Fashion shows used to be privately held events for industry professionals, typically editors, to get press for retailers and designers. Like the Paris Salons of yore, it was a venue for the very wealthy and very powerful to gawk at expensive creations and report on their findings to a select elite. But now more than ever we live in a time where these types of works and events are more accessible to the public than ever before. All thanks to the internet.
A recent article on Mashable looked at the trend through the lens of Kate Spade’s “Live Colorfully” internet ad campaign, a fairly recent endeavor that had been kept on the back burner until 2009. The statistics, it seems, could be ignored no longer according to Mashable:
More than 3 billion videos are viewed per day on the web’s largest video-sharing platform, YouTube, whose monthly traffic hovers around 800 million unique visitors. Nearly three-fourths of US citizens have visited a video-sharing site in their lifetimes, and more than a quarter visit video-sharing sites on a daily basis.
Also citing the enormous amount of viewers for Lee Alexander McQueen’s final runway show and an Armani Jeans ad starring Cristiano Ronaldo, it appears that the fashion industry is making internet videos a major player in their campaigning. It’s probably an easy development to brush off; after all, the internet is cheaper than other mass media and reaches a global audience, so that just makes it a low-cost, lucrative form of advertisement. Additionally, those two videos probably garnered more hits due to the non-fashion elements, namely Lady Gaga and the insanely hot Ronaldo, respectively. But to put cynicism aside for a moment (a demanding request, I know), the embracement of new media forms and innovative technologies in fashion branding may indicate a more open, transparent and most importantly welcoming attitude of an industry that is stereotypically very guarded.
For his inaugural collection at the Mugler label, Nicola Formichetti staged the show on a runway littered with decorative arches and columns, a motif that angered many of the attendees since they obstructed their view of the clothes.
“I wanted all the younger generation out there to have better seats than Anna Wintour,” he said on the decision in a recent W Magazine profile. And since he chose to livestream the show on the internet, the 93,000+ viewers at home caught every hemline and rivet in greater detail than any editor or buyer. Did he have his priorities skewed? Or did he realize that it’s more important to promote the brand on a wider scale than to a very select group?
Accessibility has increased not only in terms of the present, but the past as well. Recently famed designer Valentino Garavani released his archives in a beautifully rendered online museum free to the public, and the seminal American fashion magazine Vogue created a digital library featuring every single page that has ever appeared in its 120 year history (for a rather hefty fee of $1,575 per year).
Visibility has certainly increased in both art and fashion thanks to the web, and fashion has in some ways even taken it a step further with the proliferating creation of designer lines at inexpensive retailers such as Target and H&M, allowing young consumers especially to partake in high-end designs. Of course, you have to jump fast, as the Missoni for Target pop-up was overrun and pillaged in less than a day, and the day before the Versace for H&M collection went on sale there were people all over the country camping outside to buy op-art shirts and bungalow chic pants (maybe that was just me). However insane the Supermarket Sweep-style shopping is, the option illustrates a sort of olive branch fashion now extends to the youths-on-a-budget that admire the industry so much.
Are we seeing an alteration in this typically guarded field, or just clever marketing? People with an internet connection are able to experience and consume many facets of the fashion world now that would never have been imaginable even five years ago, but it’s not as if WiFi gives you an all-access pass to Haute Couture. The internet made a lot more available to the public, but we’ll see if it continues to break down the barriers or just encourages new customers to fawn over $300 jeans.
Could this be a harbinger of what may be in store for the art world. Let’s not forget how Damien Hirst bypassed galleries to go straight to auction in 2008. Could Hirst use the internet in a similar way in the near future? Or how about all the once geographically inaccessible art shows people are watching online through the work of vloggers like Vernissage TV or James Kalm. It seems inevitable that art will continue to find ways to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of the art world, no?
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
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