how fashion feasts on our social feeds

Social media has not only changed the game but through its constant evolution of updates and launches, it's rewriting the rules in real-time. Looking back over autumn/winter 15, we take stock.

by Steve Salter
18 March 2015, 1:50pm

From the moment fashion's collective hands wrapped around its first smartphone, the previously impenetrable walls that have long surrounded the industry came crashing down. Following the revolution of the internet to the incessant uprisings of social media uploads, there's no going back now. "What do we want? More. When do we want it? Now and forever faster!" Today amongst the vibrates and beeps, our feeds battle to satisfy these echoes of more and now whilst tweaked and/or freshly launched platforms attempt to reinvent how we interact with collections and every label from emerging talent to power house, battle for our distracted attention.

When we're caught up in the strengthening current of 24/7 streams, it's difficult to imagine quite what fashion week was like before social media. I can just about remember a time when only the chosen few were allowed to enter the promised land of backstage rather than today's smartphone wielding many, a time when the entire front row applauded at the end as opposed silencing itself by the hope of capturing the perfect Hyperlapse finale, a time when editors cursed only their assistants and drivers rather than cursing their assistants, drivers, bad 4G signal and ailing phone batteries.

As much as I struggle to recall an industry that didn't suffer from an insatiable appetite to instantly share everything, the menswear institution that is Joe Casely-Hayford remembers it clearly. During a studio visit last year, the designer compared how he consumed fashion weeks as a student in direct contrast to those of his design partner and son, Charlie.

Studying at Central Saint Martins in the late 70s and early 80s, the greatest change from Joe's time is of course the internet. "When I was studying there was no option but to wait to see what was happening at fashion week," he confessed with a smile. Whereas Charlie Casely-Hayford could live stream shows from the classroom and pass judgement in an instant, Joe's generation patiently waited for the theatre of a group presentation. "A week or two after the Paris shows, the Head of Fashion would conduct a slide projection presentation to show us the collections through hand drawn illustrations. It might sound dull now but there was so much excitement in the room during that presentation," he continued. "At that moment in time, that was our only connection with fashion weeks until they were published in magazines months later." Fast forward a few decades and connections are seemingly infinite.

Now, fashion week is now the perfect environment for social sharing. Front of house, there's complimentary WiFi, perfectly practised PRs ready to recite the relevant handles and hashtags to anyone within earshot and celebrity front rows ever willing to share a sunglasses shielded selfie. Backstage, the designers and styling teams are desperate to tease their followers with cryptic posts and first looks whilst the hair and make-up armies offer behind-the-scenes updates. Even if you don't have a ticket or aren't part of the production, you're still invited because for everyone else, there are live-streams and endless opportunities to discuss, analyse or just hit that like button. Before wiping the sleep from their tired eyes, the great and the good of the industry would have scrolled through their feeds this morning, catching up on the previous days exploits and ensuring no hot look, new face or hot gossip was missed. It's how so many of us consume and comment on the world around us. As technologies improve (the dark days of blurry catwalk shots are almost behind us - those of you still sharing them have nothing but yourselves to blame) and new platforms launch, this brave new world becomes that bit more enticing. As we scroll back through another season and have one eye on tomorrow's shows, here's a quick overview of the latest advancements and our latest addictions.

Harnessing The Hashtag
Cutting through the behind-the-scenes #backstagebeauty and on-the-scene #PFW, #LFW, #NYFW and #PFW coverage, there was one hashtag autumn/winter 15 will be remembered for, #Zoolander2. The moment Derek Zoolander and Hansel (Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson) gatecrashed the calm splendour of Valentino's show, transforming the #frow into giddy and delirious fans who battled to capture the best angle whilst the live-stream audience wiped their eyes in disbelief, each and every social media feed was obsessed. Fashion might have been upstaged by film but the industry loved it and users ordinarily disengaged with fashion month lapped it up. As Greg French recently pointed out, it also made a star out of Jerome Jarre, whose phone was snatched out of his hands by a Blue Steel perfect Derek during a Vine recording of the show (it has over 19 million loops and counting).

Topshop harnessed the power of a character shifting hashtag. Ever the digital pioneer, the high street giant unveiled a partnership with Twitter which will allowed users to shop the trends as they unfold on the catwalk, days before Sunday's Topshop Unique show. "Whether we are giving customers a look behind-the-scenes at the show or partnering with a global platform such as Twitter to allow them to shop the trends in real time, our aim is to create a truly inclusive experience," Sir Philip Green commented. Over the full five days of shows, the high street giant analysed real-time data on Twitter and picked out the trends as they happen on the catwalks. This commentary was then instantly beamed onto digital billboards complete with Topshop's selection of corresponding products - all around the country in London, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Customers who tweeted @TOPSHOP with the trend hashtag, received a curated collection of looks that fit the trend and could be purchased immediately. Following in the footsteps of Burberry's click-to-buy experiment last season, the partnership utilised Twitter's live and public conversations to fuel consumers appetite for the latest looks.

Snapchat Discovery
If last year belonged to the go-to casting couch of Instagram, 2015 might just be Snapchat's coming of age moment. From throwaway intimate poses to front line reporting, Snapchat has changed the most in recent months. Since it swaggered onto the smartphone scene and confidently dismissed the advances of Mark Zuckerberg, Snapchat has celebrated the way that users and their friends friends see the world. It's focus had been on throwaway fun. However, this january the young pretender of a platform launched a new way to explore stories from different editorial teams, Snapchat Discover. This is social media but not as we know it. By collaborating with media leaders, Snapchat are creating a browsable storytelling format that puts narrative first. With Discover, Snapchat is expressing a desire to be something other than a messaging service by dipping into news. As publishers and influencers alike clamour to be part of Snapchat's blink and you'll miss it conversation, those chosen for Snapchat Discover share carefully considered content every twenty four hours. Having launched with CNN, Vice, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail and ESPN, an increasing number of fashion and lifestyle publications are joining the feed for fashion week. Snapchat might just be our next addiction.

"It's obvious why fashion and social media is a marriage made in heaven. "The thrilling immediacy of social media is like crack cocaine to an industry terrified of being passé," reflected Anders Christian Madsen in his think piece, Snap, tag, post, repeat - how fashion became addicted to social media. Eight months on and there's no sign of social sobriety, if anything, the real-time hits that we crave are harder, better, faster and stronger. With that it mind, allow me to facilitate your next fix. See fashion through our filter by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter and Instagram.


Text Steve Salter

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