by Victoria Petersen, Design Management, 2013
Technology hasn’t always been synonymous with fashion, but at a panel sponsored by Fashion GPS, one of New York’s leading firms integrating fashion and technology, it was a fascinating topic of discussion. Simon Collins, dean of Fashion at Parsons, moderated the discussion, which featured several prominent fashion industry leaders on Monday evening at the House of Bumble. It was the first event in the Fashion GPS conversation series, called “Technology and Fashion Week,” and was attended by our very own Tom Handley (@PRProfessor), Bryan Boy and many other fashion professionals.
Opening the discussion with a few reminiscent words on fashion as it used to be, Fern Mallis, the founder of NY Fashion Week, recalled the hundreds of empty film canisters that used to lie around Bryant Park from all the photographers snapping photos with their film cameras, long before the new digital advancements. Her stories served as a wonderful reminder as to how much fashion has changed over the past five years, which was the first question posed by Collins at the discussion.
Peter Levy, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of IMG Fashion Worldwide, responded by stating that IMG has offered non-traditional spaces to designers in a non-linear way to suit the needs of an evolving industry. Truthfully so, there is a growing trend to cater towards a younger breed of designers who are searching for innovative ways to share their collections, a niche that panelist Jenné Lombardo has explored as co-founder of Made Fashion Week.
Dirk Standen, editor-in-chief of Style.com noted the increased speed of the availability of shows online. He recalled the amazement when shows were available within 24 hours online, a stark contrast to today, when 2 hours is considered slow! This shift in speed of access has inevitably changed the value of a fashion show itself. Lombardo claimed that many designers are finding new ways to show their collections such as a film created for a resort collection rather than a presentation. This truth was echoed by Rachna Shah, Senior Vice President of KCD Worldwide, who reminded us, “not every brand needs to do a live event.” Rather, each designer should find a way to present that is relevant to his or her brand.
However, online access to shows has potentially created some negative results, as editors may skip a show knowing they can view it online later. What does this mean for designers? For starters, Standen acknowledged that there is a distinct value to seeing clothing in person that is lost online. Comparing the Balenciaga and Balmain shows, a colleague found that the show that he felt was phenomenal in person did not come across as well when viewed online, and vise versa.
Furthermore, Collins reminded us of the significance of a physical show for promising new designers who essentially need certain influential people to attend in order to increase the popularity of their brand. If shows were to happen completely online, the entire aspect of front row seats and attendance in general would be lost.
Collins then posed the question of where the panelists see the future of fashion going. Standen claimed that fashion films take the power out of the consumer and he would like to see more interaction with the clothing within the medium of film, thus handing the power back to the viewer. Lombardo agreed stating, “Customers want to be engaged in a way that they can have a dialogue in this community.”
Technology has undoubtedly changed the meaning of fashion week as it is today as it has become less purposed to selling clothes and more used for marketing brands. A fashion show is no longer strictly for practicality and as we know, attracts a variety of individuals beyond industry buyers, editors and photographers. Technology has certainly democratized fashion, making it accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Bloggers are now sitting front row at fashion shows in seats that were previously reserved for top industry professionals. Within hours of the completion of a fashion show, fans around the world can view it online and gain access to the same photos on style.com that professionals use. It’s an exciting time for fashion right now, as one of the most antiquated systems known to man comes face to face with one of the most innovative and technologically advanced ages in history.