Designing a runway revolution: ‘To go viral, you need a virus’

15 Dec 2016

Carrie Hammer, designer of runway show Role Models Not Runway Models, speaking at Inspirefest 2016. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

Fashion designer Carrie Hammer spoke at Inspirefest about the difficulty of making your own way in fashion when everything seems so false. A dose of reality changed that.

Hammer started her self-named fashion line in 2012 after a frustrating, and futile, search for “professional, yet feminine” clothing for women.

Pretty soon, she saw the obstacles waiting down the tracks: Firstly, how do you make a brand go viral? Secondly, how can standard catwalks ever portray clothing for everyday people?

“To go viral, you need to have a virus,” she said, arguing that sex doesn’t sell – authenticity does. “You have to stand for something greater, something positive.”

Carrie Hammer

Hammer said for her virus, the carrier cell is her own unique fashion show. The actual virus was merely the empowerment of women, “changing attitudes” to beauty.

Hammer wanted a change from the beauty standards women are being held to, as models sauntering up and down catwalks around the world look far removed from a standard body shape.

‘I can’t send these traditional models down the runway when all of our clients are such role models,’ thought Hammer, which acted like a lightning bolt. “We’d do role models, not runway models!”

Recruiting inspiring professional women from throughout the US as models, Hammer felt she had ‘the real deal’ showing off her clothing line.

‘We spend more on beauty than social services and education combined in the US, but only 4pc of us consider ourselves beautiful’

But, after her first show – which was supposed to be the start of something special – Hammer got no press.

Left devastated, she began wondering what to do next. And then she got a call.

“Two weeks later, I got a call from a friend saying run to your computer. There was an article that was liked 10,000 times, shared 3,000 times in 21 minutes.

“One reporter that came to the show did her research, and one of our models was the first in a wheelchair ever to do the runway on New York Fashion Week.”

This was Hammer’s platform for change, and she hasn’t looked back since.

“The great thing about fashion is [that it’s] famous for copying things that work,” she said. “I hope this works as a tipping point, not a trend.

“We spend more on beauty than social services and education combined in the US, but only 4pc of us consider ourselves beautiful.”

This is Hammer’s platform for change, her runway revolution.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book now to get half-price Super Early Bird tickets before prices go up on 15 December.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic