So my mind has been weighing on this topic for several days ever since I sat down at my first NYFW show for this season. And it’s a topic that anyone who has been to a show understands, and what the general population feeds off of.
A great divide.
Fashion used to close ranks. 10 years ago the industry was elite, with editors and celebrities sitting front row to the biggest fashion shows. Exposure for the brand was limited and social media was in its infancy.
Through this evolution of influencers, stylists, and insta-fame has evolved a “behind the curtain” look at the runway shows. Which, in theory, is huge. For the first time ever, the average fashion lover in middle America can live stream every fashion show via Instagram, or watch their favorite influencer take them backstage.
So, in a sense, social media closed the gap between the fashion elite, and the general public.
A huge feat…
But- within this closing gap has evolved a different problem and an even larger hierarchical structure.
Let’s first start off by saying- fashion week is about the DESIGNERS! They have poured their heart and soul into a collection for 6 months, and have probably not slept in days. The designers are the heart and soul of fashion week. And influencers, stylists, and editors are the lifeblood that keep things flowing.
But, there has been a judicial scale tilt that has weighted the guests over the actual designs.
Instead of focusing on the beauty of the work. The modernity of the “it” piece or the ever-evolving swing of trends decelerating and accelerating before your very eyes… It literally becomes a sea of iPhones and perusing the crowd for the biggest people in the room.
And maybe fashion week has always had a hierarchy and it might just stay that way.
But, as I looked around the room, not one person was watching the clothes. The people filming saw things through their iPhone ( which begs the question, why even come? You can get that shit on Instagram from the media people live). And the others looked lost and confused. As if they might be questioning what the correct behavior is, or why they are staring at crystal-studded fringe hanging off model’s heads.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the crystal fringe.
The fashion industry, simply put is splitting.
You have the brands like Area, that are bringing back drama, and a bit of camp while maintaining modernity, and then you classic brands that are making wearable, chic, easy clothes (actually shown on the runway) like L’agence.
Then you have the influencers who wake up 5 am to go to Times Square and take photos of their fancy outfits, and dolled up style. They are slightly posed, but beautiful shots. They look professional, they look like an ad campaign with an approachable sense but an elevated production level. Overall, pretty well done, but usually not creatively breaking the mold.
Then you have the youth culture aesthetically paving their own way by taking in-the-moment shots, with extra grain added and a blurry focus. It is meant to seem down to earth, real, and not posed. It’s the photo version of grunge.
I’m not critiquing either of these styles, I admire and recognize the work put into both. Because, the “nonchalant” photos are just as crafted as the professional, posed shots.
My point with all this is that fashion has evolved and continues to evolve at a rapid pace. But, the cores that the industry are built on, are being forgotten.
I’m guilty of it myself. I watch my favorite influencers and editors stories and tap through the million videos of the 15 runways shows they went through that day. And I’ve seen the same true on my account when I look at my own analytics.
So-how does a week based around exposure to a designer’s collection become about what event someone is going to, or what outfit they are wearing next?
It’s based around being within the “in” crowd. Most of these people are only showing the highlights of their day to prove they were invited. It’s social proof at its best.
The slew of videos, and cab changes- while all real elements to most guests of the fashion week experience, becomes a mandatory box that every influencer is checking. And even more so, is competing with the influencer ahead of them.
Fashion is supposed to make you feel good. It’s supposed to tell the world who you are without words or expression, it conveys so much.
But in the circus of fashion week, I think most people feel excluded. Because even the top people are being pushed aside for newer, cooler influencers or editors. And the people just trying to make it, have waves of feeling like they don’t even belong.
The week, in general, is magical It’s filled with enviable runway looks, gorgeous makeup, and outstanding creativity. Art is all around you, the sets- props and locations- are truly dreamlike. So why does it feel like the focus is elsewhere?
Everything is a learning experience. Our basis for knowledge, our inspiration, and our understanding of social events is ever-growing to interpret and appreciate all the creative outlets around us.
We watch a runway show and it inspires us to take that idea and make it our own. Our looks get better, our photos get more creative, and expand past the former self from months ago.
So why then has our system for all our creativities and the fashion event of the year, not improved its structure.
The moral of this story is that fashion week is magical. It’s escaping to a dream-like race where beauty and art take center stage and normal functional entities like sleep fall by the wayside. But, with the current construct of exposure and social media flooding fashion week, I think that the structure of this week needs to grow as well.
We can now all see behind the curtain. How then, can we genuinely connect with the designers to get THEIR message out.
I listened to an influencer talking about serving her audience. Showing them a glimpse of what THEY wanted to see. And for every week besides fashion week, I would agree.
But, during fashion week, it’s about serving the designers and brands who work so hard all year to produce art. To cultivate an inspiration, to craft a sample, to fit, to envision, and to produce a journey of clothes that takes 5-10 minutes to present.
So- while the fashion industry continues to divide itself exponentially, I worry we are not actually improving or expanding the heart of the fashion industry. And if there ever was a time to do it, it would NYFW.
I think it’s time to refocus.