So marketing megalith IMG has just been sold to private equity firm Silver Lake Partners and talent agency William Morris Endeavor for more than $2.3bn – which means, as those of us who follow these sorts of thing know, that assorted fashion weeks from New York to London, Berlin, Tokyo, Moscow, Miami, Toronto and Sydney have just also been sold, IMG owning the rights to those events (among others).
Which has interesting implications for the debate currently raging in fashion about the purpose of fashion weeks itself: namely, are they for the trade (for buying and selling clothes) or, as fashion becomes more and more a part of pop culture and a driver of social media, are they entertainment for the public and marketing for the brands?
Now, where do you think a talent agency might come down? I mean, they are called “shows” after all, and brands are already making their own mini-movies, complete with WME clients.
IMG was clearly leaning in the entertainment direction, as the sheer proliferation of their fashion weeks showed (the trade simply couldn’t get to all those events, but the people who lived near them sure could). Recently, however, the sense, at least in New York, that fashion week had become bad Reality TV had reached critical mass, culminating in a mass rejection by the industry this upcoming season of the IMG-run centralised space in Lincoln Center (though not the public, and street style wanna-be photographers, who seem to love it). Even last season, I think I only went to about five shows there, out of over 50, a number that is expected to shrink to about 2 this February.
The question, now that WME is involved, is whether this will continue, albeit possibly in a slicker, more neatly packaged and strategic way; whether the transformation of fashion week into a form of popular entertainment will be complete. I lean towards answering yes, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.
Indeed, it might liberate (or force, depending on your point of view) brands, retailers and even critics to rethink the fashion system, which no longer works on a two-season, see-now-sell-in-six-months basis any more, even though the collection rounds are still based on this now-antiquated idea. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where fashion weeks become a sort of consumer-directed mini-series entertainment event, held just before clothes actually go into stores and used to drive people to them, while stores and editors have separate viewing times, not for public consumption, thus circumventing some of the copying issues created now that clothes are seen months before they go on sale. Is this really such a leap?
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