Thursday, December 12, 2013


Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large

When Suzy Menkes published her Circus of Fashion article in February, it understandably sparked extensive debate across the fashion spectrum. Bloggers, journalists, fashion fans, designers and industry insiders all had something to say in response to Menkes' complaint that the previously low-key rounds of international fashion weeks had been overtaken by hoards of "peacocks". Many agreed that the enormous (and oft overdressed) crowds were indeed getting out of hand, and what part were they really playing anyway? Others argued that bloggers- the group who took most of the flak as Menkes labelled them "legions of imitators"- help to democratise an industry which previously relied upon a tiny coterie of influencers to set its agenda. Everyone had their say but it wasn't quite clear whether any kind of consensus had been reached or if any of the people with real power, like fashion week organisers and the designers who host catwalk shows, were going to do anything about it. In fact, were we beyond the point of no return?

Anna dello Russo surrounded by photographers outside a show (via
As it approaches a year since Menkes wrote Circus of Fashion, it seems that some decisive action might begin to show a new direction for fashion weeks. New York has announced what can only be described as a crackdown on the breadth of attendees at its fashion week which kicks off proceedings each season. Using rather undiplomatically direct language, Catherine Bennett from organisers IMG said that NYFW "had become a zoo" and it was time to change the format so that invites were "once again an exclusive pass for true fashion insiders." Such comments might seem pretty galling for the not insignificant numbers of bloggers who work directly with designers on projects like sponsored posts, social media campaigns and in-store events. Even if they don't work directly with designer brands, when an influential blogger wears or promotes a designer in some way it can have just as much impact as a stylist including the piece in a shoot for a big magazine. You might say that the big magazine has more kudos than the blogger but the best bloggers can now inspire just as much trust from their audience as established publications.

In London, the British Fashion Council has also established a blogger strategy, gathering a panel of bloggers in order to better understand this ever growing sphere; they report that applications for blogger passes have increased by 25% each season since February 2011 meaning that there will be around 3,000 requests for access to LFW by bloggers by the time the September 2014 shows come around. London's approach is much more gentle than NY's, at least from a PR perspective. There have been no accusations thrown or sweeping statements made, the BFC is just quietly making a concerted effort to refine and properly vet the bloggers gaining access. They are sorting the truly impactful and effective sites from those which have been set up in five minutes and rarely posted on then used to get a pass into the swirl of events and shows which always makes fashion week seem so exciting.

Marc Jacobs' AW12 Louis Vuitton show in which an enormous steam train formed the centrepiece (via
There are small signs though that this is an issue which designers themselves are beginning to question. In an interview with Marie Claire last week, Marc Jacobs admitted that "things need to change" at Louis Vuitton. It's an ambiguous quote and probably just refers to the fact that, after 16 years at at the helm, he has left and been replaced by Nicolas Ghesquiere whose tenure is bound to usher in a complete refresh for LV. But if the change to which Jacobs refers has anything to do with the Vuitton show then the impact would be massive for Paris Fashion Week. The seven-day event ordinarily culminates in the extraordinary mega spectacle of the Vuitton show, finally setting the overarching theme for the season which has been playing out for the previous four weeks. If Ghesquiere's approach deviates from this model, then the fashion season will feel recalibrated at the very least.

Band of Outsiders might not be anywhere near as big a brand as Vuitton, but comments by designer Scott Strenberg this week could be indicative of a wider feeling of frustration among the smaller brands.  In an interview with Apartmento magazine picked up by Vogue, he spoke abut his admiration for Tom Ford's decision to step away from catwalk shows because "he doesn't have to do all this crap, waste all this fabric, make all these clothes that nobody is ever going to buy that's essentially for a few stylists to shoot and is part of the 'dog and pony show'." Ford might have triggered this feeling that there's another way for younger brands but he's now decided to return to the traditional show concept.

Ultimately, the future of fashion weeks will be decided when brands and organisers decide on their real function. There is so much which can now be done digitally- many cite Cathy Horyn's Saint Laurent review conducted solely from seeing the pictures online. I doubt there's much future in that as a common practice, not until they invent touch-and-feel-ability via the web anyway. This week, Chanel hosted their annual m├ętiers d'art show in Dallas and received 24 hours of social media hype and coverage, as opposed to the 2-3 hours which shows get during fashion week before everyone moves on to the next. Whatever the future of fashion weeks, it will take a few more major shuffles akin to the one announced by New York last week for a new vision to start taking shape.

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