Fashion is nothing but an industry which heartily embraces the new and so it should come as no surprise that a digital revolution is already firmly in place. From the live streaming of catwalk shows to the continual tweets offered courtesy of either bloggers or the brands themselves, it is apparent that fashion’s relationship with the digital goes beyond the print on a Mary Katrantzou dress.
Miuccia Prada has been particularly embracing of technological possibilities, with both Miu Miu and Prada shows being live streamed on sites such as style.com, who then provide commentary and reports on the collection in the minutes and hours following.
In Britain, the great success story has been that of Burberry Prorsum who not only live stream their shows, but make designs available for purchase via their website a few seconds after the show ends. This encourages sales as it catches people in the moment of post-catwalk adrenaline rush. Still captivated by the excitement of the new designs, there is no enforced ‘Do I really need this?’ period, only the heady buzz of ‘I want that NOW!’
One of the main comments regarding this technological change is that it ‘democratises’ fashion. This, of course, can be a bad thing as fashion thrives on being elitist. It has to be founded on dreams and products which are partly desirable because they are so inaccessible to the majority. Tom Ford has deliberately shunned making his shows accessible to anyone but a handful of invited guests who are not allowed to disclose what is taking place by tweeting or photographing it.
It has been presumed that Ford’s rejection of digitalising his collections is down to a type of snobbery. However, he also prefers to not use the catwalk as a display platform at all, regardless of who is watching. Speaking at the Vogue Festival 2012, he explained that “The reason I present in a small controlled way is that so much of what makes my clothes special is the cut, the stitching, the lining – things that would be lost on the catwalk. On the catwalk you have to exaggerate, almost.” Presumably this exaggeration would need to be increased even more for designs to look effective when shown on a computer screen or iPad.
Tom Ford, aside, the idea that digital technology truly democratizes fashion is still slightly suspect. Instead, it is more accurate to think of it in the same terms as owning a designer lipstick or perfume: it offers lower-income customers the chance to get a glimpse into or own a tiny snippet of what they truly covet. As with cosmetics, it cements a brand’s international image and allows a little access into the world of designer fashion.
Yet, as with cosmetics, there is still a gulf between owning a Chanel nail varnish in particulière and a bouclé jacket. No matter how many shows go over to live streaming, it will still not be the same as actually being at the event. Reading the tweet is not the same as sending it.
However, there is still room for democracy in the digital revolution. It is within Tumblr, twitter, the blogosphere and (latest obsession) Pinterest, that fashion has disseminated like never before. For not only do we now have access to established fashionistas or brands spreading their style news and inspiration, we are also able to show the world our own mood boards of inspiration and motley street style.
Whilst vogue.co.uk features a ‘Today I’m Wearing…’ slot profiling the daily sartorial choices of a chosen celebrity, there are also legions of blogs dedicated to exactly the same idea, but instead compiled by individuals themselves across the globe. Now major blogs by Susie Lau and Tavi Gevinson started out in exactly this way.
In addition to vogue.com, there are also a wealth of other fashion websites up and running as all the established magazines, along with lesser known publications, tender websites rich with both the contents of the printed magazines and extra substance. As price points can be high for magazines, particularly the luxe, experimental ones like Dazed and Confused, I-D and Wonderland, this makes more content – including imbedded interactive snippets – freely available.
Also, going back to the live streaming catwalk debate, whilst Tom Ford can opt out of the technology, and even use his choice to his advantage, for many up and coming designers the internet is their number one marketing tool. A quick look at style.com will reveal that along with Prada and Burberry, there will be a sizable collection of new names as well. As the chances are that you will get to see the big name collections repeatedly though out the season, it might be a more savvy idea to savour the opportunity to glimpse the next big thing.
With the additional access to catwalk shows and backstage gossip now available it seems there was never a better time to not only be inspired by designers, but also to share all your pinned, tweeted and blogged ideas with likeminded people. It’s a revolution and we’re not all wearing red.