Once a rarefied realm inhabited almost exclusively by the most prominent editors, buyers and stylists, the runway has become increasingly democratized via the burgeoning confluence of fashion and technology. While some industry insiders may grumble at the perceived power erosion, the majority seem to widely (and wisely) embrace what was all but inevitable. Now that the digital revolution is officially here, expect the autumn/winter ’10 collections to serve as a template for fashion’s future.
Dismissed early on as the virtual equivalent of a too-much-information mini-convo, Twitter is now the go-to platform for real time fashion commentary. Formerly the sole province of young bloggers and tech-savvy VIPs, the microblogging service has gained increasing traction with critics, models and designers alike. Grace Coddington, André Leon Talley and Cathy Horyn are all recent, once-reluctant converts, having joined the ranks of everyone from Stefano Gabbana and Stella McCartney to A-list mannequins like Abbey Lee Kershaw, Karlie Kloss and Coco Rocha.
Retailers too, are finding Twitter indispensable. Net-a-Porter, ShopBop and Sephora all use the service, as do brands such as Gucci, Topshop and American Apparel. Broadening one’s virtual base—consumer or otherwise—has arguably been the main catalyst in jumping on the bandwagon, giving followers a feeling of insider exclusivity. Similarly, many of the most widely read fashion news outlets and blogs like The Moment, Style, and WWD use Twitter for runway scoops as well as for behind the scenes backstage and party videos and pics.
Both Prada and Calvin Klein used video to showcase their label’s respective offerings, the former via a quirky, accessories-heavy, Steven Meisel-helmed advert that quickly went viral. While stills from the video could seamlessly translate to the pages of spring fashion mags, Calvin Klein’s adults-only underwear commercial necessitated sound. Though the expletives were bleeped, viewers knew exactly what Kellan Lutz et al. were getting at with their attention-getting-albeit-questionable “Do You Wanna?” queries.
Another all-access must-have this season is live streaming video via hosts like ShowStudio, Facebook or, aptly, LiveStream.com. Rodarte, Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs and Proenza Schouler were among the biggest New York names to invite anyone with an internet connection to get up close and personal with their fall collections. Across the pond, meanwhile, labels such as Louise Gray, Hussein Chalayan and Basso & Brooke did the same thing for London Fashion Week. Granted, House of Holland took the tech conceit one step further by teaming up with BlackBerry to introduce an app enabling users to buy pieces directly from the runway.
Burberry followed suit, allowing consumers to pre-order a selection of looks instantaneously via its website for 72 hours only. The bigger story out of LFW (and perhaps of the entire season), however, was the company’s decision to go 3-D. Select editors, critics and buyers in five cities worldwide donned a pair of very special glasses to view the show, while an estimated 100 million viewers caught the global simulcast via Vogue and CNN’s sites. Despite a number of technical difficulties with the live feed, most users responded positively to the collection, either via the Burberry stream itself or Twitter, natch.
Both the limited-time pre-sale of merchandise and 3-D presentation were widely heralded as master strokes. Still, the latter might have ultimately been more of a canny PR coup than trailblazing initiative, given many editors’ preference for still being present in-person. Any label seeking to replicate that success next season runs the risk of looking derivative. Not so with live streaming, on the other hand, which we predict will be the industry norm very soon, enabling the jaded and jetlagged to catch just about any label from the comfort of home or a hotel. Video adverts (particularly those featuring big name photogs and Hollywood celebs) will also likely continue to generate headlines, albeit briefly.
Speaking of brevity, Twitter is here to stay—at least until another, equal parts addictive-and-informative system supplants it.