Internet Killed the Fashion Show Star?

I am no business analyst, but I have just enough experience in the field to know that the current construct of business by high end fashion houses is fiscally ludicrous. The current practice: spend exorbitant amounts of money to host a party (of sorts) to showcase your creations live when the payoff is marginal at best.

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Chanel Spring 15 Couture – AP PHOTO/JACQUES BRINON

 

At one time, important fashion industry people sat in a room and decided the aesthetic for future seasons. Colors, techniques, silhouettes, trends, staples – it was all decided for us. Much like that incredible lumpy blue sweater scene in The Devil Wears Prada.

This Stuff

 

And yes, the concept still does happen, but not in the same way. Decisions do not hinge only on runway shows, as that is not the only time buyers and the public have to see the pieces. Major buyers can now just as easily decide what they will carry based on static images, and visits to the fashion houses to see the pieces up close, and many now do.

In the age of internet and social media, as well as incredible photo/video technology, information spreads about collections almost instantly. Some looks go viral in a matter of hours. So the margins of profit directly or indirectly incurred from fashion shows themselves are getting narrower and narrower.

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The famous “is it white or blue” dress

Think about it. The brand most likely already has celebrity ambassadors. And other non-ambassador stars are filmed on red carpets and publicized in street style edits wearing the brand’s pieces. So the notoriety that celebrities bring to the brand by attending the fashion show is minimal when compared to the other sources of celeb brand publicity.

One could argue that the fashion show allows viewers to gain a more dynamic understanding of the collection. Viewers can see how pieces look from all sides with details more apparent than a brand’s static photo shoot. And that’s completely true. How much this gains the brand in actual sales is questionable….but this could be solved with a video shoot of the collection, which is still considerably more cost effective.

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Givenchy Spring 16 Couture

Fashion houses face pressures like never before to protect their profits from the ever-growing fast fashion competition. There will always be high end buyers for top labels. Those buyers are not in question.

But there are two groups that fast fashion companies are pulling away from high end brands for potential sales – the upper class millennials, and the upper-middle class coveteurs. Both are being drawn to fast fashion brands for their inexpensive options that are starting to look closer and closer to the expensive originals. Young buyers are much savvier than in eras past thanks to instant comparison shopping online.

So if tweens, teens, and 20-somethings can buy chic looks without having to ask their parents for a few thousand for purchases they know will get scrutinized, they’re going to often choose the path of least resistance, especially if they look (almost) as good. If they have to ask for the money, these shoppers are going to pick and choose more closely what they’re willing to invest more in (and ask for) – usually handbags, shoes, and major identifiable pieces. Cheap chic is a concept many companies are jumping on, like Target, which recently paired with major fashion labels like Lily Pulitzer and Altuzarra to target millennial fashionistas who want a middle option between cheap or Chanel.

Altuzarra for Target

The coveteurs take a similar approach. They have high end taste and want the latest amazing pieces, but they don’t have endless amounts of discretionary funds. A top brand purchase is a splurge for this group, so their staples will be more moderately priced purchases. And now, if there is a gorgeous piece they absolutely have to have, it’s no longer just a choice of save, splurge, or buy a cheap knock-off. They now have many fast fashion brands creating similar pieces at significantly lower costs immediately after the high fashion original is showcased on the runway, thanks to the increasing competition between fast fashion brands to quickly create similar on-trend looks.

Is it right? Yes and no. Major fashion houses do the same thing – create their own version of a trend. But many fast fashion brands have taken the practice too far by literally knocking off a particular piece. The line is blurry depending on who you ask, but for me, that line is very clear. If a company creates the exact same item, trying to create the exact same look, they’re clearly attempting to steal intellectual property. That’s why there are so many legal cases right now for trademark infringement.

YSL Bag Comparison
Left: “Wemen [sic] Genuine Leather Raplica [sic] Handbag” sold on Alibaba // Right: Yves Saint Laurent Cabas Chyc Leather Tote
Unfortunately, the current self-imposed release schedules create ample opportunity for knockoff companies to steal and perfect the exact look before the original is even available. When designers are running a season behind, what is shown today on the runway is not available for months. But the world has seen it, and the fast fashion companies have detailed photos, and can now copy the item and make their version available before Yves Saint Laurent ever sells their first Cabas Chyc bag, or before Chanel ever sells their first quilted tote.

