At Facebook’s sprawling campus in Menlo Park, California, Karlie Kloss is teaching In-stagram CEO Kevin Systrom to smize. A few minutes later, as they prepare for the photo shoot on these pages, Systrom and Kendall Jenner find they agree that “Kanye Doing Things” is pretty much the best Instagram account ever.
As Karlie, Kendall, and the other so-called Instagirls make abundantly clear, social media have transformed fashion. “Tech is about communication,” says the Balmain creative director, Olivier Rousteing. “In the past, fashion has been able to communicate to only one small clique. But with social media, fashion can go pop.”
Systrom agrees. “I think this represents a revolution in the fashion industry,” he says. “Designers understand the power of being open—and whether it’s fashion or politics, a closed system always loses to an open system.”
The revolution has found foot soldiers across Silicon Valley. Unlike Instagram, whose users can curate their reality, the year-old Periscope dares its broadcasters to strive for unvarnished authenticity. Started by childhood friends Kayvon Beykpour and Joe Bernstein, Periscope allows users to broadcast live videos and see the audience’s reactions in real time.
“There are plenty of apps for manufacturing a moment,” Beykpour says, “but there aren’t many ways to just share what is happening right now.” Though still in its infancy, Periscope has found an immediate fashion following: Last fall Carolina Herrera, Vera Wang, Jeremy Scott, and Serena Williams used it to broadcast aspects of their shows, from a backstage tour to a chat with a makeup artist. Ralph Lauren shared his presentation via Periscope to a giant screen in Piccadilly Circus. Gigi Hadid posts “Ask Gigi” Periscopes in which she answers questions from a live audience of thousands of fans.
“Fashion is an industry that a decade ago was uncertain if customers would buy luxury clothing online,” says Alexander Wang. “But for me, e-commerce is just huge.” Apps that traffic in images of dresses and sneakers and baubles are busy working to make those images, in the jargon, “actionable.” Pinterest, which used to be a place for the mere bookmarking of pictures, now links many of those images to online stores. At Polyvore, where users can create collages of the things they love, the goal is to connect people to products sold by some 500 online retailers, from Neiman Marcus to Etsy to Barneys New York. Jess Lee, Polyvore’s cofounder and CEO, was an obsessive fan before she went to work for the company. “I would push my looks, make them a bit edgier, pull together decor and makeup and tech accessories,” Lee says. “It’s a cross between your dream closet and a blank canvas where you can express yourself.”
All these apps share a common focus and a common language: the image. “Other industries struggle to communicate visually,” says Evan Sharp, Pinterest’s cofounder.
“Fashion should stop and recognize how well equipped it is to deal with the triumph of image over word.”
Fashion Editor: Tonne Goodman
Makeup: Val Garland
Set design: Jack Flanagan for the Magnet Agency
Produced by Gabriel Hill for GE Projects
Watch what happens when we give Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid a selfie stick:
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