As the fashion industry finds itself in the throes of the “see now,buy now” debate, another “problem area” looks to be working itself out.
At the same time that the fashion world begins to try and accommodate a number of different shopping habits, to really cater to all sorts of consumers, it has offset this all-inclusive consumer concept by creating more intimate show presentations. It was a phenomenon that really began in Milan and took a firmer hold in Paris. Designers began pursuing new ways of creating a more personal connection to the happy few who were actually attending their shows, recapturing the lost sense of exclusivity these events once had.
Just like with the “see now, buy now” movement, designers went about creating this new intimacy in very different ways.
Perhaps the most radical choice came from Massimo Giorgetti, who asked that guests attending his MSGM show refrain from posting images or videos from the show on any social media platform. A gesture that had become a modern fashion show tradition/addiction. An act that is arguably at the heart of the in-season shopping movement and possibly also at the root of fashion’s current short attention span malaise.
« Posting a picture of the show on Instagram has become a modern fashion show tradition/addiction. »
Most attendees honored Giorgetti’s requests and filled the social media void by posting images of the invitation requesting no post, which made for a slightly surreal meta-fashion moment. The majority of guests found it refreshing to just take in the spectacle without feeling the pressure to have to document every instant of their experience, or missing moments of the show because they felt the need to post something as it was still underway.
Giorgetti too is determined to practice what he is preaching, saying to WWD at the time this strategy was announced that he would also “not post images of the show until the summer, when the collection will start hitting stores.” He went on to admit that the choice was a hard one, but that he didn’t really understand how social media was really impacting the fashion business other than to confuse customers who don’t understand the traditional six-month delay between a product being seen in a show and finally arriving on store floors.
The jury is still out, however, on whether or not Giorgetti’s decision to go off the social media grid was a smart move for a fledgling fashion label that is in need of all the free publicity it can get.
Tom Ford has been a long proponent of creating intimate show presentations. He only allowed one photographer at his first show and recently bypassed a womenswear fashion show completely. Instead he chose to present his collection in a music video format, a short film that just happened to star Lady Gaga as one of the models who took part in its dance party story, where everyone was dressed in the latest Ford creations. For the moment only Ford has tried this form of presentation, and its impact on the collective fashion psyche arguably faded quickly.
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But he is not the only designer pushing boundaries and trying to find original ways to engage his audience. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana had their models take selifies or short videos of themselves (and their show guests) as they walked down the designers’ menswear and womenswear catwalks. The results were instantly posted on social media feeds.
This live content created quite a lot of buzz and a false sense of intimacy, as the online community was connecting to the show in a new way. On the other hand, those who attended the shows found themselves feeling more and more uncomfortable with the idea of being day players in what they felt were the designers’ latest marketing ploy.
But in Paris this past March brands of all sizes looked for other ways to reconnect with their audience that didn’t feel so invasive or overtly elitist. Kenzo went with a much smaller venue this season, and made the space feel even cozier by sectioning off seating with bright blue walls. Simon Porte Jacquemus used the absence of light, except for a single line that illuminated the runway, to make his large show venue feel small. While Christelle Kocher presented her latest Koché collection down the corridor of a covered public passageway in Paris and democratically had all her guests stand, wherever they could find a spot, to watch the show.
« Being so close to the clothes made the collection feel much more personal. »
But leave it to Givenchy and Chanel to hit upon ways to blend intimacy and immediacy that gave devoted fashion followers the best of both worlds.
At Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci created a blond wood labyrinth through which he presented his oeuvre. The audience was seated up against the walls, just one row on each side, and was only given a limited time to inspect a look before it whipped around a corner and out of view. Being so close to the clothes made the collection feel much more personal. But it was also dynamic in the way the models would appear abruptly, make their impact, and then vanish.
Karl Lagerfeld spelled out his intentions on his invitation. Above the image of a gilded salon chair were the words “front row only” scrawled in the designer’s distinctive hand. He transformed the Grand Palais into a XXL version of the Chanel haute couture salon and placed over 2,000 guests in front row seats. This made it possible to see in detail all of the intricate handiwork that went into each look. But it also made for great up-close images for Instagram and other social media sites.
“It’s the dream of everybody to be in the front row,” said Lagerfeld about the show. “Normally it’s not possible, one needs the space like this to make something where everybody can be front row. You can see the details, the materials, the embroidery, the cut. You can see everything as near as possible. It’s the idea of the past, over-dimensioned like an instillation for today.”
Finally, there was Hedi Slimane, who decided to show a Saint Laurent couture show in the brand’s new couture salon on rue de l’Université to a very limited number of journalist and editors. The gold nameplates fitted to each black lacquered salon chair became almost a social media badge of honor, with guests madly posting images of their personalized chairs online as proof they had made the Saint Laurent cut.
Yes, this was an elitist move, but this has been the sort of mystique that Slimane has been cultivating at the house and therefore it felt like a rather organic choice. Much in the same vein as showing an entire collection in Los Angeles, far away from the world’s fashion hubs and its inner circle.
What all these close quarters presentations prove is that there are still ways to make fashion shows feel exclusive and special while at the same time feeding the social media monster with content. The novel staging creates images that are even more engaging, as they are able to capture and hone in on the impressive details of the workmanship that goes into each ensemble. By feeling exclusive and yet making it possible for guests to create inclusive real-time instant content, this season, brands have found a new fashion balance.
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