How much will scalpers get for a ticket to a Marc Jacobs show? Or a Chanel extravaganza at the Grand Palais?
That reality might not be too far off, as designers all around the world evaluate the effectiveness of the runway, how to feed the consumer frenzy and fascination with all things fashion, and how to best use technology, which keeps disseminating information at warp speed.
This story first appeared in the November 18, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Fashion executives say it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine selling tickets to the public — and scalpers reselling them for big bucks — for some of these spectacles. Just look at the fevered interest in Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy show in New York in September, when 1,200 tickets were distributed to “real people,” mostly noncelebrity and nonindustry civilians and students. And the 820 that were posted for the public online were snatched up immediately.
In the last few seasons, several major designers have experimented with groundbreaking digital concepts to shake up the traditional catwalk and stir the imagination: Ralph Lauren staged a 4-D holographic runway show in Central Park; Tom Ford filmed a music video starring Lady Gaga, and Burberry revealed looks to Snapchat users before they hit the runway.
“I think everyone right now is questioning everything,” says Diane von Furstenberg. “Everyone is surfing the tsunami the best they can. There are no rules and everybody has to figure it out. Maybe fashion shows should be more for the consumers. Nobody knows. We have to first raise the issues.”
WWD surveyed retailers, designers, show organizers and trend forecasters to see what they believe fashion shows will look like in the year 2020 and beyond. The overarching consensus is that technology will change the look and feel of the shows, and that more consumer interface will be paramount. But there could be other surprises down the road.
“Runway shows are heading in two extremes,” says trend forecaster Li Edelkoort. “They’ll either be more spectacular and public, incorporating installations, music, film, dance, theater and other artistic and performance disciplines, or they will be small and modest encounters to really experience the clothes.”
Traditional fashion shows that we know today will be over at some point, she says. “It’s either not intimate enough or not grandiose enough.” She also predicts a lot of experimentation with new formats, such as Ford’s online film for spring, which reaches people over a longer period of time, more deeply and surprising and motivating them in a new way.
There’s no question that fashion shows have become entertainment vehicles, and a few observers think that will only intensity five years from now.
“It’s going to get crazier and crazier and crazier,” predicts Fabien Baron, founder, president and creative director of Baron & Baron, and editorial director of Interview. “I can imagine it’s going to be bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s entertainment now. I think it’s a ‘show.’ It’s not a ‘fashion show’ anymore.”
Baron points out that the fashion show experience is a lot more than what the viewer sees coming down the runway. “It has to do with who’s in the room, what the room looks like, who are the people involved, the dream, backstage — everything’s going to be [multiplied] by 5,000. Everything will be on steroids.”
To be sure, European brands, such as Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton, spend millions on their shows, and they’re huge productions. There’s competition among the top houses as to who has the biggest fireworks of the week and the biggest location. “You can do a movie with that money,” Baron says.
Looking to 2020, he says: “You’ll see 3-D and special rooms that can do a 3-D vision of the show; you’ll wear special glasses, pick the looks from the show and preorder the looks directly, instead of going through the retailer. They [brands] will go directly to the client.
“It’s possible they’ll be scalping tickets to the public.” Ralph Lauren is known for experimenting with state-of-the-art digital concepts for several of its brands. It was the first brand to sell via mobile phone, even before the iPhone came out.
David Lauren, executive vice president of global advertising, marketing and corporate communications of Ralph Lauren Corp., says, “We did a fashion show on water and we did a Collection show on the side of our building. I think they’re both unique and interesting. What’s so amazing right now is we don’t even know what cool apps and technology will exist by next year. The resolution in technology has gotten so advanced we’re getting surprised every six months.”
Lauren points out that at some sports stadiums, there are small screens on the backs of seats to view replays, among other things, and this technology can be applied to fashion shows. Ultimately, he thinks shows will invite consumers. “I think you’ll get different angles and different points of view for a fashion show,” says Lauren, who can also envision brands selling tickets on StubHub.
Fern Mallis, who created 7th on Sixth and now consults for the industry, believes that fashion shows are still the best way to see clothing and a collection, but says the burgeoning consumer element must be considered. “The technique might change and we might be seeing more online and less in person,” she says. “There will be virtual runways — maybe you’ll be seeing them on your smartwatch.”
Erica Orange, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Future Hunters, projects a sea of change on the catwalk in the next five to 10 years.
“The combination of virtual reality, fashion shows and fashion week is going to change everything. Virtual reality isn’t really anything new, but we’re right on the precipice of major changes. With the headsets in development, it’s now in the hands of consumers. There’s nothing saying that in the future, the shows will happen simultaneously in the real world and in the virtual word, giving people more access.” She believes that fashion shows in the future will add an augmented reality spin.
“As a model is walking down the runway, instead of just one piece of clothing, through a Google Glass or through someone’s cell phone, they can see it in different colors or they could see how it could look on them. It turns one thing into many different things,” Orange says.
Still, most observers feel there’s nothing that can replace actually being there and observing things in person, as part of a group.
