The row of chairs flanking a high-fashion runway- also known as Front Row– used to be the most coveted seats at the production. A symbol of status, Anna Wintour, Andre Leon Talley, and celebrity muses, to name a few, worked tirelessly for the privilege of viewing a designer’s looks without visual obstruction. However, with the increase of using social media as a marketing tool, anyone with WiFi access (or a neighbor who neglected to implement a password on their own) can browse runway looks and video footage from any Fashion Week show across the map.
Over the past five years, access to social media moved from solely the computer to smartphones in the palm of our hands; literally allowing us to have the world at our fingertips. Since our phones have become our newest appendage, why would we think models are any different? They are documenting their lives and careers, and their celebrity status has made these happenings relevant to the fashion lover.
The Annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is argued to have propelled this movement before social media was “a thing.” Though not televised nationally until 2001, Victoria’s Secret has since been allowing viewers the experience of a runway show from the comfort of their couch every holiday season. In 1995 this show s began aesthetically as a simple display of lingerie, and over the past nineteen years has transformed into a $12-million budget production that both men and women anticipate for months. Consumers buzz about the show weeks in advance as satirical reminder to find the willpower to politely decline from a third helping of leftovers (Kloss eats stuffing too, right? Maybe?), but the real stir stems from the promotional work done by Victoria’s Secret and their world-famous Angels on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.The show is typically filmed a few weeks prior to it’s airtime on CBS, giving not only the company time to advertise the show through commercials that bring the fantasy and sensuality of the brand to light, but time for the Angels to divulge backstage selfies and video sneak peeks on their personal social media accounts.
In February, notoriously B.A. (it’s okay to click it, we all need societal translations sometimes) model Cara Delevingne used her iPhone to upload the first ever live-stream video from the runway to her Instagram account. This was monumental for so many reasons: mostly, it was verification that the fashion industry is moving past the days of making the consumer waiting months to see a designer’s runway looks hit the stores, and instead supporting up-to-the-second glimpses of what is happening in the world of runway fashion.
This new approach to communicating fashion to the public has both pros and cons. A beneficial residual of this movement is that those interested in the industry, who may not have the means to subscribe to an insider website, will gain knowledge in terms of designers and their aesthetics, and gain a familiarity with the models hired to show these looks. They can then translate this information into their own understanding of directional trends and designer awareness, whether they are studying fashion in school or producing their own content, written or physical, to jumpstart their career. Though it seems unreasonable for these things to not be publicized, it’s important to remember that the fashion industry, and runways in particular, were built on exclusivity. When the number of viewers to a specific line jumps from one hundred to what could be one million, the experience of a fashion show becomes saturated with those who haven’t worked for such an honor as those who came before did.
The fashion industry changes daily, something that is arguably one of its most exciting qualities. However, what is consistent about its evolution is that the industry is a reflection of the zeitgeist. The progression towards a more accessible fashion industry through social media is inevitable: it is how many brands market themselves and build brand loyalty by using it as a means to communicate with their customer. With 79% of brands using Twitter alone to help build brand awareness, it would seem as though a brand not socially connected is handicapping their potential for growth and prominence among competitors. The most important part of publicizing runway shows will be to maintain some level of elitism to the production and its dissemination.