Further, fashion week is more like fashion month as models and industry professionals run a marathon across the globe from New York to London to Milan to Paris. Those are just a sampling, really of all the cities running fashion weeks. And each fashion week is jam packed with more and more designers each year. Plus, it’s not just A/W and S/S anymore…you have Pre-Fall, Resort, RTW, Couture, Bridal…It’s dizzying to watch, so I can’t imagine how difficult it is to maintain.

So with all of these factors weighing against fashion shows, why do major label companies still continue to spend so much money on them for so little gain? Well, a few fashion houses have decided to buck the trend. With so much competition, the idea of exclusivity is being replaced by direct targeting of the consumer. Have you been inside a Michael Kors shop lately? For all that is holy, his retail salespeople are covered in eau de commission desperation.

Tom Ford has canceled the New York Fashion Week show, adopting a see now, buy now model starting in September. Burberry recently announced that it will only have two seasonless annual fashion shows, and also plans to make its collections available immediately. In an interview with Business of Fashion, Proenza Schouler designer Jack McCollough explained why the design house is experimenting with only releasing photos of a small pre-season collection in May, coinciding with the collection’s release in stores. “The customer is watching these runway shows. By the time it ships six months later, it’s kind of old news to them.” So true.

The success of these early experiments will potentially determine the business models of the fashion industry, and the survival or demise of runway shows and fashion weeks. Is this a vision of the fashion future? Are we now standing at the precipice of a new era? Did the internet kill the fashion show (star)?

I must admit, I love fashion week. It is one thing I look forward to with great anticipation. The experience cannot be replaced, and it can be thrilling to see inventive concepts, beautiful creations, and absolute artistry on the runway for the first time. Yes, the images of those same pieces soon inundate social media, and you become very familiar with them.

But everyone remembers the runway show where they saw their first Piet Mondrian-esque color blocking technique. Or the resurgence of the nautical motif. Or the ombre effect. The very first time we experienced those looks coming down the runway, it was a wow moment. The concept was fresh, new, and it felt like a new relationship…exciting. No photo shoot can really replace that moment.

Selfishly, I hope that the runway show never really goes away. Perhaps a balance will be struck to incorporate faster fashion availability with the show schedules, and labels will make those looks immediately available after the runway show like Burberry. Still, it really doesn’t make financial sense to keep doing it. So perhaps this is the beginning of the end. Maybe one day, our grandchildren will be asking what Chanel and Dior runways were like. I certainly hope not.

 

See Part II here.

 

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89 thoughts on “Internet Killed the Fashion Show Star?

  1. You raise some great points. I do think that, like many things, if shows disappear for awhile, they will return as an art form. The other side of the coin is the fast fashion ethical issue–to have fast fashion, many companies incorporate slavery into their affordability scheme. A balance of fair trade, humane work conditions and ethics, a slowing down and appreciation of our fashions, and an appreciation of it as an art form as well as an industry need to happen. Just my thoughts. Thanks for letting me share. Love your blog!

    1. Absolutely – all great points! I would much rather pay a moderate price for a garment if it was produced by ethical means.

      I hope the runway show never disappears completely – and you’re right. It could turn more into an art event only. That would be interesting to see!

      1. Hey! You made a very interesting point leading back to your post. But I personally think that fashion shows are made to express art, designers need credit and therefore fashion shows are there to give it. Fashion shows inspire others and that’s another reason why it is made! And even though brands copy their ideas, they ae there to inspire! Being a person who is literally obsessed with fashion, that’s my opinion. Your blog is really chic :))))) x

  2. Really interesting piece. I hope it stays too, and believe it will. As above, I think they can be seen as art, and do believe that the designers benefit in the showcasing with elaborate shows and getting themselves talked about. Magazines still feature the runway shows. I might just be saying all of this because I don’t want them to go ever!

    1. I know! Despite all the business reasons for them to go away, I still really hope they stay. So many designers are testing a new method this runway season, so I’m crossing my fingers!

