Is TikTok Taking Over Fashion Week?

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Few industry figureheads remain in the front rows of now influencer-studded runway shows. Beginning during the rise of fashion bloggers in the 2010s and leading to the pandemic’s social media revolution of TikTok, a reckoning of who’s-who fashion week culture is well underway.

Exchanged for video clips and Instagram coverage, social media personalities are lavishly dressed by designers and cleverly seated for maximum exposure. Charli D’Amelio, the face of TikTok with 124 million followers (and counting), was the app’s first star to infiltrate fashion week. Invited by Prada to view their Fall/Winter 2020 collection in Milan, style experts scratched their heads — the partnership appeared to make little sense. Charli is no fashion blogger, primarily known for her dance abilities and peculiar rise to fame. However, D’Amelio’s presence plugged in a new audience for the Italian legacy house, solidifying Prada as the brand to covet for young teens.

But Charli is certainly not fashion week’s first social media attendee. Very prior to TikTok and throughout Instagram’s early days, a new wave of unforeseen style VIPs became the face of fashion month: bloggers. Susie Bubble, ManRepeller’s Leandra Medine, Aimee Song, and Chiara Ferragni to name some fan favorites. At the time—2010s, the industry was skeptical about all non-editorial critics. Who allowed uncredited digital figures into fashion’s most elite space?

Brands. In fact, luxury houses were quickly recognizing the power of their clothing being snapshotted in viral street style images of these fashion bloggers, even better if they were photographed while en route to their show. Thus, a digital reboot of runway seating charts began.

Normalization of this concept has set in over the past ten years, only to be once again challenged by the exponential growth of YouTube and TikTok stars. Emma Chamberlain, known for her relatable videos on social media and prodigious ability to set trends for Gen Z, was elevated to the role of Louis Vuitton Ambassador after attending their Paris Fashion Week show in 2019 at only 18 years of age. Since then, Chamberlain has attended the Met Gala with Vuitton and been joined by Charli D’Amelio as the brand’s young new faces.

Perhaps Chamberlain’s assimilation in luxury fashion’s highest halls lessened the reaction of TikTok’s later insurgence in 2021. For New York’s Spring/Summer 2022 fashion week this month, TikTok enveloped the scene. No corner of the runway was left untouched by influencer presence and channel sharing, users’ vocal critiques (despite most not even attending themselves), and an utter social media content frenzy. You no longer need to wonder what goes on inside the security-clad venues of fashion week, resting assured that your favorite influencer (fashion or not) was broadcasting the entire experience.

A TikTok posted by @nyctrends showcased a sliver of how many social media creators were on New York Fashion Week’s VIP guest list this year. Prior to the comments being turned off, people were gawking about how they hardly recognized any of the attendees. Most were TikTokers.

On the app, #nyfw has over 443.3 million views, while #fashionweek has 3.1 billion. The audience more than exists. TikTok users crave being digitally involved in fashion’s exclusive world, motivating brands to partner with the app’s favorites to get their designs exposed through vlog-style content. Noah Beck, known for shirtless “thirst traps,” sat front row at Moschino.

NYFW’s most TikTok-engulfed event was none other than influencer-sustained retail giant, Revolve, in collaboration with Dundas. It appears that the show’s assemblage was primarily comprised of social media mavens, ranging from classic bloggers to Instagram personalities, and even Bachelor-famed influencers. In spite of comparatively low industry presence (few classic editors and front row institutions in sight), Revolve’s event was perhaps the most circulated online, with #DundasxRevolve amassing almost 1 million views on TikTok. Almost every attendee captured in videos of the event is filming the show as it occurs, hardly watching IRL.

Plus, the TikTok content mania is not limited to runway onlookers. Countless rising models recorded behind-the-scenes looks at their casting calls, while fashion students showcased their experience working backstage. Even some editors have taken a stab at content creation, stylist and freelance writer Caroline Vazzana posting everything from insider tips for getting in shows to her getting ready process.

So, what does this mean for fashion? Gone are the days of having to wait on front row attendees for runway snapshots to be released. Instant gratification has seeped into a previous closed industry setting, live coverage and the ability to sit on the runway—from afar—is no more than commonplace. Accessibility is the name of the game, and any brands who limit their reach will only end up being left behind.

Despite major public backlash and mocking of the turning tide, influencers will surely rise in their occupancy rates of elite fashion. Come London, Paris, and Milan fashion weeks this season, the public will once again be shocked by celebrity-akin treatment that social media stars, namely those on TikTok, will experience from legacy houses. Though these figures may be consuming runway shows entirely through the lenses of their iPhones, teens and critics alike will watch to see how TikTokers dress in, praise, and promote the designers. After all, #FashionWeek is algorithmically bound to appear on your “for you” page.

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createdAt:Fri, 17 Sep 2021 12:46:41 +0000
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