What so­cial me­dia is do­ing to the world of fash­ion


Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - WORDS EM­I­LIE GAMBADE

not long ago, fash­ion weeks were re­served for a happy few who were sen­si­bly picked for be­ing the in­dus­try’s crème de la crème: ed­i­tors, high-end fash­ion buy­ers and devo­tees, glam­orous celebri­ties who turned the front row into an elite rank of ex­perts hid­ing be­hind dark sun­glasses, wealthy clients and VIP in­vites.

Out­side, and ex­cluded from the shows, the rest of the world (or at least the cir­cles with an in­ter­est in fash­ion) waited in awe, read­ing ev­ery re­view stream­ing out of the guarded tents as the holy word to the be­liev­ers. Fash­ion crit­ics Kennedy Fraser, Cathy Ho­ryn, Suzy Menkes and Robin Givhan (Givhan was the first fash­ion writer to win a Pulitzer Prize for crit­i­cism in 2006) were some of the few set­ting the fash­ion tone with their sharp re­views of col­lec­tions and their in­sider look at the in­dus­try. It was bor­der­ing on re­li­gious: they told us, we lis­tened, we ac­cepted.

But since the in­ter­net revo­lu­tion, the rise of blog­ging and the ex­plo­sion of so­cial me­dia (hello In­sta­gram, Twit­ter, Pin­ter­est, YouTube, Face­book) the front row has changed and next to Anna Win­tour one can now find a bevy of celebri­ties, blog­gers, so­cialites and lesser-known bod­ies, armed with a large Twit­ter fol­low­ing and smart­phones flash­ing like strobe lights. From their hands to our screens, the uni­verse has shrunk and re­views are now squashed into 140 char­ac­ters, a hash­tag, a cropped and fil­tered im­age. ‘I see there­fore I tweet’ has be­come the new norm and a con­stant stream of im­ages, tweets, re-tweets and short, sharp and snarky opin­ions bom­bard the ded­i­cated fol­low­ers of fash­ion. It isn’t just cra­zier; it is faster, more com­pact and hellishly widereach­ing. What used to be a priv­i­lege of only a care­fully selected few is now a func­tion of many, di­rectly in­jected into the wide, wide

world with no time for mean­ing­ful anal­y­sis and proper un­der­stand­ing.

De­sign­ers are also af­fected by our dig­i­tal age: just when the LBD (lit­tle black dress) had made its mark as the ul­ti­mate gar­ment in any woman’s wardrobe, Tom Ford ex­plained that he was rarely de­sign­ing black dresses any more be­cause it didn’t look great on a com­puter screen, thus neg­a­tively in­flu­enc­ing on­line sales. Off­set­ting the trend was Alexan­der Wang, who, for his A/W 2014 show in Brook­lyn last Fe­bru­ary (amid the snow and the #traf­fic­jam), fea­tured gar­ments that were a feast for the In­sta­gram lens. Made out of ther­mal heat-sen­si­tive fab­ric, with moulded util­i­tar­ian pock­ets (that popped out like 3D ma­te­rial) or bub­bled knitwear, the range was easy and in­cred­i­ble to shoot, tweet and post.

Other brands have jumped on the so­cial me­dia ex­press train: just be­fore the Chanel A/W 2014/15 show, which was set un­der the roof of the Grand Palais in Paris in what looked like a real-size su­per­mar­ket filled with Chanel­stamped good­ies, spec­ta­tors were in­vited to walk through the aisles, tak­ing mul­ti­ple self­ies, and pic­tures of the dé­cor were soon posted on ev­ery pos­si­ble plat­form. Shots of Jam­bon Cambon (stand­ing for cou­ture ham),Tweed Lemon drink (Rose’s cor­dial but chicer) and Haute Ketchup ri­valled im­ages of Chanel’s iconic twin­set, lit­tle tweed jacket and new ‘It’ shoes, the not-so-glam (al­beit très haute cou­ture) multi-coloured train­ers. It was overwhelming, fun and in­stan­ta­neous and left a pow­er­ful im­print as the im­ages floated around the planet like the mi­nus­cule peb­bles of Hop-o’-my-Thumb (send­ing one back di­rectly into the Chanel dig­i­tal home).

Vic­to­ria Beck­ham quickly un­der­stood how the dig­i­tal revo­lu­tion could help her reach a wider au­di­ence. In Jan­uary 2014, she col­lab­o­rated with Skype on an ‘exclusive in­ter­ac­tive ed­i­to­rial’, re­leas­ing a be­hind-thescenes video start­ing with the words, ‘I had

been wak­ing up ev­ery morn­ing and feel­ing like I was jug­gling glass balls. I lived in LA, my busi­ness was run out of Lon­don, and most evenings I was in front of Skype speak­ing to my stu­dio in Lon­don.’ Beck­ham re­vealed some not-so-in­ti­mate-but-still-exclusive im­ages of her team, ideas, day at work, later telling The Tele­graph, ‘I hope by shar­ing my story, I will in­spire oth­ers who are in­ter­ested in fash­ion and en­cour­age them to work hard and fol­low their dream as I did.’ Along the way, she man­aged to strengthen her pres­ence world­wide and build brand loy­alty.

