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October 19, 2017
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Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady. Source: vogue.com. Photograph by Kevin Tachman.

Held this past Monday evening, the Met Gala was always going to be a huge success. Securing itself the nickname "Oscars of the East Coast," the event is one of the most highly anticipated annual events in the fashion industry calendar. Hoping to build on the success of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,  which opened the year before, the Met Gala was live-streamed for the first time ever across the web.

Making groundbreaking digital fashion history, viewers could watch the action unfold on Vogue.com, Amazon.com and the museum's own website. The innovative digital component of this year's Met Gala unquestionably contributed to its success across the globe. But is "mass entertainment" the future direction of an increasingly progressive fashion industry?

The event has established itself as the fashion industry's biggest PR platform. Through live-streaming, the event offered brands limelight and exposure like never before - most notably for Prada which benefited from the concurrent opening of this year's Costume Institute exhibition, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: Impossible Conversations. With over two hours of exclusive red-carpet viewing time, bloggers and fashion insiders alike sat at home with front-row tickets to one of the most sought-after events of the year. Quite a bargain considering some celebrities were paying up to US$25,000 for their tickets.

Beyonce Riccardo Tisci Met Ball
Beyonce and Riccardo Tisci at the Met Gala.
Source: vogue.com.
Photograph by Victoria Will.

The world watched as celebrities entered the Gala at their pre-determined time slots. Global conversations began as viewers tweeted, blogged and pinned what they saw, often with celebrities tweeting alongside them. And the discussion continued long after the live-streaming had ended. Every outfit worn and every brand featured was immediately digested and discussed across the web, with the #MetGala hash-tag quickly trending on Twitter. By early evening, it was ranked the #2 worldwide trending topic. Alongside this, online viewers were able to submit their interactive Twitter questions to the red carpet hosts, longtime Vogue contributor William Norwich and model Elettra Wiedemann, using the hash-tag #metquestions.

Online viewers certainly got a myriad of entertainment opportunities with the online Met Gala experience, and could vary what they viewed depending on which site they landed on. Whilst all three sites had the same live-streaming function, the Met's website also offered pre-taped content and information about both the exhibition and the Costume Institute's history, which was given through short films directed by Baz Luhrmann. Met viewers also got the opportunity to watch in-depth interviews with exhibition curator Andrew Bolton. On the Vogue site, there was the opportunity to watch a unique rendition of Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars onstage at the Gala.

[The Met Gala] seem[s] to underscore fashion's potential as a growing genre of mass entertainment within which the Met Ball seems certain to expand its reach and influence.

However, such digital progress wouldn't have been possible without financial backing and support from one of the world's leading businesses: Amazon allegedly paid out a whopping $1 million to serve as the Gala's headline sponsor, and had an unequivocal influence in pushing forward the innovation behind the event. The unique digital technology funded by the worldwide brand seems to have been the key reason for the success of the Gala this year.

Business of Fashion noted in an article about the event, "when set against the broader rise of popular fashion movies, reality television shows and blogs that have helped to nurture global interest in fashion in recent years, the success and wider reverberations of last night's event seem to underscore fashion's potential as a growing genre of mass entertainment within which the Met Ball seems certain to expand its reach and influence."

However, the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition attracted 661,509 visitors and global media attention last year without ever having to transform itself into a mass media entertainment arena. Despite having no live-streaming facility at the opening night, the McQueen exhibition was still extended longer than planned to cope with its overwhelming popularity and as a result, became the most viewed fashion exhibition of all time at the museum. Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Met said to Vogue.co.uk, "[Savage Beauty] was an elegant tribute to the designer's artistry, and we are proud to have shared it with such a broad audience, eager to experience the breadth of his genius." 

Florence Welch Met Ball
Florence Welch at the Met Gala.
Source: vogue.com.
Photograph by Mimi Ritzen Crawford.

It is unquestionable that the live-stream heightened the overall popularity of the Met Gala, with online fashion conversations reaching epic proportions during the night. From the comments posted on twitter, much of the feedback about the digital experience was positive. Many of the tweets reflected how much the pioneering technology had enhanced the public reaction to the Gala. Bergdorf Goodman tweeted, "Catching the live-stream on @voguemagazine. Because that's what we do now. #METGala," whilst PR director for my-wardrobe.com, Lauren Stevenson, tweeted "Crikey @amazon is to stream the #MetGala live. Bet they paid a pretty penny for that." Fashionista.com added to the online discussion noting, "Amy Poehler wearing Fotini, Will Arnett 'wearing what is known as a tuxedo' #METGALA live stream."

The innovative technology also highlighted the way in which the fashion world is continually developing and evolving to keep up with the fast-pace of social networking and blogging. With Singapore hosting the first Digital Fashion Week later this year, it seems likely that 2012 will be the age of innovative technology and global expansion for fashion.

With front-row catwalk seats awash with blackberrys, iPhones, tablets, laptops and digital cameras, we can expect to see fashion grow as "genre of mass entertainment" going forward. But how it unfolds will be interesting to watch. With the whole world invited to join in, what will become of the exclusivity of the East Coast's Oscars? Tune in next year to find out. 


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