Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Seven years after it had three photographers jailed for posting runway images online, the Fédération Française de la couture has joined Twitter

In 1868, Paris-based, British-born couturier Charles Frederick Worth (above) established the world's oldest fashion week organising body, the Chambre syndicale de la confection et de la couture pour des dames et fillettes. It was the precursor to today's Chambre Syndicale de la haute couture Parisienne, the governing body of the haute couture industry. In 1973, with the advent of the ready to wear collections, the latter was integrated under a new peak fashion body: the Fédération Française de la couture, du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode. Well stop the press, the Fédération is now on Twitter. Although its Twitter feed appears to have been active since January (it boasts a mere 170 followers) with a Facebook page added around the same time (2000 friends), over the past 24 hours Twitter and Faceboook buttons have been added to the schedule section of the body's website. Fascinating to see this august body move into the 21st century.

One of Worth's primary objectives in organising Parisian couturiers was to counteract copying. More than one of the Fédération's members have, over the years, banned journalists from their shows, fearing the leaking of intel.

Until as recently as the 1990s, moreover, the organisation imposed a three month embargo on the publication of all colour images of the Paris collections, in a bid to allow the fashion houses time to make their collections before the copies arrived in store.

And who could forget the copyright brouhaha of 2003? In March 2003, in the middle of the Fall/Winter 2003/2004 Paris show season, photographers Don Ashby, Marcio Madeira and Olivier Claisse were arrested, jailed and subsequently prosecuted for what the Fédération described as the “illicit traffic” of runway imagery on their pioneering website.

The case was led by the Fédération in collaboration with several houses, notably Chanel, which had taken exception to Firstview posting its own images of a Chanel collection on the Firstview site. In France, picture rights belong by default to the designers, not photographers.

Incarcerated for two days in a Parisian prison, the trio was eventually cleared of the charges in 2005.

Even in 2007, things still seemed a little twitchy in Paris. I found myself without Paris show accreditations for two seasons, after shifting my accreditation from The Sydney Morning Herald print edition to its online arm, and then again six months later, when I moved to News Limited's

The last three years has of course witnessed an avalanche of social media. Trying to keep a lid on things with Twitter, Facebook and live streaming now in full force at every fashion week, would be like trying to shut the proverbial stable door after the horse has bolted. That said, without individual invitations from designers, it remains to be seen how many independent bloggers would be accorded official Paris accreditations.

In terms of speed to market with show images, Condé Net's used to be first up with runway images - the day after each show. 

Now, in a bid to keep up with the rapacious appetite for runway information, has taken to putting up images before its show reviews are even posted. 

But even and co can't keep up with new players such as Now Fashion, which is publishing lowres runway images in (almost) real-time from the end of the runway, providing a far better vantage point than that of most show attendees who are uploading images on Twitter.

If Now Fashion can get images up that quickly, you have to ask, why can't the mainstream crew? 


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