At Tommy Hil­figer, so­cial me­dia are taken so se­ri­ously that the house launched the first In­staMeet dur­ing its A/W 2014/15 pre­sen­ta­tion last Fe­bru­ary, where it in­vited 20 In­sta­gram­mers to doc­u­ment its cat­walk show. For those not fa­mil­iar with In­staMeet, In­sta­gram ex­plains it as ‘gath­er­ings of people com­ing to­gether to con­nect, ex­plore and cel­e­brate their cre­ativ­ity’. The re­sult was shots ga­lore of the collection; al­though it did not have the widest reach, it cer­tainly was the most cre­ative one.

Lo­cally, at AFI Mercedes-Benz Fash­ion Week, Mar­i­anne Fassler pre­sented a collection dubbed #VoteFassler; it opened with her stu­dio team walk­ing the cat­walk in white uni­forms and car­ry­ing #VoteFassler pick­ets. The de­signer surfed on both the coun­try’s elec­tions and the rise of so­cial me­dia to mar­ket her collection. Sim­i­larly, David Tlale pro­vided the pub­lic with enough slo­gans to turn the

Next to Anna Win­tour one can now find a bevy of celebri­ties, blog­gers, so­cialites and lesser-known bod­ies, armed with a large Twit­ter fol­low­ing and smart­phones flash­ing like strobe lights

Twit­ter­sphere alight. Al­though his show seemed lost in the busi­ness of Man­dela Square in Sand­ton, Jo’burg, he had or­gan­ised a small crowd with ban­ners stat­ing: ‘Love SA’, ‘Africa is Now’ and ‘Africa is Ris­ing’ that were re­layed via Twit­ter like lit­tle hot cakes.

Of course, the rise of so­cial me­dia helped democra­tise fash­ion and brought it to the masses. But it also left its au­di­ence with a huge amount of in­for­ma­tion that can quickly be­come overwhelming. Brands also have to be ever faster and louder than the next com­peti­tor; still, the trick with im­me­di­acy and in­ter­ac­tiv­ity is that it doesn’t al­ways work the way you ex­pected it to and you don’t al­ways have it un­der con­trol.

At Alexan­der Wang, de­spite the many in­no­va­tive gar­ments, all that ev­ery­body was talk­ing and tweet­ing about was the #Es­cape­fromWang taxi bill, with Harper’s Bazaar’s Laura Brown not­ing, ‘Alexan­der Wang mod­els mov­ing faster than our cars’. In fact, the de­signer had his show set out­side of Man­hat­tan, far from the usual Lin­coln Cen­ter, forc­ing any­one at­tend­ing to drive or take a cab, which was, given the snow­storm, a real ex­pe­di­tion. In 2013, Amer­i­can de­signer Kenneth Cole had mod­els walk­ing the cat­walk, cell­phones in hand, snap­ping pho­tos of the au­di­ence and live-tweet­ing them to their fol­low­ers. Cole took a dose of risk (one can­not con­trol what the mod­els will be send­ing out), es­pe­cially af­ter his Twit­ter-dis­grace when he posted in 2011,‘Mil­lions up­roar in #Cairo. Ru­mour is they heard that our new spring collection is avail­able on­line.’

Sim­i­larly, in 2012, Amer­i­can Ap­parel tact­lessly made a ref­er­ence to Hur­ri­cane Sandy to pro­mote its lat­est sale; the brand posted on its Twit­ter ac­count: ‘In case you’re bored dur­ing the storm, 20 per cent off ev­ery­thing dur­ing the next 36 hours’; Gap was not too far off when it tweeted, ‘All im­pacted by #Sandy, stay safe! We’ll be do­ing lots of Gap.com shop­ping to­day. How about you?’ Bad taste is def­i­nitely not just a sar­to­rial thing.

From exclusive pre­views to live-streamed fash­ion shows, fash­ion is now every­where, haute cou­ture and streetwear walk­ing to­gether side by side on the in­ter­net high­way. It is, with­out a doubt, more demo­cratic; and with ev­ery new democ­racy comes de­bates, con­ver­sa­tions, ex­per­i­ments and in­evitable faux pas, now widely shared in­stan­ta­neously across the globe.

Above left Tommy Hil­figer’s A/W ’14/15 show (#Tom­myFall2014). Above right, from top to bot­tom Mod­els walk­ing through the Chanel aisles,A/W ’14/15. Op­po­site, above far right Kenneth Cole’s mod­els snap away at guests dur­ing the de­signer’s A/W ’14/15...






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