The most powerful fashion image of the year so far wasn't taken on the runway; it doesn't even showcase clothes. It consists instead of celebrities—Kanye West, Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Miley Cyrus—seated next to each other within the front row. When this picture, taken at the inaugural L.A. Fashion Awards, circulated, it served as a kind of punctuation to a point that's been brewing over the past 10 years: a paradigm shift is happening within fashion.
That feeling was underlined once again when Louis Vuitton showed their cruise collection in Palm Springs at the Bob Hope estate, rounding up Kanye West, Grimes, and Selena Gomez to name a few. While it wasn't the first fashion occasion of the year that took place in Los Angeles, the epicenter of celebrity culture, it further cemented that the American fashion scene is becoming less and less of an exclusive playground for the New York elite. The power has instead been transferred from the hands of wealthy Manhattan socialites to an array of global cultural figures.
While it might seem obvious today that fashion caters to celebrities, this wasn't always the case. It was only five years ago when reports started surfacing that brands would pay to fill their front rows with familiar faces like Rihanna, Beyonce, and Katy Perry. Back in 2010, the thought that designers would shell out thousands of dollars for celebrities to attend their shows (let alone $100,000 for Rihanna's appearance) was still eyebrow-raising. Not to mention, the end goal hasn't always been to gain a celebrity's co-sign. Four years earlier, when Alexander McQueen was still becoming a household name, he balked at the idea of Victoria Beckham wearing one of his tartan skirts.
These days, when almost every month brings a new celebrity-fronted fashion campaign, the industry is the one bending backwards for celebs, rather than vice-versa. In some instances, celebrities are even running the industry. There's Victoria Beckham who's now the successful head of her own eponymous line, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen who run the revered minimalist luxury label The Row and their semi-affordable offshoot Elizabeth & James, and Kanye West who has become the most vocal celebrity spokesperson for fashion, actively bulldozing its gated walls and changing the way the athletic industry approaches design. Fashion has so apparently switched its orbit from socialites and It Girls to celebrities, a new marketplace has even recently developed for paparazzi-shielding clothes. (Though it's yet to become actually stylish. Give it time.)
Accordingly, as Louis Vuitton has acknowledged, fashion is moving out west. The luxury retailer isn't the first label to bring its presentation to Los Angeles this year. It follows in the footsteps of Tom Ford, who precociously changed his Fashion Week home base from London to L.A. When Ford showed his Fall/Winter 2015 collection, he smartly did so in the midst of Oscars weekend, when he could cast a wide celebrity net. His front row attendees ranged from Gwyneth Paltrow to Beyonce and Jay Z, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, and Sofia Vergara—plus, of course, members of the old fashion guard: supermodels Naomi Campbell, Molly Sims, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.
The makeup of Ford's FROW brings up another point: The crowd designers cater to is becoming more diverse. That's not to say that there's a range of socioeconomic statuses—this is still an industry predominantly for the one-percent, unfortunately, although hopefully Kanye will succeed in changing that—but the small pool of chosen ones has become more eclectic. At Louis Vuitton's show, for example, Kanye was standing feet away from pop outlier Grimes and Selena Gomez, a former child star finding her footing in film and music, and around the corner were established actresses Marissa Tomei, and Michelle Williams. Kanye's presence alone signifies how fashion is slowly changing its snobbish old ways, especially when you take into account the recent arc of his wife Kim Kardashian and her model sister Kendall Jenner who have both gone from being pariahs in the industry to shape-shifting influencers. If this trend continues, hopefully that means that one day there will be room for everyone else in this world, too.