  3. The 3 photos all in 1 row, are fantastic examples why it’s helpful to see certain (expensive) garments on a real human being. It’s very difficult for certain styles to envision it on a hangar or even on a mannequin.

    1. I can’t agree with you more. So many times, I’ve disregarded pieces in pictures or on the hanger that end up looking amazing on the body. Another great argument in support of in-person runway shows!

      1. I used to sew 80% of my wardrobe before cycling passion bit me. Now, I simply spend more money on travel and cycling gear. But I still enjoy watching occasional fashion show on tv, because to me, it’s like watching art.

  4. What would we do without the excitement of the runway? I am a savvy shopper and don’t but the runway looks but love the shows. It would be awesome to attend.

  5. The dress is always gold and white. I was going crazy when it was trending on social media. Well, I do have to say that fashion bloggers have to stay on their toes because the industry is always changing. I wish you the best!

    Angela
    http://yosantana.com

  6. What a great post. Insightful. I agree with another commenter that if shows go away, the public loves fashion week so I am sure something similar but different would replace it.

  7. Personally, I think the whole notion of this “type” of fashion show is out of touch with what people want or are looking for when they think of fashion. I know a significant number of both men and women who want haute couture “their way”; a reflection of both their personal style, expression and their generation. In short, it needs to be relevant! Sorry about the rant, but this is a pet peeve of mine🙂

    1. That makes sense. Custom is so often reserved for special cases and celebrities. But once you get up into the couture price point, why shouldn’t more personalized offerings be available?

      It’s like those incredibly outdated restaurants/chefs that find it offensive when a customer asks for salt and pepper. People have different tastes in fashion just as they have different palettes.

      Great point!

  8. This ‘people’s challenge’ to big business racketeering is an exciting development of chic people power. I hope it manifests in other, more decisive fields as well.

  9. You made great sense in your write up. It is quite interesting How the internet is changing the business environment.
    But is all for good.

    Check out What makes a Real Man at dorchesterdotcom.wordpress.com

  10. Fashion, and the way its marketed has always fluctuated I guess. But it’s all vanity.
    What matters is a heart that believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. He never fluctuates, and the life that He offers to the world is eternal.
    Think about this…
    By believing on Him, (not religion or morality), one receives His righteousness And His sanctification.
    No more guilt, forever.
    Now that’s a reason to be happy.
    Kind regards

    1. To be fair, most designers don’t give out detailed descriptions of their runway pieces either. Even their own websites mostly just show pictures, no information. It’s a cultural change that I don’t really believe has actually replaced the runway, but rather is a norm for designers, editors, and bloggers alike.

      1. You have a good point there. Unfortunately, the norm can be very daunting. I think those of us who crave the details and information about the fashions and the critiques and the real journalism want it back!

  11. Where is good taste in fashion? Has social media destroyed what it means to dress well?
    I just keep seeing more distorted rags. Please give me good design and decent fabrics.
    There should be a ban on plastic clothes. Polyester makes people look cheap. Try
    silk/cotton blends maybe more expensive but can be worth it.

  12. Great article! I’m not a fashion follower, but I’m an artist facing a similar situation. People often send me a picture of something they’ve seen and ask for me to paint it. Also, I follow other artists that I admire. Sometimes, I’ll recreate something I’ve seen and put my spin on it. Before, when art was my hobby, I didn’t really think about it, but now that I have begun to make money; I’ve started wondering about it being right or wrong. I’m not sure; but it kinda sounds like your main point, too.

  13. I definitely am not current in the fashion world but I am someone who cares about cultures. I also hope that the culture of fashion shows does not die out just like I hope that the culture of free writing doesn’t die out. Fashion shows have been present in so many years that it would be a shame to see them fade away.

  14. I really agree with many points you brought up. I work in the fashion industry and can see where the company I work for depends on the Internet and social media. The trends are so fast that every week we’re working on at least 20+ new samples (only some of which get chosen though)! And with the QLD killing Brisbane Fashion Week, Aussie fashion’s candle is dimming. However, like most other industries, evolution in presentation of product will always change, but there will always, always be those that choose tradition. 4 out of 5 of my fashion school alumni from USA are currently working as designers and they all present on runway. Thank you for your article!

