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?

1 comment

Celebrity Ping said...

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