Backstage Fashion Week with Alexa Chung

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Akoo / Alexa Chung / Vogue

Alexa: “I’m giving them an inside scoop on fashion week”
Nick Grimshaw: “Oh it’s really serious ;)”

Since the initiation of Vogue’s style.com, which allowed for a visual opening up of the former strictly exclusive world of fashion (read more), magazines have found different ways to engage with the bigger public. This was caused and reinforced by two things: one is the immersive growth of consumer culture, the other the emergence of the digital world. People needed and wanted to consumer more, which was of course partly made possible by advertisement and the becoming “visible” of more products and services. Also, the online network stimulated still another way of shopping for which one didn’t even have to leave the house, encouraging the global exchange of goods for competitive prices, which is what the capitalistic society drives on. It promoted the idea of “I shop, therefore I am” with the availability of an ever increasing diversity of goods and services. This implicated that what you consume defines who you are as a person. It’s a way of consciously creating your identity – that is, by means of unconscious manipulation of course.

This is still a very prominent idea about what fashion is: a way to define who you are. And in an increasingly virtual world, everything is fast and immediate from one side of the world to the other. Fashion, as an industry, of course makes use of that. As Jean Cocteau famously said: “la mode, c’est ce qui ce demode” (fashion is what goes out of fashion), never happy with where it is, never accomplished, always renewing itself. And if fashion is identity, then it means that we are also never whole, always constructing a new version of ourselves, running after the next improved definition of who we are. Seen in this way, fashion is quite a serious thing.

But here’s the interesting part. Whilst fashion takes itself quite seriously, it doesn’t. There’s also this idea that fashion is something playful and effortless. The idea of nonchalance and je ne sais quoi. In order for fashion to sell it can’t be just serious, it also has to be fun.

Online blogger and vlogger culture has definitely helped with that. If we’re being bombarded with images every day and all day, it better be something we enjoy watching to keep us engaged with it. This in turn boomeranged back to traditional commerce and advertorials, either by the emergence of catchy and humorous advertisements going viral online, or brands collaborating with virtual style pioneers for a less direct way of publicity. Having b/vloggers invited behind the scenes of fashion shows also gives the impression of a more transparent business, one where everyone is welcomed and encouraged to participate, whilst at the same time maintaining the (often unreachable) desire for all the expensive dream gowns being displayed by not actually inviting everyone to attend fashion week.

Alexa Chung: “This is for Vogue!
Vogue Editor: “It is?! Cool!”

“How to survive fashion week” with Alexa Chung is an ideal example of this movement to get more people more involved with fashion. Of course commissioned by Vogue, the informal tone of the video gives the impression that this is rather liberating (without Vogue, no backstage) rather than restricting to a certain framework that is appropriate for Vogue’s role (of inspiring people to be involved with fashion and to shop). Witty and beautiful, Alexa Chung is the perfect example of the girl who’s not taking fashion too seriously, whilst as a (former) model completely embodying it at the same time – and that’s exactly what makes her a much aspired to style icon.

Alexa is also the presenter of Vogue’s recent series called “The Future of Fashion” (or FOF) in which she explores the different ways in which one can work in fashion. How to get a job in fashion used to be kind of vague for many because of the high fashion world’s aura of exclusivity and inaccessibility of the production processes involved. In a way, fashion was forced to become more transparent about its modes of production because of leaking information on disastrous labour conditions, environmental issues and unhealthy requirements for mannequins that were being photoshopped anyway. This has opened up a whole new discourse on fashion – one in which the “fashion film” in its many different forms has a significant voice too.

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