Reviewed October 2014
Michelle Pronovost, Technology Specialist
Digital Studio, Bobst Library, NYU
Videofashion, established in 1976 as the self-proclaimed “leader in fashion news,” produces a library of runway footage, designer profiles, and style reviews covering the 1970s to present day. Videofashion refers to its format as a “video magazine,” and fans of the now-defunct Style Network will be familiar with Videofashion’s content, which, since the late 1990s, comprised half of the programming on the fashion-themed TV channel. Alexander Street Press’s Fashion Studies Online streams Videofashion’s full library of programs, previously only available on DVD.
Videofashion’s program roster expanded from the flagship Videofashion News show to twenty series, including biographies on Designer DNA, Model TV’s profiles of new faces on the runway, and Fashion Classics’s highlights of trends in history. These shows now air on Comcast's Style International, Fashion Box, and World Fashion Channel, as well as numerous international networks. The earliest footage in Fashion Studies Online begins around 1985 with the first "Year in Fashion" review. The Designer Collections series, which began in 2010, documents fashion shows in the United States, Paris, and Milan.
There is very little comparable digital video content available for students and researchers in fashion studies. Style.com, a producer of comparable video content, does not stream runway shows earlier than Fall 2006; W Magazine provides access to runway collection videos available beginning with the 2011 season. Both publications’ videos are available on TheScene.com. These are valuable free alternatives but not substitutes for the breadth of archival footage found in Fashion Studies Online.
Fashion Studies Online’s browsing interface is notable allowing users to browse content by year or decade and view full keyword-searchable transcripts of each video. The Alexander Street Press player offers embed codes, though viewers of embedded video will be prompted to login via their affiliated institution before the video can be played. There is not an option to download videos from the library or view them offline. Users can create clips and build playlists to share with other users at their institution, making the Videofashion Library easier to incorporate into class assignments.
The videos are great primary resources documenting clothing, including close-ups of fabric textures and the cut and drape of garments, and models’ hair and makeup. Interviews with designers—encountered backstage at runway shows—reveal their intentions and inspiration for collections. Music, transitions, and video effects recall the time period in which they were produced, which could be distracting to present day viewers, but increases the significance of the video as a cultural object of its era. Videos can give designers insight into trend forecasting. With keyword searching, past trends are easily researched in Fashion Studies Online.
Users would benefit from an improvement to the browsing content feature. The facets on the Fashion Studies Online landing page focus on popular designers and categories, like New York Fashion Week, but when selecting a category, it is not immediately apparent during which year or season a video was produced. Metadata associated with almost all videos includes the series name, volume, and episode numbers, but not the year of production; this information can only be viewed by mousing over each title individually. A great feature is the ability for the user to double-click any word in a video’s transcript to jump to the associated portion of the video.
Fashion Studies Online is moderately priced according to an institution’s size. A college with enrollment of 10,000 students pays less than $1500 per year for an annual license. Pricing is higher for a perpetual license and includes service and updates. It’s a bargain for an unmatched resource made more accessible to students via streaming. This reviewer, a Master’s candidate in Fashion and Textile Studies, finds Videofashion an essential addition to collections serving colleges with fashion programs. Each video serves as a time capsule of fashion history and seeing garments in their original context inspires new enthusiasm for the subject.