This past weekend [8 and 9 September] saw the launch of Stylist Live Manchester, the first time the magazine’s annual event has been held outside of London. Three years after the inaugural Stylist Live, Shortlist Media is looking to take ingredients of its successful London recipe to the rest of the country.
Six giant Stylist magazine covers hung from the ceiling of Manchester’s glitzy Intu Trafford Centre. A stage hosting inspirational talks popped up next to a Nando’s in the food court. The escalators were transformed into a catwalk, where models wearing high street brands descended into the middle of the shopping centre.
The Manchester expansion came about when Intu approached Shortlist about a partnership with Stylist to mark the Trafford Centre’s 20th anniversary and boost its credentials as a fashion hub. Stylist agreed to the partnership because it wanted to raise brand awareness, interact with more fans in a regional area, and try a different event format, said Mariam Ahmed, events director at Shortlist Media.
Stylist Live launched in London in 2015 at the Business Design Centre, hosting 15,000 attendees for the first two years, becoming the magazine’s biggest reader event. Last year it moved to the Olympia London in Hammersmith, increasing attendance by 41.5% to 20,799.
Like previous Stylist Live events, the Manchester extension included a mix of catwalk fashion shows, inspirational talks from high-profile speakers, and beauty and shopping pop-ups - though on a smaller scale. But the Manchester event brought its own unique set of challenges. While Stylist typically takes over an entire venue in London, transforming a blank space to its purposes, this one was embedded within a bustling shopping centre. The Trafford Centre receives about 200,000 visitors every weekend.
Both inclusive and exclusive
As a result, the strategy for Stylist Live Manchester was to "make it inclusive but also exclusive," Ahmed said. That meant there were spots set aside for Stylist fans, such as rows front and centre at the catwalk shows, but the space also invited passersby who might not know the magazine. The event was non-ticketed and free to the public.
Brands were open and receptive to the extension of Stylist Live in Manchester, Ahmed explained. The event was sponsored by Gordon’s, Max Factor, Pandora and Blow, and featured additional pop-ups from brands including Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Popchips, Radley and Renault Clio.
Regions besides London have always been important to Stylist, which distributes in 11 cities nationwide, Ahmed said. Yet the fact that sponsorship slots at Stylist Live Manchester filled up quickly reveals an increasing demand for activations and events there, she added.
Coming from London, there was a danger the brand could appear patronising to a regional audience, so Stylist Live Manchester was a celebration of the local area, Ahmed said. Many of the speakers had ties to the city, such as actress Michelle Keegan, a native Mancunian who used to work at the Trafford Centre’s Selfridges, and players from Manchester City’s women’s football team. "We were trying to be sensitive and make sure we capture the spirit of the people here," Ahmed added.
Stylist Live Manchester has opened the team’s eyes to creating events in different formats, she adds ."I can’t pick up the Olympia and roadshow that location," she explained, "but events don’t have to be one straight format, they can be bite-sized chunks as well."