Forget waiting months until the new season hits the shops, immediacy is the new exclusive and patience is unequivocally out of style...
As the lights come up at Miu Miu and the stream of Instagram shots from the autumn/winter 14 collections finally begin to yield, it is once again possible to breathe without inhaling a toxic amount of hairspray and hot air. Aside from all the endless reporting that brights are the new bolds (feel free to insert your own vaguely alliterative trend), what have we actually learned? Well for one thing, we’ve learned that when it comes to keeping up, you can never have a fast enough internet connection! The fashion world may still foster a well-loved reputation for being haughty and exclusive but it’s never seemed keener to capture our attention. Since Burberry set the trend live streaming their runway for autumn/winter 10, every fashion house has been jumping aboard, not that we need it, thanks to the fashion press assuming it’s part of their job description to instagram multiple angle shots of every look. All this over-sharing might seem out of character, but for an industry with global revenue of $1.2 trillion it makes perfect sense. Amidst the trillions, LVMH still turned a flat profit in 2013 and the average salary for a fashion designer sits at a comparatively meagre £37k. Even the most legendary houses are beginning to realise that if they want to make the most of their gargantuan industry, they need to start selling. A lot. And it shows; if there was one thing that struck me about the autumn/winter 14 collections it was the silent presence of the consumer on the runway. While the happy meals at Moschino were trademark Jeremy Scott, the drive-through click-to-buy digital technology running alongside it was not. We might not be sitting front row at every show, but (forgive me) the shows are all show anyway – it turns out fashion’s biggest secret last season was that we were all invited.
“Inclusive is the by word of the season, and delayed gratification is as dated as trying on clothes before you buy them. You couldn’t find a more appropriate symbol of this new, youth-focussed, commercialised concept than the ubiquitous Moschino french fries phone case. A little slice of Jeremy Scott destined to adorn selfies the world over.” Bertie Brandes
Scott’s debut was unapologetic as it championed the mass-consumer and Chanel was similarly inspired, with it’s self-branded supermarket which had models shopping as they paraded through the Grand Palais. Both Scott and Karl are firmly in on the joke, sending e-numbers and additives down the runway, or shopping baskets in trademark Chanel woven chains. Here were two bold, modern collections welcoming customers more at home in a Costcutter than Hotel Costes, to high fashion. While Chanel remains staunchly e-store free, Scott took inspiration from those iconic golden arches, not only visually, but psychologically too. Love that jumper? Wear it tomorrow! Want that bag? Buy it now! Forget waiting months until the new season hits the shops, immediacy is the new exclusive and patience is unequivocally out of style.
After all, aren’t seasons a bit passé anyway? Collections clearly tied to Spring or Fall are becoming less common, another sign that rigid industry standards are bending to meet the demand of new shoppers. It’s hardly surprising, I’ve bought things at private orders which upon arrival six months later have been immediately shoved to the back of my cupboard and promptly sold on ebay. While we’re all convinced we have classic signature style, there are precious few who are actually going to be channelling the same silhouette post-hibernation as they are in September after all the frantic YouTube personal training sessions. This new immediacy is catering to an impulsiveness we’ve always felt, it means we can desperately desire something and hold it in our arms in the same elated gasp. In a world where falling in love on Tinder is a legitimate possibility, it’s pretty much a given that we’re going to becoming more demanding as consumers across all industries. Think about the television revolution of the last decade, a medium which went from uniting the country over five solitary channels, to Netflix, iPlayer and an explosion of accessibility wherever and whenever you happen to want to watch back to back Game of Thrones. Inclusive is the by word of the season, and delayed gratification is as dated as trying on clothes before you buy them. You couldn’t find a more appropriate symbol of this new, youth-focussed, commercialised concept than the ubiquitous Moschino french fries phone case. There’s no question it was designed as a digital accessory, a little slice of the Jeremy Scott pizza destined to adorn selfies the world over.
How the fashion industry interacts with digital communities is significant in more ways than Instagram, too. There’s never been an easier way to tap into the next generation of shoppers than utilising online communities. As played out as the reference to Tumblr may be, it’s still hitting high fashion houses full force. That kind of metamorphic taste reinforces the idea that young people will like pretty much anything if it has the right label and the right celebrity ambassador, and, while I’m not convinced, it’s an idea that big business can’t get enough of. I recently read an article about a designer who describes designing a bag for his younger clientele, just shy of the £1000 mark, because everybody has a right to dream. I struggled to read that piece without feeling a little offended, if all the fuss about fast fashion being inclusive is just about digital accessibility, how is it ever going to adapt to a new audience? The problem is, as keen as big labels are to tap into the next generation of mass-consumers, they’re delusional if it thinks we’re all going to fall head over heels with anything we have the ability to click.
That said, expecting designers to lower their prices is unrealistic; this is an industry with a price tag firmly glued to the sole of each shoe, and security tags dangling off handbags like Fendi’s fur buggies. Somehow huge fashion houses need to keep up with consumer driven markets without compromising their image or product, which probably explains why the Moss of our decade is the omnipresent Cara Delevingne, worshipped by industry insiders and tween girls alike for her ability to blend viral, commercial fashion with a quasi-aristocratic bloodline. From Cara’s unbelievable digital influence, lots of companies are arriving at the same conclusion: make people want something because it’s cool and then sell it to them before they can change their mind. But won’t this kind of fast fashion just usher in an era of regret–a–porter? Just think back to what you bought at that last sample sale and try not to shudder as you imagine what would happen if all shopping became reliant on the impulse buy. While Moschino was tongue-in-cheek and fantastically self-aware, it’s dangerous to assume all designers are as commercially savvy as Jeremy Scott. Call me a stick in the mud but I’m happy to wait a few months for something, because that way I know I really want it. Our culture’s obsession with speed is all lust and no love and it’s time to reconsider – after all, we should be more than happy to wine and dine something fabulous for a few months before we get it in the bedroom!