"Video is the future of the Internet," exclaimed prominent and versatile street style photographer, Garance Doré, in a recent interview for the Business of Fashion. With easy access to videos on every conceivable topic through popular sites like Youtube and Vimeo, it's no wonder that so many people and groups are using the medium as an outlet for self-expression, promotion or, simply, for their viewing pleasure.
|Live streaming at Burberry Prorsum Menswear
S/S 2013. Source: Ftape.com.
As Kerrin Sheldon pointed out in Fast Company's Why Short-Form Video is the Future of Marketing, more and more people are solely using the internet to watch videos over watching them on television or at the movies. Doré averages about 10,000 views for her YouTube videos (and sometimes many more); she told Imran Amed, "Some people say in a few years 90 percent of content will be video." According to Vikram Alexei Kansara in his article for The Business of Fashion, online video content accounted for 56 per cent of all consumer web traffic in 2012, up from 51 percent in 2011. Marketers from every industry, and entertainment in particular, have taken notice and are using video to their advantage - especially in the world of fashion.
It makes sense for fashion brands to readily use the video medium as an appendage, whether in the form of digital runway shows, promotional videos, video blogs or interviews. Digital runway shows and live streams offer the illusion of an in-person experience for anyone around the world with internet access. A good promotional video is able to capture the essence and inspiration of a particular seasonal collection (for example, Lanvin's S/S 2012 campaign by Steven Meisel) or the brand itself (the quirkiness of Vena Cava). Recorded interviews and video blogs help fans and consumers learn more about designers or the team behind the brand (Garance Doré interviewing Stella McCartney).
A personal, or even emotional, connection is made when a brand lets you into their psyche and design process through the video medium. In Suzy Menkes's article, Fashion Films Become the Hottest Accessories for the New York Times, Italian Marina Garzoni of Moda e Tecnologia stated, "Catwalk shows were good in a period when they were restricted, but now billions of people are interested in having a relationship with a brand, so the emotional appeal is more important than before."
But in some ways, therein lies a problem for the fashion industry: the democratic nature of fashion videos may have inadvertently made the actual, physical concept and purpose of the runway show obsolete - or, at least, of lesser importance.
The video is not singlehandedly to blame, however. There are other factors; the runway show has ostensibly evolved into a "circus" as Menkes controversially pointed out in her T Magazine essay, The Circus of Fashion. The ubiquity of street style darlings and celebrities front row at runway shows has unfortunately taken the focus away from the hard work and craftsmanship put into the design and construction of the clothing itself. The cost of putting on a show is also a barrier to the success of a label. Christina Binkley of The Wall Street Journal found that many designers, especially emerging ones, believed they weren't getting a good return on investment by putting together a runway show that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (or in the millions for big brands) yet be as short as ten minutes long. She noted that many designers are using alternative methods to promote their collections, including flying editors to Toronto Fashion Week (in the case of Mackage's Elisa Dahan and Eran Elfassy) or creating carefully constructed videos of their collections to be promoted online to a wider audience.
The value of video in fashion has become even more relevant because consumers are changing the way they shop. A consumer can purchase designer pieces easily via e-commerce through sites like Zara, ASOS and Net-a-Porter, all of which offer video features to view products in motion before purchasing. A recent development in the digitised landscape has allowed for real-time purchasing straight off the runway. Topshop and Burberry, for example, are brands that have adopted this new approach with some degree of success.
In order to focus on the fashion first and foremost, videos can simply remove the superfluous aspects that come with runway shows (such as the backstage action or the celebrities and gossip) through simple editing and clear direction. This allows a brand to be flexible in how they market themselves and cater to a target audience. This also makes reaching specific individuals - that is, the people who will most likely be purchasing the brand's products - much easier. Ultimately, the video aesthetic is a powerful marketing tool for all businesses because of the control they have over the content and methods and avenues of distribution.
While much of this is done through promotional work, a large amount of publicity is gained through the power of social networking sites. Because it is so easy for users to post and view their favourite videos via different social media platforms, it has become even more important for brands to ensure their videos are widely shared and distributed. Often, the focus is on creating campaigns that will eventually go viral. Sharing videos through social networking and media sites also encourages feedback and consumer participation, which can subsequently create a broader customer base for the brand. Designer Joy Cioci addressed the longevity and versatility of producing fashion videos to showcase a collection in lieu of producing a runway show or presentation, stating to Binkley, "Rather than limiting their audience to the people at the show, they can send the video to stores and editors, use it for advertising and put it on YouTube and Style.com."
There is a flipside to viewing fashion collections in two-dimensions and some individuals, such as Kansara, claim that fashion is "best presented in motion." One of the losses for the digital consumer is the tactile experience. Cathy Horyn told the New York Times, "The best digital imagery cannot capture the granular, snow-crust texture of a woven tulle skirt in the Proenza lineup, or the compacted quality of a bouclé that the designers successfully used for coats and jackets." Even though videos can capture movement and offer 360-degree, detailed views of a garment, the feel for the construction and quality of a collection can only really be accomplished in-person.
There is something special about a designer's first (or tenth) runway show and viewing it in all of its extravagance. Being able to show at a respectable venue during fashion week imparts a certain esteem for the designer and also creates the impression that he or she is successful enough to take part in a quintessential event for the fashion industry. Yet, despite the spectacle associated with fashion weeks and runway shows, isn't it about the business in the end? The fashion industry is certainly moving towards fully embracing the digital age and perhaps, runway shows will not be an obligatory factor in the modern fashion business in coming years.
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