“I wanted to create a sense of inclusion for all those in the world who are interested in my work and the world of fashion. This is just the first step towards revolutionizing the ‘show system’ as we know it.” -Alexander McQueen.
In 2009, Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2010 presentation “Plato’s Atlantis” democratized the fashion system by turning the fashion show, a traditional industry-only event, into a public spectacle. In his last full collection, McQueen challenged the traditional notions of a fashion show’s audience by providing a medium for individuals all around the world to view his show— the live stream.
McQueen partnered with SHOWstudio to present “Plato’s Atlantis” and Burberry followed this act with a 3-D live stream of their Fall/Winter 2010 collection. Today, live streaming is a fashion industry norm as the medium allows consumers to directly see the shows to buy clothes that they like. This concept, coupled with the rise of bloggers, social media, and e-commerce, has ushered in a new era: the digitalization of fashion.
In particular, this new frontier contains major implications on fashion’s relationship to the consumer. Live streams and social media have undercut the role of the industry middlemen. With the digitalization of fashion, the landscape of how consumers view fashion has greatly changed. Fashion has transformed from being tangible and tactile into a mainly visual medium as a result of the Internet. While catalogs and print magazine have always conveyed sartorial images for the consumer’s eyes, the finger movements have changed from turning the page to scrolling through web pages. The convenience of online shopping coupled with websites that portray the runway and red carpet scenes have pushed the envelop of the consumer’s immersion with fashion. The once elusive and mysterious realm of the inner circle of fashion is viewable and accessible to all at any time. Consumers get to preview the new collections with the rest of the industry insiders (buyers, editors, stylists, and mega-bloggers) all over Instagram feeds or via live streams.
In many ways, the everyday consumer has never been more powerful as the consumer is offered constant glimpses into the realm of the fashion show right as it happens. Now, consumers have a direct view into the world of fashion at the same time as industry execs. Fashion shows and events are truly “current”. And that’s a pretty grand, but frightening thing.
While the digital tools have enabled a place for greater brand awareness and engagement with consumers, it has become a major problem in the business model. Instead of turning those clicks on the live stream into clicks on the cash register, consumers usually have to wait a six month period between their viewing and buying of the collection. Especially in a world of instant-gratification and immediacy, the current fashion show calendar is not holding up.
And on McQueen’s sixth death anniversary (February 11th) and the start of NYFW, designers are scrambling to find solutions to this conundrum. Some brands like Burberry, Tom Ford, Rebecca Minkoff, and Vetements have opted for a see-now buy-now model to circumvent these issues. No doubt we will only see more solutions and business models in the upcoming weeks.
Indeed, as McQueen puts it, this is truly a revolution of the ‘show system’ as we know it.
A condensed version of this article was posted on my Tumblr account.