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How Envsn Festival created a win-win event for brands and consumers

With a mix of speaking panels, live performances and retail pop-ups, New York’s Envsn Festival created an authentic place for brands and young consumers to connect. Here are three takeaways from the event.

How do you match-make tomorrow’s consumers with today’s brands in a way that feels genuine? Envsn Festival – a new event that took place at Brooklyn’s Industry City complex on October 20 – offers some clues.

The one-day event, which was part shopping experience, part culture festival, is the brainchild of Sharifa Murdock, a co-owner of Liberty Fairs. Her mission was to create a space to inspire Gen Z and Millennial women and girls, and “to teach the next generation that vision is power”.

“My passion is giving advice, and I know so many other women with amazing industry experience and advice, so I wanted to combine that with my background in trade shows to create a new type of event,” says Murdock, who is also a founder of The Brooklyn Intern – an initiative that connects Brooklyn high school students with coveted fashion internships.

Here are three ways Envsn Festival created a win-win for the brands and consumers attending.

 

Aligning with a cause

Envsn had a roster of speakers and panels covering a range of topics, from career tips to diversity in the beauty industry, which meant brands exhibiting at the event could connect with the 1,500+ attendees in an environment that felt positive and socially progressive.

It’s a move that is both admirable and canny. In the US, Gen Z is increasingly fired up around issues such as gender inequality, racial injustice, and gun control, and 22 million of them will also be eligible to vote by 2020, so there are wins to be gained for brands that can connect authentically with social causes and empowering messages. Nike’s stock, for example, hit an all-time high in September following its campaign with athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick.

“Aligning with a cause helps brands understand who their market is and what makes them tick, and allows brands to learn from them,” says Murdock.

Envsn’s focus on self-improvement was a key reason why Tiffany Davis decided to rent a booth on the retail floor for her brand, The Humped Zebra, which makes slogan sweatshirts and T-shirts

“The event’s mission statement that vision is power really spoke to me,” she says. “My motto for my business is that nothing happens without a vision or a belief in the unseen, and I also loved that the festival was curated by women for women.”

 

Direct contact with consumers 

On top of creating a socially progressive space, Envsn Festival also offered a win-win for brands by offering direct-to-consumer engagement through its retail pop-ups.

Limited-edition products, collaborations, and rapid retail drops are all disrupting traditional buying schedules, so direct-to-consumer events are gaining currency as a way to connect with people and get immediate feedback on new products and ideas.

“A lot of organisations are now trying to hit the market from all angles,” says Murdock, who set aside two floors for retail at Envsn Festival, with indie beauty brands downstairs, and apparel and accessories brands such as Fila, Kappa, Champion and audio accessories brand Urbanears upstairs.

“There will always be a place for trade shows, because they put buyers and brands all in one place, but I often feel that brands don’t understand who is purchasing their goods. Envsn Festival was an opportunity for them to see this up close,” Murdock adds.

 

Creating an experience 

If retail and speaking panels were the twin pillars of Envsn Festival, entertainment was the bridge that connected them, with an open area between the event’s two buildings that was primed for social media sharing. It featured Halloween-themed play areas, streamer walls, and a stage for live performances by 12-year-old twin sister DJs Amira and Kayla, rapper Saweetie, and headline act Tinashe, among others.

“The experience element of the show was crucial,” says Murdock. “Envsn is focused on a whole lifestyle, covering everything from healthy eating and self-care to beauty, shopping and music, and it was important to offer these different experiences, so people didn’t feel like they were just having information drummed into them.”

“Our aim was to give girls and women as much advice and inspiration as possible, so the experience needed to feel enriching and moving,” adds Murdock. “These women and girls are leading the trends, so we wanted to give something back, rather than just take away.”

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