When the photos show mainly people outside the show.

Words by

Bianca O'Neill

As the chatter dies down from fashion month, and the influx of Instagram posts from New York, London, Milan and Paris fall to an occasional trickle, I’ve been left with visual memories of inspirational street style galore. However, besides a bunch of hate for Kanye’s collection, I can barely remember a moment or two from the runways. 

While I was busily screenshot-ing style inspo from various fashion femmes out the front of the shows, I only posted one runway look to my feed (and it was solely to throw shade at those who don’t understand the eternal brilliance of Helena Bonham Carter.)

On reflection, it got me thinking: if the clothes that are shown on the runway are photographed more on the women out front, do fashion week runways really make sense anymore as promotional tools?

Earlier this year I interviewed Yeojin Bae, one of Melbourne’s most successful local designers. We talked a lot about her upcoming looks at VAMFF, and being VAMFF, she was showing looks that were immediately available for the consumer to purchase.

We spoke about the lag for consumers at traditional fashion week runways, meaning buyers are often unable to get their hands on new season pieces until six months or so down the line. We discussed the restrictions this lag imposes on designers, who want to be more agile in the current retail environment.

The simple fact is, anyone can rip off those runway looks and plonk them onto the high street before those originals can actually make it in store. So why show them so far out? Why spend so much money on a presentation of new ideas that allows the high street to beat you to store at a fraction of the price? So far, the only reason I can find for fashion week still existing is so that Vogue can rehash stories about how bloggers have ruined it. But that’s another column… that I’ve already written 400 times.

Anyway, back to the chat with Yeojin Bae… She seemed keen to experiment more with the idea of immediacy and availability, like many designers these days. And let’s be honest, the idea of being able to purchase looks from runway to wardrobe via your phone, say, while you’re watching the dress sashay down the catwalk in front of you, is certainly an appealing one for designers and consumers alike. 

In fact, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, Thakoon and Ralph Lauren delivered buy-it-now presentations in New York. Meanwhile, the social media mavens at Burberry took on London with a completely new runway model. One that is no longer six months ahead of season, no longer split into men’s and women’s, and immediately available to purchase. 

With this shift in runway presentations and the rise of ‘shoppable’ runways, attending a traditional runway becomes a much more old school experience.

So, what’s the point of it at all? What do designers get out of it these days – especially when the majority of shared social posts appear to feature mainly people OUTSIDE the show?

It’s high time for a shakeup, I’d say. But then again, what else would fashion writers complain about if they no longer had the #FROW to fight over?

A conundrum indeed.

Follow Bianca's journey to become like Helena Bonham Carter on Instagram over at @_thesecondrow. Illustration by Twylamae.

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