New media (including blogs) and social media (think: Instagram, Snapchat) without a doubt have a huge impact on the fashion industry. From the way we read magazines to who’s sitting front row at the hottest fashion shows, a lot has changed in tandem with new media’s rise–and not all of it is for the better, either.
Many industry professionals and fashion gurus yearn for the days when fashion was about art, talent and innovation; instead, they are left with a bleak world based on ads, sales and consumerism. This phenomenon affects not only the way the world sees the industry, but the scope of the industry itself, in six distinct ways.
Nepotism: Nepotism is prevalent in just about every facet of the fashion industry, but it is most obvious when it comes to models, both on the runway and in print. World class designers, such as Chanel’s creative director Karl Lagerfeld, tend to favor the children of celebrities over models who have made a name in the industry for themselves. Bella Hadid (daughter of Yolanda Hadid and David Foster), Kendall Jenner (daughter of Kris Kardashian and Bruce Jenner) and Lily Rose Depp (daughter of singer-songwriter Vanessa Paradis and actor Johnny Depp) all served as Lagerfeld’s muse on the Chanel runway during the recent Spring 2017 couture show in Paris. Depp, 17, who closed the show in an ornate tulle gown, even walked arm-in-arm with Lagerfeld as she descended down the runway. Additionally, other celebrity children, like Bella Hadid’s older sister Gigi, and Hailey Baldwin, daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin, appear on numerous runways and print ads every season, causing traditional–and arguably more talented–models to be pushed aside.
Pay-for-play on the red carpet: Per The Fashion Law, celebrity stylists and their A-list clientele receive large sums of money from designers seeking red carpet recognition. With award show season in full-swing, these stylists receive “anywhere between $30,000 and $50,000” per event, while the celebrities themselves can receive upwards of $100,000, according to Jessica Paster, who has dressed Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Miranda Kerr, Sandra Bullock and Rachel McAdams, among others. But, American lawyer and voice behind The Fashion Law Julie Zerbo does not take these so-called “ambassadorships” between designers and celebrities lightly. In fact, she states, “…it is important for advertising brands to think critically about whether a connection between the product (a dress or necklace, for instance) and its endorser (the celebrity) is material; whether consumers would understand that that endorser has been compensated for his or her endorsement; and whether a material connection disclosure needs to be made and how.” Furthermore, “…endorsements that have come about as a result of a connection between the endorser and the underlying brand without proper disclosure are violations of the FTC Act,” according to Zerbo, while “a misrepresentation is ‘material’ if it is likely to affect consumers’ buying choices.”
Lack of innovation in design: While the most coveted designs were once the intricate, handmade ones that took hours upon hours to assemble and often had to be custom ordered, that is no longer the case. As exhibited by Dior’s Spring 2017 ready-to-wear collection, the most popular pieces are now synonymous with the most Instagram-able ones. A simple white t-shirt reading “WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS” stole the show, made subsequent headlines, flooded social media feeds all over the world and gained even more esteem when it was worn by superstars Natalie Portman and Rihanna rocked it off the runway. A similar t-shirt by Gucci, which retails for nearly $600, came to fame on the backs several bloggers and Instagram influencers–We Wore What’s Danielle Bernstein and newcomer Alicia Roddy, to name a few–who’ve worn it throughout the past few months, as well.
The democratization of fashion: The fashion industry, which used to be comprised of elites, is more accessible than ever. Thanks to fast fashion, more and more people are able to participate in runway trends at the expense of sweatshop workers in developing countries, as well as the global environment. Bloggers and social media influencers post snapshots and videos from their front row seats at the hottest fashion shows, while magazines such as Vogue publish free online content for all to read, increasing the demand for fast fashion. Similarly, high end designers seem to be in a never-ending worldwide competition to create the most buzz-worthy clothes, which has caused an extreme decrease in the quality and innovation of their work over the last five years.
Fashion shows that are no longer about the fashion: Instead of attending shows to actually see the designs, industry insiders (and outsiders!) seek invitations so that they can be photographed in the front row or spotted outside. The front row was once reserved for Anna Wintour (Editor-in-Chief of Vogue) and company; now reality stars such as Kim Kardashian-West and big name bloggers such as Chiara Ferragni of the Blonde Salad sit front row for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Jeremy Scott–some even sit alongside Wintour and co. They come to shows toting their smart phones in order to post photos of designs almost as instantly as they debut. At a given fashion show, followers can count on a handful of bloggers and influencers to Snapchat the entire event.
Gross violation of FTC regulations: Gross violation of Federal Trade Commission regulations is undoubtedly the most widespread dilemma currently facing the fashion industry. Countless bloggers, YouTube stars and social media influencers fail to disclose sponsored content on their respective platforms, misleading millions of consumers regularly–in fact, it seems there is a new culprit every week or so. In an attempt to come off as more authentic to their thousands, and sometimes millions, of followers, bloggers such as Natalie Suarez (known throughout the blogosphere as Natalie Off Duty) and Aimee Song (Song of Style) intentionally fail to disclose content paid for by fashion and beauty brands such Lord & Taylor and Laura Mercier, according to Zerbo. Influencers like the Kardashians and Jenners have also come under fire for posting misleading social media content sponsored by brands such as Balmain, Calvin Klein, Inc., Estée Lauder, Inc., Karl Lagerfeld™, MANGO, Mint Swim, MISBHV, Puma, Revlon (for Sinful Colors) and Roberto Cavalli S. P. A., according to Zerbo. While some bloggers and influencers occasionally include a #spon or #sp to their posts, it is often hidden in the middle or the end of a wordy caption. An FTC-approved disclosure, according to Zerbo, includes #ad or Ad: (not #spon or #sp) at the beginning, and video posts call for disclosure to be said out loud or displayed on screen early on.