Design in Cheek
the user experience of fashion

what I learned doing virtual observations of a fashion show

I was working on a project focusing on fashion buyers and wanted to learn more about what they did at fashion shows – a perfect opportunity for observations. Observations are a great way to learn more the unspoken habits of users and give us insights we wouldn’t be able to get through a traditional interview.

Since I was sadly not invited to fashion week – nothing to do with the quarantine of course -, I invited myself to watch two shows online: J. W. Anderson Fall/Winter 2020/2021 and AREA Fall/Winter 2020/2021. I chose these two shows because they were brands I was unfamiliar with so I wouldn’t have any preconceived notions about them, and because they were both well-lit so I could see the audience (you would not believe the amount of shows that were so damn dark.)

Observations from the J.W. Anderson show

I did them like I would any other observation – pen and paper with a watchful eye. But what was great about this show was that I didn’t have to be sneaky and awkwardly watch people. I observed as much as I could. I recorded where the audience was, what they were doing, what models were doing, and habits people shown. I also asked myself a lot of questions during the show.

Even though I wasn’t there in person, I gathered really valuable insights.

Screenshot and observations from the AREA show

People were constantly using their phone

The biggest insight for me were how useful a phone was. People used their phones for taking pictures, looking through when they didn’t have a clear view, and recording. Phones were used as an extension of their memory, but because this was happening, most people were experiencing a lot of the show through their phones. This made me ask what makes something phone-worthy? and what if they didn’t have a phone?

Fashion shows are not glamorous

I have always thought fashion shows were all glamour and a show, but really, people looked crowded, didn’t smile, and didn’t always have a great view. You can see people using their phones as a makeshift telescope to get a view of some clothes. The chairs didn’t even look comfortable.

People still needed to communicate

Communication in this aspect falls in two points: directly and indirectly. People would lean over and (assumption here) whisper and make comments about what they are seeing. Indirectly, people were taking photos and notes – although hardly anyone had an actual notebook – to probably remember what they saw to communicate it to someone later.

Questions that arose

  • What makes something worthy of taking a photo or video?
  • How much does the feeling of the clothes matter during a fashion show?
  • What if people didn’t have a phone?
  • How do people know if the fit will work on someone else?

Focusing on the audience shows what a fashion show holds.

I may not have been able to distinguish between a buyer or another invitee, but just watching gave me a ton of insights to understand and start designing with. Virtual observations still hold weight as long as they’re recognized with the same limitations of normal observations – they’re just one instance. Also, a huge differentiation is that your attendance may affect the interactions. Because this one was a pre-recorded show, I know my observing did not affect anyone’s experience, but that isn’t always the case if you’re in a real situation.

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