CHANGING FASHION WEEK: FROM SMART DEVICES TO MUSICAL CHAIRS

February is right around the corner. And when February and September roll around, if you love fashion, it can only mean one thing: fashion week.

New York Fashion Week is the first, and one of the largest, fashion weeks in the world. There are generally around 100 designers showing during this eight-day series of catwalks that take place mainly in Midtown Manhattan.

Although many organizations claim to have the official New York Fashion Week schedule, the fact of the matter is, there is no official schedule. The history of New York Fashion Week is pretty long, going back to the 1940s in fact. For a long time there was schedule called the fashion calendar, maintained by Ruth Finley.

Around 2013, that printed and mailed fashion calendar was recreated in a website run by the CFDA. Meanwhile, IMG Worldwide created an official schedule of their own, that reflects their own designers. After all, IMG is an event production company, and the CFDA is an organization for American designers to join.

As a result, their schedules essentially reflect their own self-interest, even as they do a great job of promoting American and even international fashion talent.

Even Kanye West shows at New York Fashion Week, independent of both IMG and CFDA. Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci — whose home base in Paris — has also showed occasionally during this time frame. These sorts of movements from one fashion week to another, shouldn’t surprise anyone, because certain designers such as Tom Ford and Rebecca Minkoff lately have been skipping New York Fashion Week and going to Los Angeles instead.

Just as the big designers play musical chairs among the various mega-brands and couture houses, there’s a bit of musical chairs that goes on between the fashion weeks as well. Pierpaolo Piccioli recently brought Valentino to New York for pre-fall, signaling that even the biggest names are eager to experiment in other markets.

Fashion week in general has become a time of experimentation for brands, as new technologies push them to explore different ways of connecting directly with the customer. Not that it’s a forced exercise; in the age of Instagram and Twitter, more than ever brands want to connect directly with their core customers, influencers, and create new fans.

So it’s really no surprise then that brands have turned to celebrity bloggers and Instagram stars to help generate buzz about their collections. Although ironically, many of these self-styled social media stars don’t even necessarily capture anything but themselves at the shows, the cumulative effect is still considered powerful in the collective marketing psyche.

Another big change coming profession events will be in the so-called Internet of Things. IoT has to do with the way devices connect and speak to one another. IMG recently partnered with AGT International to create a whole new level of experience for the many events they produce.

Fashion week is really only one series of events in IMG’s massive portfolio. AGT will be partnering with IMG to create an all-new platform that will encompass more than 800 events worldwide, from Wimbledon to music concerts. It was recently tested at Toronto Fashion Week, where the models wore biometric sensors and cameras that essentially allowed the audience and the models to switch places. That’s right, the audience was able to see what the show looked like from the point of view of the models! At the same time, members of the audience wore biometric sensors that sent real-time data to the designers, so designers could monitor physical reactions to the pieces as they appeared on the runway.

If that second part sounds a little creepy, that’s not surprising either. It means your physiological reactions will be tracked and aggregated for the purposes of marketing. It’s definitely a Brave New World by Aldous Huxley sort of move.

It reminds one a little of the DNA tests run by Big Pharma, where the ostensible purpose is to tell you your genetic history, but the data is also being collected and aggregated to develop pharmaceuticals for tomorrow.

Are these great ideas, or are they crossing Google’s famous “creepy line?” Only time will tell. The one thing to know for sure, is that fashion week is changing like never before.

For now, there are lots of ways to enjoy the shows online, without going quite so deep into the experience. I think we can all agree these changes are great, as long as our privacy can be protected.

Fashion is a beautiful thing, and it’s wonderful that we get to enjoy it twice a year at fashion week.

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