Why Fashion Publishers Are Taking Over Coachella

Branded festival events are a major draw for stylish millennials

Headshot of Emma Bazilian

In the 16 years since music fans first gathered in Indio, Calif., for two days of performances by artists like Beck and Morrissey, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has morphed from an indie event into a celebrity-filled mega party. It has also become a major draw for publishers and brands.

People who frequent festivals like Coachella tend to be young (per Nielsen, nearly half of music festival attendees are 18-34), well-off enough to afford a pricey ticket (a three-day pass is $375 for general admission, $899 for VIP; last year, the sold-out festival grossed a record-breaking $78 million), style-savvy ("festival style" is now considered its own movement) and very active on social media (there currently are more than 1.5 million Instagram posts tagged #Coachella), making them the prime target for media and designers.

Zoe Kravitz performs during Popsugar and ShopStyle's Pool Party.

At this year's Coachella, which took place over the long weekends of April 10-12 and April 17-19, well-connected revelers could take a break from the festivities to relax at the Popsugar + ShopStyle Cabana Club, scope out the goods at the Harper's Bazaar ShopBazaar boutique, view the latest Wildfox collection at a barbecue celebrating Interview's April issue or get primped by Glamsquad at Paper magazine's Neon Carnival.

"Part of Coachella's popularity has to do with the fact that millennials these days spend their money on experiences," said Lisa Sugar, editor in chief of Popsugar, which hosted a reception for model Alessandra Ambrosio's new BaubleBar collection and a brunch with the CFDA and designer Mara Hoffman. By integrating brand partners into festival events, Sugar explained, "we are able to provide [consumers] with a place to have fun rather than just doing something with an advertiser."

Hoffman, who showed off her boho-chic spring collection at the Popsugar brunch, agreed that Coachella has become a key place to reach millennial consumers, many of whom start planning and shopping for their festival ensembles weeks in advance. "Coachella draws a young audience who's paying attention to fashion and who's involved in music culture and pop culture," she added. "We got a lot of love and support from people there."

The proliferation of social media at festivals like Coachella is another draw for brands, which know images from their events will be viewed by a wide audience. "The mindset at Coachella is, 'It hasn't happened until I've documented it,'" noted People StyleWatch publisher Stephanie Sladkus, whose magazine used Periscope for the first time at this year's festival.

Invitations from Paper, Refinery29 and Nylon

Some publishers and brands have even started to tailor their offerings to appeal specifically to the growing numbers of festival devotees. StyleWatch, for example, teamed up with e-retailer Revolve and actress Nikki Reed to launch a capsule collection of festival-ready apparel (which debuted, naturally, at a party during Coachella), while Nylon's e-commerce site features a boutique dedicated to "surviving festival season."

Of course, with the ever-growing number of brands at Coachella, advertiser fatigue is sure to set in. But according to publishers, at least, that hasn't happened quite yet. "As long as an event is good and fun and authentic, I don't think that people care if it's sponsored or not," said Nylon CEO Paul Greenberg. "They just want to go to a great party after watching some bands."

@adweekemma emma.bazilian@adweek.com Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.