LONDON, United Kingdom — Pioneered by SHOWstudio and powered by the spread of broadband internet and the popularity of video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo, fashion film has emerged as the most influential new format for fashion editorial online. Shorts like "Black and White," captured on set by Nick Knight and former assistant Ruth Hogben during Mr Knight's shoots for British Vogue, use music and movement to communicate the power and poetry of fashion in a way that static editorial simply can't.
Fashion film has taken off at Dazed Digital also. "We have been experimenting with some of these directors to shoot fashion videos direct to the web and the results are cost effective and really impressive," said Jefferson Hack. For a recent editorial previewing the Autumn/Winter 2009 menswear collections, Dazed Digital published an online fashion film, shot by Matt Irwin and styled by Robbie Spencer, to accompany the still images.
But what's resonating with readers? The beauty of digital is that publishers can monitor success and failure in realtime. "We're able to pin-point with incredible accuracy, article by article and shoot by shoot, what people are really looking at," said Jefferson Hack. "The blogging and re-tweeting of content also shows what's really capturing people's imaginations. It's a tremendously useful feedback loop for the editors."
Indeed, the ability to capture and quantify realtime feedback from readers themselves has helped build a stronger business case for lots of digital experiments and encouraged others in fashion media to follow suit.
Faced with the new digital reality, more and more fashion magazines are launching interactive experiments of their own. POP plans to redevelop thepop.com to coincide with its re-launched next season under new editorial direction, while i-D has promised that its "restructuring" will come with a renewed focus on the web. According to Matthew Hawker, Production Director at the magazine and the person charged with relaunching i-Dmagazine.com, the revamped web experience will include "a sophisticated content management system that will allow the world's best photographers, stylists, DJs, filmmakers and designers to create their own environments within the editorial control of Terry Jones and the i-D team."
So what will fashion magazines look like in a few years' time? While websites like Dazed Digital and SHOWstudio point the way forward, offering readers greater immediacy and access, new opportunities for participation, and more multi-sensory content than ever before, nobody really knows the answer to that question. That's because unlike print, digital is a medium that's always evolving.
"We are now entering the restless world of interactive, self-created, digital-imaging: accessible, downloadable and constantly changing," said Nick Knight. Indeed, unlike traditional photography that "ends" when the image is developed and printed, digital imagery on the internet has no fixed ending. It can be changed constantly by its creator or programmed to evolve based on inputs as varied as user interaction or time of day.
What Mr. Knight observes about digital imagery is true of digital media at large. Unlike print, the internet is not a stable medium with fixed properties. Quite the contrary. The web is an ever-changing universe in which new media forms like Twitter and Tumblr are literally being born every day. In this ecosystem of constant change, fashion magazines must accept revolution without end and learn to embrace constant experimentation, constant innovation and the constant birth and death of new editorial formats.
Vikram Alexei Kansara is a digital strategist and writer based in New York.