NEW YORK – Is anyone paying attention?
That’s the question I asked throughout New York Fashion Week this season, when the entire front row was too busy Snapchatting their favorite looks, using specific geofilters for their videos, Instagramming shots within seconds of seeing an outfit.
In a world of instant gratification, it’s difficult not to overshare the sights and sounds with one’s followers and friends, especially as brand new couture passes in front of you on the catwalk.
I, myself, am guilty of being a social media luddite, one whose photographs and captions are no different than the hundreds of others who posted the exact same picture but with a different filter. It’s fashion FOMO, the fear of missing out, and more so, the fear of being perceived as someone on the outskirts of the industry.
A guest is seen outside the Tibi show with a white ghost Snapchat backpack during New York Fashion Week.
Image: Getty Images
But this posed a bigger question than ever this year: Why is fashion week even necessary, then, if we were consumed by our smartphones, and watching it all over social media?
To answer that question, we have to go back to fashion week’s original intention: Designers preview next season’s clothes to editors and influencers, who then interpret those trends to consumer audiences.
But when consumers are immediately engaged with such shows via social media, is there even a point in attending anymore? Does that change the meaning of the entire event?
The consensus from editors to designers this year has been that New York Fashion Week is no longer a must-cover. Call it fashion fatigue, a social media saturation, or jaded journalism, but the luster and sex-appeal was lost in the muddle of your iPhone.
NYFW has its own iOS apps, and livestreams shows on an hourly basis. Snapchat’s own livestory makes it impossible not to experience the overall experience, including access to celebs like Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger.
The late John Fairchild, founder of Women’s Wear Daily, is probably rolling in his grave. An infamous editor with a ruthless knack for getting the story, lived in an age where designers were averse in showing any of their collections to the public. There were strictly no photographs of the shows, and anyone who dared sketch a design was publicly shamed. Once banished from a fashion show, Fairchild responded by hiring a photographer with a telephoto lens to take photos of the shows across the street.
Today, of course, is the complete opposite. Designers pander to the public’s short attention span.
They feel the pressure to stage new initiatives. Hilfiger himself, created an “InstaPit” this season, solely for Instagramming his show, where risers were set up to mimic those of runway photographers. Wes Gordon, a young designer based in New York, decided to showcase his own fashion show live on Instagram with short, beautiful videos. Each post had models walking throughout the city, from streets to subways. Every look was immediately available for pre-order on Moda Operandi. In September designer Misha Nonoo unveiled her entire season on the social media app.
Then there was Kanye West’s spectacle of a fashion show. When he took over Madison Square Garden on the first day of fashion week to show off not only his newest collection, but album, it was tailor-made for social media.
Other designers have opted out of the traditional fashion show all together. The Council of Fashion Designers of America president and designer Diane von Furstenberg showcased an intimate cocktail party at her showroom where models like Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Karlie Kloss wore her latest collection. Cynthia Rowley had private appointments with buyers and editors for her last season, where guests were offered juices and cookies (and a trampoline), with a full-on photo studio to play with.
Designer Richard Chai is currently filming a movie via VR, collaborating with his friends, Ryan Pallotta and Joe Jonas.
“Fashion has become so inclusive with social media, livestreaming and the Internet,” he said to Mashable. “It’s available immediately. But I feel that the audience at the show are the only ones who can truly feel the collection and get a sense for the brand, as they are there live.”
But he wanted to present it in a “new and inspiring way.”
“[I want to show with] something that challenges me in a different way and for the audience to experience something in a new context,” he said.
Other brands want equal newness with their presentations. Some are even opting for a see-now-buy-now approach, like design houses Rebecca Minkoff, Burberry and Tom Ford.
Rebecca Minkoff, along with other designers, chose to adopt a “see now buy now” fashion show.
Image: D Dipasupil/Getty
“It’s interesting how quickly things are changing,” said Eric Wilson, InStyle
Though the fashion industry has embraced technology (and still has a ways to go), it hadn’t prepared for this kind of effect. Some are even staging a backlash.
Recently, designer Massimo Giorgetti from the brand MSGM, asked show attendees not to post any images on social media.
“Put back your phone and enjoy the show,” his invite read.
Of course, the reality is that shows are still enjoyed via social media — maybe even more heavily consumed in this way. With social media fueling interest, it’s apparent that customers are clamoring for the experience of fashion week. But not everyone is on the same page with change.
Either way, the revolution will be televised on an iPhone 6S Plus near you.
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