Fast Company kicked off its annual Innovation Festival yesterday with Eva Chen, Instagram's head of fashion partnerships, and design duo Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, who spoke with Senior Editor Erin Schulte about how Instagram has changed the fashion industry. With Gucci's new Instagram project (aptly titled #GucciGram), IMG's dedicated model scouting program and the CFDA's curated book showcasing designers' Instagram accounts, it's clear that the social media platform has made a major impact on the industry. In fact, McCollough and Hernandez confessed that Instagram has greatly influenced their creative process, from researching inspiration for upcoming collections to conceiving their next runway show.
"When we first started, we used to go to the public library's image library," said McCollough about sourcing initial ideas for putting together a collection. "Now, we research on Instagram. There's everything on there." Whether it's searching hashtags dedicated to an artist or an obscure reference, McCollough and Hernandez admit that they find more interesting images on the photo-heavy app compared to what they find on a major search engine like Google Images. The duo also have their phones connected to the Proenza Schouler studio's printer — so they can instantly screengrab, print and add images to their inspiration boards.
Since the Internet has expanded the brand's audience from long-lead press and buyers to, well, anyone with access to the web, Instagram has also changed the way the Proenza Schouler team thinks about shows. "With the dawn of new media, it's really changed the game 100 percent," said Hernandez. "It's changed the way we edit the show, the palette of the show. The way we think about it is completely different." Both he and McCollough admit that their show edits are much tighter now with a focus on variety. "People are experiencing [the show] like this," he said, taking his right index finger to mimic swiping on a smartphone screen, proving his point to avoid repetition within a collection. "Color has been more important and also the narrative of the show." Rather than highlighting a singular message with only one silhouette, one length and one shoe, the duo makes sure to give the collection a much wider breadth to "keep it interesting as you swipe." "It's not just about the clothes," Hernandez said. "It's how they look on screen."
According to Chen, Proenza Schouler succeeded in keeping it interesting with its spring 2016 show. "It was this amazing celebration of texture," explained Chen. "It really came to life, especially on videos. I shot a ton. I wanted to post every single look." The former magazine editor, whose current gig is to help elevate the stories of brands, designers, industry insiders and publications, also mentioned that fashion partners are curious to know how to find the perfect "Instagram moment." Or, in Instagram HQ terms, a "thumb-stopping moment," which, according to Chen, is when you're scrolling through your feed and suddenly stop and say, "Whoa, what is that?" And with over 360 million engagements across 44 million Instagram user accounts during Fashion Month, the scope and scale for a thumb-stopping moment is huge.
Instagram's influence is present post-runway show, too. McCollough and Lazaro recalled how they would have to wait up to two days until they could read reviews on their collections, either in print or online. "Now, we finish our backstage interviews and we're in the cab and [we] go on [our phones] and it's blowing up with posts," said Lazaro "We already get a sense of how the collection was received. It's instant nowadays. It's great for us."
Update: We corrected Instagram's user engagement from Fashion Month, previously reported as 344 million engagements across 44 million Instagram user accounts. The statistic was confirmed by a spokesperson for Instagram, who also noted that the most recent interactions more than tripled compared to Fashion Month in the fall of 2014.