In the week that Grace Coddington branded Instagram ‘pathetic’, we explore the most on-off love story of modern times, the relationship between the discerning world of fashion and the cruel mistress that is social media. There are hundreds of examples of brands embracing and harnessing the potential power of social media, and yet we shouldn’t ignore the undercurrent, it seems the two could be falling out of love. The high fashion veterans who built respect for their brands the old fashioned way appear to be turning their backs on the social media generation. So are Instagram announcements and online exclusives the future of fashion, or are the elusive designers and growing backlash a sign of things to come? We consider both sides of the love story…
The Social Butterflies
The fashion industry, like every aspect of modern life is becoming more interactive by the second. Designers that publicly swore against social media are suddenly racking up followers on Instagram, brand new project #GucciGram is encouraging us to share and appreciate art from across the world via our mobile, and Hermès have even taken their world digital, with new online platform, ‘Hermèsistible’.
In the wake of Elbaz’s exit from Lanvin and Simons’ from Dior, we ask ourselves is this the end of luxury fashion? And more than that, is that necessarily a bad thing?
Houses are increasingly finding themselves having to try and fill the void between their traditional extravagance and commercial success in the modern market. For the first time ever, we can appreciate, understand and ‘participate’ in high fashion without having to be able to foot the bill. With Elbaz releasing a statement wishing Lanvin success in finding a ‘business vision’, and Lanvin citing his removal due to a lack of‘ creative designs’, the precarious relationship between business and creativity has reared its head once again.
Take yourself back even to as recently as five years ago and it would have been shocking to think some of the major fashion houses across the world would be creating clothes for the likes of Kim Kardashian. Aside from her physical proportions being a typical in high fashion, she is the queen of social media. These designers were the epitome of class, timelessness and style. Kim on the other hand became famous for that video, and yet she’s now posting selfies with Karl Lagerfeld, suddenly we see the world of fashion as we now know it.
Okay, so we can’t attribute this entire shift to Kim, but the influence of these social media figures: The Kardashians, the Hadid sisters and their reality star mother, Olivier Rousteing and his celebrity posse, shouldn’t be underestimated.
Rousteing is the new breed of designer and creative director, with 1.7 million Instagram followers, he is not simply embracing social media personally, but actively and strategically employing it to hone real commercial gain. Look no further than his most recent project, a foray into high street fashion with the H&M x Balmain collection. Would the collection have gained such popularity, media hype and attention had it not been so heavily promoted and teased via social media? Almost certainly not.
As Simons puts it, ‘now high fashion is for everybody’. It’s undeniable, the catwalk is more accessible than ever, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook along with digital versions of all our favourite fashion publications means that we not only have the trends faster than ever, but we feel like the models and designers showcasing them are practically close friends. Suddenly, we’ve been given a backstage VIP pass.
It’s 2015, and there’s no denying that fashion and social media have achieved an unbreakable bond, they’re BFF’s. You can follow your favourite brands, designers and models on most social media platforms. You know what they eat for breakfast, you glimpse upcoming collections and are bombarded by their selfies. Great, right? Well, perhaps not. Many consider fashion an art form, collections are crafted carefully, hours of creativity being injected into each look. Whilst it’s great that social media is making the world of high fashion far more accessible, we must ask is the fast paced, timeline-led world of social media killing the art of fashion? Fashion lovers once ritualistically poured over September Vogue to deconstruct the shows, the trends and the looks. Now we consume our fashion through the flick of a thumb; rather than loving and knowing our favourite designer’s new collection, instead we simply award it with a ‘like’.
Let’s rewind a couple of decades, back to when Mark Zuckerberg was but a boy. It’s the early 80’s and things are about to get shaken up at Paris Fashion Week. Martin Margiela and Rei Kawakubo both debuted their first ever, ground breaking collections, and truly changed the direction fashion was heading. Each collection was so far away from what any other designer was doing at the time both were met with mixed reactions at first. But it’s fair to say that over the years both their fashion houses Commes Des Garcons, and Maison Margiela have become strong leaders in the ever-expanding fashion pack. At the same time as being at the top of their game, they are also some of the most reclusive and mysterious figures in fashion – Kawakubo has not been photographed since 2005, and Margiela is hailed as fashion’s greatest mystery.
Although we might love stalking Kendall and Cara on Instagram, it’s fair to say that perhaps a touch of the aura of mystery that can make high fashion so appealing has been lost in a sea of Olivier Rousting’s selfies. I’m not saying we should ban designers from social media, but perhaps just feeling a little nostalgic for a time where what you knew of a designer was your favourite piece from their latest collection, and not what they had for breakfast.
So is social media and digital shifting the way forward, a solution to the future of transparency and popularity of high fashion, or merely encouraging the changes which ultimately are killing the industry? The fashion machine is becoming saturated, not only do we want a turn around at a speed which has never been seen before, but we also want quality, passion, creative flair and originality. We want to be shocked, and impressed by things we’ve never seen before. More increasingly, we also want to know how it’s happening, every step of the way, and now, for the first time ever we also want to know all about the designers creating them, they are transitioning from celebrated creative to celebrities. And yet ‘we’, the young public collective are largely not the ones consuming these collections. Of course we’re admiring them, trawling through the highstreet for the trends they’ve so helpfully guided us towards, but we’re not actually buying designer pieces. So is it possible we are asking for too much? All of this over a selfie or two…