The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

Is Virality Killing Authenticity?

Photographer: Allison Freidly // Stylist: Cece Kirk // Model: Katie Pham

In today’s digital age, a viral moment is priceless–or at least that’s what brands think. Seeing millions of people viewing your content is sure to make you feel like you’ve achieved great success, however, when said content lacks substance and relies on sensationalism to attract viewership, the outcome isn’t always an unparalleled success.

In recent years, fashion weeks around the world have been inundated with shows that rely on gags to create viral moments. All the bells and whistles are meant to create buzz surrounding the designer’s collection, however, it often overshadows it because media coverage tends to focus on mud wrestling rather than what fashion week is all about: the clothes.

A viral moment has the ability to propel a brand into mainstream media. This is the appeal for brands, especially rising ones, to “clickbait-ify” their shows. The hope is when the masses see their outlandish or strange demonstrations, it will help increase brand awareness and drive sales. However, if that viral clip lacks authenticity then it can do more harm than good for a brand, company or organization.

Compromising meaningful content that truly aligns with a brand’s values for something that will get clicks might get you viral, but it is the quality of viewers that matters not the quantity.

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  • Photographer: Allison Freidly // Stylist: Cece Kirk // Model: Katie Pham

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Not only is virality not the best channel for selling, but it can also alter the reputation of a brand. A viral clip could successfully increase brand awareness, but if that clip is inconsistent with the brand’s core values, then they have either attracted the wrong audience or disappointed its target audience.

Take Elena Velez’s Fall ‘23 NYFW show as an example: millions of people viewed clips of models dredging through the mud in her collection and ending the show with a good ol’ fashioned mud wrestle. For the vast majority of viewers, the takeaway is the shock of the mud wrestle, not her name or her collection. Even though she had meaning behind the idea and it gave her exposure, she is now known as the “muddy designer” by the majority of people who viewed the clip, especially people who are not well-versed in the art and fashion world.

According to Ava Gilchrist in an article for Grazia Magazine, in her show notes, Velez describes the mud fiasco as a “creative interpretation of the reorganization of contemporary society around feminine expressions of control and behavioral modeling.” That perplexing, mouthful response says something and nothing at the same time, which makes it safe to say that she chose that specific mode of expression because it was the most jarring. The shock factor will get you viral, but if not done correctly, it will happen in a “one-hit wonder” type of way.

Here are four of the most jarring runway shows from this year’s spring and fall fashion weeks. Whether these are truly examples of authentic creative expression or simply competitive attempts to be the most avant-garde show of the week, they are definitely worth watching and pondering about.

1. Elena Velez NYFW AW23
“The Longhouse”

2. AVAVAV Milan AW23
“Fake It Till You Break It”

3. AVAVAV Milan SS24
“No Time to Design, No Time to Explain”

4. Victor and Rolf SS23
“Late Stage Capitalism Waltz”

Today, social media is arguably the most useful marketing tool for brands. Nonetheless going viral shouldn’t be the end goal. If this trend gains traction, we risk losing authenticity in fashion and will be left with a generation of designers more focused on gaining social media clout than displaying their collections with meaningful demonstrations.

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Hi! I’m Annie Gleydura, A Magazine’s editor-in-chief. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine. 

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