Does social media help or hinder runway shows?

Toronto fashion designer James Yunker walks down the runway accompanied by models in an undated file photo.
Toronto fashion designer James Yunker walks down the runway accompanied by models in an undated file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO – As lights dim before the start of each runway show, attendees scramble to ready their smartphones and tablets.

Long gone are the days when fashion week spectators relied solely on notepad scribbles to document the finer points of new designs. But even as tech tools help streamline the way in which images from runway shows are captured and distributed, one fashion label recently opted to dial back the digital clock.

MSGM streamed its recent fall-winter collection on its website, but reportedly asked press and buyers attending the women’s runway show not to post images on social media, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

On the Italian brand’s official Instagram account, images of icons for Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Periscope and Instagram were posted with red slashes through each one, accompanied by the message: “Disconnect to reconnect. #FW16 is the time to take a step back from overexposure.” MSGM representatives did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

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“I think the reality is social media is part of the fashion industry, and certainly part of the fashion presentation and show experience,” said Ben Barry, associate professor of equity, diversity and inclusion in the school of fashion at Ryerson University in Toronto.

WATCH: Behind the scenes at Toronto Fashion Week

“The question really for designers and brands is: how do you effectively integrate it? My thought is getting rid of social media or banning social media really would show a brand is out of touch with the reality of the fashion industry, and also consumers.

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“Given that fashion shows are… more and more targeted to consumers as much as they are towards industry, restricting social media access alienates your consumer, tells your consumer you don’t want them to participate in your show, you don’t want them to be a part of your brand.”

Canadian designers participating in Toronto Fashion Week say they recognize the benefits of social media for their labels, but also lamented how the platforms have changed the lens through which shows are seen.

“It’s amazing in terms of the reach. I just wonder if there’s so much communication, so many visuals out there, will it resonate?” asked David Dixon.

Dixon has been at the helm of his label for more than two decades, and can still recall a time when designers would have to wait to see a published photo of their creations in print.

“If you see something that interests you, by all means, take the picture. Or if you’re doing selfies before the show…. whatever enhances the presentation or your feeling being there,” said Dixon.

“But I think sometimes that little bit of lens you’re seeing through … doesn’t capture the music, it doesn’t capture the environment, whether there’s a tension to the room or the calmness to the room, and that all plays in part of the presentation.”

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Ellie Mae will be making her Toronto Fashion Week debut, and the newcomer admits she’s “on the fence” about the use of social media during shows.

“It would be nice to know that people are loving it and posting about it and talking about it,” said the Toronto-based womenswear designer.

“I would also love for the eight minutes of the fashion show for people to be there and be consumed by what was going on — so consumed that they couldn’t pick up their phone.”

Calgary-based Becky Kung recently attended New York Fashion Week where she said she netted many views of Snapchat posts, and shared images during shows.

“As a fashion blogger, I’m a consumer myself, and also I’m really connected with other consumers. All my followers are obviously interested in what I’m wearing and what’s trending, and so they are consumers as well,” said Kung, fashion blogger at Velvet and Vino.

“I do feel like I’m able to enjoy it, plus capture it, because it’s such an exciting experience to be there.”

The benefit of snapping images during shows is that it also gives her the chance to review them in greater detail later on, she noted.

“My brain can only take in so much,” Kung said. “There’s so many different looks that they’re presenting in their collection that even if you’re just sitting there enjoying it you’re not going to remember it all.”

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