Monday, February 26, 2018

Yeezy and Balenciaga's Response to Consumption in the Digital Age

Back before Mother Modern Age birthed Instagram, and back before this newborn baby sprouted into a toddler and started pouncing through the invitation-only doors of fashion week, labels primarily advertised in print magazines, billboards, and television. Average consumers were accustomed to seeing a top or a pair of jeans in an editorial ad, ripping out that page from Vogue, and taking it to the mall in search of the physical treasure.

But alas, those times are not these times! Here's a piece of insight that's most definitely not new: technology is transforming our world and the way we interact with it. That conversation's been beaten to a pulp, and it extends to almost every aspect of our lives: learning and studying, working and applying for jobs, buying and selling, and...there it is...styling and consuming fashion!

With Instagram at our disposal, we can see what people are wearing all the time and buy things that show up on our feed. Kendall Jenner is photographed leaving a restaurant in Vetements jeans, the photo is immediately all over Instagram aesthetic inspo pages, and the jeans sell out the next day. We see real peopleeven if those people are celebritieswearing things in real time and real life rather than models embodying a character for a photoshoot. Clothing in its natural habitat in an off-guard paparazzi picture seems more authentic and accessible than clothing styled specifically to sell.

What if design houses could fuse these two methods of exposure together, though? Create the illusion of a paparazzi photo's off-guard authenticity in a calculated, professional advertisement? Why don't designers just turn Instagram pictures or paparazzi shots into ad campaigns?

It's no surprise that the first brands to try this are Yeezy and Balenciaga, two labels that have gained millennial cult followings in recent years. Kanye West executed his entire Yeezy Season 6 ad campaign over Instagram by recruiting dozens of stars to mimic paparazzi photos of Kim Kardashian wearing the new line. Kim began posting paparazzi photos of her in head-to-toe Yeezy in January, which seemed like a pre-emptive marketing tactic to the later explosion of similar photos that all dropped on the same day.











Similarly, Balenciaga's Spring 2018 ad campaign photos are literally a compilation of mock paparazzi shots:


Every business that has ever existed, even the age-old toddler-manned lemonade stand, has had to study the changing consumer market and adapt to its behaviors and interests. Fashion houses are no exceptionthese brands are taking the new way we consume fashion and running with it.

It's interesting, though, because brands always seemed to lead the fashion industry by starting the trends, controlling the market, and telling us what we want before we could figure it out for ourselves. However, with Instagram, a platform shaped by its users and their choices, the public has taken the reignsintentionally or unintentionallyand inherited a larger slice of the pie, so much so that brands are forced to keep up with us now.

Yeezy and Balenciaga aren't the only brands that have channelled their aesthetic into more casual and "youthful" collections over the years. Coach, Chanel, and Gucci, for example, have slowly transitioned from trademark luxury handbags and gowns to combat boots and street pieces.

As more and more sweatpants and oversized windbreakers pop up on the runways of the most popular, age-old brands, the influence of the millennial seems to reflect the appeal of platforms like Instagram: casual and instantly gratifying, like seeing people wearing Yeezy clothing while scrolling through photos of your friend's lunch and your cousin's dog.

While it's amazing that the public has influence over such a large industry, any sort of power imbalance has its downsides. Some feel that Instagram has launched the fashion industry into a spiral towards low standards, claiming that supermodels have been replaced by "talentless" social media stars and individual style replaced by oversaturated Instagram trends.

I guess that's just it, though: if we have the power to ruin fashion, we have the power to keep it afloatmaybe even to help it rise to a potential it has never fully fulfilled before. The question, then, is: before both brands and consumers can use their power for good, can they first identify what the fashion industry's own breed of "good" or "evil" is?
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Monday, February 5, 2018

Why Alexa Chung's New Label is One to Watch


British writer, model, host, and designer Alexa Chung launched her very own fashion label in May of last year. The label's nameALEXACHUNGis particularly fitting not only because...well, it's the designer's name...but because every piece looks like something that could've been pulled right out of Chung's own closet.

Fashion fans have viewed Chung as a style icon for years nowamidst her many career feats, she's always been an "It girl" known for her grungy yet sophisticatedly British style. Because of this, it's safe to say that much of the fashion world knows and understands her aesthetic, and her collection proves that there's a market for those who'd like to dress like her.

These people can try to mix girly and eclectic pieces to recreate her style, but nobody can do it better than Chung, who has evolved and refined her style throughout the years in a way that's allowed her to master it to a tee. She has something unique and uncopyable: a trademark aesthetic and an ability to radiate it in anything she wears. Her consistency in this, even amidst personal style evolution, backed by years and years of curation and experimentation, gives Chung her own tool belt and compass for navigating the industry. And now she's using these tools to bring brand new, self-styled pieces directly to consumers!

In fact, the ALEXACHUNG brand is possibly the most visible connection of personal aesthetic to professional creation the fashion industry has seen in some time. The "girl" the ALEXACHUNG brand seems to design for is very much reflective of Chung herself: eclectic and grungy yet girly and classic, always with a bit of British flare. 

Her debut collection for the brand (Pre-Fall 2017) exhibited a beautifully exciting mix of these accents in a way Chung has mastered better than anyone: she paired knit collared shirts with leather mini skirts, a floral dress with sparkly platform boots, and graphic t-shirts with the words "Screw You" across the front paired with flats and midi-length denim skirts.
Chung is knocking it out of the park. The debut collection was amazing, and the Resort 2018 collection that just dropped is a strong continuation of the established aesthetic. 

It'll be interesting to see where this conceptualization approach leads the brand in the future, though...what's the longevity of a brand based so closely off a designer's personal style?

Although Chung isn't obligated to show during every season of the fashion calendar, could the brand keep up with the demand to constantly pump out new merchandise? Chung has taken on a new role in which she must consciously channel her personal clothing preferences into a collection of new product...how will this affect the expression of her own personal style?

While it's interesting to anticipate the future of ALEXACHUNG, something tells me that Chung is going to provide answers that will make us wonder why we even questioned her in the first place. She has no reason not to show us exactly what she can do, which, with her 18 years of witnessing the industry from the inside, might turn out to be much more than we think. 
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