“Can I please go first? I’m doing a Tweet exclusive and I really need to leave ASAP. Please?”
I was awaiting my turn for a manicure in the Elle magazine lounge during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which I attended on behalf of Chictopia, and couldn’t help but notice a man trying to convince a woman to let him go ahead of her in line for an eyebrow wax. She reluctantly agreed, almost as if she didn’t have a choice, and let him get his eyebrows done first.
A decade ago, this conversation would have never existed. The “Tweet Off” I attended earlier that morning wouldn’t have either. In fact, a decade ago, I wouldn’t have even been there. The whole thing got me thinking (and a little giggly, I’ll admit).
Social media has touched every industry, but fashion, which is perhaps one of the most visual industries that exists, is unarguably the business that has been altered the most since the advent of blogging, Facebook, Twitter, and the other big social media outlets.
As time has unfolded, it’s been interesting to see how traditional fashion figures, such as buyers, editors, writers, models, and photographers, have intermingled with the new school fashion set – insofar, they co-exist, but it has yet to seem like bloggers and digital media professionals have yet to find a comfortable place in the fashion industry.
Whether or not its comfortable, bloggers have found their places – sometimes acting as designers, models, stylists, writers, photographers, editors, and even sit front row during fashion week. The sentiment is we’re here, we exist, and we wield influence. The readers that the social media set have following their every move have been enough of a reason for companies to give them some attention, and at that point the traditional fashion set could no longer ignore bloggers. In some cases they have intermingled, editors hanging out with bloggers, editors becoming bloggers, etc. But it isn’t without the lament of some, who miss “the old days.” Refinery29 recently published an article asking “When did this become such a crazy, sensationalist event? When did Fashion Week start to feel like Coachella? Once upon a time, the general public had no idea what happened on a runway. Fashion shows were trade shows, after all. There was no reason for those outside of the industry, as it were, to see the garments pre-production.”
The point, of course, is entirely valid, and the article goes on to say many things about how fashion week has changed negatively, and they are entirely true. As a friend of mine who I spent a lot of time with during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week put it, “Fashion Week is a shit show.” Buzzfeed also published a very to-the-point article about how social media is ruining fashion week, and again, the points are totally valid. It is a circus, as crazy as Coachella, a shit show, and a place of endless, shameless self-promotion, and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is just a manifestation of what’s happening across the board in the fashion industry. So there, I admit it.
But I’d like to argue that despite the madness, more good has come over social media’s infiltration of fashion (or really, was it the other way around?) than bad. Saying social media has democratized fashion might be a cliché, but isn’t a cliché without some truth.
Before social media and fashion, think of the discussion consumers and companies had. If you can’t think of it, you have reason – no conversation existed. Traditional advertising is a one way street, and you will never know what angry comments are sent to a magazine unless the staff decided to print it in the first several pages of the next issue. There was little way for a young, aspiring designer to create a capsule collection with a major retailer, no room for an eBay seller to become a fashion icon (if you’re unaware, I’m talking about Rumi Neely of Fashion Toast), no venue for a normal girl to walk in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week alongside actual models. It isn’t just about “paying dues” or hard work either – fashion is the most exclusive industry in the world, and you’re either in or you’re out. Blogging has provided a lot of people who would have never had a way in with an entrance because their readers have cast their votes behind them. Dreams that few of us would admit to even having have been realized for some people who are as “normal” as we are. If that isn’t democratic, I don’t know what is.
And while I wouldn’t argue that there aren’t some crazy and negative habits developing around the fashion week crowd, I would argue that the people who seem so hung up on the notable changes are members of traditional fashion industry – not readers, not customers, and not the public. On the contrary, readers and customers have perpetuated the fashion blogger, namely because real people want to be inspired by real people, not Vogue magazine and models, which people admire, but don’t necessarily relate to with their own realities. This more digestible form of fashion is exactly why companies of the fashion industry care about bloggers, and it goes without saying that they have benefitted from the the advent of fashion bloggers. Kind of a chicken and the egg situation then, huh?