“It would be nice to choose whether to meet physically or not. But if we don’t meet in person, the experience has to be equally intense.”Alessandro Michele, Creative Director, Gucci
I, like many who have worked in the fashion industry for the past decades, have quite some time before the Covid-19 pandemic, questioned the relevance of the current fashion calendar. Due to the multiplication of fashion weeks, shows, celebrity and influencers playing central stage instead of the designers creations and the inevitable budgetary costs. Saint Laurent’s decision to opt out of Paris Fashion Week started people talking and rethinking the format of shows.
The Parisian house, whose past shows have included the spectacular backdrop of the Eiffel Tower, opened a sharp debate by announcing it would “not present its collections in any of the pre-set schedules of 2020”. This has followed with the Gucci brand, opting instead to take control of its own calendar. Saint Laurent’s move is shifting tides obviously and at stake is Paris’s status as the epicenter of fashion.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Federation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s governing body, has cancelled Spring/Summer 2021 men’s fashion week and launched a digital alternative. The principle of the official fashion calendar is maintained, the event intended for professionals will be available to a much wider audience in this format. It will allow to showcase Paris and the creativity of the houses listed on the calendar of the Paris fashion Week with unity. Paris wants to remain the fashion capital where key, creative and leading events take place. Paris is a hub as all the big houses are located there and true business of ordering, pivoting developments and the heart of fashion beats.
In Milan Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana announced that it will present men’s and women’s pre-collections during Milano Digital Fashion Week from 14 to 17 July. The digital platform will feature video content, all organised in a calendar with slots for each brand. For its part previously the British Fashion Council said that London Fashion Week will go ahead during scheduled dates 12 to 14 June, with a digital platform, and will merge its womenswear and menswear shows. Paris’s Haute Couture Fashion Week will go digital this July, translating the craftsmanship of couture to a virtual format for the first time. Videos from accredited Couture Maisons will be aired on a dedicated platform from the Federation. The videos will be accompanied by additional content and a roll out on a schedule, mimicking the flow of a physical fashion Week.
The Spring/Summer 2021 presentations in September will depend on governmental measures and whether there are international flights and no second wave of the pandemic. New York, London and Milan fashion weeks in September are also still in position to go on as scheduled, however most likely in the new format, as for now. As regional organisations make difficult decisions around the future of fashion week, designers are left wondering how a unifying event could be replicated, or a new event invented, to take health and economic conditions into consideration.
Houses that can afford it, either economically or creatively, can say “We can present where we want, when we want and to whom we want.” This is the direction Alessandro Michele Creative Director of Gucci has announced stating, “It would be nice to choose whether to meet physically or not. But if we don’t meet in person, the experience has to be equally intense.” Hardly even needing to add that rules are no longer appropriate, that from now on, shows will be experimental in format.
For sure, digital will be the prominent player. Several technologies involving the digital experience including Google Glass to watch a show from home, AR, VR, avatars as models and holograms are all in the pool of thought. While these technologies have been tried and applied to some extent, they haven’t fully taken off by fashion shows. Bringing the human element to the shows, with 360-degree sound, vision or new tools allowing the audience to comment on the show live. VR maybe more suitable to accessories than ready-to-wear which requires staging in movement.
Also again this is extremely expensive for a 20 mins show and possible by houses that can afford as younger, smaller brands will find this an impossible cost. As the fashion world and shows are a “ necessity” in the world and a truly relevant business, we can expect rapid innovations in this short time. The challenge of the physical shows will be to very limited audiences but the relevance of physical shows remain important because of sight and feel.
Fashion Houses will become broadcasters, embodying diversity of content, targeting different audiences and time of airing worldwide. Fashion shows will be smaller respecting social distancing and presentations where you can receive guests 10 by 10. Going back to shows in salons of Maisons or in the Atelier, with an ultra exclusive dimension, with this current era in mind when presented.
Fashion shows are not going to die. There will be restrictions and much change for some time. Like all group entertainment, sport, theatre and exhibitions social interaction will develop into new evolved presentations.