How the FROW is now for everyone
BY CHARLOTTE HOPE-SHANNON
Stoic faces, pursed lips and a flurry of well-known personalities – this is the front row I remember when I was growing up. Fast forward to today, what was once a cloistered front row audience, is now an open and engaging conversation for all. We all have an uncensored seat at the table, in real time.
The most important date in the calendar for designers is fashion week; a twice yearly showcase which sets the tone for the months ahead. Pre-digital age, we had to wait for the magazine write ups to see the FROW news. Now, as brands seek to live-stream their shows in real time, everyone, everywhere is part of the immersive experience of fashion week. From Paris to Milan, London to New York, behind the scenes to front row, its access all areas for fashions marketing exhibition. We’ve said goodbye to the litany of designer-clad editors, and hello to an entrée of public vision via digital apps.
From a sustainability perspective, the digital fashion show makes sense. And this is what is so important. Brands, designers, conglomerates, they all need to resonate with today’s worldly identity. Sustainability is at the core of our current affairs and the digital landscape, which continues to grow for better or worse, maintains an uncensored version of our industry which allows everyone to be involved. And, from our living room sofas no less.
Photographed by Phil Oh via vogue.com
Our socio-cultural, political and economic dynamic has changed over the last five years with the pandemic, the growth of digital and a new savvy generation who is unafraid to participate. People are engaging in conversations that were once not on the fashion radar and society has evolved in such a manner that the hand of the front row has been forced. Fashion has become democratised. Social media and digital growth has allowed for the expansion of ‘voice’, with ordinary people, or influencers, becoming the ‘models’ of today. Those once prestigious front row seats are now available for us all and brands are attuned to a visibility which favours a wider [digital] lens.
Politics is fashion. Fashion is culture. This has always been true. Yet, now we see an overlap far greater than before. Consumers are looking for brands which align with their personal ethos, and are buying directly from instead of via department store edits. Creativity and immersive atmospheres are part of our modern landscape, but what does the future of fashion hold in terms of front row theatrics? As the British Fashion Council describes London Fashion Week September 2022 as a ‘dynamic cultural hotspot and incubator of ideas and change […] once again encourage[ing] participation and increase[d] accessibility, inspiring diverse communities with evergreen content accessible online and in person’, you can’t help but wonder what this actually means and just how our industry will evolve further, whilst still maintaining its well-known prestige.
Backstage at Nensi Dojaka LFW S/S23 photo by @styledumonde via Vogue Runway
Whilst digital-first fashion is a must in today’s age, we must not lose fashions air of mystery. Truthfully, in-person contact can never be replaced. A physical moment is to be cherished and whilst we must continue to evolve our industry for the greater good of our planet, we must also find a balance between history and the ‘alternative’. One which both respects and includes past and present channels of innovation. Sustainability of course is going to steer the next generation of show makers, with some questioning whether it is even justifiable to hold fashion week anymore? This remains a question unanswered, for now. What is clear however, is that sustainability, ethics and accessibility are not mere add-ons to a brand design brief, they are the design brief. Digital is going nowhere and the front row as we once knew it, has vanished.
What is important is that we, as young and seasoned creatives, continue to lean into our perspectives. The industry craves new voices, new ideas, new visions and this is what makes fashion so special. The once unheard voice of the ‘at home’ consumer is now the new hot-topic. We must lean into this, learn from it and grow with it. The Front Row is no longer a means for hierarchy, but instead, it’s a lesson for systemic and cultural transformation.