We all know about the trends that come out of the four-week circus of shows otherwise known as fashion month, which began in early September and ended last week. We know about the colors and silhouettes that will shape what we wear in seasons to come.
But there’s something else that fashion month occasionally produces: a lesson. It’s potentially more worthy of attention than the preponderance of, say, fuchsia (not to denigrate fuchsia or anything).
And so it was this season. The collections, and all the discussion that defined them, were practically a cautionary tale about the downside of the web.
Note, I’m not talking about the dark side of the web: the lawless digital underground where humanity’s worst impulses can be indulged. Nor am I talking about the trolling that occurs on social media, when anonymous or masked people vent their frustrations on others. I’m talking about the insidious slippery slope of oversharing. This season, for fashion, the consequences sent us tumbling.
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It began with the confusion created by the lag between what happens on the runway and is immediately available for visual consumption and the time at which said products are available for actual consumption — a six-month gap. Retailers cited it (which is to say, live-streaming and Instagram) as the culprit for falling sales: People see a dress, they want it, and if they can’t get it, they move on.
This in turn gave rise to the mess of the last season, in which some labels, like Tommy Hilfiger and Burberry, switched to a see-now, shop-now model, meaning they showed fall instead of spring. But then many did not, so it was unclear where we were or when we were.
Then there was the Marc Jacobs cultural appropriationcontroversy that concludedNew York Fashion Week, which involved his use of pastel-colored yarn dreadlocks on his models and spurred all sorts of upset, and which, like the Valentino cornrow controversy of 2015 or the Junya Watanabe immigrant hoo-ha of the same season, was caused in part by the runway images being immediately loaded up into the ethosphere.
Where they were interpreted in a vacuum, without context or back story, allowing everyone to leap to the most negative conclusions. Which, let’s be honest, everyone did. The web is not a generous place.
Next, in Milan, came the accosting drama of Gigi Hadid, wherein the model was hefted up and not quite away by a Ukrainian rabble-rouser named Vitalii Sediuk after walking in the Max Mara show (where she had been widely snapped and shared), because, Mr. Sediuk said, he wanted to protest the rise of a “celebrity” model — read: one as famous for her 24 million Instagram followers as her profile — to high fashion status.
This was followed in Paris by the Kim Kardashian West robbery, wherein she was locked in her Paris bathroom and relieved of millions of dollars of jewelry and other goods. All her social media activity was blamed for the theft, in part by fashion insiders (in a mean way) and in part by Ms. Kardashian West herself (in a self-castigating way).
Which is to say the fact that she, and everyone who saw her, was not only sharing her jewelry but also her movements online for pretty much all to see and record. Who needs satellite tracking when you have social media?
And finally, last week, there was the Hedi Slimane footnote, in which the former YSL designer unleashed a Kanye West-worthy tweet storm after being effectively silent on Twitter for a number of years.
He was upset because a number of critics (not me), when reviewing the Saint Laurent show, suggested that his successor, Anthony Vaccarello, was putting the “Y” back in “YSL” after Mr. Slimane had taken it out, when in fact Mr. Slimane had simply rechristened the ready-to-wear line Saint Laurent during his tenure (a name that will continue under Mr. Vaccarello’s leadership), and the brand itself had always remained YSL.
In other words, nothing had changed, which was a fair point. Except instead of Mr. Slimane looking like someone trying to correct the record, his sudden untrammeled emergence and bizarre use of the third person managed only to make him look like a sore loser in the game of brand musical chairs.
For an industry that once thrived on, and was defined by, elitism, fashion has become awfully transparent. Make a product: Boom! Show it to the world. Have a show: Click! Everyone in attendance or on the runway is revealed. There’s almost no mystery anymore. And rarely do people stop to ask themselves if the long-term payoff for the quick post is worth it.
You can understand why. The user maw is ravenous and needs to be filled — or at least, that’s the way it seems. The pressure for the new and the constant online is endless, in part because eyeballs are so unpredictable: You never know when someone is going to tune in. Hence, the theory goes, you need to constantly provide output in order to be there when they do. Volume trumps selectivity.
But after awhile, there’s not enough real content to provide, so you use whatever comes to hand: the reflective blankets at Givenchy given out to keep guests warm; the celebrity across the aisle scratching his nose; anything and everything you make. And you justify it by saying you are bringing your followers into the experience; democratizing access; that this is a good thing.
Yet just because you have taken a picture does not mean you have to share it with the world. Just because you have created a product does not mean everyone needs to see it A.S.A.P.
This occurred to me during the Céline show when, bored and waiting for it to start, I saw Phoebe Philo’s tween daughter standing against a pillar with two friends. I took a picture, as one does. I thought: How sweet. I will post it.
And then I thought: She is here, in not even a public place (we tend to forget, because there are so many people at fashion shows, that they are invitation-only events), to support her mother. It does not mean that she is fair game for anyone at large. I wouldn’t want my underage children online without my permission. Why should we assume Ms. Philo would?
I didn’t post it. But it was a close call. And somewhere in my heart, I confess, I still felt as if it were a missed opportunity. Which is shameful to admit.
I am doing so because the truth is that not one of us is immune to the pressure to fill the limitless space of the internet. But as is increasingly clear, all this direct communication that was dangled so enticingly not that long ago, when fashion first realized the digital world represented an opportunity, not an enemy, is a more complicated, nuanced thing than anyone realized.
Used well, it is a powerful tool. But used, not irresponsibly, exactly, but without consideration, perhaps, it can be dangerous. Sometimes a selective drip is more effective than an open tap.
Fashion has not done anything irreparable yet. But it may. We (and by “we” I mean brands as well as the people who would be brands) should all stop and think before we post. In that pause, elegance lies.
[Source:-The New Yourk Times]