Fashion in the age of Instagram

Tuesday, 06 May 2014
In the crowded niche that is social networking, digital communication for brands could easily be re-named fashion in the age of Instagram. No other platform has captured the industry's attention as much as this photo and video messaging service. Even fashion week has been revolutionised with Instagram's quirky square photographs. No longer does the world have to wait three months to see catwalk images. Fashion is now covered in real time, with the first look being Tweeted, Instagrammed, Facebooked and uploaded on a multitude of platforms.

But whereas Tumblr has remained more niche, Instagram has provided a level where photography is entirely democratic and reaching an audience of 200 million active monthly users. Anyone can upload a photograph, which during fashion week means real-time coverage from backstage during hair & makeup, designer interviews, to front row arrivals, the catwalk show itself and all the buzz surrounding it. Anybody with an invitation can now cover fashion week. Which of course has an impact on a brand's communication strategy.

Digital media changing how clothes are presented

Digital media is changing the way clothes are presented and even the way they are designed. As shows are calibrated to be socially shared experiences fashion is now seen through the eyes of looking on a smart-phone or two-dimensional screen.

Alexander Wang told the New York Times the advent of digital media has fundamentally altered fashion. “The way that we shoot it, the way that we showcase it and the way that we make the clothes and design them changed.” Some brands even commission their show videos to be filmed with a iPhone. Others, like Tommy Hilfiger, have hired digital media agencies to Instagram every facet of his show, from backstage to front of house. To provide a full specter and integrated social experience, presumably to stay ahead of the game and remain digitally relevant.

But what appears to be a world accessible to all, the illusion of the fashion industry remains somewhat. The average consumer will not be attending a Chanel fashion show or a Celine presentation, despite the images of such shows being widely available. However on a contemporary level, designers and brands realise they have access to a new consumer if they allow controlled access to their House.

Whereas brands can curate their own media outlets, platforms like Instagram create a unique and shareable experience for both the industry itself and its followers. Shows are designed to wow not only those in attendance, but also all of their followers.

The attention now paid to digital extends beyond the catwalk and staging. It is fair to say its influence has extended even to design. Tiziana Cardini, the fashion director of the Milanese department store chain La Rinascente and a contributing editor at Italian Vogue, has noticed the change.

“Fashion has become bi-dimensional,” she said. “It’s just flat. I see that designers, especially young designers, are considering the shapes and volumes in a totally different way; the colors, also. I think they pay much more attention to the photogenic value of an outfit.” Asked why, she replied, “It’s the web, definitely, that has changed the language.”

Images: Instagram Ricardo Tisci