Fashion is a staple of our identity and an extension of our skin.
The evolution of fashion is driven by culture and communication. When these factors evolve, so does the language of fashion.
Marshall McLuhan predicted that “electric technologies” would transform the world into a global village. No more borders. The end of cultural barriers. McLuhan believed the connectedness of the modern world would create more diversity and abolish conformity.
But historically, the fashion industry was largely centralized within a small number of intellectual hubs: London, Milan, Paris and New York. Vogue, the iconic American fashion magazine released its magazine periodically. They held a monopoly over fashion trends. Vogue’s supremacy was reinforced by the centralized structure of mass media. But now, that’s beginning to disappear.
While the pre-internet world was limited by the constraints of physical space, the digital bits and bytes that underlie the internet have no such limitations.
Before the internet, economic power came from controlling supply, but on the internet, economic power flows to those who control demand and discovery. Distribution is free, participation is global, and communication is instant.
Gatekeepers have lost their monopoly on the speed and flair of fashion. Today, influence is decentralized and fashion no longer has a central point of view. This partially explains the explosion of subcultures, including streetwear.
Vogue was limited by the taste of a select assembly of editors, but Instagram is infinite. It’s limited only by human creativity and the number of smartphones with an internet connection. As a result of this diversity, modern fashion is less about following the trends and more about crafting your own aesthetic.
Modern, internet-driven fashion less about fitting in, and more about standing out; less about wearing standard outfits, and more about customization and personality. The best brands are transparent. They’re increasingly founded by personalities and celebrities, and prize ongoing communication with fans.
Within the fashion industry, there’s no better example than Virgil Abloh. He has what every brand needs:
- Uplifting story
- Inspiring vision
- Visionary founder
- Unmistakable point of view
Wearing an Off-White garment is like wearing a piece of Virgil Abloh — summoning his energy, harnessing his creativity, and transcending oneself.
On social media, people don’t follow brands. They follow people. And in the future, there won’t be a difference.