Two weeks ago, within one day of each other, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior both hosted two large-scale events in New York City.
At the Guggenheim, Raf Simons and Sidney Toledano of Dior welcomed a cast of wealthy philanthropists and other guests to a $30,000-a-table dinner held in the cavernous rotunda of the museum. (The night before, the brand also staged a pre-party, aimed at a younger crowd, flying in British band The xx to play for attendees including Marion Cotillard, Karlie Kloss, Joan Smalls and A$AP Rocky).
The day after the Dior gala, Louis Vuitton celebrated the 160th anniversary of its monogram at the Museum of Modern Art with a dinner and party at which Karl Lagerfeld rubbed shoulders with Nicole Kidman, while “friends of the house” such as Karlie Kloss, Jennifer Connelly, Miranda Kerr and Chiara Ferragni made appearances, all dutifully decked out in this season’s Vuitton collection.
Critically, both events were full of attendees shooting a steady stream of imagery, which they promptly published to their Instagram feeds. In fact, the night of the Vuitton event, Miranda Kerr took to Instagram no less than four times, sharing with her more than 5.3 million followers her beauty preparations before the event, her personalised table setting at the dinner, a red carpet pose and a candid moment with friends.
Clearly, today, there is much more to attending a fashion party than being the recipient of a brand’s hospitality. In fact, many of the attendees are invited not just to party, but to photograph and be photographed, post and be posted, transforming invited guests into actors, content creators and media channels for distributing a brand’s message to the growing legions of online fashion fans who now expect new content each time they refresh their feeds.
What’s more, driven in no small part by the insatiable, always-on nature of the Internet, in recent years, the number of social events staged by fashion brands has soared, spilling well beyond fashion weeks to populate an almost year-round calendar. This year, brands have already held hundreds of dinners and parties in New York alone, according to imagery captured by photo agency Patrick McMullan, which specialises in event coverage.
It’s all a far cry from a time — not that long ago — when fashion houses built the bulk of their communications activities around twice-yearly runway shows and seasonal print advertising campaigns. But as brands stage more and more events, carefully calibrated to feed the "social media beast,” can they possibly produce enough product to capitalise on the commercial opportunities that this constant communications stream creates?
In a recent interview with 032c, Adidas creative director Dirk Schönberger summed up the problem well: "If you’re not in the window of a browser anymore after a week, you are forgotten, so you need to stay relevant all the time. There’s a pressure to put out new products, all the time.”