Here’s the big news so far from the Coachella music festival: Madonna made out with Drake and Justin Bieber was reportedly escorted out in a headlock.
For many festival-goers, though, what’s more important than the gossip or the music, is what everyone is wearing.
Coachella draws hundreds of thousands of people into the desert east of Los Angeles for two weekends. Sure there are big names in music like AC/DC, Jack White, and Ryan Adams. But as Pret-a-Reporter fashion writer Kathryn Romeyn puts it, the fans are as concerned about their image as they are about hearing the bands.
“They want to Instagram good pictures of themselves,” Romeyn says. Selfies.
Yes, the festival is chock-full of teens and twenty-somethings, many from LA. Picture this—a hoard of impressionable minds with disposable incomes and social media followers, all transported to the blank desert landscape for two weekends of pop-music-infused, millenial partying. It’s a marketing opportunity that makes the fashion industry salivate.
Coachella has become big business, says PR-firm-owner Lori Riviere, and fashion brands have jumped on the bandwagon.
The handbag giant, Coach, hosts backstage performances. Cosmetics colossus Sephora brings a tent for beauty touch-ups. Need eyewear? Glasses.com is there too.
Sarah Call is Glasses.com’s director of content. She says the festival is part of the company’s brand relaunch strategy.
“We felt it was sort of the perfect place to celebrate self-expression,” she says.
Fashion companies see dollar signs in the festival’s free-spirit-Woodstockian vibe. H&M now has its own Coachella clothing line. The festival style is a hippie-LA-Boho mishmash. Think fringe shirts, big sun glasses, and lots of skin.
Music festivals are a great place to see and be seen, says Jim Andrews of sponsorship consultant IEG.
“There’s lots of downtime,” he says. “Lots of walking around time.”
Andrews says festivals are better than say a sporting event—where fans could get distracted by actually watching the game. At festivals “there’s a lot more time for quality interaction,” Andrews says.
Everyone is cashing in. Celebrities and musicians get paid to wear clothes. Fashion magazines stuff their pages with glossy Coachella photos and articles about how to preserve your beauty in the hot desert. Nobody wants to be sweaty and gross. It’s not Woodstock.
Music critic Jim Farber says the audience doesn’t seem to care that festivals have gotten super corporate.
“If they are offended by it they generally are pretty quiet about it,” he says, “or else they enjoy it.”
It hasn’t always been this way. Farber remembers when he want to the first Lollapalooza music festival back in 1991. There was just a bunch of bands and one guy with a falafel stand.