But is it Instagrammable?
Updated: Mar 18, 2019
By Marie-Louise James
Playful or political: short of being boring or safe, these are seemingly the two routes a designer can take to ensure a memorable fashion week collection. Beautiful garments are a given; the age of viral posts and Instagram sensations demands more.
In the past two months of haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion weeks, designers have decided to face this Janus in different ways. Viktor and Rolf tackled it head on with their haute couture collection of enormous tulle dresses, satirizing “inspo” culture with cliché one-liners. Huge letters in cheesy fonts overlaid cake-layers of pastel tulle with statements such as “no photos please” or, “sorry I’m late I didn’t want to come.” Ironically, it was the parodied kitchiness of these kind of phrases—the kind of maxims you’d see on an overpriced coffee mug—that made the collection go viral.
Jeremy Scott similarly embraced his self-given title as “king of camp” with his Moschino Game Show for FW19/20, a spoof on wheel of fortune and capitalist culture. Models strutted by arcade machines and luxury cars in voluminous 60s wigs, shimmering paillette gowns and shamelessly over the top coats. The crowning jewel was a tin-foil, microwave meal cape, so incredibly over the top that British Vogue suggested it be worn to the next Met Gala (the Costume Institute Gala has, after all, announced its theme for 2019 as Notes on “Camp”).
And most recently, a miniature bag from the Jacquemus FW19/20 show at Paris Fashion Week has everyone losing their heads. A whole 5.2 cm long, the Jacquemus Mini Le Chiquito bag retails for around £380, becoming such a sensation that it has already sold out at many online suppliers. Reactions to the Jacquemus bag have gone beyond the world of critics and fashion enthusiasts, blowing up on Twitter and Instagram. Many have pointed out that its tiny size can fit, at most, one mint or “the dignity of its owner.”
The French fashion label has already gone viral in past seasons for its caricatural play with proportions. Before, however, the 29-year-old designer favoured the other side of the spectrum: enormous straw hats and giant raffia beach bags juxtaposed the brand’s delicate swimsuits and filigree Riviera-wear. Perhaps these pieces created less of an outrage because, strictly speaking, a 1-metre-wide-brimmed sunhat can glamorously provide even more protection from those pesky ageing UV rays—and no-one can complain about a tote that fits just about everything in it à la Mary Poppins.
Viktor and Rolf, Moschino, and Jacquemus all leave us with viral fashion moments that play on both visual gags and cultural expectations. In some ways, it seems that the goal has shifted in the past decade: it’s not about the shock factor in itself, but rather a kind of memorability that depends on social media marketability.
Of course, some designers have managed to escape this explicit demand—case in point, Pierpaolo Piccioli’s creative direction for Valentino, which both pushes beauty norms and standards of representation while staying true to the dreamlike elegance of the Italian house. Yet even here, Naomi Campbell closed the Spring 2019 couture presentation in an opulent sheer black gown, an unforgettable return to the runway after 14 years—and a viral moment for the world without doubt.
The resounding message of the collection reverberated far beyond the double-tap of an Instagram post with its celebration of the female body (#freethenipple) and, even more so, the fact that the show featured more than 30 women of colour. Piccioli’s heartfelt effort to diversify an industry that still has a lot to learn could not have been presented in a more graceful, subtle yet powerful way; it was not simply an endeavour to monetize or cater to a political message for the sake of appearances. Yet the social media sensation of the moment was, nonetheless, the cherry on top.
The age-old question, “will we remember it?” seems to have taken on an asterisk, an addendum, in today’s world of smartphones and online circulation. The question that now stands: will social media remember it?