,” he said. “And it’s slim pickings now, because there aren’t many [fashion editors] left.”
Instead, consumers have risen to positions of power.
“We encourage that, absolutely,” he said. “Consumers should have the power to tell others who is worth knowing about. They endorse those designers with their wallets. It works because there is no ulterior motive.”
The three-year deal is a significant coup for the not-for-profit festival. Though Mr Lewsey would not disclose the size of PayPal’s investment, he revealed PayPal would waive designers’ participation fees (as Afterpay did at last year’s Australian Fashion Week) and would offer “about 10” bursaries for emerging designers to host events at the festival.
“Unearthing new talent is very important to us,” he said. “Fashion festivals are not just about promoting brands everyone already knows; we want to amplify new voices.”
The festival hosts the National Graduate Showcase and offers programs in fields such as fashion writing. Previous participants include author Bri Lee and costume designer Amanda Nichols, who worked on Australia and The Great Gatsby.
PayPal’s investment in the festival is “win-win”, according to Macquarie University Business School’s Jana Bowden.
“Tech brands have now become ubiquitous at fashion events, giving us an insight into not only the future of fashion and tech, but also who also really benefits from the runway,” said Ms Bowden. “Fintechs gain street cred with consumers from these events because fashion has voice. It drives pop culture and fintechs want to be on that bandwagon.”
Afterpay is now the major sponsor of Australian Fashion Week, and London and New York fashion weeks. It also underwrites the Australian Fashion Council and the British Fashion Council.
These strategic alliances, too, opened “a new market of business clients who are clamouring for customer insight data to meet changing consumer needs”, Ms Bowden said.
PayPal and Afterpay offer deep data insight for brands to better understand their customers. “It’s a treasure trove of information for a sector that is looking to be one step ahead in market trends.”
Andrew Toon, general manager of payments at PayPal Australia, said the partnership made sense on a “creative level”.
“When we look at what consumers are buying, it’s fashion, it’s beauty,” he said. “The idea of supporting Australian creativity is very appealing.”
Consumers at the shows will be encouraged to purchase from the runways using PayPal. Last year, the average consumer spend as a result of the festival was $784.
“It has been a tough year for retailers,” said Mr Toon. “We hope this will help.”