“[Fashion shows] are too experiential and it’s impossible to replace the vibe and the energy and the group effervescence that happens,” says Simon Doonan, creative ambassador of Barneys New York. He suggests two possible scenarios in 2020. One is that the models will interact more with the audience, like they did in the old days when a model enjoyed a cigarette in the front row. The other is that food will become more important. “We’re going to see people with food carts coming down the runway to offer sustenance to the hardworking fashion professionals. It’ll be easy food, organic, crunchy and really very satisfying.
People [at the shows] are starving. It won’t be beef burritos, but there will be a contest to see who has the chicest offering. They’ll be mini-hamburgers at Ralph or macrobiotic food at Ric Owens.” He also says when the shows move to the Culture Shed in New York, designers will want to show in nearby galleries as well.
When one thinks about fashion shows of the future, ease of use for buyers is top-of-mind for Ron Robinson, president of Ron Robinson Inc., the Los Angeles retailer. “How about if you were a buyer sitting at a fashion show and you held up your phone so that it took, not only a picture, but gave you the garment composition? You’re creating your own catalogue right there and then when you’re watching the fashion shows — maybe you could order it from your phone as a buyer,” Robinson says.
The ability to place a chip on a garment or just about anything already exists, making the catwalk of the future not such a distant idea. There’s a caveat to all the high-tech. While people realize the importance of the Internet and Instagram, they feel a backlash might occur in favor of a more intimate event.
Robert Burke, an industry consultant, notes a trend recently to more intimate shows precisely because the scene has gotten out of control. “Things are coming full-cycle, and the pendulum swings back and forth on this. I don’t think in the next five years we’re in a situation where shows will go completely digital and still have the same effect.” Although the current trend might be leaning toward including the public, Burke believes there will always be a certain importance to the exclusivity and intimacy of fashion. But here’s the rub: “The more attainable and accessible it is, the less interesting it is, and the less desirable it is,” Burke says.
Tom Ford continues to push the envelope and has been experimenting with unusual fashion show presentations, whether a very private affair for the most important press and buyers, or a video with Lady Gaga, which he did this past season. Trey Laird, founder, chief executive officer and chief creative officer of Laird & Partners, was the art director on the video under Ford’s direction. “It obviously got a lot of attention,” Laird recalls. “For me, it was a moment because of who Tom is and the impact he’s had over so many years.”
Laird says brands have to figure out what the experience is for millions of people, not just the 500 guests in the room. “Some people will do it as a digital film, some people will do it as a public performance. Some people will do it as a virtual reality thing. Some people might do it as a 3-D experience.”
As for the next generation of designers who will be figuring out the best way to show their collections, Joanne Arbuckle, dean of the School of Art and Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, suggests that up-and-coming fashion designers will want to share more with the consumer. She predicts that shows will become more theatrical, without taking away from the actual collections. “How they’re going to share with the consumer will be much more intimate than what we see today. It will be customized for each market so they’re really speaking to who the market is.”
Catherine Bennett, senior vice president and managing director of IMG Fashion Events and Properties, says, “I think you’re finding more and more people, consumers and the general public, drawn to the runway. You do hear talk about how the [fashion show] model has become more antiquated, but I feel there’s more interest in it than there has ever been before. How a designer decides to show their collection or tell a story about their collection is up to them. In a way, it’s often easier to do that through a live experience.” IMG has developed a channel on Apple TV that is filled with both original and acquired content, as well as live coverage.
Rebecca Minkoff is one contemporary designer who thinks today’s fashion show model will inevitably change.
“I think the current model is stale. In this global, consumer-driven era, it’s important to engage with your consumers on a level that allows them to be a part of the process. For spring, we had some products that could be purchased straight from the runway and we saw a huge success in those sales. That’s where I believe the model is moving — it’s more inclusive to a brand’s loyal customers and gives them something to buy now, rather than waiting another six months when fast-fashion chains have already knocked off the runway, and it’s become less special and therefore no longer on the customer’s wish list.”
Alexandre de Betak, founder of Bureau Betak, which produced more than 20 spring shows, including Rodarte, Mary Katrantzou, Dior and The Row, says, “In three years only, we went from almost-live photos of shows to live video-streaming and 15-second videos on Instagram and Snapchat. The next step will be interactive 360-degree live Webcasts. It means viewers won’t only be able to watch the show, but choose what they want: the front row, the attendance or the set. We’ll probably launch the technology next season.”
Fausto Puglisi, founder and creative director of his namesake label and creative director of Emanuel Ungaro, sums up his thoughts on where the catwalk is headed as a “dual vision.”
“One is about gigantic spaces, rock ’n’ roll concerts, people enjoying the mood. Fashion as a connection for dreamers, exquisite connoisseurs, buyers, normal people and megastars. Fashion as a democratic approach to teach beauty and craftsmanship to everybody.
“The other vision is about fashion as an atelier experience: close the door and build your relationship with the final customers. They are my Queen and King. Fashion as a vision of uniqueness, beauty, arts and crafts in a very private environment. You can feel, you can touch and you can wear fashion.”