Could Givenchy's Very Public Show Make Fashion More Accessible?

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Today at 10 a.m. EST, fashion diehards were frantically refreshing their browsers (some opting to use multiple computers, even). Why? In a surprising, democratizing move for the fashion set, Givenchy gave away 820 tickets to the public for its Spring 2016 show, being held in New York instead of Paris this season to celebrate the opening of the brand’s new NYC flagship. Though the crowd of fashion editors, celebs, and bloggers that populate these shows will certainly be there, with the best seats in the house, there will also be 280 students from local fashion schools, and 100 local residents living near the undisclosed venue will attend as well.

"Bringing the Givenchy collection to Manhattan with what will be a blockbuster show — that will be nothing short of a spectacular and a spectacle, proves Riccardo is not only one of the greatest talents of his generation: He is a showman!” Ken Downing, fashion director and SVP at Neiman Marcus, told Refinery29. “Sharing his love of fashion with theatrical bravado beyond the fashion community is a gift to the city of New York and a gift to his fans around the world. Riccardo has always embraced unconventional ideas to deliver the dream of his vision for the house of Givenchy; it's why his collections are so highly anticipated season after season.”

It’s a big, bold example of making fashion accessible to all. This is a major-name runway show that editors and buyers clamor to get into (and don’t all succeed in doing) allowing the public in without placing a price tag on the experience. Compare that to the ways non-fashion-industry people can otherwise see a catwalk in the flesh: buying steeply priced tickets to a “dazzling spectacle” of a show that’s made for the masses, like Macy’s Presents Fashion’s Front Row event at Madison Square Garden during NYFW, or the ill-fated Fashion Rocks franchise. Though there are indeed models strutting down a runway, these part-concert, part-fashion events aren’t really attended by anyone working in fashion — and Jason Derulo, not the latest collections by Macy’s in-house labels, is really what you’re paying for. Or, you can take a chance on scalpers selling tickets to shows online, or bid your way to Fashion Week access on sites like Charity Buzz (though that will set you back a couple thousand dollars, and doesn’t afford access to highly desirable shows).
As for Givenchy’s public giveaway this morning, hopeful attendees filled out a registration form — but that doesn’t guarantee admission. The first 410 folks that “correctly completed” the form to nab a pair of tickets (yes, a plus-one is even included!) will find out on or before September 7 if they’ll be catching Riccardo Tisci’s latest designs in person instead of via online livestream (the wait dismayed some). Those who made the cut will have to fetch their personalized invites on September 10 or 11. Despite fears that the site where tickets were being distributed would crash, as is often the case with sought-after fashion stuff (though usually that means merch releases, not free tickets to a luxury house’s fashion show), it stayed up and running, save for an error message or two.

The fierce desire to score tickets was palpable on Twitter. "I'm about to be late for work in the name of Givenchy," wrote @TheBlackDaria, while some fans put aside academics in pursuit of Givenchy, and @JMonaco took it a step further: "If I don't get an @givenchy invite I might actually self-harm." Others resorted to praying, like @mattywattyboy: "FASHION GODS PLEASE LET ME GET ONE OF THESE GIVENCHY TICKETS."

”It's unconventional, yes, as shows have a history of being extremely exclusive. But it doesn't surprise me,” Melissa Rubini, fashion director at InStyle, told Refinery29. “We are living in a world of new ways to expose brands. When it comes to Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, it is more than obvious he is constantly celebrating street culture and different tribes.”

Should Givenchy’s big bet on opening its show to a much wider audience go off smoothly, others might follow suit: “I wouldn’t be surprised it this format became replicated by many designers next season,” Fern Mallis, known for founding NYFW and, most recently, as the host of the “Fashion Icons” series at the 92nd Street Y (she wrote a book of the same title), told Refinery29. “There already is a fine line between accessible/inaccessible in fashion, with so much [runway coverage] posted every second. So if you can’t beat them, why not join them?”

Plus, think of all the Instagram photo opps — and the non-jaded, thrilled-to-be-there contingency in attendance to go social-media-crazy over getting to see Tisci’s designs in person. “This is the perfect example of how a luxury brand can leverage social media to engage its most loyal fans and make them feel a part of something truly special,” WSJ magazine’s publisher and The Wall Street Journal’s VP of advertising, Anthony Cenname, told Refinery29. “Those 820 seats will now be filled with some of Givenchy's most passionate brand ambassadors, who will leave the show feeling more connected to the design house than ever, and excited to share their experiences on the very same platforms that earned them their tickets.”

This could be simply a one-off publicity stunt for the brand (yet a savvy one at that). But what if it’s ultimately a catalyst for more inclusive fashion-industry experiences? That would be something for Tisci to be really proud of.

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