  15. Fashion shows are indeed unjustifiably expensive; they probably should’t be carried out the same extravagant way they’ve been done for the past decades, especially not when everything else is adjusting rapidly to our practical, digital- speed lifestyle. I too think that if they’d disappear for sometime and return as pure art live exhibitions, that shall serve fashion industry and creative inspiration much better

  16. This is an interesting point of view. I never really thought about it this way. Your blog seems really cool and I enjoy your style of writing. I’ve just started my blog with my friend ( poeticeloquence.wordpress.com ) and well, it’s not as great as yours but we would love feedback from you! We just pour words on our blog and if you could give us some feedback, it would be great! Seriously, your blog is great and we would love it if we can get feedback from someone who is as established as you. Good luck with all of your writing endeavors!

  17. what conclusion can i say is about your point here is, because its 21 st century, and the trend is always changing, its technology era,its globalization,everyone love using the internet if you can relise that we blogging using the internet am i right,i like the fashions show. but i can prevent the internet kills the fashions star from it happening im sorry for that, and i have my ambition i want to be fashions designer one day of my own product

  18. Such a great post! I loved your views on the topic and the way that the internet influences every aspect of our lives now and that if it wasn’t for it, we wouldn’t all be gathered on this page today. Although I believe that it’s all about evolving to new generations and new technologies, I strongly believe that some things, such as fashion shows, should never change.

    Love your writing, keep posting!🙂

  19. Personally, I hope that the runway shows never die. I love the idea of fashion week, the runway shows, the drama, the music, the clothes, the themes. For someone like me, who appreciates the hard work designers put in for a show, it’s heart-breaking to think that fast fashion brands and the high-street will replicate some of the most original and innovate creations, just so that the fashion conscious consumer can own an affordable replica of a masterpiece. But then again, as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And, we can have global trends only if the high street steps in.
    Please check out my blog http://magicwandsandunicorns.com/

  20. Great article!! Your point of view is interesting and one that i’ve occasionally thought about. Its nice to see you articulate it so well🙂

  21. Thank you share this blog!Actually internet can spread everything at the most as soon as the download is possible and the popularization of a personal modèl really breaks the heart of the designer which invented it. Nevertheless internet is the fastest way to publish everything and help many companies to compete against time. We have to all meet to defend the right of the creators again modèl to secure more their sites against the illicit copies

  22. This site makes you think about the beauty of the Stars to sell of a colossal sum which internet can make vulgar or popular while the Stars use internet to be published in their world of celebrity to return them more and more famous – it is contradictory but I believe the one has besion of the other one if they want to be published or to remain locked into their world of little affordable luxury to everybody

  23. Nice piece. I think without the expensiveness of fashion shows and the decisions of a few on which color or style is in season, fashion will not be valued the way it is now.

  24. Nice piece. I think without the expensiveness of fashion shows and the decision of a few on which color or style is in season, fashion will not be valued the way it is now.

  25. It’s become faster. They are not lost, just replaced faster than it possible to see the star rising. I mean new fashion is ready to create person, but can’t except using movie stars.

  26. Millenials have the upper-hand when it comes to online shopping, especially by comparing past trends. Most retailers try to please that middle ground of shoppers who don’t want to pay the big bucks, but also don’t want to settle for garbage quality.

  27. Wow, what an interesting and well written post. I don’t think the runways will ever go away, it’s just such a classic and traditional event that it would be so weird if it no longer existed. I think so many people love fashion week so much and do so much for it that it will never go away. I just started my blog and it would really mean a lot if you could check it out! It touches on fashion, beauty and how to style clothing as a young college student with a budget. Here is one of my most recent posts. https://girlwearingblack.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/whats-trending/
    Thanks!

  28. This was an eye opening article for me, I didn’t have an appreciation for how things were working! I am an old fashioned fashionista who loves the idea of the fashion show, the excitement of being exposed to a brand new collection and my mind starts ticking over the designers inspiration. I hope they remain and do not become a thing of the past! Thankyou for sharing, I feel I have a much better understanding🙂

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