Why Do Fashion Designers Love the Selfie So Much?
Forget about abbreviations and overplayed memes: The most annoying product of the digital era has got to be the selfie. It's near-impossible to take an arm's-length picture of yourself without falling somewhere within the unholy trifecta of narcissist, show-off, and Captain Obvious (people, a selfie is apparent from miles away). But despite everything that's wrong about the selfie, some of fashion's movers and shakers find it oh-so-right. What's so appealing to artists about the act of snapping your own face?
The New York Times recently ran an article on how Instagram is inspiring the fashion world; designers from Jason Wu to Diane von Furstenberg are apparently scrolling through their feed on the reg to get inspired. While Instagram is undoubtedly slick and filter-pretty, it has also spawned the second or third wave of the selfie. Cue Jaws music. This indulgent form of self-expression has been around since cameras became widely accessible (Wikipedia has some amazing examples of early 1900s selfies, LOL at those formal poses), but the selfie became truly infamous circa the rise of Myspace, and then again with the rise of Facebook. Profile pictures were practically incomplete without a glimpse of your outstretched upper arm.
But now that Instagram has finally liberated the selfie from its angsty-teenager-in-a-bathroom roots and turned it into, well, something that Anna Wintour is okay with, we're forced to revisit our knee-jerk reactions to the selfie. Once you've filtered your selfie, is it still sheer indulgence — or is it a bold artistic statement?
Designers, who've always had an obsession with the real girl (just look at how fast streetstyle photography went mainstream), aren't as judgmental as we are when it comes to photographing yourself. Nanette Lepore's resort collection was influenced by the act of taking a selfie: “We were inspired by how these girls just go out in the street [in Venice Beach] and take pictures of themselves,” she told the NYT. And designer Wes Gordon loves to see the selfies flow: "A girl I’m friends with posts pictures of herself at a party or on vacation," he says, "and I’ll think, ‘Oh, she looks super cool right now.'" Wes, follow me on Instagram whenever!
Clearly, the fashion industry's love of Instagram is a way to crowdsource information, reactions, and new ideas — but the cool thing about seeing your customer's selfies is that it shows you not just what they look like, but what they want to look like. Selfies are inherently posed (they've got to be the polar opposite of candid shots, right?) and carefully presented to the world. A keen industry eye may be able to read through the layers of artifice to see what it is that these selfie-snappers are subconsciously asking for.
There's something so vulnerable about a selfie, because no matter how posed, filtered, and angled the shot is, we all know you took it yourself. A selfie is basically saying to the world, "I think I look good in this one. Do you think I look good in this one?" Maybe there's something about that raw innocence paired with the confidence it takes to post a photo of yourself that appeals to designers, too; the line between private thoughts and overexposure is one that's clearly being blurred in today's world, and it makes sense that that tension is inspiring artists.
So perhaps selfies aren't just another indulgent form of unnecessary online self-expression. Maybe they're an act of supreme confidence — although you know you're being a bit of an exhibitionist, you're going to do it anyway. Your friends may find you annoying, but designers are paying their respects.
image: @cocorocha via Instagram