Fashion + The Red Carpet

What Is Red, Long, And Invisible? The Virtual Red Carpet

Is the red carpet redundant in the age of the influencer?

Perusing Elle’s compendium of 23 different looks from the SAG awards Virtual Red Carpet, I noted how all these photographs were stripped from the actor’s Instagram page rather than taken at a traditional show. The collection of images, all lacking carpets, forging a Virtual Red Carpet in these COVID-adjusted times brought to mind an old joke. What is red, round, and invisible? No tomatoes! Absurd I know, but it raises the point, if there is no red carpet, or even no carpet at all, then what differentiates the SAG award Virtual Red Carpet looks from a common Instagram post of a so-called influencer?

The traditional red carpet encapsulates the era when it was the domain of the elite class to be a beacon of the latest fashion trends, with the world’s eyes fixed solely on them. Consequently, for designers, the red carpet provided the publicity needed to propel their brand to a household name. The cost of creating that iconic look could potentially see returns of many times the investment due to how widely the dress was written about or seen.

“I can’t possibly quantify how much publicity I got from that or how much money I made. And now, every time anyone writes about her, they use the picture of her in the dress and so it just goes on and on.”

[Ben De Lisi about Kate Winslet wearing his dress to the Oscars]

Yet now with my phone in my hand, I can see a variety of looks tailored to my preferences worn by people who look, for the most part, like me. This is greatly more accessible to the public. Not only are the awards events exclusive in person, but many of these shows are also broadcast across the world on cable and satellite television networks that have to be paid for. 

But who is watching?

Delving deeper into the awards show itself, I started to think of how many people may watch the event rather than just seeing the images that had been spread across social media. Perhaps this was a better rationale for why designers still create these custom spectacles for nominees? However, from looking at statistics there has been a drop of around 4 million viewers of the SAG awards from 2013-2019, with only 2.68 million viewers on 2019’s soiree. Most notably, this year’s SAG awards viewership fell under 1 million people for the first time.

While awards shows have been decreasing in viewership the show was broadcast as little more than a Zoom meeting, that we have all become familiar with. Not only does this seem to dampen the prestige of the event itself but many of the nominees were only visible from the waist up. With this framing, home set up lighting and a bad quality stream, this wasn’t how the designers envisaged their items to be seen. Clearly this is why these actors had professional images taken of their outfits, which they then shared on their Instagram feeds.  

This brings things back to the original question, is the red carpet redundant in the age of the influencer? If one Instagram post from a specific person is enough exposure for the designers, then why bother with an award show at all, especially if hardly anyone is now interested in watching the event?

Throughout history the red carpet has been the focus of discussion and debate on what or who everyone is wearing, but now the public forum is in the digital domain, in the comments under every image. Therefore, the red carpet seems suited to be displaced into this medium. Notably many of the nominees who shared looks on their Instagram have many millions of followers, with thousands of comments reacting to what the actor is wearing. However, some nominees such as Florence Hunt, only have a handful of followers in comparison. While subjectively I thoroughly enjoyed the character she brought to Hyacinth Bridgerton, but with exposure being the crux of a red carpet outfit, in the eyes of a designer, would it not be better to target someone with a larger audience? 

The age of Ronaldo and Bridgerton is upon us

This approach has already been seen across the film industry with the number of followers an individual has affecting their employability due to their intrinsic marketing value. While clearly Florence Hunt appeals to a certain audience, someone such as Ashley or Best Dressed, a YouTuber and entrepreneur, has a vast audience of 1.6 million followers on her Instagram. Not only this, but she has also sported outfits in a similar style to the REDValentino designed dress for Florence and has an audience rooted in fashion.

In this age of fleeting attention spans, would it not be better to create a one-off outfit that would gain the most exposure? Consequently, would the red carpet simply become a more fitting expression for a post that does considerably well? 

I am by no means saying that this should be the approach to how fashion should be spread in the future, I would prefer the art to be unscathed by the “follower” trend of today’s society. However, from a purely statistical perspective, it must be noted that creating an outfit for Cristiano Ronaldo or Ariana Grande (The number one and two most followed on Instagram respectively at the time of writing) would be vastly more beneficial than the smaller audiences of noteworthy actors.

Perhaps Bridgerton series two will see the introduction of the dashing Prince Royal of Portugal to turn Eloise’s head and consequently Ronaldo’s invitation to awards shows would be in the post? But however the acting world reacts to the age of the influencer, with the lack of interest in awards shows and the rapid changes that the COVID pandemic has onset, it is clear that the red carpet of the past will be redundant in the future.


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