‘We used to have all the celebrities and people there, and I think that at that moment in time that’s what people loved. It generated so much press and at a certain point it was like, did anybody actually watch the show? All I ever saw in the press was who was there. So we sort of stopped that and just got back to showing a fashion show, and if people want to come, great.’ Robert Duffy, President of Marc Jacobs on Style.com
New York Fashion Week is in full flow and London Fashion Week kicks off on Friday. For the designers, months of caffeine, sweat and tears will culminate in a 15-minute crescendo. But who and what are they for?
Back in the olden days, the shows were elite salon events attended by super-rich customers and the fashion press. As time went on they became larger productions, with more editors and buyers witnessing bigger spectacles. More recently, press-hungry celebrities realised fashion shows made good photo-ops and designers (or their publicists) realised that those same celebs could get publicity (leading to sales) for them. Fashionista.com recently reported that celebrities like Chloe Sevigny and Mary-Kate Ashley can get paid five figure sums by designers to show up in their front rows – and there we were thinking they did it for the love of a Balmain harem pant. As if!
And now we’re in the age of the live-streamed show where anyone can watch the show from their couch or desk, or even Times Square if you’re an Alexander Wang fan. Fashion Week is tough on fashion editors. It’s not all champagne and air-kisses, there’s a lot of running around, a hell of a lot of waiting, plus in between, the trips back to the office to attend planning meetings and sign off page proofs. Eating and sleeping rarely factors. Oh to be able to sit in the office and watch it all online like everyone else! Could this happen?
Alas, not for a fashion editor. Because the days of attending the show purely to report on the clothes are long gone. These days, a fashion show isn’t about what’s on the runway at all but the ‘show’ happening front of house and backstage. The show isn’t just the models on the runway, it’s the celebrities, the editors, the backstage crew. It’s the overheards, the atmosphere, the hullabaloo. Social media has changed Fashion Week in the space of one season. WWD published an article on the influence of social media at fashion shows and reports that some brands now have as many as 40% of bloggers taking up press head-count. Those designers embracing social media (live-streaming, tweeting, blogger-courting) are also doing more to show the backstage and pre-show buzz. Marc Jacobs’ president Robert Duffy has spend the last two weeks Twitpic-ing model castings, set-building and other insights into the Marc Jacobs show build-up.
So are fashion shows morphing from exclusive industry-only events to become more of an entertainment thing? Yes indeed. It’s all about the marketing and commercial opportunities now, brought on by both the recession and the online revolution. The next stage is brands opening up to the public who in turn will, hopefully, open their wallets. On February 18th Diane Von Furstenburg puts on a separate show for Amex cardholders from which the $150 ticket price goes towards Amex’s $250,000 donation to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Guests will watch models present the spring-summer collection and theoretically rush to buy whatever tickles their fancy in store shortly after. Meanwhile Proenza Schouler will make their AW10 handbags available to preorder online immediately after their show.
In this new era, old school fashion editors won’t like being lumped in with the ‘civilians’ but while the majority of brands can see the worth of going public, a few are still resistant. ‘We believe that luxury breaks down when access is in excess,’ Luca Luca president Yildiz Blackstone told WWD. My guess is that in time, there will be a split, perhaps with Fashion Week as we know it being used for entertainment and commercial purposes, and a spin-off being created for the trade press and buyers.
People keep asking me which LFW shows I’m excited about and I can’t answer. I’m looking forward to Michael van der Ham as he’s new so I don’t know what to expect from him. I also love the classicists – Margaret Howell, Nicole Farhi and Betty Jackson for their wearable styling. And then Charles Anastase and Eley Kishimoto for their youthful aesthetic. And I love the menswear shows for the ideas I can steal for myself. But I can’t say I’m madly excited about the shows. I get more excited about the atmosphere, catching up with people and taking in the theatre of the front-of-house show. What fashion editors and buyers choose to wear to the shows is as telling as what’s on the runway, especially as now people dress up for the cameras.
Is it sad to be excited about Twitter? I love real-time information and I follow a good mix of tweeters, so as we have had enough lists of ‘the best fashion bloggers’ for now, I share with you my favourite fashion tweeters. These are the tweeters I retweet the most…
Business of Fashion: These guys do a lot of retweeting and linking. If it wasn’t for them I would miss a hell of a lot of useful fashion articles
F.TAPE: Relentless tweeters, the F.TAPE crew are everywhere. Lovely people too…
Volume Group: Ok, not fashion tweeters but essential for up-to-date social media info
IamMademoiselle: A fellow fashion anony-blogger, this one blogs for Elle. She’s funny.
Topshop_tweets: A prolific tweeter who satisfies my appetite for constant updates
When people attack fellow bloggers like Tavi or Susie Bubble, I know I shouldn’t wade in to fight their battles but as a blogger I feel involved too. I tried to comment on this article in today’s Independent, but couldn’t be bothered to register so I’ll say my piece here. The article claims there is a Tavi backlash because she wore a big hat in the front row of Dior couture. Yawn.
Firstly, Sarah McCullough, Selfridges’ creative concepts manager (an avid blog follower) said, “it’s mind-blowing that bloggers like Tavi are at the couture shows and being showered with all kinds of gifts. It has soured things a little bit for me.” My answer to this is, what is the difference between a blogger and a celebrity in the front row? To the couturier, it’s all publicity and they are in charge of who they invite to their show. Bloggers are getting the attention at the mo, of course the brands want in on it.
Next, a comment from Vogue.com’s Dolly Jones: “PRs plant stories with certain bloggers who are influential. Those have a ripple effect. It’s a really powerful selling tool.” PRs plant stories with magazines too. Again, to the PR it’s all marketing. For many, magazines and blogs now come under the same umbrella. And yes, there are bloggers who get blinded by the attention and freebies and lose their integrity but it’s a learning curve (I’ve been there). We learn with time and become immune to the flattery.
I have a feeling there are going to be even more bloggers in the front row this season, let’s hope we can all play nicely together!
UPDATE: 10th Feb 2010. Sarah from Selfridges who was quoted in the article has added this in the comments but I am publishing it here too:
Dear Disneyrollergirl, I’m Sarah from Selfridges, thought I would let you know that I was misquoted in the article. The quote is word perfect apart from the last few words “it’s soured things for me”. I never said it, infact I am very pro-blogger. I use blogs like yours on a daily basis as part of my trend and culture research. Blogs have become more important to me than editorial over the past few years.I think Tavi really is mind blowing. I can understand the Colin McDowell arguement which examines the need for educated fashion journalism but I think blogs are an invaluable, authentic voice. I salute anyone who is brave enough to keep a blog and write with conviction and fervour. Long live the bloggers! s
(Thanks Sarah and also to everyone else for all the brilliant comments! DRG)