Downloading the Digital Trends of the AW18 Catwalks
From Instagrammable severed heads to drones on the runway, The Fashion Digital’s director Natalie Hughes examines how new tech & social media have revolutionised catwalk shows this season.
Those who considered digital as the death knell to traditional fashion shows need only look at last month’s fashion weeks to see how online shareability may well serve to enhance the IRL experience, and reach far further than the front row.
A case in point? Edwin Mohney’s inflatable swimming pool dress and Donald Trump shoes. These radical pieces served as exemplary Instagram Story fodder, catching the attention of press and thus distinguishing the Central Saint Martins graduate from his MA classmates.
Edwin Mohney's 'Donald Trump' shoes
Radicalism and Instagrammability are not mutually exclusive, as London Fashion Week proved. For his Burberry swansong, Christopher Bailey showcased LGBTQ+ rainbow checks, while Anya Hindmarch, in collaboration with the British Fashion Council, furnished London landmarks with giant, inflatable-looking ‘chubby hearts’, engendering a sense of warm fuzziness at a time of growing political discordance at home, and abroad. A similarly insurgent spirit found its way into the Musee Rodin for Dior’s AW18 set, its walls liberally plastered with feminist slogans and archival protest images.
Never underestimate the power of a carefully considered photo opportunity; Gucci’s severed heads – painstakingly crafted to resemble the models carrying them – spawned a viral #GucciChallenge meme, thanks to Instagram’s Head of Fashion, Eva Chen.
Gucci's AW18 show inspired its own meme
From disembodied heads to heads of state, in London, the Queen’s appearance at Richard Quinn’s catwalk show practically broke the internet, and propelled the emerging designer name into every major publication. And then of course, there were the Instagrammable moments just for fun; puppies at the Tod’s MFW presentation, kittens at a private Miu Miu event at NYFW, Shrimps’ faux fur roses at LFW, and Mira Mikati’s bumper cars in Paris.
Crucially, these moments were captured by editors, bloggers and buyers via Instagram and Snapchat, catapulting awareness of the respective AW18 collections (and hopefully inspiring buyers’ fever), far beyond the invite-only events at which they were showcased.
Tod's catwalk show featured Instagram-bait puppies
Once the photos go viral, how do brands encourage conversion? The ‘buy-now, wear-now’ model, whereby runway collections are immediately shoppable, was adopted by more brands than ever, including Mulberry, Rebecca Minkoff, Tommy Hilfiger and Burberry – whose rainbow tartans had inspired such a social media frenzy, that they almost immediately sold out at Net-a-Porter.com
Two brands went a step further to enable not only social sharing, but branded social sharing. Swarovski – a London Fashion Week sponsor – teamed up with Kirakira+ (an app that allows the user to add sparkle to photos and videos) to create a branded filter. At Paris Fashion Week, Balmain launched its first ‘digital accessory’ in the form of a Snapchat filter.
Balmain launched a custom Snapchat filter
Shareable moments aside, tech polarised designers. Ashley Williams’s AW18 collection addressed digital-induced anxiety with an anti-tech, Stonehenge-inspired set, with new versions of her (ironically much-Instagrammed) signature hairclips, spelling out ‘Paranoia’ in rhinestones. Conversely, some designers embraced futurism; Dolce & Gabbana eschewed models for drones to carry the new-season bags, and at Philipp Plein’s NYFW show, Irina Shayk walked the runway hand-in-hand with a robot.
Drones hover along the runway for Dolce & Gabbana
An honourable mention ought to go to 3-D technology, though in its relative infancy, it hasn’t yet shaken off its novelty reputation. During the brand’s NYFW presentation, Rebecca Taylor created an in-store installation in collaboration with Tilt Brush by Google, a virtual reality app that allows users to paint in three-dimensional space – a press-worthy move.
As designers compete for digital omnipresence, influencers are – unsurprisingly – front of mind – and row. What was surprising this season, was the presence of an entirely virtual social media star. Lil Miquela, as she is known to her 620,000 Instagram followers, ‘attended’ Prada’s AW18 show. Only virtually, of course, via Instagram Stories. The computer-generated Instagram influencer posted a series of 3D-generated gif selfies, dressed in Prada’s (currently shoppable) SS18 collection. Perhaps Ashley Williams’ digital-induced anxiety is justified. Either way, the notes at the Versace show read true: ‘The Insta moment is everything.’