Gone are the days of elaborate halls with pillars and high ceilings, bedecked with swathes of coloured silk and encrusted with the most expensive decorations money can buy. Over the last few years designers have embraced the burgeoning digital media trend, making the most of the new avenues now available to them in order to connect with customers on a more intimate level.
The catwalks of late have been much more low-key spaces, in order for all eyes be directed towards the overt political statements on the clothes themselves. A fine example is the Christian Dior SS 17 ready to wear show, which featured a simple, boardwalk style catwalk in pale, yellow toned wood. This, the creamy white backdrop and the fairly soft lighting complemented the collection.
By contrast, there are designers like Tommy Hilfiger for whom it seems the most important thing is to put on the biggest, brashest show possible; as we saw from him 2016 New York Fashion Week “fairground”. This carnival style event took place upon a pier, complete with rides, stalls and frequent opportunities to buy the collection straight away around every corner.
This bizarrely wonderful celebration of his work was made even more high profile by what could be considered as another aspect of fashion’s future: Gigi Hadid and her celebrity model posse. These young, unfairly long-legged women are the fashion community’s gateway to the young buyers of today, so I don’t blame Tommy Hilfiger for milking every possible publicity opportunity with Gigi, be it collaborations on collections, photo shoots or live Snapchat takeovers on the brand account.
Nowadays, social media acts as a translator from the couture elite to the everyday shopper. Businesses are finally utilising social media to take full advantage of today’s “impulse buyer” culture, such as the Facebook “chat bot” function. This allows automated programs to respond to queries and even take orders over the Internet, and the use of digital avenues doesn’t stop there. Snapchat stories, used by millions of everyday people to record their experiences, are now an integral part of brand advertisement when it comes to Fashion Week.
Many designers premier their shows on Snapchat the day before, using the “live stories” function, and the behind the scenes action is also shown live in order to give viewers a feeling of being an “insider” in the world of fashion. No longer are hemlines pinned out of sight of customers, and makeup applied behind firmly closed doors. The idea that fashion shows must have ostentatious exteriors and completely secret inner workings is dying just as quickly as social media’s hold upon the industry intensifies. Backstage peeks give the potential customers the delicious feeling of being involved, whilst businesses use Instagram to give an overview of the brand as a whole, and to showcase their designs in staged photographs.
The fashion industry will only continue to cash in on the opportunities social media platforms provide in the future, and as our society swings more and more in a digital direction, brand after brand will have to adapt to these new ways of working. Relying on prestige and tradition is no longer a viable option- it’s every man for himself, and with young buyers aplenty, the earliest bird to tweet will inevitably catch the consumer worm.