Though it's hard to imagine a time when more people read magazines than read articles on their phones, bloggers were still making pennies off banner ads (instead of millions in sponsored content), and cameraphones weren't good enough to take a runway pic, that was the case in 2009 when Dolce & Gabbana put fashion bloggers in the front row. As a sign of how nascent the medium was, the group representing fashion media's new gen was varied, including street style photographers Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist and Tommy Ton of Jak & Jil, as well as lifestyle blogger Garance Doré and personal style blogger Bryan Boy. It seems as silly now to consider all those names in the same breath (it'd be like saying Megyn Kelly and Shonda Rhymes work in the same industry), but it was still a bold move at the time, judging by how many people were upset that four front row seats had been taken up by people who hadn't been climbing up the ladders at their respective companies for the past two dozens years. Schuman, too, was wary of whether or not the spectacle was a sign of things to come, or just a false alliance in the name of "modernity." "Even though I think it was very nice, I totally think it was just a media ploy for them to try and say, 'we believe in blogs now,’” he told a group in Sydney in 2009. "But, you know what? I will believe it if they still have three or four independent bloggers in the front row for the next three or four seasons."
We’re far past three or four seasons into the future, and we can confidently say that Dolce was right (though the label probably tried to milk it as media spectacle, as well; Schuman and his fellow "bloggers" were also seated next to laptops in the front row, as if they were going to live-blog as a performance). But websites aren't the only medium around these days, and are becoming less and less visible, as platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and Snapchat offer more immediate and personal ways to disseminate content for millennial audiences. And, increasingly, powerful social media publishers who don't even have a website are surpassing the old new guard in terms of clicks, plays, views, and fans. Put it this way: Vine star Cameron Dallas has 15.6 million followers on Instagram. Vogue, whose editors sat across the runway from Dallas during this weekend’s Dolce & Gabbana show, has 12.5 million.
As with most things Dolce & Gabbana, you can debate whether its spring '17 show, which was loosely themed “Tropico Italiano,” but more aptly themed “Everything Millennial,” was prescient or just a grab for relevancy. The evidence for the latter was there: The show was an indiscreet grab-bag of Gen-Z trends seen through a slightly distorted Italian filter. There were break dancers doing B-boy moves to Italian Tarantella music, embroidered “hotel” slippers, light-up headdresses and shoes, dresses printed in pizzas, Bieber's Purpose album, and 20-plus millennials who ranged from Vine and Youtube stars, like the aforementioned Dallas, to social media-famous entrepreneurs, like Luka Sabbat, to teens with famous last names, like Stallone, Richie, Von Furstenberg, and Getty. Decked out in head-to-toe Dolce & Gabbana, the group were lit under a spotlight, as the opposing side of editors passed around a single crib sheet to try to figure out who was who. It was a literal face-off of the establishment (which now includes websites and blogs) trying to identify who the new front row was. It was 2009 all over again, except with more screaming teenage fans waiting outside.
Interestingly enough, it was the old guard who were the ones posting on social media during the show; the “Millennials” (who, arguably, belong more to Generation Z) took their pre-show selfies, but put their phones away after that. It was like they knew that they were the main show — not what was happening on the catwalk. And if the fans outside and the subjects of the posts tagged with @dolcegabbana were any evidence, everyone else knew it, too. Dolce & Gabanna has always been on the progressive side of culture (even if it's proven to be offensively old-fashioned at times, the house has mostly attempted to course correct). But whether it’s a smart move for a brand to acknowledge that its clothes come second at its own shows is something that Dolce & Gabbana might not be able to afford to wait three or four seasons to figure out.