Say the words designer fashion and you think exquisite style, precise skill and above all the exclusive. The high fashion world has an elite status and part of this aura has come through limited access to its opulent world. But now things are changing. We know the internet has changed the way we live; how we communicate, how we shop, even how we bank – everything’s susceptible to the invasion of the internet, and now even the untouchable world of haute couture is getting a dressing down.
Step 1: Take down the runway
Fashion shows aren’t meant for just anyone. Seats are populated by well-known designers, celebrities, buyers and big names in the fashion world and most fans of fashion aren’t likely to sit down at a fashion show any time soon. But now you don’t need to go to a fashion show to see everything the fashion elite are seeing. It is general practise for fashion houses to live stream their collections during fashion shows, bringing these once exclusive events to a global audience. What’s more, some fashion designers are even selling their collections as soon as they step out on to the catwalk. JW Anderson had sold out of one design of boots almost immediately after he had shown at London Fashion Week. Gone are the days of waiting months for fashion styles to trickle down to the high street; this new way of broadcasting the latest high fashion trends has a kind of immediacy which is going to skew the distinction between high street and high fashion.
Step 2: Everyone’s a designer
But the internet isn’t just giving your everyday fashionista better access to the fashion world they love (and now can know) it’s giving the everyday individual, armed with internet access and a reasonable eye, a chance to become a fashion designer without even knowing it. Sexy sweaters is the website started by Alec Weitl which began as a basic tumblr to fill the void of college induced boredom and has now become a bonafide fashion label which has started selling ‘sexy sweaters’ to the general public. Alec finds pictures from around the internet and uses Photoshop to create designs. Weitl received a huge amount of positive feedback when he started his blog and a lot of demand for the sweaters to be made available. He’s currently searching for the right manufacturer but has started selling a few designs. It’ll be interesting to see how sexy sweaters develops over the next couple of years, but it could set a precedent for unknowns in fashion to become leading trend setters.
And trend setting doesn’t just come in the form of designing. Lots of fashion blogs now are starting to have major influence. Fashion bloggers are becoming vindicated as fashion commentators; some of the most popular are even getting invites to fashion weeks.
Step 3: People power
So the internet’s influence on fashion is all about reordering the hierarchy of power; empowering the everyman with the potential to add their two cents to the fashion story and pulling the high end fashion world back down to earth. Social media forces fashion houses to interact with their customers in a new way. As Chief Creative Officer at Burberry Christopher Bailey tweeted Burberry is “now as much a media-content company as a design company because it’s all part of the overall experience.” No company has done it much better than LOFT. According to mashable.com , responding to demands from customers to show their silk cargo pants on different body types rather than just models, LOFT posted pictures of their staff (who are all different sizes) in the pants. LOFT received overwhelmingly positive feedback for this move proving that fashion can no longer afford to hide itself away in its own ivory tower. Exclusivity is evidently not as desirable as it once was; availability is king.
And this has been capitalised on by a new fashion app and website called Snap Fashion which reimagines how we shop online. The app allows users to snap a picture of their favourite items from magazines, clothing rails or the runway, or take a picture from fashion blogs or wholesale clothing websites and find similar styles straight away within any specified price range. In theory, the snaps will build a portfolio of demands and the high street will have to respond. If inventions like these keep cropping up in the fashion world then it’ll be the high street consumers, not the high fashion designers dictating trends.
It’s clear then that the internet’s far-reaching influence is changing the face of fashion. It’s an exhilarating collision between haute couture fashion houses with reputations built up over years and the everyday blogger with a penchant for clothes and it looks like this is just the beginning of the internet changing what fashion means for both the industry itself and the consumer.