The pages of Vogue have always been among the fashion industry’s greatest champions. This year’s September edition was no exception, with 32 of the issue’s 832 pages dedicated to “Forces of Fashion,” an editorial celebrating 27 of today’s hottest designers, from Karl Lagerfeld to Shayne Oliver. Each shared their philosophies on design, technology, and everything in between, while their words juxtaposed against images of their clothes worn by an equally impressive repertoire of models. And while the images were striking, it was clear that the magazine had a message to get across: According to Vogue, these designers- “most powerful names in fashion today”- are the industry’s most influential figures.
The numbers, however, tell a different story. Recently released stats from WWD revealed that the top five Instagram influencers from New York Fashion Week were not the industry insiders mentioned above. Instead, it was who’s-who list of the celebrity world. Disney alum Selena Gomez nabbed the top spot, having posted the most-liked Instagram post with the hashtag NYFW (see below). The runners-up included YouTube star Cameron Dallas, Pretty Little Liars’ Lucy Hale, Ellen DeGeneres, and Brooklyn Beckham.
One, of course, could argue that the last two do not count as “celebrities,” per se. DeGeneres is expanding her empire into the fashion industry, having recently launched a lifestyle line, ED. She was at NYFW promoting the label’s release at Bergdorf Goodman. Beckham, on the other hand, is the son of designer Victoria Beckham. At barely sixteen years old, he’s as inside the industry as they get. But, let’s be honest. The name Ellen DeGeneres is most commonly associated with a talkshow, not a fashion label. And Brooklyn Beckham’s Instagram followers are probably more drawn by his coiffed ‘do than his industry connections. But, I digress…
While certain members of fashion world strive to portray the industry’s creatives as the axis upon which it turns, this viewpoint is quickly becoming just that: a bare interpretation. The past several years have seen a steady increase in the importance of celebrities within the industry. Much of this movement can be attributed to Anna Wintour’s first years at Vogue, when actresses started replacing models on magazine covers. While the idea was controversial at the time, it did the trick, and the magazines sold. Flash forward two decades, and you’d be hard pressed to find a cover without a Hollywood face.
The craze does not end there. More and more design firms- from designer brands to off-price labels- are turning to celebrities to endorse their product. Starlets liked Gomez and Hale threaten to outnumber the editors in the front row of fashion shows. Designers themselves are perhaps the most aware of the impact of celebrities on their business. For his portion of “Forces of Fashion,” Tom Ford, shared that “Customers today are more responsive to what Rihanna is posting on her Instagram than to fashion shows.”
So even though the designers are creating the product, it would not be inaccurate to assume that celebrities are running the show. With their mega-watt smiles and millions of social media followers, they are in a unique position to influence where people shop, what they buy, and which brands they follow. By doing so, they also stand to make the brands they represent lots and lots of money.
I had a theater teacher who always said “They don’t call it theater art. It’s theater business.” I guess it’s the same way with fashion. Because while to me the “forces of fashion” will always be the designers, editors, critics, photographers, etc., this is becoming farther and farther from the truth. The fact is that the fashion world is often portrayed through a very different lens: one curated by the celebrities on our television screens and supermarket checkout lines. But before we start bemoaning the “celebrification” of a once-precious field, we have to remember that it’s not fashion art. It’s fashion business. Those pore-less celebrity faces make money, and lots of it. And it is that money which allows the designers, editors, photographers, and more to continue delighting us with their talents.
At the end of the day, I think the question is this: In creative industry like fashion, who really has the power? If it the artists, or the faces who make that art profitable? It’s an interesting question, one that I’m not sure there will ever be an answer to. But until then, I’d like to hear what you think. The forces of fashion, who are they, exactly? Share your answer below.