How Social Media Dominated Paris Fashion Week

Estimated Reading Time 14 minutes

Social Media Ensures That Anyone with a Smartphone Can Attend the Most Exclusive Runway Shows

The monumental power of social media today cannot be ignored, particularly when it comes to the fashion industry. Before social media, if you wanted to know what went on at Paris Fashion Week, you’d have to either pick up a copy of Vogue or actually go to Paris.

Today, front row access to the biggest fashion shows of the season are merely at the touch of our fingertips (or smartphones); blogs and the rise of social media has opened the shiny door for mere mortals to take a peek into the glamorous world of fashion. This blog post will explore how social media influences Paris Fashion Week, and will focus specifically on Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and Balmain.

Power of Instagram

No social media platform has been more instrumental in opening doors than Instagram; brands are able to livestream their shows, post pictures and videos of their latest releases, and provide the illusion of ‘backstage access’ for their audiences. A more accessible and egalitarian approach to fashion is the result; users in any location around the world can watch willowy models march down the Paris runways.

A strong Instagram presence is a crucial component to any fashion brand that aspires to any significant measure of success; a level of transparency and the perception of unfiltered access is a regular theme among fashion brands on Instagram.

Eva Chen, director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, speaks about the “ripple” effect of fashion shows: “If they have one influencer in the audience with 1 million followers, what will that 1 million followers experience?” During the fashion month of 2017, Instagram’s fashion community, comprising of 143 million users, generated 709 million engagements, according to the in-house data team.

Instagram has arguably become the natural showcase for the fashion world. The Balenciaga, Balmain and Louis Vuitton PFW runway shows are of particular interest in this blog; each will be discussed in relation to the growth of social media and online searching, with a consideration of the impact that technology has on brands today.

According to Statista (2018), in 2017, Louis Vuitton had the fifth highest market share of Instagram Stories luxury content Interactions; the brand accounted for 7% of user interactions:

Statista - Instagram Market Share

The Google trends graph below demonstrates the measured interest in Paris Fashion Week over time according to what users searched:

Google Trends 'paris fashion week'

Interest peaked in late December/January in preparation for A/W 2018 fashion week, and again in September for the S/S 2019 fashion week.

The search term Paris Fashion Week Schedule also reached peak search entries in September and January:

Google Trends - Paris Fashion Week Schedule

Before discussing the specific fashion shows, the topic of Influencers must first be touched upon. Instagram is arguably the biggest asset to the fashion industry. Fashion is a visually based industry. Today, if you see a blogger wearing an outfit you love on Instagram, you can find and purchase the items right from your phone and have them delivered to your door thanks to shoppable applications that integrate with social media, like rewardStyle, ShopStyle and LIKEtoKNOW.it.

What bloggers are wearing on Instagram and other social media outlets has created such an impact on the way that consumers shop that retailers have reached out to them for content collaborations. Thanks to the advent of influencers and their assiduous documentation skills, fashion week’s notoriously iron-clad gates have opened up to the masses, as bloggers and stylists avidly snap their way through the proceedings for thousands of followers.
The implementation of Instagram Stories provides brands an opportunity to give their audience a “first look” or “backstage” view of the brand, without having to worry about the quality of the content. Classic fashion week content on social media usually includes make-up being applied backstage, celebrities arriving outside, influencers on the front row, the models hitting the catwalk itself.

The fact that this content disappears 24-hours later is what is so appealing to these brands. The blink-and-you-miss-it standard provides the exclusivity they count on, while not having to compromise the beautiful feeds they curate on their main accounts. Of the 700 million users on Instagram worldwide, 250 million are viewing the Stories feature every day.
Those that attend fashion shows tend to share photos and videos from the sidelines, meaning that within seconds of the models parading down the runways, people at home can interact and engage in a similar way to the attendees. Fashion shows were once closed off, somewhat secretive and extremely exclusive. Today, anyone can attend fashion week.

