Fashion is more democratised than ever, in part due to the rise of social media. Fashion Week is no longer the exclusive invite-only event it once was. Runway shows are live-streamed to consumers in real-time or flooded in the feeds and filtered ‘stories’ of influencers. Thierry Dreyfus, a runway designer who has helped brands such as Christian Dior and Saint Laurent stage their seasonal catwalks speaks of tailoring his work to suit the demands of the social media age, stating that “Instagram makes up 6o - 65% of a fashion show’s raison d’être."

From advertising campaigns to the clothes themselves, brands are conscientious of positioning their products as ‘Instagram-friendly’ from the outset. Specialists such as Dreyfus are employed to ensure that the visual spectacles of the runways are seamlessly translated onto the feeds of consumers by ensuring that everything from lighting to stage setting is optimised for media exposure. “It needs to be edited and designed to fit well on a screen that fits in the palm of your hand and to fit within the technology that is available to the audience: the iPhone video and Instagram,” explains Alexandre de Betak, another longtime show producer. 

“Instagram makes up 60 - 65% of a fashion show’s raison d’être.

Brands are becoming acutely aware of how their collections are being presented on social media with more and more embracing a ‘digital first’ strategy. Fashion shows provide prime opportunities for brands to communicate with their customers. Ultimately, the in-person experience is still important but for a different reason: witnessing such shows first-hand can engender greater brand loyalty if they are able to foster a strong connection with their audience. This, in turn, translates into how likely these guests are to share and post about the show on their personal social media accounts, creating a ripple effect which allows other consumers to experience the show through their point of view.

No designer has yet been able to rival the success of the Instagram savvy Jacquemus at generating media buzz. The current darling of the industry who credits social media for the success of his brand presented his tenth-anniversary collection amongst the sun-drenched lavender fields of Provence, an hour away from his hometown, in an ode to the heady romanticism of his bucolic childhood. Social media was immediately ablaze with images of models strutting down the strikingly pink runway in all its saturated glory.

“If it’s cute on Instagram, it will sell,” he says. “That’s just the world we live in.”

The breathtakingly cinematic quality of the images coupled with the show’s unconventional location garnered unprecedented amounts of attention for the brand, unrivalled even by the likes of Chanel and Louis Vuitton. The show was covered extensively by publications even beyond the fashion world, cementing designer Simon Porte-Jacquemus’ role as fashion’s David to the Goliath-like conglomerates currently dominating the industry. Global fashion search platform Lyst estimated that Jacquemus' Spring/Summer 2020 runway show boosted the brand’s social mentions by 1,343% by the third quarter of 2019, with global demand for Jacquemus increasing 131% year-on-year.

A child of the internet, Jacquemus’ foray into the fashion world came early when he started a fashion dedicated Tumblr blog which evolved into creating ‘stories’ of his idyllic life growing up in Salon-de-Provence to share with his followers on Instagram. More than a decade later, his approach towards fashion still seems to have retained the same whimsical child-like quality. The splendour of the undulating landscape rather than lending the show gravitas, imbued it with a feeling of playful theatricality, consistent with the designer’s signature style. His strategy is simple: “If it’s cute on Instagram, it will sell,” he says. “That’s just the world we live in.”

It’s hard to argue with the results. His smallest handbag, known as Le Micro Petit Chiquito, measures a mere two inches — just enough to fit a single airpod, was a sell-out success. Despite the backlash from critics and social media users alike for its inherent impracticality, as well as spawning a series of derisive internet memes, it became a ubiquitous fixture on the social media feeds of prominent celebrities and influencers alike, spawning waiting lists of consumers scrambling to purchase it. Clearly, there are quite a few who appreciate his subversive brand of sartorial humour. Jacquemus who personally oversees his brand’s Instagram account says his aim is “always to put no boundary between me and the public and to use all I had to make noise”. In today’s digital landscape, such visibility is everything.

Jacquemus is testament to the fact that high visibility does not have to equate to lavish excess. The Provence show was attended by three hundred attendees with less than a quarter of them being influencers or journalists who had to travel to the show and most of which had only come from Paris, greatly mitigating the transatlantic travel that constitutes the largest part of a show’s carbon footprint. The set itself consisted of the long strip of carpet, a single row of benches and a few speakers. Natural lighting was used and the Jacquemus staff swept the fields themselves in the week leading up to the show. “There were no lights; the light was the sun,” said de Betak who helped stage the show. The brand even capitalised on its consciously minimalistic staging in its marketing, sending out customised bottles of sunscreen printed with the date and time of the show in place of invitations and also cheekily entitling the collection ‘Le Coup de Soleil’ or ‘The Sunburn’.


Mountain View

Is Fashion Week merely archaic tradition?

As Dreyfus espouses, “Fashion is extraordinary because of its reactivity and periodicity.” The immediacy of Instagram has led to an oversaturated media landscape inundated with images that arguably fuel rampant consumerism. It has however also levelled the playing field for independent designers such as Jacquemus who are able to react accordingly and attune themselves to the tastes of the socially conscious social media generation; and more significantly, are ideally positioned to incite great change from within the industry.