The hype at today's Calvin Klein show was outside rather than inside. Cameron Dallas, a 21-year-old Vine/Snapchat/YouTube star was in attendance. In front of the venue, a swarm of teen and pre-teen girls, and a couple of boys (one of whom was in tears) screamed his name, eager to catch a glimpse. CAM-ER-ON. CAM-ER-ON. CAM-ER-ON. The fashion pack, particularly some more conservative magazine editors, have long complained about the ever-growing hoopla and circus outside the shows - the street style mania, the photographers, the wannabees. You couldn't help but laugh at their confused, frustrated reaction as they tried to beat their way into the venue, shoulder-shoving hysterical teenagers aside, sunglasses on, designer togs ruffled. It was made more amazing by the fact that, despite Dallas' millions of fans (9.5 on Instagram alone) not one member of the fashion press - those who build a career on supposedly knowing what's hip, new and cool - seemed to know who he was. During the show he sat front row, before and after he hung out the upstairs windows of the venue, baiting his fans - their screams getting louder with every wave. I had never seen anything like it. I can only compare it to YouTube footage of Beatlemania, though even that seemed relatively ordered and calm compared to this. It was a lesson in pure, emotional teen mob mentality.
Inside, in the calm, PRs flapped over magazine editors - some of whom manage titles that probably only sell a few thousand copies - ensuring they were comfortable in their front row seats, desperate for a good review or shoot credit that will only be seen by a handful of people, mostly from inside the industry. Most online editors were still sat at the back, behind the print crew. One Instagram post from Dallas can probably reach more people, instantly, than the combined readership of every title in the room.
It was the most ironic, warped illustration of how fashion has found itself lost and confused - grappling for a way forward in these strange digital times. The industry likes to pretend it's innovative. But while Calvin Klein may have cottoned on to the importance of Dallas, and the likes of Kendall Jenner (47 million followers) - who fronts their underwear campaign - they're hardly pushing through seismic change in the industry. Those kids outside were only there for Dallas - Calvin Klein, like most other fashion brands, can only pull in the fashion pack and a few street style snappers when left to their own devices. 'Ordinary' people don't engage. But those teen fans matter. Sure, today they may only buy a couple of pairs of CK undies (since they now know Dallas likes the brand) but if communicated to correctly they'll graduate into buying perfumes, shoes, bags, ready-to-wear - if addressed properly, they'll identify with the brand. But, to ensure this, brands need to stop going in circles, talking to the same people and each other. PRs need to stop fussing over style magazines that influence the few and start speaking directly to their consumers. As Jonathan Anderson once pointed out to me, when explaining how times are changing, that's how Apple and Dyson do it. Great print advertising of old used to do just that - people still talk about that Eva Herzigova 'Hello Boys' Wonderbra campaign - and today there are countless opportunities to do it better; social media and the web being the key ones. But brands still seem to think they need an approving voice to do it for them - Dallas in this case, magazine editors in others. Say what you like about Hedi Slimane but he concretely proved that not one of us matters when he stopped inviting any fashion critic, myself included, who didn't sing his praises. Glossy magazine editors were ignored. Stylists cut from the list. He speaks to those who love his work, without the need for approval from the 'industry'. Saint Laurent have doubled their business.
Still, I'm probably writing myself out of a job, so on to the clothes. To fit with the teen heartthrob vibe, this season Italo Zucchelli had made things less stiff and more seductive. This collection flirted. White t-shirts hung around the torso, showing off the physique. They were worn with metallic cummerbunds and black tailored trousers. A highlight - the point where all the editors reached for their phone to Instagram - was when the outerwear appeared; huge padded bombers and coats complete with gold or silver metalic linings. Snug, like the foil blankets of a marathon runner. Showy, but full of machismo. Interestingly, Calvin Klein, the brand that used to own androgyny thanks to their CK One fragrance ads, hasn't moved with the times in terms of gender bending. The boys looked like men, and the girls (a new addition on the menswear runway, perhaps a nod to the gender fluidity trend) looked, when it came to the clothes, like men too, thanks to their slick black suits. There were no frills or lace here.
All those metallics reminded me of that season, S/S 13, when Burberry was pushing shiny trenches. They were a twist, an added bit of sparkle and excitement to things that were otherwise normal. Normality - that has always been a part of the CK DNA thanks to their reputation for basics, but it was especially pervasive at today's A/W 16 show, which closed with a run of all black suits. But then that brings it back to Cameron Dallas. Really, he's a normal bloke - just one that stumbled across fame through his iPhone, rather than any particular talent. The name of the game with these internet stars is relatability. They're appealing because they're the everyman - not controversial, not opinionated, not hard to swallow. We the fashion pack may turn our noses up at that, dismissing their followers, but in this current climate, where advertisers dictate the content of magazines, anyone who pays gets good press and neutrality or praise rather than criticism is the norm, we have to ask ourselves if we're really any better.