Digital Influencers Shake Up Fashion Shows' Front Row Protocol

Suzy Menkes

Suzy Menkes

Can you believe it costs €100 ($150) for breakfast in Paris? 

I should state here that my usual coffee and croissant costs considerably less, but posh petit dejeuner has now reached three figures. We're not talking served with champagne in the honeymoon suite, either; just a business breakfast with clothes on. Even the soigné luxury brand publicist I shared it with is surprised.

She's more surprised the following morning though, when entertaining a "digital influencer". Same time, same smart hotel. The bill comes and the young media star reaches for it.

"How charmingly naive," thinks the PR, who, putting a perfectly manicured hand over it, explains gently that in fashion, the publicist pays.

"No one pays," shrugs the 20-something. "They've put me up in the penthouse, they've given me a car. I get paid every time I post on the hotel." The publicist feels rather small.

In the now no-longer-new world of social media, to be of sage age is to know so little about the ropes that the best one can do is avoid tying oneself in knots. Digital influencers, especially those with 1 million-plus followers, hold the power.

And don't they know it. A reliable source tells me that several charge upwards of $20,000 for a single post, although that's cheap compared with model Kendall Jenner, who allegedly charges upwards of $100,000. The going rate for her half-sister Kim Kardashian is reputed to be $600,000.

It poses a dilemma for those in charge of show seating. One can hardly bump Vogue back to the cheap seats to make space for the online power players, after all. Trust the ever-young octogenarian Karl Lagerfeld to come up with a witty solution. Titled Front Row Only and held in the Grand Palais in Paris, which is as huge as its name suggests, Chanel's March show featured the world's longest arrangement of seats – with no second row. Thus did every print empress and every internet queen sit comfortably in the seat to which she felt entitled.


Besides pictures of the shows, what did they post? My favourite this season – which is to say the one that prompted my loudest "why?" – was of a bra arranged just so on a bedspread. It could have been a visual reference to the French, who've always invested in lingerie. You know the joke about wearing your best knickers in case you get hit by a bus? A French woman greets that with utter incomprehension; why would any woman have second-best knickers?

Alternatively, perhaps it was a comment on the way the Chinese anti-bribery rules have hurt the watch industry but led to soaring sales of smalls. What you can't see …

Either way, it got more "likes" than pretty much anything that went down the catwalk.

As to the latter, it used to be required to know one's fashion references. Today? Nicolas Ghesquière was closely inspired by Martin Margiela, who was big in the 1990s when he offered silk slips overprinted with images of sequinned evening gowns. Points scored for being able to say "I've seen that before" in the face of Ghesquière's versions for Vuitton? Nil.

Where's it all heading? Thirty years in this fashion game, I'm damned if I have a clue. And hoorah for that, because what makes fashion fashion is that it moves, it shifts, and you never really know.The business I joined had a front row of elderly grand dames who clung like barnacles to their gilded chairs. Neither warm nor welcoming would describe them. The only way to shuffle forward, row by row, was if one of them shuffled off to the hereafter. The game of dead women's shoes was truly ghastly.

Now the front row is gorgeous, as only dewy youth can be, or forever young, with septuagenarian Suzy Menkes the most mischievous of any of them. 

Me? I try to keep learning, from those of ages above and below. That said, I don't think I'll be chucking the cat off the bedspread and posting a snap of my underwear any time soon.

International fashion editor Marion Hume is based in London.

[ By: Marion Hum ] [ARF ] [  Read More ]