Tom Ford may not have been an initial fan of social media – he famously imposed an online ban on images of his debut collection before they hit the shop floor – but it seems like the designer is coming round the the power of the internet. More specifically, the power of Rihanna's Instagram. (At least, until her account was deleted by the powers that be at Instagram.)
"Customers don't care any more about reviews or hard-copy publications," Ford told Style.com. "They care what picture Rihanna just Instagrammed while she's naked in bed, what new shoes she has on, how she's talking about them. That's what they respond to."
"It doesn't mean I don't care about reviews, but today a lot of people who are reviewing are bloggers," he continues. "Everyone has a voice now, so the person with the loudest voice is the one people listen to." In this case, Rihanna, who had 13 million followers on Instagram.
It's a far cry from Ford's words on the eve of his 2010 return to womenswear, when he staged a King Canute-style campaign to turn back the online tide of endless tweeting, Instagramming, reblogging and instant opinion-making. To this end, he banned all photography at his show and only authorised a select team of his photographers (including Terry Richardson) to take pictures. Which he only released once he was satisfied with the retouching.
"The way the system works now, you see the clothes, within an hour or so they’re online, the world sees them. They don’t get to a store for six months. The next week, young celebrity girls are wearing them on red carpets. They’re in every magazine," he said. "So it’s everywhere all over the streets in three months and by the time you get it to the store, what’s the point?"
If Ford's changed his tune, he's only keeping up to date with the celebrity-driven changes in how fashion is disseminated and consumed. Brands have quickly realised that putting clothes on celebrities can offer collections a far greater pull with mainstream audiences than a good review from a respected critic.
It's the same reason why some fashion houses are paying up to £60,000 to secure appearances at their shows. You could design a dress that genuinely innovates and excites the industry, but it will get that much more coverage if you've shelled out a few thousand for Beyoncé to tweet from the front row. And if she's Instagramming your clothes while naked in bed? Well, that's just priceless.
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing
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