Saturday, 21 March 2009



Once seated within the grand domed ceilinged lecture theatre we were introduced by London College of Fashion lecturer Reina Lewis to our trusty panel which consisted of editor-in-chief of; Dolly Jones, Think Tank editor at WGSN; Ruth Marshall-Johnson and founder of niche blog; Jana.

Throughout the course of just over an hour the panel were invited to speak about how the internet has played an important role within the fashion sphere with particular attention to its relevance to their own careers. Also discussed were the ways in which fashion designers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers have been affected by the meteoric rise of the Internet.
Dolly Jones commented that back in 2000 when she started working on Vogue Online she used to routinely request tickets to all the major fashion shows and designers used to scoff at her saying that there was no way they would let an online journalist preview their collection for fear of their story going live and copycats counterfeiting the designs before they’d even hit the shops the following season. Now nine years on designers are much more confident with this medium of journalism and are now so dependent on its reach to a whole other world of consumers that if their collections are not written up within a couple of hours designers would personally call Dolly to ask ‘why not?’.

The benefits of fast fashion news online greatly appeal to many designers and stores as they provide consumers with instant brand access. Never before has such a world of knowledge been at the consumer’s fingertips whereby they can hear something on the radio or see an advertisement and with the power of search engine such as Google they can pull up extensive current and archived information within minutes.

Ruth Marshall-Johnson of WGSN opened her thoughts by stating that the first web communication took place on Christmas Day in 1990 and marvelled that the Internet is now in its ‘teenage years and is only beginning to understand its own capabilities’. She went on to discuss how consumers have more power over content now than ever due to consumer reviews and the upsurge of ‘home experts’ in the form of bloggers. With the internet’s reach growing further due to a high demand and availability of access through palm pilots and more basic mobile phones; without instant access consumers feel disconnected.

Another great point raised by Ruth was that whether as a society we like it or not ‘generation plays a huge role in how the media landscape affects and shapes our views about shopping’ and discussed how tomorrow’s children will have even more at their fingertips and will be instantly programmed on how to get the best from the internet as online is the future and ‘gives birth to many more opportunities’.

A main topic of the evening’s conversation was the world of blogging with Jana talking us through her blog; Hijab Style. Formed in September 2007, Jana created her blog in response to the lack of style information and advice for Muslim women who wanted to dress stylishly yet preserve their modesty. As the first style blog for Muslim women within the UK Jana has created a lucratively successful niche market whilst studying Medicine.

From Jana’s statements and interaction with the audience the need for moderating on blogs soon became the hot topic with both Dolly and Jana stating that at one point each of their respective sites had options to comment whereby readers could simply post their initial reaction to what they had read without censorship. This caused great concern as many readers from a variety of backgrounds tended to post their free flowing thoughts without due process in a different way to how they would complain to a journalist’s face or in a letter to the editor of a magazine. Both ladies conceded that this was an idealistic way to run a website and / or blog as there was often a need for them to step in and diffuse arguments as readers used to get into debates with each other across the website which created a bad atmosphere and misrepresented the original message intended for readers. In spite of this the conclusion was that the need for participation from readers is great as this form of feedback -whether it be positive, neutral or negative- is priceless and all together helpful for journalists, bloggers and other readers alike.

The main focus for the evening was what I would describe as the great debate between Print and Online. The emphasis being whether internet journalists hold the same credibility and receive the same respect and adulation as their print counterparts. A member of the audience commented that with the fold of so many magazines as of late with Amelia’s magazine being the prime example; ‘Is there still a need for magazines, when they can still have a strong readership by transferring to online media in the form of e-zines and blogs?’

The response of the majority was that in times such as these when the average person has less money to spend on themselves magazines such as Love, V, and Another Magazine offer an escape and a sense of luxury that is need now perhaps more than ever. Also it is buying into a fantasy and a fantastical lifestyle that is more appropriate in these times of economic stress than splurging on the archetypal designer handbag.

Lastly the conversation was steered towards debating the pros of cons of Online versus Offline shopping. This was widely debated with the thoughts on offline ranging from the possibility that said store do not have your size, shop attendants can be rude and unhelpful, other shoppers in the fitting room may be skinnier than you and look ten times better than you in what you’re trying on, but this aside nothing can compare to thrill of walking out of a store with your purchase in hand. For online the biggest pro was that retailers can cater to a much wider range of consumers and niche groups than they ever could in one flagship or smaller store, and that it is a fantastic tool for those who are less confident about shopping or for those who downright detest it.

It was agreed by all present that both Online and Offline shopping mediums can co-exist and co-evolve and that both now and in the future will always have their pros and cons. The question that we were left to mull over at the pub afterwards was ‘will there ever be a saturation point?’

With the buzz word of the night being ‘Internet’, it was a great lecture although myself and my friend who accompanied me were left feeling like we’d stepped into an LCF lecture where everyone knew everyone else. Very reminiscent of the lectures we used to have at university under the banner of Cultural and Social Studies.

The next lecture in the series is titled ‘Fashion and Faith’ scheduled to take place on Friday 22 May (19.00-20.00) in the Hochhauser Auditorium, Sackler Centre, V&A Museum.

No comments:

Post a Comment