It’s no secret that the fashion industry is exclusive. From prices which alienate most of the population (let’s not even get into haute couture) to its notoriously tough shell to crack and get into, fashion thrives on exclusivity and its existing conventions mostly serve to perpetuate this. There are, of course, important organisations and schemes which aim to redress this and begin the process of democratising fashion – take the IoDF’s work landscaping fashion in the metaverse for one – but in general terms, it operates firmly within its hard-to-shift borders.
The pinnacle of this sentiment is fashion week. With its depiction in pop culture not being too dissimilar from its actuality, fashion week sees the same crowd of press, buyers and celebrities descend on a city to attend shows, events and parties that are all-but impossible to get into if you’re not on The List. Gone are the riotous days of breaking into shows, as was the case for many early McQueen shows, too – fashion shows have also largely become blag-free zones.
That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions: Rick Owens draws a crowd of young people who set up on top of bus stops and line the streets outside the Palais de Tokyo to catch a glimpse of the catwalk each season, and the most dedicated often find out show locations even before attendees thanks to some serious internet detection skills. Also, the occurrence of a livestream has undoubtedly opened up fashion to vast new audiences, who can watch the show unfold in 4K from anywhere with an internet connection, at the same time as the chosen few in the actual venue.
However, in the last year, we’ve seen some brands shift towards an alternative, giving fashion back to the people by opening their shows to the public. Marine Serre did this last season, announcing that a ‘huge portion’ of the show’s attendees would be made up of the public, who could apply for tickets on a first-come first-serve basis. “It is crucial for me to experiment with the boundaries of a fashion show,” Serre said in the press release. “The priority is to find a way to connect with the audience and our community.”
Similarly, as one of the hottest brands of this year, Diesel announced that it will be opening its SS23 show to the public, if you’re quick enough to register. The move is part of Diesel’s ongoing commitment to inclusivity, explained the brand, as it looks to bring fashion to a “more democratic and larger audience”. And to be honest, it makes a lot of sense. By inviting the public, brands are guaranteed a wealth of social media coverage, which when you have apps like TikTok which don’t rely on follower counts for things to go viral, means you reach a whole load of new people. What’s more, the brand will (most likely) go up in esteem in public perception, as one which cares about its customer base and wants to promote inclusivity.
Although both Diesel and Marine Serre’s public shows are happening within months of each other, they are by no means the first to do it. Samuel Ross opened his A-COLD-WALL* show up to the public in 2019 to welcome young people into the spaces of fashion, in line with his ongoing personal and professional ethos of creating with the community in mind. Virgil put the place and time of his first Louis Vuitton collection on Instagram for “the kids to come”, as well as inviting thousands of arts students personally.
Disrupting the, at times, stuffy conventions of fashion shows is no new feat, but with more and more brands waking up to the multifaceted benefits of inviting the public to their shows in terms of marketing, reputation and perception, we’d be surprised if Diesel were the last to use this tactic in the coming seasons.
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