Balenciaga

“I want it to look cool and I want it to look elegant. Those are the most important qualities”

Said designer Demna Gvasalia, talking about his new collection for Balenciaga. On 30th September 2018, Gvasalia showcased his SS19 Balenciaga collection at PFW. The runway show took place in what appeared to be a tunnelled computer system. Guests sat in the tube setting while projections of slogans that resembled software installation directions floated around; it appeared to resemble the inside of a computer cable. Designed by Jon Rafman, the runway seemed to be a nod to the technological world that generation Z are so familiar with.
The clothes themselves also possessed the air of technology; modern and sharply tailored suits were a common theme. This tailored smart streetwear allowed menswear and womenswear to be combined for the first time. According to Gvasalia, the line was inspired by the effects that technology is having on us; simple, clean cut and minimalistic designs were the overarching theme.

Balencia PFW    Balencia PFW 

Louis Vuitton

Nicolas Ghesquière’s previous collections for Louis Vuitton frequently mimic the concepts of space and science fiction for fashion inspiration, often mixing them with art and historical references.

For last night’s show, a long, bright, futuristic tube was created, similarly to the Balenciaga show. The clothes resembled a take on futurism for the modern woman. Once again, womenswear and menswear seemed to overlap in a fusion of male and female smartwear and streetwear. The clothes were considered to be a welcome breath of fresh air both in their complete lack of concern for gender.

The show took place in the Louvre Museum; at one end of the runway sat the Great Sphinx of Tanis, a reminder of the ancient civilization of Egypt. Speaking afterward, Ghesquière said, “I thought anachronism was interesting. How today can we incorporate pieces considered as costume into an everyday wardrobe?”

The collection included silk dresses with maxi shoulder impact, printed with splotches of robots and classical statuary like rips in the space-time continuum. When asked what inspired the collection, Ghesquière said he was interested in the edge between the virtual reality we experience through our social media streams and real life.

Louis Vuitton PFW    Louis Vuitton PFW

Balmain

On the 28th September, Balmain Army proved they are a force to be reckoned with; Cara Delevingne opened the show while lip syncing ‘When Doves Cry’ by Prince. Last season, Olivier Rousteing looked to the future for his slick, sci-fi Balmain collection; this season, he looked to the past, specifically, ancient Egypt.

Delevingne also closed out the show as the final look in a white and black outfit. “It’s Paris meets Egypt,” said Olivier Rousteing before his Balmain show; “I think it’s really important to mention that so much of the beauty of Paris is in its history, and its history is not only what we call French”.

Post-colonial Parisian architecture draws heavily on Egypt; Rousteing paid tribute to this in his show at PFW in a playful and artistic way. Delevingne opened the show in a Cleopatra-inspired gleaming metal bodice; there were funny, sexy mummy jeans and dresses in ribbons of wrapped, draped, and distressed muslin. The collection was imprinted with hieroglyphics and pyramids, but more successful was his playful approach.

As fashion houses go, Balmain is one of the most social media-savvy; Olivier Rousteing has over 5 million followers on his personal Instagram. In the A/W 2018 Paris Fashion Week, the French fashion house sent out a press release Tuesday boasting that it had the highest overall social engagement during the runway showings (which Instagram confirmed); they recorded a whopping 2.9 million interactions on the photo-sharing platform, beating out other competitors.

The Kardashians are frequent members of the front row Balmain shows, therefore lending their social media clout. One thing’s for sure; it pays to have a Kardashian at your runway show, but failing that, a regular influencer will suffice.

Balmain PFW   Balmain PFW

Conclusion

Social media has forever changed the way fashion week happens; gone are the days when the only people who’d see the show were the ones attending. Nowadays through the implementation of live streams and Instagram stories, viewers are practically on the front row alongside the fashion elite.

Pictures taken from Vogue.com

Jemima Smith
Jemima has a Masters in Communication and International Marketing from the University of Surrey following a successful Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. With a keen interest in the commercial aspect of the retail and ecommerce sector, Jemima has ‘hands on‘ experience of understanding the buying channel in both online and offline environments - more importantly, how they connect. Her time at Digital Clarity is spent mainly in content creation, focussing on storytelling and blog writing. When not studying creative writing in her spare time, Jemima enjoys fitness training and running. A keen horse rider and skier, Jemima can be found on the slopes of Courchevel or Cortina as well as indulging in some après ski delights of the area.
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