Jan 15, 2019 | By Sarah Housley
Oct 31, 2018
By Luke Tebbutt
With a mix of speaking panels, live performances and retail pop-ups, New York’s Envsn Festival created the perfect place for brands and young consumers to connect. Here are three reasons why it succeeded.
It’s a Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn, New York, and Lauren Simmons, the youngest and only full-time female trader at the New York Stock Exchange, is talking on a panel about how her mother inspired her confidence. In the audience is Johanna, 38, and her daughter Syanne, 14. Johanna bought tickets so she could see singer Zhavia Ward perform later, while Syanne is more interested in the speaking panels (she wants to be a doctor when she finishes school). Welcome to Envsn Festival – a new event designed to inspire, educate and entertain women and girls, with something for everyone.
Envsn Festival is the brainchild of Sharifa Murdock, a trade show veteran (she co-owns Liberty Fairs), and founder of The Brooklyn Intern, which connects high school students with coveted fashion internships. Its mission is “to teach the next generation that vision is power” and its target audience is primarily Gen Z and Millennial women and girls.
“My passion is giving advice, and I know so many other women with amazing industry experience and advice, so I wanted to combine this with my background in trade shows to create an event that would inspire,” says Murdock, who got her start in retail, and has risen to become a fashion industry power player.
Envsn Festival took place on October 20 at Brooklyn’s Industry City – a new waterfront complex for creative businesses and start-ups. Here are three ways it created a win-win for the brands and consumers attending.
Aligning with a cause
Envsn’s focus on self-empowerment is both admirable and canny. In tumultuous times, it can be lucrative for brands to connect authentically with social causes and empowering messages. Nike’s stock hit an all-time high in September following its campaign with athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick, and in the US, Gen Z is increasingly fired up around issues such as gender inequality, racial injustice, and gun control. By 2020, 22 million of them will also be eligible to vote.
“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, who set up a roster of speakers at Envsn to cover topics ranging from diversity in the beauty industry to sexual confidence and career tips. It meant brands exhibiting at the event could connect with the 1,500+ attendees in an environment that felt positive and socially progressive.
For Tiffany Davis, who makes slogan sweatshirts and T-shirts through her brand The Humped Zebra, this was a key reason why she decided to rent a booth on the retail floor.
“Envsn’s mission statement really spoke to me,” she says. “My personal motto for The Humped Zebra 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 social 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 becoming an increasingly important way for brands to connect with people and get immediate feedback on products and new ideas. Look to the rise of events such as ComplexCon and Hypefest (which launched earlier this month) as proof.
“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 is an opportunity for them to see this up close,” Murdock added.
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, sponsored by Urbanears. Names on the line-up included 12-year-old twin sister DJs Amira and Kayla, rapper Saweetie and headline act Tinashe.
“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 and shopping, and it was important to also offer different experiences, so people didn’t feel like they were just having information drummed into them.”
“Our aim is to give girls and women as much advice as possible, so the experience needs to feel enriching. It’s important that people come away feeling moved,” 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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