The Democratization of Fashion Week

Attention Fashion Week: the public is watching.

What was once an exclusive event for the fashion elite, has become the Super Bowl for fashion lovers, full of live streamingTweeting and up to the minute commentary.  I, for one, watched in my pajamas, and not the expensive, pajamas-as -day-wear kind of PJs (you can see my favorite viewing outfit here). But what is going to be the fallout of this radical shift of fashion week losing its rope line and turning into a fully up-to-the-minute internet spectacle?  Complete with designers vying for the most cutting-edge technology to leverage multiple platforms.

Designers suddenly had to get over the fear of mixing with the masses and incorporate us and our viewing preferences into their process of designing and producing shows from beginning to end.

Some brands have partnered with technology and influencers on TumblrInstagram,Google GlassVine and Pinterest.

Beyond the historically weird, sci-fi-esque designs and private receptions that normally mark Fashion Week, the clothes this year appeared more subdued, with modest length skirts and simple tones.  Was this a coincidence or an effect of the democratization of Fashion Week?

WWD called Fashion Week a “digital spectator sport.”

One of the effects of the digital fashion age, is how designers are going to balance creative integrity with the mass distribution of fashion shows.  Unlike industries, like newspapers, which were slow to adapt to disruptive technology, Fashion Week seems to be embracing it as designers clamor to have the best and most innovative digital presence.

According to WWD, Tommy Hilfiger added a “global social concierge,” with a staff of 30, to his show.   Hifliger explained what his digitally focused concierge provided to his guests: “If you need a photo of a model, or a shoe or a bag we will have that to you.”  And they did it, within minutes.  Those at the show were then encouraged to share these edited, specialized photos on social media.  Hilfiger continued, “We’re really opening up our world to the public.”

The dynamic here is shifting in favor of the public, providing an overwhelming amount of fashion information from live streaming shows, unique access culled by influencers and post-show roundups.  So far, it seems that the public is loving these consumer-facing initiatives, but I wonder how the fashion elite feel about the democratization of their once private ball?  And how do designers feel about having to think more broadly about the public viewing their shows as they happen?

Some designers are downsizing their shows, to keep the exclusive feel to a now-instantaneous global event.  The Row held their show at an intimate Townhouse and Oscar de la Renta cut the number of his shows in half from previous years.

In one recent article, Oscar de la Renta Demands Respect for Fashion Week, the iconic designer, described his criticisms of the changing nature of Fashion Week:

“FASHION spectacle has to become more manageable, more exclusive, shaped and sorted out and aimed, not at live multitudes, but at those who actually know what fashion is.”

De la Renta downsized his Fashion Week shows from two shows for 300+ to one show, in reaction to this shift.  In essence, he is aiming to keep the seats for his exclusive show focused on those who are intimately involved with the clothes.

Whether de la Renta likes it or not, Fashion week is now fully catering to the public, instead of the select few catering to it.  De la Renta himself agreed to partner with Tumblr blogger, Living in the Stills, to give an inside view of Fashion Week, Oscar de la Renta style, to the “live multitudes.”

And the changes do not end at Fashion Week.  Designers seem to be trying all sorts of new social strategies.  The sleek, pricey Carolina Herrera was simultaneously preparing a Fashion Weeks show and a new Pinterest initiative aimed at boosting brand awareness of her bridal line.  She launched the pinning contest in collaboration with Town and Country magazine and Pinterest on September 1st.  Make-up designer Bobbi Brown is launching her own YouTube channel aimed at millennials.

We will have to wait and see how this all plays out, but I would love to know which platform you liked best for consuming your Fashion Week content?