Notice Something Weird About The Front Row At Fashion Week?

Photographed by Sunny Shokrae.
A funny thing happened as the lights dimmed before the Ohne Titel runway presentation on Thursday evening. Or, maybe we should say didn't happen. Despite the cool, cracked mirrors at the end of the stage and the riotous rainbow of 1970s-tinged knits stomping down the runway, the editors, bloggers, and It Girls sitting front row resisted the urge to whip out their iPhones to capture a look, a shoe, a moment during the whole runway frenzy. They sat perfectly still and just...watched.

It wasn't just at Ohne Titel, which had plenty of Instagrammable outfits, by the way. Fashion Week attendees in general this season are keeping their phones in their bags. "I have definitely noticed [the drop in iPhone usage during shows]," says Bloomberg luxury columnist Hannah Elliott. And, Refinery29's own photo editor Ida Hariri notes that she's been moving away from loading too many catwalk snaps on the @refinery29 Instagram account. "Our followers are not interested in blurry runway photos," she says. In fact, as several social media gurus confirmed, these images of models in motion have historically performed poorly, and the slump has only grown sharper this season. For many in the front row who monitor the performance of their social media posts, that can be enough to deter them from snapping pics at all.

Part of the reason is quality: Bad lighting, shaky hands, and the fact that the iPhone camera, good as it is, still can't compete with a Canon DSLR means that fashion-hungry media consumers are happy to wait a few more seconds for high-quality images from the wires to appear on Women's Wear Daily or Style.com.

There's another, perhaps more interesting, factor, too: Where once snapping a photo from your front row (hell, even back row!) seat telegraphed exclusivity, now doing so is, well, kinda basic

"It's seen as a rookie move," says Elliott. "If you look at the major editors or buyers in the front row, they're taking longhand notes or just watching — maybe they'll take one photo during the finale. But, if you're taking a lot of photos, it shows that you're someone with less cachet."

Indeed, cachet — the idea of bringing something new and special to the now over-saturated Fashion Week calendar — is exactly what social media companies like Instagram and Twitter are trying to promote. For its new Fashion Week program, #fashionflock, Twitter has recruited a group of 50 designers, editors, and celebrities to take more behind-the-scenes, intimate, and creative shots. "For several seasons, people have had access to the runway, thanks to front row insiders using Twitter," says Rachel Dodes, Twitter's fashion partnerships manager, in a statement via email. "Now, the real signifier of insider access is getting a peek into what's happening backstage, and we're seeing more and more models, designers, and makeup artists send those types of tweets." 

Yet, that doesn't mean you should chuck all your runway snaps out the window. There are ways an intrepid iPhone wielder can stand out in the crowd. (Hariri recommends checking out Landon Nordeman's Instagram for some quirky scene-setting and razor-sharp detail shots taken at the shows, including on the runway, and we've got our own guide for taking a better fashion pic.)

Whatever the reason — because it's "basic," because it's distracting, because it's obsolete, or because it's sort of rude to have your phone out instead of clapping for a collection — we're just glad that people are taking the opportunity to really appreciate where they are, what they're witnessing, and how amazing it all looks without a screen in between.

For all things Fashion Week around the world — including street style snaps, designer news, and the trends you'd actually wear — head over to Refinery29's Fashion Month hub.


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