Style

What Makes Fashion Go Viral?

Saint Laurent may have been one of the most hated/debated shows of the season, but it was still one of the most viewed and liked on Facebook.

One of the best parts of Style.com’s print iteration is the list of the site’s most viewed shows with traffic and share stats. The new issue reveals that the top two fall 2013 shows were both the most celebrated (Chanel) and hated/debated (Yves Saint Laurent). Chanel, at nearly 3 million page views, came in at No. 1, while YSL, at 2.3 million, was the second-most viewed show. The top 10 shows by traffic were:

1. Chanel (2,954,287 page views)
2. Saint Laurent (2,277,517 page views)
3. Valentino (2,097,936 page views)
4. Balenciaga (2,008,916 page views)
5. Louis Vuitton (2,005,647 page views)
6. Prada (1,940,157 page views)
7. Givenchy (1,932,456 page views)
8. Dolce & Gabbana (1,869,136 page views)
9. Marc Jacobs (1,604,974 page views)
10. Christian Dior (1,586,969 page views)

Chanel and Saint Laurent’s rankings “perfectly encapsulates the two driving factors of what makes a show buzzy,” Style.com’s deputy editor Matthew Schneier says. One is brand recognition — everyone from L.A to Seoul has heard of Chanel or Dolce & Gabbana, for instance. The other key factor is what’s relevant in the moment, like Saint Laurent, which has been under creative director Hedi Slimane’s direction for just two seasons now. “It’s only with Slimane in the past two seasons that it’s made the top 10 list. I think in some ways you have to trace that to Hedi,” Schneier adds, conceding, “There are people who love it and people who don’t love it.” The label put on the second-most viewed show for the previous season as well, again right behind Chanel.

The only label on the list that wasn’t on it last season is Givenchy, which lands back in the top 10 after being off for “a season or two,” according to Schneier. While Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton were No. 4 and 5, respectively, last season as well as this season, Valentino made a big jump from No. 10 to No. 3, while Marc Jacobs dipped from No. 6 to No. 9. Christian Dior, which also has a relatively new creative director in Raf Simons, also lost ground, falling from No. 3 last season to No. 10 this season.

Placement in the top spot on the Style.com homepage drives extra traffic, of course, but Schneier says editors don’t just put what readers want to see in that space. At the same time, what readers do want to click on seems to correlate nicely with what editors decide are the newsiest shows of the day.

Over the years, Style.com has seen more competition with runway slide shows from sites like NYmag.com and NowFashion. Like NowFashion, Style.com has a live component to show coverage, and it compiles slide shows of the top shows as they happen. The explosion of instant show coverage online suggests that fashion is doing just what used to freak out designer Tom Ford so much: going mass. So, is the internet making the notoriously exclusive industry become considerably less insular?

Schneier counters my question with two: “Is fashion going more mass and is mass going more fashion?” Each season, Style.com sees an increase in traffic to runway slide shows from around the globe. “It seems more people are interested in fashion than ever, whether that’s a kind of incremental growth from a sort of small office or suddenly the tide of the world is changing and everyone on the subway cares about high fashion, I couldn’t say exactly,” Schneier continues. “I’ll put it this way: Five or so years ago, the top shows at our spot would get a million page views and that wouldn’t get you to the top 10 spot on the list.”

The order of the top 10 list changes, however, when you look at Facebook “likes” — an increasingly important measure of the success of a piece of online content. This suggests that the most talked-about shows are not necessarily the most viewed. If we rank the top 10 by Facebook “likes,” the list looks like this:

1. Valentino 3,229
2. Saint Laurent 2,499
3. Balenciaga 2,107
4. Chanel 1,621
5. Christian Dior 1,562
6. Givenchy 1,416
7. Louis Vuitton 1,110
8. Prada 1,101
9. Dolce & Gabbana 709
10. Marc Jacobs 692

Noticeably absent from the top 10 is Tom Ford, who released images from his women’s show immediately after it walked for the first time instead of totally rejecting technology and making everyone wait months and months to see them, like, in print in Vogue (I mean). “I could speculate at my peril about why he might not have made the top 10,” Schneier says. “All I can say is better luck next time.”

As of publication of this post, Ford’s show has 601 Facebook “likes.”

The new issue of Style.com/Print is out today.

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