Ecommerce and The Democratization of Fashion
4 Min Read
Last year 630,000 remote viewers live streamed Mercedes Benz Fashion Week (MBFW). This year, that number is likely to increase, as attendance at the notoriously exclusive MBFW shows is slated to be even more restricted. IMG Fashion, the company that organizes fashion week, reportedly cut the media guest list by 20% in an effort to have a more intimately sized audience.
In other words, fashion is simultaneously letting the public in and kicking it out. And while that may mean no fashion week tickets for me this year, physical attendance is becoming less and less important. WWD puts it best—fashion week has become a “digital spectator sport.”
Best Seats in the House
Alexander McQueen first debuted the concept of live streaming Fashion Week with his Spring/Summer 2010 collection. “I wanted to create a sense of inclusion for all those in the world who are interested in my work and the world of fashion. This is just the first step towards revolutionizing the ‘show system’ as we know it.” And that it was. Between Rightster live streams and rebroadcasts, Tumblr’s bloggers, and everyone’s backstage Instagram posts, anyone can have a front row seat to the fashion and the shows.
Benefit for Designers
Clearly, the Internet’s all-access pass for spectators is beneficial to designers too. Last season, after the Alexander Wang show I beelined to Barneys’ online sale bin. This season, it’s Herve Leger that has me hiding my credit card in a block of ice.
But it’s really the up-and-comers of the design world that benefit the most. Exposure to a wider audience lends more opportunity for potential customers to discover and interact with their brand. Last year, 15 designers showing at Made Fashion Week in downtown Manhattan streamed their shows. This year, 13 student designers and graduates from the Art Institutes will also stream their MBFW shows. Check them out at 8pm on Feb 11 (though I should warn, these things never start on time).
Online Shopping and New Designers
This sort of “democratization of fashion” has actually taken a ton of forms throughout the commercial side of the industry— fast fashion from brands like Zara and Top Shop, high/low mashups like Peter Pilotto for Target (thanks to Isaac Mizrahi’s kickoff with Target in 2003), are just a few. Probably the most interesting movement has been in the ecommerce world.
Take UsTrendy for example. An online platform where independent fashion designers each have an equal opportunity to reach consumers, UsTrendy currently has 16,000 designers from over 100 countries selling through its website. “We really wanted a democratic kind of website where the status quo wasn’t deciding what’s fashionable, but rather every designer has their fair shot to take off,” says Sam Sisakhti, Founder of UsTrendy.com. “Some of our designers are doing over $1M in sales individually on our site.”
Similarly, up and comers get a leg up with Live the Look, a new fashion app that shows users how to style basics from their own closet alongside new clothing and accessories. Live the Look takes extra measure to introduce customers to high-quality and fashionable indie brands. “I’m a big believer in the courage and scrappiness of new brands and designers. I want to be able to support and discover them via a growing platform like Live the Look.”
Whether through editorial outlets like fashion week or commercial ones like UsTrendy, in the last few years, we’ve seen the fashion industry shift into an increasingly democratic space for both designers and consumers. And that’s really good for everybody—fashion designers and brands get a wider audience they can interact with, while consumers get to discover new brands, styles and trends they might not have otherwise.