As the excitement of London Fashion Week descended once more onto the capital, social media networks were abuzz with tweeters, viners and instagrammers documenting every minute of the spectacle. Through them, we were given an insight into backstage preparations, every look sent down the runway and, of course, the post-show parties. Outfits were captured both on the catwalk and outside on the streets, with models’, bloggers’ and editors’ ensembles almost as important as those on show themselves.
The introduction of social media to the fashion world has won endless praise from those who benefit from the accessibility it has created, but others criticise the constant use of phones for detracting attention from, and trivialising, the designer’s vision. Nevertheless the ferocity of the debate on the relationship between fashion and social media has shown just how significantly technology has affected the fashion world, with designers now striving to keep up with and incorporate the latest developments in the most innovative way possible.
With the advent of blogging, London Fashion Week has become increasingly well documented; the general public no longer has to wait for newspapers and magazines to print select pictures of shows. Instead reports are available daily, both from the shows and all occurrences outside of them, with readers being able to tailor their consumption according to different bloggers’ tastes. Furthermore, Twitter and Instagram now mean that every single look is captured and instantly transmitted to the thousands of followers that bloggers amass. High-profile models, such as Cara Delevingne, also captured every backstage moment, showing not only the finished product of fashion week, but the preparation needed to create it.
A noticeable shift has occurred in the attitudes of both the British Fashion Council and designers themselves, with most of the latter embracing the increased accessibility to their shows. Live-streaming was used by around half of the designers to broadcast instantaneously to the internet, meaning there are now no boundaries concerning who can experience their creations. In order to promote London Fashion Week around the city, television channels with bulletins were broadcast at tube stations and free pop-up cinemas screened fashion-themed films. For those interested, London Fashion Week could become a multimedia event to become fully immersed into, experiencing both the shows and backstage as if you were there.
While fashion was once a closed circle, open only to those who could afford it or had worked their way up a very demanding ladder, social media has now democratised many areas of the industry. Designers now receive an instant reaction not only from critics, but the general public who can easily express their approval or disapproval at the click of a button, increasing the significance of their opinion. We no longer have to wait for trends to filter down to the high street, but can instantly be used as inspiration to create our own individual take on it.
Equally, there is a pressure on designers to aim their collections at a far wider public, and try harder to capture attention. As with the music industry, young unknown designers have also received a boost from social media, being able to immediately showcase their designs to thousands on the internet rather than wait for sponsors to enable large scale advertising campaigns. Social media has democratised the fashion world not just for spectators, but for designers alike.
Yet the increased presence of technology at London Fashion Week has caused many to question whether focus on both the clothes and the visions of designers has been lost. Instead of taking in the venue, sights and sounds of a show, many are too preoccupied taking pictures for Instagram or tweeting their opinions on the show to truly appreciate the creations in front of them that have been laboured over for months. We love to see the newest haut couture on our Instagram feed, but does it not trivialise the catwalks and remove the sense of exclusivity that truly makes us long to be on the front row?
Not only does technology provide a distraction, this also serves as somewhat of an insult to the designer, with The Independent’s fashion editor Alex Fury noting that applause seems more muted when people are so busy capturing the finale on their tablets. Our idealistic image of fashion critics dressed in haut couture, watching totally consumed as the models parade down the catwalk, has been transformed into a row of social media gadgets. Mobile phones and iPads can ruin the experience for others, whose view will be obtrusively blocked by a sea of LED screens. Even those who are lucky enough to be invited to the shows end up watching them through a screen.
For designers, the boom of social media can be both a blessing and a curse. For small designers, social media is a form of free advertising, and for bigger brands, a way of making their exclusive and selective market available to everyone. The beauty of bloggers and celebrities doing this through social media is that when the public sees a glimpse of Burberry’s catwalk show through one of Cara Delevingne’s Instagram feed, it makes the viewer feel as though they are part of the exclusivity, rather than Burberry lowering itself to a high street brand. In many ways the explosion in social media is fantastic PR stunt, but it does mean that the brand has to relinquish control to the front row bloggers. They no longer have total control over how they are perceived, and must trust that they will be captured elegantly and win approval.
Does it not feel like there is something of a contradiction in this globalisation of the high fashion world? When we pore over an endless stream of Prada, Chanel, Tom Form and Burberry on our Twitter and Instagram feeds, we feel as though we can almost feel the models whisking past us. In reality, however, Fashion Week is still preserved for the privileged few. The designs seen on the catwalk will only fall into the hands of those at the shows, not those following them on Twitter. There has been a decided attempt by designers this year to make their clothing targeted more at a commercial market. There is a necessity to widen the market to the layperson. But to what extent is this all just a façade? We might fool ourselves into believing that Fashion Week can be breathed in and soaked up by all, but in reality, it is remains a world that many of us will never reach.
Social media has undoubtedly had a profound impact on the world of fashion, forcing both designers and the British Fashion Council to expand access in order to keep up with their competitors. Brands now strive to use technology in the most innovative and exciting way possible to increase consumption of the clothes they produce. Yet while widening accessibility it a positive force, this should not be done at the cost of the desingers’ creativity. The hard work that goes into each individual show could never be expressed in a single tweet or instagram picture, and so those with direct access to designs must also strive to ensure that just as much care is taken in representing a designer and their work to the public. While social media has become a firmly entrenched part of London Fashion Week, the idea of fast, disposable fashion needs to be kept at bay.