Fish gape, foodporn, check-in, #instamood : showing off is what’s cool, be it to friends or strangers. With Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google, hard to lay low… even if you want to. But in today’s world, one cannot simply « not exist » to the public eye, especially creatives.
So, as in most things, we must walk the line between visibility and obscene exposure. Today’s problematic is how to communicate and, what things to communicate about. Instagram objectifies lifestyles, commodifies experiences. The ultimate “self-promotion” tool. The same rules apply to anyone who signs up. But not everybody is a born “instagrammer”. Social media provides the user with the means to tell who he is or, more accurately, who he pretends to. Guy Debord’s sentiment about “the spectacle one’s life is becoming” never seemed so acute. “Take pictures of you and your clothes, talk about yourself daily. People gotta see you otherwise they’ll think you either fat or ugly » is something I heard countless times when I first started blogging. Bad advice.
However, it’s hard to resist. To matter even, in a world where “discretion” or understatement is suspicious. Because we are now used to know and see everything from celebrities to our neighbours, those who don’t show must be the ones who hide. Along the way, transparency turned exhibitionism into an asset, and value and relevance are measured through followers, success through likes. In an age where Durkheim’s anomie is looming, the race for recognition and acknowledgment seems all but vital. But who’s hiding what really? Those who want privacy for them and others or those who “pretends”, those who live through filters, real or otherwise?
In 2013, before the Instagram boom, Phoebe Philo reflected on this when she said “True luxury would be not to exist on Google. God, I’d love to be this person”. In a saturated world of images, clothes and price tags, absence and discretion are luxury. In a way, discretion invokes fashion’s old ways, the mystique surrounding it. There is no shame in not being loud. Contrarily, there’s elegance in it. Resisting fashion’s current movement is demanding but intellectually worth doing.
This kind of discretion goes against everything the Instagram’s generation believes in : opulence, self promotion. More, everything more. Always, everywhere. Fashion is not exempted : no longer elitist, as Raf Simons lamented, fashion as an industry seems fuelled/ruled by these values : superficiality, constant approval, immediate rewarding. More flesh, less thoughts. Forget mystery, imagination, crucial dynamics of desire. Instead, we have Olivier Rousteing biting his own cheeks relentlessly for his 1.8M followers. We mourn Margiela and his empty chair, even if no marketing strategy is a strategy itself. We give points to emerging, discreet labels such as Y/PROJECT, Hockin or to the New York alternative scene: 69, MadeMe. We also laud established brands such as The Row who also took the discreet route while its founders have been on TV since they are 3. Discretion as rehab? Last but not least, the nomination of Alessandro Michele by Gucci, relatively unknown at the time, is worth saluting.
In the end, discretion appears as the last rampart against Dorian Gray’s curse : self-proclamation and congratulation. One last book-ish reference ? « Discretion is resisting the establishment » Pierre Zaoui.