If you’re sitting front row at a New York Fashion Week show, better hide your cell phone.
At least, according to fashion bloggers and etiquette experts who have had it with the incessant Instagramming and tweeting from the hallowed seats near the runways.
While sharing footage from the runway can be a promotional boon for designers, it can also detract from the experience of the event itself and be disruptive to those in attendance. Some designers — like Kate Spade, who opted for private showings rather than a formal runway show — are banning attendees from sharing photos on social media to avoid leaking the looks.
Issues around cell phone use have been pervasive in the fashion and entertainment industries. Comedian Dave Chappelle and musician Alicia Keys both enacted “no-phone zones” at their shows last year and required attendees to place mobile devices in locked phone sleeves to avoid fans from disrupting performances or filming video to distribute on YouTube.
For designers, however, this type of sharing typically helps sell clothes. It’s also been the primary catalyst behind the transition to “see-now-buy-now” sales models, by allowing for the instantaneous sharing of looks from the runway to the masses, expediting consumer demand and disrupting seasonal retail strategies.
Kyle Anderson, market and accessories director at Marie Claire, said social media has served as a double-edged sword for the fashion world in bringing immediacy to the industry but also helping expand awareness for lesser known brands.
“Social media coverage of collections is both good and bad,” Anderson said. “On the one hand people seem to feel the collections are old when they have seen them covered heavily on social media before the collection comes out. On the other hand its free publicity and has helped allow brands to reach sometimes millions of consumers and audiences that otherwise would have never heard of some of them.”
Thomas “Mister Manners” Farley, former editor at Town & Country and founder of What Manners Most, echoed Anderson and said that while designers and social media have a symbiotic relationship, it also leads to disturbances in the shows.
Farley has witnessed social media faux pas firsthand at a number of fashion shows he has attended over the years. He said there’s an important distinction in behavior when sitting in the front row — namely that these high visibility individuals are as much a part of the show as the models and should stow away their phones — but that there is a balance that applies to everyone in attendance.
Farley noted that at a show earlier this week he saw someone sitting in front of him filming the show with an iPad, akin to holding up a television screen right in front of his face.
“I think we’re just a little bit too shutter happy when it comes to these shows,” Farley said. “I think you also need to think about moderating how much content you’re putting out there. It’s great that you’re there, but be judicious. You don’t want to overwhelm your followers.”
Thomas Rankin, CEO and founder of Dash Hudson, added that in most cases, Instagram photos from the runway don’t garner the level of engagement as regular fashion posts, and that it’s starting to reach “a tipping point” as a result of oversaturation.
“In the beginning, smartphones at shows were totally gauche. Before you knew it, bloggers were front row,” he said. “For brands, it’s a key time to have their collections actually seen through the reach generated by attendees. In this day and age, everyone expects access.”
Leandra Medine, founder of Man Repeller, wrote about the subject in a blog post yesterday. Medine expressed a sense of regret about taking photos or posting to social media.
“Having your phone out at a show has become somewhat, dare I say, embarrassing,” Medine wrote. “Which is ridiculous if you think about it, because many of the attendees are at these shows for the sole purpose of gathering photos for later use. So why has this happened, and should we do anything about it?”
Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert at the Protocol School of Texas, said that at events like fashion week, it’s most important to make sure your mobile phone use doesn’t impede the experience of others in attendance.
“You need to be courteous toward the event, respectful towards the designer, and certainly be aware of the people around you,” Gottsman said. “It’s crowded, you’re elbow to elbow, you’re going from one place to another. You need to be aware, and you need to be present.”
Above all else, the etiquette experts encouraged crowd goers to enjoy the experience rather than being encumbered by their cell phones.
“The world is not going to spin off its axis because you waited 20 minutes until the show is completes to post on social media,” Farley said.