Style Theory: Is The Real Show at Fashion Shows the Crowd?

Style Theory: Is The Real Show at Fashion Shows the Crowd?

Credits: Photos + Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt; Location - 707 5th Street SW


Calgary – the entrepreneurial city that could – is ever changing. Each industry, except for maybe the one we’re most well-known for, is growing. Breweries, pop up shops, restaurants, and summer favourites like gourmet ice crème places are huge. The art and fashion scene, too, have never been better.

Part of the reason I think it’s getting better is that with every downturn this city faces, we are forced to consider what matters for each of us. No career is certain, those baby boomers had it so good, so why not transition into something you care about? We are rethinking what work looks like and some of us are chasing our dreams. In fact, Alberta has the second most businesses per capita in the entire country.

As a result of the entrepreneurial spirit, PARK has been dominating the fashion scene here in Calgary. The duo has focused on expanding who can love fashion right here at home. Through featuring local and Canadian brands, they have helped democratize Calgary fashion. Fashion is not only is it for those who can afford to shop at the luxury spots – and good for them for those who do – but also for those who have more modest budgets, tastes, or different values. Everyone can join in however they can. There’s room for all of us.

Marry the loosening up of what is considered “good fashion” with the rise of social media – specifically seeing the play by play on Snapchat or Instagram Stories – and anyone who is following can see what went on at a show. You don’t have to go to the show to know about the show.

However, like with many other live events, it’s not the same at home on the couch as it is in the room. Part of why it’s not the same if you’re not there is the ambiance. That’s hard to fully capture. Also, it’s hard watch the people at the show if you’re not there. Yes, the actual runway show is fun and exciting but I’m a sucker for what’s going on everywhere else, too. Like many events, sitting up front gives you a great vantage point to see the show – but I’ve been thinking recently that maybe it’s more about being seen watching the show.

Calgary, to me, seems to be a very much a “new money” show-off-your-home-car-bag-ring type of town. That means anyone who wants and can make a big spender splash is welcome. We’ll likely pat your apparent success on the back. It’s not like some places where the only wealth that matters is generational “old money” wealth. Here in Calgary, if you keep showing up and putting it out there, people will notice.

This mentality trickles down to events like fashion shows. Not only do you want to see the fashion, you want to be seen seeing the fashion. This theory I’m cooking up isn’t a revelation or new by any means. Catch phrases like “Keeping up with the Jones” and “Chase the American Dream” are well known. Anna Wintour has been feeding us this click bait tactic since she started putting celebrities – not just models – on the cover of Vogue. Runways across the world are ultra-exclusive. Not just anyone can be a model and walk for a major fashion house. But more and more, the models may become second citizens to those whom are watching in the crowd.

Calgary is catching up with the ways of fashion - including the local celebrity sightings. More and more as I go to shows, I watch and see what’s happening in the audience. I’m asking myself questions like, “Who has paid double or triple the standing room price for that front row seat? Have they been there just one night or night after night? Why do they do that?” And, maybe the most interesting question to think about is, “Why do I, a silly stylist way up on the nosebleeds, care?” Am I a just another marionette in the grand show or am I questioning things that that are worthy of further contemplation?

Tell me, have you ever “performed” at watching an event as opposed to just watching it? I’m thinking of baby showers, hockey games, and music festivals as juicy fodder. Do we watch because we truly love the show? Or are we watching because we want to be seen as loving the show? Does that volley back and forth? Can it be both at the same time? Does the difference matter?

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