The Future of Fashion in the Digital Age: Social Media Might Be Here to Stay

In today’s day and age, names like Aya Jones and Joan Smalls are commonplace to pretty much anyone with a Tumblr blog and a slight interest in high-end fashion, but just under a few decades ago, keeping apace with trends in the garment industry was an activity left strictly to an exclusive group of designers, fashion journalists and those aspiring to be either. While we can thank the ever-increasing presence of the Internet for this newfound harmony between gif creators and fashion snobs, the hosts and attendees of fashion shows everywhere are less than enthusiastic about the influence of social media.

The problem is quite simple—fashion shows are a hassle. Consider this: you’re a journalist living in California, and a mere glimpse into New York Fashion week necessitates purchasing a plane ticket to travel 2000 miles (once you should be so lucky as to receive an invitation) and spending thousands of dollars to attend just a few shows out of the roughly 250 available. Comparatively, the recent surge of collaborations between designers and social media platforms like KCD, a PR team dedicated to the digital output of fashion news, has led to the addition of seats in the front row at high-end designer shows including Calvin Klein and Alexander McQueen for anyone willing to log on to Facebook.

Screenshot of Alexander McQueen SP16 on livestream.com

Screenshot of Alexander McQueen SP16 on livestream.com

To join this movement in the digital age, clothing brands aren’t just streaming low bit rate feeds to home viewers. Instead, many brands have begun working directly with Instagram to create what’s now being called the “InstaShoot," a collection of videos or photos prepared, created, and edited to be released on Instagram as the brand’s release show. While many brands—including Calvin Klein—have utilized this trend to showcase their material through different creative outlets in addition to their fashion shows, upcoming designers (typically those not yet big enough to be displayed with the giants of NYFW) and online users are suggesting a full-blown replacement.

This radical and controversial proposition reintroduces the classic clash between young and old, money or tradition. With venues like the Lincoln Center in New York costing up to $100,000—not including lighting, stylists, models and more—a six figure bill becomes the fashion show norm.

Who would support this outrageous tradition, then? The profiters, of course. Perhaps those with the most fear of the fashion industry’s digital movement are those within elite celebrity circles, such as Beyoncé Knowles and Rihanna, both of whom received close to $100,000 each to sit front row at fashion shows in 2010 and 2012, respectively. As for the hosts of the show, the publicity for the brand (not to mention costs of the tickets for normal attendants) seems to make it all worth it. 

 With facts and figures like these, supporting the side of tradition sounds rather impossible, but fashion shows do provide substantial benefits for those who stand to gain financially as well as those who simply enjoy a good show. Additionally, the revenue accrued by the event speaks for itself: On average, NYFW, through hotels, restaurants, retail stores and leasing venues, rakes in $850 million each year for the New York economy.

As for the traditionalist team that makes these shows happen, it all boils down to the beauty of live art and well-constructed presentation. The showmanship is what it is all about. The same concept could easily be applied to other creative forms, such as music and art galleries. Although iTunes is a beautiful invention, it cannot replace the experience of attending a music festival like Lollapalooza, so why try to fit all of fashion expression into Instagram look-books? If there is a valid reason to love this new digital form, and people are not overly angered along the way, it seems as though it is the natural next step in an ever-evolving industry.

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