In recent articles put up on Stylecaster and The Cut, IMG (the company behind Mercedes Benz Fashion Week) made a statement about how it would be ensuring changes will be made to NYFW starting next season on the invitations and attendances to the show regarding bloggers and media personalities. With much backlash towards the “zoo” that fashion weeks have become, Catherine Bennett, Senior VP and MD of IMG, announced that IMG would work towards creating more intimate shows, just like how they were in the past. It was interesting for me to read how, finally, many have admitted that the intensity and overwhelming crowd surrounding fashion week has gone over the limit, with it being “swarmed with fashion bloggers, street style photographers and fashion fans … in addition to the hundreds of journalists and scores of celebrities.” It was mentioned how importance had shifted over the yard from buyers and selected media, to fashion bloggers and those higher in the current fashion social hierarchy.
It struck a chord within me, since I had experienced the commotion first hand. With ERIIN being my start-up with my business partner, Maisha, we run almost all the aspects of the online retail business. I act as the buyer for ERIIN, and we’ve been invited to the Fashion Weeks in Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul, Australia and London. These cities are, in my opinion, the creme la de creme when it comes to emerging young designers, with a bevy of support for fresh talent to start their own labels.
One of the most poignant memories I have of Fashion Week is that of MBFW Australia in Sydney a year back. The ERIIN team had been thrilled to have been invited, and we had always been head over heels in love with Australian designers. I couldn’t wait to experience the garments first hand, especially with the prints, silk and leather that Australian labels are so fond of including in their collections. It was, however, not the experience I had expected. Don’t get me wrong, we loved the city, enjoyed exploring it, and had found a cosy apartment to live at for the 10 days we were there. However, the experience of attending the shows, and the treatment we received, is something that left me with a strong distaste.
I had started this entry thinking that I wanted to share the experiences I’ve had over the years, and how the status of a buyer of a small retailer seems to always put you at the lowest of the ranks, but I decided that it entailed too much negativity trying to explain and recount the entire situation, so I think a personal summary of everything I’ve experience will suffice —
1. MFBW Australia in Sydney was dreadful, in my opinion. Too many bloggers and personalities, with too much emphasis on treating these star bloggers like kings & queens, which ended up with us buyers being unable to experience the garments to their full potential, as well as facing such rude service staff at the registration, entrance of the tents etc – it was horrid. I’d never felt so slighted in my entire life, and by the third day of the shows, I’d pretty much had enough and decided to stop attending them altogether. Maisha and I spent the rest of our days shopping and visiting the sites. Lookbooks and line sheets would have to suffice for us, and we were more than happy to be freed from the judgmental eyes of staff, bloggers and photographers. Moreover, waiting for 2 hours for a show to begin or for a VIP blogger to arrive was just too taxing for me, and I decided my time could be better spent on other activities.
2. London Fashion Week is always jammed pack with people, 70% of which are fashion students and fashion fans wanting to have their picture taken. I see countless people standing around the tents, fiddling with their phones, sipping on coffee, and just waiting there for two hours or more in sky-high heels. When and if approached by a photographer, you can tell instantly that they’ve got a couple of poses in their head that they’ve been conjuring up. They really are harmless, and a lot of the times these outfits are inspiring and interesting to look at. The thing is, though, the entire yard of the Somerset House ends up cluttered and packed with people, and sometimes I wonder if the attention has been drawn away from the brands and shows themselves.
3. Even via street style blogs, it is very clear to see how messy and huge the entire street style phenomenon is. It could be 20 photographers snapping a picture of a style darling at the same time, and the following behind individual styles is now massive. I’m guilty of that as well, with a strong liking for Taylor Tomasi Hill, Christine Centenera etc and their personal styles. Without the current culture, I wouldn’t have known who they are, or their positions in the fashion industry, and what they’ve accomplished for themselves. The downside though, is that the rate at which these style darlings go through their clothes is something that I am unable to achieve (at the moment?). It promotes the culture of spending and constantly adding on to the wardrobe. Which then leads me to this article on The New Yorker on the other side of luxury shopping. Have we been desensitized to the real value of money by witnessing endless consumerism in the fashion industry?
Just a couple of thoughts that stemmed out from three articles I came across this week, which brought back a lot of questions I’d asked myself over the years that are related to to my love for fashion and my position in the retailing business. I think with the constant evolution and growth of technology and what the internet can truly do, it is easier for everyone – buyers, fans, bloggers etc – to witness the shows digitally rather than in person. Take for example the live streaming done by Burberry and Topshop – the images and graphics you see on your laptop or computer can actually be so much clearer than what you see if you’re sitting at maybe the third or fourth row. Granted, you won’t have the experience of physically attending the show, but with the boundaries that are constantly broken by the rate of growth of technology, I won’t be surprised if there’ll be a 4D experience of fashion shows in the future.
This wasn’t an entry to voice out my displeasure though – I thought I’d pen down my experiences and how I related to these articles, and to be honest, the words and thoughts within this entry only just skim the surface of my conflicted feelings I have towards the fashion and retailing industries.