With COVID-19 at full force worldwide, many companies and businesses are working to adjust to the temporary changes. From work from home to video conference calls, even virtual comedy shows, everyone is getting creative and trying to stay productive with their extra time at home. The fashion industry is no exception to this either. Each week offers new obstacles for artists, designers, and their teams to overcome in the midst of a global pandemic, economic downfall, and the largest civil rights movement in history.
Pushing for fashion is no easy tasks, but designers worldwide are working together to launch the first ever virtual runway show entirely from home. With the reality of attending fashion shows in person again seems like a far away dream, the fashion industry is forming new ways to showcase their talents and display their collections. While the rest of 2020 seems like a giant question mark, designers are proving to be flexible as the new fashion calendar for 2020 slowly takes shape and makes adjustments along the way (1).
The Digital Future of Fashion – At Least for Now
As designers start rolling out their new collections, each fashion house is taking a slightly different approach and making adjustments as they see fit (2). In April, the British Fashion Council announced at the end of the month that they plan to combine their men’s and women’s show and will be replacing their former London Fashion Week: Men’s in June. The three-day event was hosted by the BFC, and British brands everywhere came together to showcase their collections in the forms of virtual shows, photo diaries, and even podcasts. While Daniel Fletcher, Lou Dalton, and Charles Jeffrey Loverboy were all more than ready to participate, many brands including Per Götesson, Burberry, and Wales Bonner plan to wait until September to release their spring collections.
Ermenegildo Zegna, the Italian men’s fashion house, says that they will abandon the fashion calendar completely this year and do their own digital fashion show in July. They refer to it as a “phygital” fashion show (physical space with digital technology) which is the first of its kind. Never heard of it? Well we hadn’t either. The event, which they named Fashion Unites, took place on a YouTube streamed edition of the special fashion show run by Carine Roitfeld, the CR Runway. Carine Roifeld, along with her son Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld put on the virtual event to raise money for the amfAR Fund to Fight COVID-19 (3).
The event was spectacular, but the clothes were the least of it. Models Karlie Kloss, Joan Smalls, Winnie Harlow, and Stella Maxwell strutted the ‘runway’ entirely from their own homes, directed from afar by professionals Stephen Galloway for movement, Sam McKnight for hair, and Tom Pecheux for makeup – each providing the models with virtual tutorials and mentoring to help them achieve the desired looks. The results, however, were less about the upcoming fashion trends and new designs, and more about the thrilling glimpse into the extravagant homes of famous people (4).
The models, however, loved the event. They commented on how after months of quarantine and living in their sweatpants, it was nice to dress up for a change and enjoy the pleasure of fancy clothes. Going behind the scenes, so to say, of the fashion industry and the lives of the models did add a unique human experience to the whole show. On the other hand, it was hard to focus on the beauty of the fabrics with a gorgeous vintage chandelier hanging in the background of Karen Elson’s bathroom.
Designers will admit that there is something aesthetically pleasing about experiencing a fashion show in person. The thrill of the new designs, the perfect showcase, the music to set the tone, no one can deny that when it comes to fashion, it just works better in real life. However, in times like these, designers also know the importance of being flexible and providing different solutions. It’s no longer about recreating events to fit a digital format and a digital audience, but reimagining the events entirely.
Digital May Not Be the Answer for Everyone
As designers and fashion houses keep toying with the virtual fashion show ideas, many designers are choosing to forgo this new format. Many are postponing their shows entirely in hopes that social distancing shows could take place in the near future. However, organizations are looking down the rest of 2020 with uncertainty, and closing the idea of any in-person shows for at least the rest of the year.
Instead of participating in a digital fashion week, Giorgio Armani is planning to host a seasonless show early January of 2021. He plans to host his Privé show at the Palazzo Orsini in Italy around that time. Armani, however, is not the only ones with this plan in mind. Balenciaga too is unsure of how they plan to showcase their work for the rest of this year. They have not confirmed any dates yet, but it is speculated that they will most likely postpone Demna Gvasalia’s couture debut until early 2021.
Virgil Abloh of Off-White and men’s director of Louis Vuitton has strayed away from the crowd completely and is holding off showcasing any men’s and women’s Off-White collections until Januaray 2021. Abloh’s bold decision to hold off confirms that he is toying with the see-now-buy-now calendar – a new concept that could quickly take over the fashion industry. The see-now-buy-now calendar is a movement that connects with the consumers desire to see a trend and immediately own it. As the social media obsessed, digital-first age of technology takes over, designers are working to meet the consumers and deliver fashion trends immediately as they see them – a smart move on Abloh’s part for sure.
While the fashion calendar may seem unpredictable for the rest of this year, and possibly forever, one can never underestimate the power of technology during these trying times. As fashion refuses to be left behind in the dying economy, they are working tirelessly to adjust and deliver new trends, unique designs, and charming experiences all from the comforts of our homes. It’s no secret that fashion shows are extremely hard to get in to, and one way or another everything will eventually go back to in person shows. If there was ever a time to take advantage of seeing a fashion week show, even from the comfort of your home, now is the time.