WHAT WILL A DIGITAL FASHION WEEK LOOK LIKE?
As Fashion Week presentations were cancelled earlier this year and Pitti Uomo cancelled until January 2021, industry professionals and menswear enthusiasts quickly posed the question of “What will future Fashion Weeks look like?” The answer is, it may follow in the virtual footsteps of many music events: Specifically in the case of massive Belgian dance music festival Tomorrowland, the acts that would’ve appeared on the main stage participated in a livestream event, where they all did their previously planned sets from home.
Reflecting this, Shanghai Fashion Week utilised Alibaba’s Tmall platform in March, allowing its 150 scheduled designers to present their AW20 collections in a format they preferred. Based on a report from the Financial Times, industry buyers and audience members logged into an app, where they could watch livestreamed shows, hear designers speak about their brands and AW20 presentations, purchase from brands advertising their collections, or stream pre-recorded presentations. Some brands opted to replicate the catwalk environment, while others tried out a more engaging concept. For just the first few hours, the event drew 2.5 million views, and some brands experienced sales conversions over 10 percent.
Throughout April and May, other fashion events and brands dabbled with this format. Betabrand’s 'Work from Home Fashion Show' on April 15th included videos of customers all over the world wearing the brand’s clothing. On May 1st, the amfAR Gala, organised by CR Runway and the first livestreamed fashion event on YouTube, included top models like Karlie Kloss and Amber Valletta walking the runway from home. Added to this, brands like Dior and Prada have dabbled with CGI influencers to showcase their latest collections. With three of the four major events rolling out in June and July, format issues and interactions among buyers and brands remain up in the air. Here’s what we should expect:
London Fashion Week
A report in Vogue Business indicates that the separate men’s and women’s events will be consolidated into a single occasion held digitally from June 12-14th. Anyone interested – industry professionals to fashion bloggers to casual browsers – will have the option to view the presentations, interviews, webinars, and digital showrooms, and purchase for the upcoming season and from current collections. Press and buyers will have exclusive access to a portal for interviews and appointments. Designers are expected to have some freedom in terms of how they will present, and event organisers have already started collaborating with Amazon Launchpad, Facebook, Google, Instagram, and YouTube to realise this experience.
Instead of just a detour, British Fashion Council Chief Executive Caroline Rush sees the digital format as a way forward – ideally, one with sustainability in mind. “The current pandemic is leading us all to reflect more poignantly on the society we live in and how we want to live our lives and build businesses when we get through this,” she explained in a press release. “The other side of this crisis, we hope will be about sustainability, creativity and product that you value, respect, cherish. By creating a cultural Fashion-Week platform, we are adapting digital innovation to best fit our needs today and something to build on as a global showcase for the future.” With this development, designers will have the opportunity to engage in more storytelling, particularly through podcasts and interviews to further talk about their collections. The experience may end up being more immersive for the typical audience member and could provide more context for the clothes – including any unsold stock or sourcing issues due to factory closures across the world.
Milan and Paris Fashion Week
Milan and Paris have since followed up with their own plans, although New York, after pushing out its menswear shows indefinitely, has yet to produce a similar program. Although both major events will include a mix of webinars and live events, and be open to the public’s viewership, Milan – scheduled from July 14 to 17th – will allow designers a bit more freedom. Paris’ menswear event, planned for May 9 to 13th, is expected to have more structure and consistency. According to an interview Camera della Moda president Carlo Capasa did in Vogue, Milan this year will be a gender-neutral event, where designers will show both pre-show and primary collections, as well as some spring 2021 resort lines. Capasa explains that, due to this variety as well as factory closures limiting collection size, organisers are giving designers enough room to identify what they want to say and determine how they’ll say it. “Everybody can decide their own message,” he explained. “The advantage is that in a digital world, you are completely free. You find your way of expression. We said to everybody, ‘You have from one minute to 15 minutes, and you decide what you want to show.’”
Expect anything from traditional runway presentations to interviews and backstage access. As one example, Ermenegildo Zegna plans to showcase their presentation from a physical space with digital technologies – hence the name 'phygital.' As well, Capasa has spoken about emphasising sustainability, in terms of limiting travel, better allocation of resources, and selective spending. While Paris won’t forego the storytelling element entirely, a press release specifies that the event will strictly be dedicated to menswear and be divided between videos showcasing designers’ collections and more editorial content. As well, partnering international media networks are expected to amplify the content on a larger scale, and for industry professionals, the event may include a virtual showroom for appointments.