Kenneth Cole's return to the runway opened with a video reminding audience members that:
During the @kennethcole runway show, out of respect for other members of the audience please make sure your phones and tablets are switched ON. This show will embrace the intrusive nature of social media.
Quick history lesson: Once upon a time. fashion week was a private industry event attended by buyers and fashion media. Based on what came down the runway, buyers placed orders, editors requested samples and thusly trends and designers were established by the fashion elite, who determined who was in, who was out, and what the average person would be wearing six months from now.
Over the past seven years or so the actual intention and function of fashion week has changed. It is now created as much for the spectacle it creates for an increasingly social, mass consumer audience than it is for the industry itself. Each season, a new front page story examines the latest evolution, a 12 year old in a bow sitting front tow, bloggers instead of models strutting down the runway, paid brand engagements to drive street photography snaps, flash mobs and fashion GPS. And now, Kenneth Cole has introduced something that I am sure a media studies professor could analyze much better than I ever could: he called social media intrusive, and he gave the models smartphones. I mean cameras. Same thing really. Cameras that text. And tweet, and 'gram, and Vine.
We don’t care if people love it. We just want them to “like” it.
Of course, Kenneth Cole also filled the front row filled with requisite fashion bloggers, Bryan Boy, Miroslava Duma, Bag Snob, and Song of Style were enlisted to capture the show through Twitter, Instagram and Vine through the hashtag #KCRunway. In full transparency du-jour of backstage access and mega content creation opportunity, the designer put a photo booth backstage, and had the Twitter Mirror tweeting from T Magazine.
Why did he do it?
According to his PR team, Kenneth left showing 7 years ago to take a step back and really determine the direction of the brand. "As we moved into the digital era, he struggled with the idea, as his product was not available to everyone globally. Now, they have international shipping and a global audience – but now the world is consuming fashion in a totally different way."
So instead of requiring all devices be turned off, or allowing it by turning a blind eye, Kenneth Cole embraced user-generated media and insta-blogging and actually made it part of his show. This is a powerful play, but truly what makes the whole thing so interesting is that the models themselves, so often considered to be nothing more than "hangers," actually were given agency in the experience, turning the cameras on the audience and each other, to capture a rarely seen vantage point. I hope at least one got a great #selfie.
It just begs the question, what's next?