The V&A recently held a talk on Fashion and the Internet exploring how the Internet has transformed the experience of fashion designers, manufacturers, retails and consumers. Two of the MA Fashion & the Environment students Jemima Penny and Sharn Sandor were there and produced this report for CSF:
The panel was made up of
- Reina Lewis – Chair
- Yana – MA mathematics student at UCL and author of fashion blog
- Dolly Jones – Vogue.com
- Louise Crew – Professor of Human Geography @ Nottingham University
- Ruth Marshal Johnson – WGSN trends researcher
The relaxed, informal atmosphere of the intimate lecture theatre at the V&A museum on a Friday night formed the backdrop to our evening discussing fashion and the Internet.
The panel represented a range of professionals from very different backgrounds and made for an interesting and varied discussion about the role the Internet has to play in today’s (and tomorrow’s) fashion industry. The conversation kicked off with Dolly and Ruth discussing how the Internet is really still in its ‘teenage years’. Although there have been huge developments in attitude and acceptance of the Internet from both the fashion industry and consumers we are still discovering how it can help us creatively and in business.
The main points unanimously put forward by the panel were positives that the Internet has to offer in terms of:
- Communication & Connection – offering solutions and telling stories.
- Creativity & Innovation – opportunities for widespread and easy access to a wealth of ideas from all disciplines and types of creative minds. The opportunity for anyone to become a designer / stylist / trend commentator etc.
- Collaboration – as the consumer becomes more involved with the design process, who is in control of fashion? Designer or Consumer? Access to blogs, websites etc creates new creative freedom for people who otherwise would not have been able to publicise their ideas or work. And this forces the industry to listen.
- Changing the face of Fashion – The Internet gives fashion an opportunity to inhabit new forms and formats. It has enhanced our access to inspirational images at incredible speed. It has essentially bought fashion into our homes on a level not possible before. Often fashion is not about the physical act of purchasing; more satisfaction is gained from accessing inspiration.
- Community and Transparency – The Internet is allowing people to create virtual communities that foster greater analysis and more information giving. This is forcing the industry to become more transparent as consumers grow increasingly aware of hype and spin. A suggestion from Louise Crew was that the industry will in the near future have to critically re-think how the fashion system works.
- Curation and Expertise – The panel unanimously agreed that despite the freedom of expression and opportunities for ‘anyone to be a designer’ that the Internet has opened up, quality is still essential and the key to success. There will be no ‘dumbing down’ of fashion as the consumer becomes ever more critical, and there will be a return to expertise. ‘Fashion & communication mediators’ will be needed to guide us and help filter the vast amount of information, and only the very best of the creative work will gain success.
The conversation rounded off with a discussion about the future of physical print versus the Internet. The main consensus was that there is still a strong place for traditional printed fashion magazines in our hearts. The Internet has much to compete with as a computer screen is a dry replacement for a glossy, tangible magazine, and thus fashion imagery on the Internet will need a combination of quality and innovation to compete. Show Studio was cited as the best example of how fashion imagery on the Internet may look in the future, but Ruth questioned whether the point of the site was strong enough to propel it into mainstream consciousness.
The conclusion reached was that the Internet is a fantastic opportunity to help guide the fashion industry into the future. In order for a brand or designer to have a thriving presence on the Internet it will not be about the ‘dumbing down’ or homogenization of that brand, but more a celebration of innovation. We must work to respond creatively to the opportunities that the Internet brings.
Thanks to Jemima Penny and Sharn Sandor for checking it out and sending us the above report.