September is usually a month of glamourous runway shows but the fashion industry has not been immune to the impact of the pandemic on large-scale events. With social distancing measures still in place around the world, creatives and executives have been challenged to find new ways to launch their collections. And they have found them indeed.
This year, fashion weeks featured a mix of online presentations and smaller, more intimate in-person shows. For example, Burberry chose to share a livestream on social media platforms such as Instagram or Twitch, and on their own website. Presented as “a fashion show as a performance”, models walked along a very green British forest, proving how the connection with nature can heal in times of crisis. Very appropriately, CCO Riccardo Tisci named the collection “In Bloom”.
But there have also been some especially innovative fashion experiences. Back in July, the virtual Museum of Other Realities (MOOR) hosted “Fabric of Reality” a collaboration between production house RYOT and the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion. The initiative consisted of pairing three fashion designers with three visual artists, to produce their own shows in unique virtual reality worlds. Their productions showed the magic that happens when two forms of artwork together to create something truly original.
Another more recent example, and perhaps in a more traditional setting, comes from Italian streetwear brand GCDS. In their completely virtual set-up, human models are replaced by avatars who walk along a computer-generated runway. There is even a front row with stylish characters watching every outfit carefully, including what seemed to be Dua Lipa, Anwar Hadid, and Chiara Ferragni among others.
So, is the digital format the path most brands will eventually switch to? Only time will tell. There are great positives to it, such as reducing the environmental impact of fashion week, with no more attendees traveling around the world or unnecessary resource wasting at lavish parties. Additionally, accessibility could become more equal, with everyone watching from a screen, from well-connected fashion gurus to your next-door neighbor. But isn’t the glamour and physical experience of the shows what makes them so unique? Being in the setting, hearing the music seeing how the fabric flows and the small details are my favourite part of the (few) fashion shows I’ve been to, and it makes me sad that feeling that again may be difficult.
With technology advancing and the fashion industry being in need of a change in terms of ethics and sustainability, my prediction is that there may be a gradual change of fashion shows as we know them. Whether that is moving to an increase in digital events, maintaining in-person experiences but reducing their number, or a combination of both, I’m excited for what the industry and their leaders have in store for the future.