Is fashion entertainment? That is the question on everyone’s lips this year as the dust begins to settle on the biggest month in the fashion calendar. Throughout the cycle of SS15 shows, one debate in particular has been raging with several of the industry’s journalistic elite weighing on social media to contribute their views. One of the most publicised tweets comes courtesy of the Independent’s fashion editor Alexander Fury, who claimed that “Fashion is not entertainment. It is art. This is a business and these are trade shows, not a three-ring circus”. His statement supports that of the renowned journalist Suzy Menkes, who penned a 2013 article entitled ‘The Circus of Fashion’ as a response to the rising presence of fashion bloggers in the show tents. In this article, Menkes paints a picture of attention-starved fashionistas armed with camera phones, lingering outside show locations ready to snap selfies with the well-known attendees of the season’s biggest shows. She also forecasts the ‘fast-fashion’ ideology that is slowly becoming ubiquitous, an ideology embodied by Jeremy Scott’s debut collection at Moschino which was available to purchase from the minute the show went viral. Scott tapped into today’s consumer society in a genius way by incorporating accessories such as smart-phone covers into a collection priced from £35 upwards. By adjusting price-points, he made high fashion accessible to those without the budget and subsequently re-opened the debate as to whether fashion should be commercial or exclusive.
|Gareth Pugh's SS15 'Presentation'|
Fury’s initial comment that fashion shows are created for commerce is arguably negated by designers such as Gareth Pugh and Thom Browne, both of which staged fairytale presentations for Spring/Summer 2015. Browne served us one of the week’s highlights with his dreamy avant-garde garden-party, based around the tale of six sisters that designed their own dress code for the week. It’s hard to argue that fashion isn’t entertainment when we see models dressed in fantasy tailoring teetering around the runway’s perimeter in stilts, or fantastical bird-cage headpieces walking the runway. Some of fashion’s greatest designers have been showmen in their own rights – think Galliano’s legendary ‘Diorent Express’ collection, or McQueen’s paint-gun finale at his No.13 collection. It’s not unusual for collections to feature showpieces which never become available to buy; instead they are created for artistic purposes and featured in elaborate runway presentations or loaned to museums for display. Whilst the commercial element of fashion is always the most important, it’s hard to deny that entertainment also plays a part.
|Alexander McQueen's 'No. 13' finale|
Another argument is the affiliation between designers and celebrities. Once again, Jeremy Scott was the poster boy this season as he enlisted the help of controversial star Miley Cyrus to design the hallucinogenic accessories for his SS2015 collection. Scott’s celebrity involvement became as well-documented as the collection itself, much like his debut show for Moschino which saw Katy Perry grab headlines by arriving late to a chorus of boos. This is just one example of celebrity endorsement; a cursory glance on Instagram sees Front Row selfies from an array of celebrities that attend as voyeurs, not critics. Although the stars drum up publicity and arguably boost sales by aligning themselves with the designer’s aesthetic, they are technically no more related to the fashion industry than any member of the general public. These stars are simply fashion fans that happen to have the budget to buy into high-fashion, not members of the industry that are seeing the show from a ‘trade’ perspective.
MoscOverall, it seems contradictory to argue that fashion shows should be reserved exclusively for members of the industry when there are certain designers that buy into the cult of celebrity. This is not to say that this argument is applicable to all designers – there are several designers who, for example, show static presentations as opposed to traditional runway shows in order to avoid the ‘media circus’ element. There are also designers that show linear presentations that fit the traditional definition of a runway show by only inviting industry members and keeping their show locations under wraps. However, to speak in general terms essentially holds Jeremy Scott to the same standards as Rei Kawakubo. By favouring celebrity endorsement, designers such as Donatella and Karl Lagerfeld have become celebrities in their own right, which takes credibility away from the argument that fashion shows should be industry-only. Even the iconic Anna Wintour made headlines by featuring Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on the cover of style’s holy Bible, Vogue. In an age dominated by social media in which anybody can tweet a designer or livestream a show, is it really fair to argue that fashion should be an exclusive industry?