should bloggers be excluded from fashion shows?
Last week, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week announced plans to make show venues more intimate to prevent blogger attendance. But exclusivity isn’t necessarily the answer to fashion week’s problems. i-D joins the debate.
For those of us who've only really been a part of the industry for the past ten years, it's hard to pinpoint the exact season that the fashion weeks of the world turned into the mad circus of desperation, crazed fandom and hype it is today. But for the more experienced generation - 'the old guard', as we've affectionately dubbed them - the winds of change must have seemed more like a hurricane. It's this shock of the new, which has bred reactions such as Suzy Menkes' very accurate T Magazine column in February, in which the fashion critic noted how "the fuss around the shows now seems as important as what goes on inside the carefully guarded tents," and Oscar de la Renta's enough-is-enough rant to WWD this August, in which he asked, "Why have twenty million people [at the shows] with zero connection to the clothes?"
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, Catherine Bennett, senior vice president and managing director for IMG, which runs the Mercedes-Benz fashion weeks, announced that her company will take a leaf out of Oscar's book and introduce more intimate venues, which will effectively filter out anyone who's not "true fashion insiders", i.e. bloggers, street style photographers and other newfangled additions to the seating charts. While this is great news for backstage reporters and set designers alike, it immediately poses some challenges. Can you suddenly disinvite someone from a show, who's been invited for years? Will inviting less people to the shows do anything about the hordes of non-invitees, who gather outside the venues? And what of all the editors, who are very much supposed to be at the shows, but struggle to get a seat at certain shows as it is?
Fashion is elitist. It's not only a fact but a pillar in the foundation of an industry, which constantly needs to elevate itself on all levels to remain coveted. For an institution this old-fashioned, the introduction of blogs and social media has been its saviour and its death all at once. And this is where IMG's brilliant plan perhaps needs a few adjustments. Because how do houses expect to take advantage of the power of the internet if they downsize their shows and disinvite the people who generate the (often instant) online coverage? This doesn't just go for bloggers, but for magazines, too. It's all very well having the who's-who of the front row at your shows, but in most cases it's their deputies on the rows behind them, who do the picture taking, the tweeting, the instagramming, the filming, the backstage interviews, the model snapshots, and all the other things that make a PR heart grow fonder.
If getting rid of some of the bloggers means that the newspapers and magazines of the world will once again be able to get more than three editors into a show, by all means, restore the system to its old glory. But we all know this won't be the case. Because if the bloggers don't get invited, why should the assistant of a fashion critic get a ticket, and why should a magazine's fashion team and features team even be there? They can just write their reports from pictures, right? Borrow someone else's designer quote? As much as the two corners of the fashion media - bloggers and journalists - love to scoff at one another, the sad truth is that we're stuck with each other until a much greater revolution happens in the industry. If show organisers really want to change things they should be thinking much bigger thoughts than venue sizes and seating charts.
Exclusivity breeds elitism and elitism breeds fandom. The more intimate you make your show, the more people will want to come to it, and the more annoying street style photographers you'll have outside the venue, making it impossible for people to get to their cars and the next show. The fashion presentation should always maintain its exclusivity, but as history has taught us time and again, fighting evolution is never the solution. So many of us have a magical, romantic, and often nostalgic view of the old-school fashion show - the venue, the lights, the smell, and that moment the first model walks out - which weighs so heavily that the classic setup won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Instead, designers and PRs are posed with the challenge of coming up with ways of appeasing this ever-growing army of people, who don't qualify as "true fashion insiders", whatever IMG meant by that.
Last season, for instance, Victoria Beckham organised a blogger's event in Paris to much success. Hosted by the superstar designer herself, it welcomed members of the digital sphere to interview Victoria and take enough pictures for their blogs and Instagrams to last them a decade. If more designers recognised the fact that these modern times are here to stay and branched out a little bit, perhaps we could reserve the shows for one corner of the industry by doing separate events of the same calibre for the other. As for show-goers who are neither journalists nor bloggers, it's a rather more delicate question. While we all want a less crowded fashion week, we shouldn't forget that some of these people are future writers and stylists, who are having their formative moments experiencing these shows they've perhaps blagged their way into. We somehow need to nurture that, too.
When The Cut ran a story about this debate last week, they titled it with the question, "Will getting rid of 'fashion bloggers' return fashion week to its former glory?" Maybe it would, but we should be less concerned with the number of people who attend the shows, and more concerned with the type of coverage generated by those present. As a magazine writer, designers will sometimes ask you what you think about bloggers, if they should pay attention to what bloggers write about them, and what kind of people they ought to be inviting to their shows. This writer's answer? Educated, sensible members of the media, who have studied fashion from an objective point of view, and not just asked themselves if they'd like to be seen wearing it in a street style snapshot. That being said, fashion fandom is never a bad thing.