A few weekends ago I went along to a screening of The September Issue. Like most of the twenty-something’s who filed into the cinema clutching our ticket stubs, I anticipated the style revelations that an exposure to the inner circle of the New York fashion industry could reveal. You know what I’m talking about – each issue of Vogue presents an underlying opportunity to rebrand yourself with an inspired twist on your own style. I couldn’t imagine a behind-the-scenes glance would be any less of an initiation.
Surprisingly, of all the characters portrayed in the documentary (such as stylist Grace Coddington, with her candidly pure and heartfelt portrayal of fashion as a way of life, not to mention Anna Wintour with her steely, systematic manner of articulating fashion’s absolute), I held my breath for Burt Tansky, the president and C.E.O. of Neiman Marcus.
During the Annual Vogue / Retailers Breakfast, Tansky questions Wintour about delivery schedules. Tansky argues that designers are making late and infrequent deliveries which result in lost sales. Customers want what’s new right now –it seems consumers covet trends before they have barely left the runway.
image courtesy of Vogue Paris, 2007
As the self-assured Wintour adjusts her posture and coolly replies that the providers of high end fashion products need to simply ‘edit’ their collections down, I considered my own consumption of fashion messages. Not content with a monthly dose of inspiration from Vogue alone, I consume various other monthly and weekly print magazines, receive daily RSS feeds from the likes of style.com, subscribe to an endless array of fashion blogs, and check my twitter almost hourly to hear what @GraziaMagAus, @JeanBrownGroup and @ColetteParis have to tell me.
Consider Twitter – what should be one of the most powerful tools for fashion marketers. As with any social media platform, Twitter provides an opportunity for fashion marketers to create an experience around their brand that consumers desire to be a part of, encouraging online conversation and providing marketers with an intimate insight into how their brand rests in the heart of their market. All this without the fee required for a position in Wintour’s collective.
Lately I suspect that fashion brands that host Twitter accounts, even the ones who appear to be successful in doing so, only chose to do so because they felt like they were missing an opportunity if they did not. There is no doubt that fashion marketers need to be innovative when it comes to advertising, but I do wonder if the long-term effects of generating an hourly dialogue about a brand (or an entire industry for instance) could lead to its demise.
The concept of Twitter is contradictory to the integrity of the fashion industry. The exclusivity of editorial content and the context of the messages so carefully weaved by the Grace Coddington’s of this world are compromised by an audience who receive diluted versions of the brand messages in advance of the authentic reveal.
Ultimately it is the fashion magazines that control the trends and drive the retail market, and the time it takes to produce a product to stock the shelves of a retailer who has placed an order in response to a runway showing emerges as infinite in comparison to the time it takes for @vogueoz to post a Twitpic that initiates demand for the product NOW. The consequences that follow are predicable – suppliers who can afford to rapidly mass produce versions of the dreams played out on the catwalks prevail, and by the time an authentic fashion product reaches its market there are countless imitations available. Or, worse still, the consumers have moved on from the idea of what was ‘in’ 140 characters ago.
The speed of online communication seems to be outpacing the marketing and production of fashion trends. I wonder what @AnnaWintour would have to say on the subject.