Black Coffee at SA Fashion Week SS 15. Social media has become a normal part of the fashion week experience, yet the industry has hardly innovated to adapt to the age of instant reportage that social media enables.


Fashion Week, Reinvented, declared a New York Times headline in a report about how WME/IMG, the owners of New York Fashion Week (and 13 other international fashion weeks), were looking at reinventing the bi-annual event, treating it more like content than just another trade show. Of course, fashion weeks the world over have long ceased to be simple trade shows, I would say. So, WME/IMG should be looking to reinvent how things work, no?

Ever since the advent of social media, fashion week has become the ‘fourth pillar of popular culture’, as American ELLE Editor Robbie Myers recently put it in an interview with Business of Fashion. And from where I stand, I’d say it’s true: everyone and sundry lays claim to being a fan of some or other designer in the same way we fan out for musicians, actors and other types of celebrities.

When fashion week comes around, likers-of-things – not just stylists, buyers and editors – start panicking about tickets to this or that show; ‘OMG what am I going to wear’, and such and such. Fans of fashion who aren’t at the shows stay glued to their smartphone screens liking and commenting on images posted from the FROW (front row), and soon, tweets critiquing designer shows begin to trickle in as if everyone was suddenly a Suzy Menkes.

While we all get to see the shows in more or less real time, thanks to social media and the broader blogosphere, why, then, has the industry not adapted to the immediacy of it all? Why are we still working with a delayed seasonal cycle, failing to capitalise on the hype created by the social media buzz? Why are designers showcasing on the fashion week platform, getting all the due glory, only to not be able to turn out the product immediately in a world where instant gratification is a norm?

SA Fashion Week’s Runway online retail platform will be selling five garments from each of 15 designer shows following SA Fashion Week SS16, which starts Wednesday in Rosebank, Johannesburg. The five garments from each designer are sample pieces, meaning only skinnymalinks like myself can wear them. I don’t know how much business sense this makes, but whatever the case, one must recognise that there is at least some effort on the part of SA Fashion Week.

Says Runway Online manager Natasha Edwards: “We have realised that our clients want to be able to buy the Designer Collections directly from the Runway. Of course this is not possible under normal circumstances because the process from show to delivery is five to six weeks.  We have managed to persuade the designers to release five garments to us. This will be once offs. It’s a small (but) very exciting window of opportunity.”

And what of the print magazines who will feature garments from these shows in their pages months later when Gaschette and other blogs will have shot the same clothes and released the shoots online a week after fashion week wraps? Does it really, really make any sense? I’d be lying if I said this is something I’ve gone into investigating, perhaps editors and designers find the status quo to be working quite perfectly for them, but in my mind, I really can’t make any sense of what I see as the industry’s failure to adapt to the realities of today’s on-demand world.

By Sandiso Ngubane

Featured Image: Black Coffee at SA Fashion Week SS15 by Simon Deiner/SDR Photo

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