Attending a fashion show is a sensory experience that brings together sights, sounds, and styling. This we know for sure. But as fashion moves further into the digital age, it’s struggled to devise ways to translate that experience online. First came the simple act of publishing collection pictures online, which revolutionized who saw fashion shows, and when. Then, years later, came live-streams and live tweets, followed by Instagrams, then Vines. Today we have Snapchats and Periscopes and Twitter Q&As to tend to while a show is happening, in addition to all the aforementioned platforms and pictures. It’s exhausting to keep up with, and despite more ways to follow along, I don’t think we’re doing a better job capturing and depicting fashion shows online. Instead of getting us closer to the action at shows, the onslaught of un-curated information is pushing us further away. There are 24,185,745 Instagram posts tagged “Givenchy”—good luck sorting through that to find that pic of Kanye front row you were hoping to find.
The problem with fashion’s latest techniques to appeal to online fans—and thus the world—is that every house is engaging with exactly the same process: social teasers, buzzy stars front row, dramatic sets, socially plugged-in models, and lots of Instagram-friendly moments that are immediately shared across social platforms. This is the playbook the industry at large hews to. It gets the job done, but I can’t help thinking if every fashion show of the season looked the same in person, the industry would be up in arms, so why is it not an issue that they’re all presented digitally in the same way? How can any show stand out when everything is environmental, celeb-studded, and created for 140 characters or less?
Here’s how I think we could keep things exciting, inspired by shows that did it right this time around.
1. Virtual Reality Live-Streams
Among the innovations Demna Gvasalia brought to Balenciaga was a virtual reality 360-view live-stream of the show. The technology didn’t always work—one colleague had a great experience watching, while I found myself staring at glitch pixels—but the idea is worth pursuing. The act of turning my head left to right to watch the looks go by made it feel like I was, for a brief moment, sitting in that white padded room with the rest of the Balenciaga guests.
2. Intimate Live Content
For the past week or so, I’ve been unable to tear myself away from the one-on-one Periscopes from Calvin Klein’s Fall 2016 campaign shoot. There’s something amazingly gratifying about the intimate voyeurism of watching Cameron Dallas mug in the center of a camera-lined dome and interact with an unseen person behind the iPhone lens. How to translate this to runway shows? Some houses have toyed with Snapchat takeovers by well-known personalities, but that still feels impersonal.
3. Exclusive Photos and Videos
The backstage Instagram pit has become a new norm at major shows, with editors and guests given access to shoot models in their looks immediately postshow. Some brands have upended this by withholding the postshow looks from fans and instead enlisting photographers to shoot exclusive images for their sites and social platforms. Willy Vanderperre’s ongoing portraits backstage at Prada cut through the Instagram morass like a knife. Juergen Teller and Louis Vuitton started this idea seasons ago, but their images are becoming increasingly harder to find.
4. Native Celebrity Content
You saw the pictures of the celebrities in the front row, but did you really see the shows from their perspective? Alexander Wang put the onus on his squad to share images from his campaign on their channels; the same idea would make sense for fashion shows. Wouldn’t it be more interesting to see Kiernan Shipka’s take on the Marc Jacobs show than see a photo agency snap of her?
5. Just Say No to Hype
Actually engaging fans in content is hard, and perhaps the best way to do it is to not engage them at all. Case in point: The Row. The only information comes from the lucky few invited to attend, and as such, it comes with an air of awe. Were Mary-Kate and Ashley really sitting on the floor? Keeping up with the Olsens’ show is like a real-time scavenger hunt for interested fans, and I, like others, enjoy playing along.
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