The Colour of a Dress and Milan’s Catwalks Illuminate Online/Real World Convergence

Who would have thought that a posting on the colour of a dress worn to a wedding in Scotland, asking whether it was blue and black or white and gold, would spread like wildfire over social networks, engaging close to 30 million people within a matter of days. It polarized consumers and led to extended discussions on perception which broke traffic records on Buzzfeed and Tumblr and got twitterers tweeting with relish. Real world sales of the dress have soared.  Buoyed by simplicity and universality, this ‘debate’  “definitely felt like a special thing” said Buzzfeed’s editor in chief, Ben Smith. “It sort of erased the line between web culture and real culture”. Milan’s Autumn/Winter 2015 catwalks too have been featuring symbols saluting the importance of things digital with fashion businesses switching their haute couture launches to the virtual world.

Real world impact

High profile people also felt moved to comment on the debate. “I see white & gold,” wrote Kim Kardashian. “Kanye sees black and blue, who is color blind?” US Senator, Christopher Murphy, tweeted: “1) the ACA [‘ObamaCare’] works; 2) climate change is real; 3) that dress is gold and white”.

Predictably, the UK shop which sells this [blue and black] dress, Roman Originals, has seen sales soar with the public discussion creating a ‘Kate Middleton Effect’. Creative Manager, Mr. Johnson would not divulge numbers sold since his company was identified as its manufacturer, but he admitted that the dress comprised 60% of all sales over the last week. All this is proof that consumers in 2015 live in a world where the ‘real world’ and online culture are blending in an evolving coexistence. This convergence goes beyond omnichannel shopping to impact consumer lifestyles more broadly.

Fashion’s nod to online life

The new Versace collection is this year titled “#Greek” after the house’s signature Greek key motif, but updated for the Twitter generation. It includes emojis and @s written in crystals in what is a virtual conversation on a short dress, but one still large enough to be read clearly on any small screen.

Bottega Veneta’s creative director, Tomas Maier, celebrates the pixelated world via dots on trousers, coats and shirts in a bright colour palette. In many ways, this nod to online lifestyles is unsurprising given that the majority of today’s potential consumers are online in their mobile cocoons thanks to their smartphones.

Right now, style interests and trends expressed online impact designers who now see social media as a creative resource as well as a communications tool. “Fashion needs to start listening and start sharing”, says Julie Anne Quay, founder of the fashion social network VFiles. “If you look at our news feed there are images by Meisel and Testino, but there are also images by a 16-year-old style blogger in Ukraine and a new designer from Korea … That’s what fashion looks like now”.


Read “Top 10 Consumer Trends for 2015” to learn more.