Fashion Week 2017 is currently on its last leg in Paris, having already taken in New York, London and Milan. And if Paris is anything like the preceding shows, we can expect to see front rows made up of Instagram celebrities, bloggers and ‘influencers’, and photos of the very latest looks appearing online within seconds of them having strutted down the catwalk.
This is fashion 2017-style, and it illustrates a change in the industry that’s been brewing for years. And it’s all down to social media.
Social Presence is Power
Recently it was revealed that Brooklyn Beckham would be photographing Burberry’s latest fragrance campaign. To be clear, this is 16-year-old Brooklyn Beckham- the son of David and Victoria Beckham- not a seasoned industry professional unfortunate enough to share the same name. So, it’s no surprise that this news generated a good deal of criticism from fashion industry commentators: why should people bother studying at Central St Martins for years when someone’s famous parents can just buy them a top gig?
But dive a little deeper, and there might be more than simple nepotism at play here. Burberry boss Christopher Bailey was quoted as saying: “Brooklyn has a really great eye for image and Instagram works brilliantly for him as a platform to showcase his work.” So, maybe the decision was actually based less on Brooklyn’s famous parents, and more on his 5.9 million Instagram followers…
This is a prime example of how social media has shaken up the fashion industry. It now seems to be the number of followers you have rather than your training and experience which helps you hit the big time.
Another great example of this is the current crop of ‘top models’- the likes of Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner. Of course Kendall started out as a reality TV star, but having amassed around 48 million followers on Instgram, she is now a modern-day ‘supermodel’. Could her rise to the top have less to do with looks and talent, and more to do with her being the most followed model on Instagram..? I’ll let you decide. But to help you make up your mind, here is a photo of Kendall Jenner next to a photo of actual supermodel Kate Moss…
Seen through a screen
While the front row was previously the preserve of fashion editors, buyers and stylists, social media has, of course, given a voice to bloggers. Blogger attendance at shows has been steadily increasing since 2005 and now bloggers can find themselves officially invited to top shows.
As recently as 2010 it was almost unheard of to use a mobile phone at a catwalk show. Fast-forward a few years, and every show is viewed through a million screens as bloggers and journalists scramble to be the first to upload images to Instagram and Snapchat. According to Josh Newish-Smith, a fashion editor at Grazia, “we’re all watching a show through our phone, rather than our eyes. Social media is now so relentless, you are spending your whole time on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Periscope… Everything needs to be instant.”
This trend for immediacy has changed the way in which we consume fashion. Gone are the days of waiting for magazines to publish the latest catwalk looks weeks after the event- instead we get them straight to our social feed. Plus, we live in an age of instant gratification, which means that we don’t want to wait to wear trends anymore. Instead, we see them, we like them, and we want them fresh off the runway. This has led to some designers allowing customers to ‘shop the runway’ by making selected pieces available for online purchase immediately after their shows.
But social media has also thrown designers a curve ball, because not only do customers now have instant access to new looks, clothing manufacturers do too, which means that designers can now see the high street flooded with copycat versions of their looks before their own collection has even hit stores.
How brands are harnessing the power of social
Fashion brands have become ‘socially savvy’ and are now hosting livestreams on their websites whilst encouraging viewers to comment on the looks on social platforms in real time. Brands are also producing backstage video and photographic footage- sometimes even shot by their famous models- and sharing it with their fans via various social platforms. And, of course, they’re harnessing the social power of famous connections.
There’s no doubt that social media has revolutionised the fashion industry. The industry has become democratized in many ways- anyone can view, anyone can comment, and it even seems that anyone can now break into the industry… if you’ve got a big enough social following, that is…