Is Coachella a fashion show as much as a music festival?

By Gabrielle Mix/Arizona Sonora News

Karina Francis, who first attended Coachella in 2011, says it has maintained its original rock n’ roll vibe. But now, the festival brings artists to Indio from every walk of the pop music industry, including hip-hop, electronic dance music, indie and more, a change Francis says she has welcomed.  

However, the festival has evolved far beyond just including more varieties of music, and not all of these changes are welcomed by some long-time fans, including what some see as an overemphasis on fashion.

I have watched the culture change a lot. People didnt use to care so much about what they were wearing. When I first went, there was a lot more athletic wear, like shorts, sneakers, a fanny pack, and sunscreen on your nose,” Francis said. 

Now, many attendees start planning their outfits for each of the three days of the festival months in advance. Individuals and brands alike have begun to think of the event as an alternative fashion show. 

Madeline Hayes, a senior at the University of Arizona and a regular festival goer, said, a lot of people really use it as a weekend to go all out and express their fashion and how they think they should dress. 

Madeline Hayes on the scene

Hayes and Francis both say this shift towards Coachella becoming an outlet for fashion statements began when celebrities started showing up. One of them is the actress and singer Vanessa Hudgens, who has been called the Queen of Coachella.” In 2010, she sported a tan floppy hat. The next year, she strutted in a see-through crochet skirt with feathers intertwined in her long, wavy hair. Each year since, Hudgens and other famous attendees have set Coachella trends. 

I know a lot of people go to Coachella to enhance their platform,” Hayes said, referring to the social-media attention that can accrue from being seen at Coachella.

Many celebrities and social-media influencers are hired to promote brands during the two-weekend-long event. Revolve is one of the companies that has treated the event a bit like New York Fashion Week. By recruiting a group of influencers with hundreds of thousands to millions of followers to post pictures in its clothing, a brand can attain more attention than at a typical fashion show. 

With 11,000 followers on her Instagram account, @madzshea, Hayes has become one of those influencers. Four years ago, Hayes had no idea what Coachella was. Now, she is a “brand ambassador” for two festival companies, I Heart Raves and Vibedration.

Hayes

Hayes believes half of people attend Coachella for the music, while the other half are attracted to the social-media and fashion aspects. 

According to Francis, some people even drive to Coachella Valley to take a picture inside the event — and leave immediately after the photo is snapped. 

Its cool to see people express themselves in that way, but I just hope that theyre having a nice experience,” she said. 

Hayes said she has gone three years in a row because its a cool way to not only meet people but get a weekend to enjoy being around a ton of music. 

Karina Francis and friends

However, some like Francis who have been going to Coachella for longer have said the event is not as happy as it used to be.  

Years ago, Francis and her group of friends remember running through the festival grounds yelling Happy Coachella!” to everyone they saw. When they recently tried to do the same thing, she said, they were shocked to receive awkward glances and  stares.  

People just arent as friendly anymore. We used to meet people from all over the world, and I feel like people just stick to their own groups now,” she said. 

The media attention the festival has received in recent years means many people attending are on a hunt to spot celebrities. That and skyrocketing prices are two changes Francis said she is having trouble accepting.  

It definitely has gotten more commercialized and expensive,” she said. In 2011, Francis said she paid about $200 for a ticket. Now, it is nearly impossible to get one for less than $500.  

In order to get good value for the prices, Francis advises trying to see as many artists as possible. Rather than standing in line to take an Instagram photo, she says people should wander around and attend every performance they feel drawn to, and be friendly and encouraging to others along the way. 

I think its something that everybody should experience once in their lives,” she said.

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