Social networking pulls mask from fashion world

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Emerging from the exclusive Marc Jacobs show in New York, Robert Duffy, CEO of the Marc Jacobs line, proclaims to his Twitter audience: "Marc did look good didn't he? I'll tell him." High heels, catwalks and now... tweets. Social networking has burst in on the usually mysterious and elitist world of New York's Autumn-Winter 2010 Fashion Week.

Previously inaccessible shows and ultra-hip designers are being brought down to online earth by Twitter, Facebook, online streaming and blogs, allowing ordinary folk a glimpse of what previously only the high priests and priestesses of the runway were allowed to see.

Within hours of designers unveiling the world's next trends, shows are broadcast online, sparking immediate reaction and commentary from fans and critics alike.

Even more immediate are the tweets coming from within the shows.

"Just arrived at (designer Vera) Wang. White setup," writes NARSissist on a big tweet screen installed by American Express in the entrance at Bryant Park, where most of the ready-to-wear shows take place.

The specially created user account for the American Express screen is "amexmbfw" - American Express Mercedes Benz Fashion Week - and it's getting heavy use.

"We put a block of 50 tweets every 2 minutes and we are here 10 hours a day, from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. People don't stop tweeting - when they are waiting in line, when inside, when the show is finished," one of the account's managers told AFP.

Many shows are quickly available for broadcast on YouTube, as well as fashion-related websites. Fashion Week itself has a FaceBook page with 20,000 friends able to tune into the constant updates, promotional events, celebrity interviews and gossip.

Virtual fashionistas can see scenery preparations, press conferences and models at work.

Twitter reigns supreme, though. "I really wanted to be part of Fashion Week somehow!" exclaims Twitter user Michy Bugg, whose words are projected across the Bryant Park screen.

Tweets from Fashion Week crop up throughout the media, from style.com, Vogue magazine's site, to Glamour and Women's Wear Daily, the industry newspaper.

Cathy Horyn, fashion editor for The New York Times, is a notable convert to the technology.

Already a blogging pioneer with her "On the Runway," she now is also part of the tweet-universe.

She says that even if that means more work, the different sources of information complement, rather than compete with each other. Blogs appeal to reader comment, tweets have unbeatable immediacy and old-fashioned newspaper articles work well for analysis.

"The tweet is a separate entity. I think of it as being my feeling or color or the atmosphere of the room. It could be something newsworthy," she told style.com.

Some designers, including Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein, have reached a deal to allow live broadcasts of their shows on the Internet, shattering the hierarchy that allowed only fashion or celebrity royalty to see new season's designs first.

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