What a no-phone fashion show means in the social media era

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Prior to The Row’s Autumn/Winter 2024 presentation on Wednesday in Paris, guests were emailed a request: “We kindly ask that you refrain from capturing or sharing any content during your experience.” In place of phones, guests were given Japanese notepads and a pen to take handwritten notes.

The request — immediately shared on social media, naturally — has raised questions around what it means to instantly share images and videos from the runway online, and what shutting off that access means.

Online, some praised the nostalgia and sophistication of the choice. Others, such as The New York Times chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman, expressed their disappointment: “I don’t feel that taking some pictures interferes with my ability to fully consider what I am seeing. And I think I am grown up enough to decide that for myself,” she wrote on X. Still, most abided.

“I think people were worried if they were caught filming they wouldn’t get invited back,” Dazed fashion director Emma Davidson says. Watching sans technology as an editor expected to capture content for her publication’s socials vastly impacted how much of the collection Davidson digested. It also created a buzzy atmosphere, she says. “It felt like a massive power move.” The Row did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

Runway shows have always been about more than just the clothes. They serve as the strongest way to communicate a brand’s universe — and entice consumers into it. For guests, the phone is a portal to everyone who’s on the outside, and the influx of phones and social media have changed the nature of who the runway show is for. By taking phones out of the picture, The Row made a statement: it doesn’t need to entice consumers.

Image may contain Clothing Coat Blazer Jacket Formal Wear Suit Adult Person Long Sleeve Sleeve Footwear and Shoe

The Row’s AW24 lookbook.

Photos: Courtesy of The Row

Exclusive or elitist?

The vast majority of those who covet The Row can’t afford its ready-to-wear at retail. These customers will instead line up around blocks for hours to gain access to sample sales, shop secondhand and buy entry-point shoes and accessories. Most will never score an elusive show invite. Shutting the masses out online, too, feels like the ultimate digital exclusion. “I don’t have a The Row store anywhere near me, there’s no way I could experience whatever it is they do in person. I’d only get that through the internet. They know this,” fashion archivist Kim Russell says. “It’s a move to craft a certain demographic and keep it that way.” On X, one person wrote simply, “Snobs.”

By yowuj