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What Fashion Can Learn From Beyoncé

Fashion's formulaic approach to communications is holding it back, argues BoF's Imran Amed.
Beyoncé wears Roberto Cavalli in "Lemonade," her new visual album | Source: Lemonade by Beyoncé
By
  • Imran Amed

LONDON, United Kingdom — The hot topic in BoF's London offices this week was "Lemonade," the new visual album by Beyoncé.

We were not alone. The surprise hour-long video spectacular — which dropped first on American television before being made available on Tidal and iTunes — had the Internet enraptured, spawning a veritable media storm, several celebrity rumours (that's you Rachel Roy and Rita Ora) and scores of memes, as it examined everything from Beyoncé's personal issues with her husband Jay-Z to race relations in America. "Lemonade" also, by the way, had more people looking at a Roberto Cavalli dress than any Cavalli fashion show I can remember in recent years!

It's the second time in the last couple of years that Beyoncé has used the power of her personal brand to surprise her fanbase and capture global attention. It made me wonder why major fashion brands — which also have large online fanbases — aren't regularly able do the same.

For me, the answer lies in the inherent conservatism of the industry's approach to communications. In our bi-annual Top 10 Fashion Films of the Season ranking, out this week, we lamented the lack of innovation and risk-taking in the video content being produced by fashion companies. As many of you commented on the site, even some of our top picks simply felt like moving magazine pages rather than epic, exciting digital moments like "Lemonade."

Indeed, many fashion brands seem stuck in a formula when it comes to their marketing and communications, using the same photographers, the same art directors, the same models, the same stylists, the same references, season after season. Our standout fashion film, which some of you found disturbing, came from skate-brand Supreme whose film 'Pussygangster,' created with longtime collaborator William Strobeck, felt like raw and authentic storytelling, undiluted by the fashion industry's formula.

The topic of storytelling also came up in a wide-ranging panel discussion we moderated this week in partnership with Disney, one of the best — and most formulaic — storytelling companies in the world. But these days even Disney is challenging its tried and true formula to creating stock characters. No more Sleeping Beauties and Cinderellas, who wait patiently for their princes to come and rescue them. Instead, the company is creating characters like Frozen's Elsa and her sister Anna, who can save themselves. Together, the two princesses work to ensure their own happy ending, without anybody else’s help. More on that panel discussion next week.

But if even the formulaic fairy tales of Disney can change with the times, why can't fashion? There has been so much debate and navel gazing about fashion shows in the age of social media. But it seems to me that this is a major opportunity to think beyond traditional formats and truly take customers by surprise to give them something they don't expect. If the reaction of the "beyhive" to "Lemonade" is any indication, a new approach could be very impactful indeed.

Imran Amed, Founder and Editor-in-Chief

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State of Fashion 2023
© 2022 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions and Privacy policy.
State of Fashion 2023