The front row. Formerly an exclusive utopia for fashion editors, stylists and buyers eventually opened its French doors to the fashion-craving public with the advent of social media.
Ever since IMG, who own NYFW, began live streaming shows in 2011, a staggering number of viewers have been tuning in to snag a digital front row seat from the comfort of their own homes. It was a completely different story years ago when Fashion Week was a private and exclusive event reserved for the fashion elite. Similarly, images were also closely controlled; photos and videos of shows came only from professional agencies or the brands themselves. It was, by and large, an inaccessible industry gathering.
Kelly Cutrone, the founder of PR firm People’s Revolution, said, “Fashion has always been a closed, elitist industry, and shows used to be for a very small percentage of people. The tents at Bryant Park had tiny crowds. IMG even held a press conference at one point to talk about ‘these people called bloggers’.”
But those who craved a slice of the fashion industry never let their passion wane and with the dawn of social media, more shows, and live streaming, the landscape of fashion changed quite considerably. Bloggers and social media influencers now adorn the front row, armed with their mobiles and Wi-Fi, ready to update their followers on Twitter and Instagram.
Cutrone added, “People realized it didn’t make sense to not include the public more. Brands realised they had to open their French doors and say hello to the world.”
In 2010 Daniel Plenge, the social media director at Marc Jacobs, saw other brands live streaming their shows and proposed they do the same to nurture digital relationships. Plenge said, “The stream is totally worth it to us. We’re trying to bottle up all of Marc’s magic into one night, so having an asset that lives on past the show is really helpful. Streaming has been valuable to us in so many different ways.”
Showcasing collections has become more of a marketing event, rather than a trade event, and streaming shows has allowed brands to create a luxury experience to share with audiences from around the world. As well as directly aiding sales, for example, brands like Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger have started to include purchasing buttons on their live streams so that viewers can shop items similar to those on the runway. Burberry allowed their live stream viewers to click through certain garments and buy them as soon as they see them on the runway, also debuting their spring/summer 2016 collection on Snapchat prior to the official show. With this digital centralisation of the fashion industry, market research is also skewed in this direction as email addresses are collated from live stream portals and social media enables viewers to share their favourite looks. It also informs and allows brands to generate data from what colours, looks, and styles were statistically popular.
Although most of the style enthusiasts out there love the increased accessibility to shows from around the globe, not everybody is convinced by the dawn of digital fashion. Designers might fear that because of the wider availability of their designs, it might lead to an array of high street replicas before their own collections can be purchased in stores. The cost of the streaming process is also significant; B Productions, which oversees the logistics and technology of IMG’s live streams, charges a minimum of $6,500 to around $100,000.
However, there are those who have indulged in these new technological advances to present to the industry and to the public a new perspective of observing fashion. Rebecca Minkoff transformed its Fall 2015 collection into a virtual reality video with Jaunt, a virtual reality company based in California. The video was viewable through a cardboard headset sold on their official website, and users could download the show onto their mobile device and put the device into the headset to gain an immersive look at the final walk of the show. Scott Broock, Jaunt’s former vice president of content, said: “If you live in Ohio, for example, and love fashion but it’s not readily available to you, you could have the chance to feel what a fashion show feels like. The scene moves with your movement so you have an unlimited ability to look up and around you. It gives you true stereoscopic imagery so you can go places you’ve never gone before.” For an industry that thrives off innovation and seeks out what’s new, any further blend of fashion and technology will continue to take fashion to new heights and novel places.
Words: Aminah Khan
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