New York Fashion Week Backlash: a sign of a larger problem for the fashion

I don’t fancy myself a fashion blogger. I’ve never attended fashion week and the craziest I get with fashion is a great trunk show or flipping through a magazine. Recently, the subject of New York Fashion Week came up after Oscar de la Renta (one of my favorite designers of all time–so I know enough to know what I like) commented that Fashion Week now overcrowded with poseurs and celebrities and the people who “need” to see the clothes are getting elbowed out by photographers and the chaos of the show. While he has a point, he’s opened up a discussion about who belongs in the fashion need-to-know circle (editors, buyers, etc) and who doesn’t. The latter seems to be focused on bloggers, along with celebrities. To me, all of this sounds familiar.*

This is a slippery slope for the fashion industry. NYFW used to be a much smaller event that was truly for buyers and magazine editors who needed to see the collections so they could publish content within a relevant amount of time. Maybe it was after Mercedes Benz started sponsoring the event, or maybe it was when Tavi Gevinson got an invite to fashion week, but slowly it stopped being a private showing and started being a yearly convention. The advent of fashion bloggers definitely contributed to the growth of this show and then you had fashion bloggers/fans infiltrating the shows**.

The reason I’m bringing it up is that I’ve seen it before. As I teeter on the edge between Generation Y and The Millenials, I have witnessed firsthand what happens to industries that don’t evolve to accommodate the changes in culture and technology. Within the first 30 seconds of downloading my first song on Napster, I realized everything was going to change. The music industry built themselves up as the ultimate gatekeepers to music, only allowing a handful of what they deemed to be talented musicians to pass through their gates and on to multi-million dollar success. If you were a talented singer-songwriter in the middle of nowhere shopping around your demo tape, you had a .0001% chance of getting picked up by a record label. Now that we can download single songs, have sites like SoundCloud and social networking, everyone can be heard. It was about choice and price and the record labels didn’t understand that until it was too late.

And now we’re seeing the cable industry caving to the demands of culture, albeit slowly. Customers are tired of paying astronomical fees to watch only a handful of channels, and a la carte television viewing is on the rise. Unlike the music industry, you have to contend with both the cable companies and the networks, but to the consumer they’re part of the same entity. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how much you hate your cable provider) customers are ditching their cable package in favor of streamed content. This is a sign that they’re already too late to evolve.

The fashion industry has created a theater of elitism that has been successful in turning customers into rabid fans. Eventually, this elitist tactic will be their downfall if they don’t embrace change. Bloggers are the result of billions spent on advertising campaigns trying to lure customers into not just clothes but lifestyles. By eye-rolling at bloggers, the fashion industry is saying, “thanks for spending thousands of dollars on our clothes, writing about our clothes and ultimately creating free advertising for our brands. But you can’t come to the party.” Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. If fashion week is overflowing then they need to accommodate the growth instead of limiting it.

I’m sure Monsieur de la Renta was referring to how NYFW has gone from chaotic to ridiculous and he certainly has a point. Even he has a quite famous Social PR wrangler and understands the way we now learn about fashion, but there are still plenty from the Old Guard who love that they’ve gained admittance into the inner circle and don’t want that circle to become any larger. Writers like Suzy Menkes dislike the pacing but will ride out the storm in the hope that the frenzy will die down. I don’t think that will happen, but I do think we will become more adept at sifting out the white noise in favor of the brightest and the best.

So instead of trying to pare down NYFW, get some more chairs and get comfy: it’s going to be a long ride.

*I was definitely going to say, “all of this has happened before. All this will happen again,” but I thought a BSG reference would be odd in this post.
**BLOGGERS ARE WRITERS. The only difference is you read it in pixels and not paper.

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