Image Credit: Louis Vuitton
It was during Milan Fashion Week that the industry started to become genuinely fearful of the Coronavirus pandemic. Following a Paris Fashion Week that was effectively cancelled, the trillion-dollar industry was thrown into disarray. Production was shut down, travel restrictions were put in place and hundreds of brands were thrown into a state of fear. As the fashion industry has begun to adapt and slowly recover, it’s important to note the changes that brands are making going forward.
The Rise of the ‘Phygital’ Show
Phygital; a portmanteau of physical and digital is one of the main outlets we will see fashion shows going forward into 2021. The idea of combining the classic runway show with the ability to be streamed to millions all over the world works for a number of reasons. The shift to digital is advantageous for smaller brands, reduces carbon footprint and adds a much-needed element of inclusivity. A striking example was the designer Anifa Myuemba’s collection. Launched in May, the collection was launched via an Instagram live virtual show using invisible 3-D models. Other examples include SAINT LAURENT’s SS21 show ‘I WISH YOU WERE HERE’, which took place in an unknown desert or BOTTEGA VENETA’s secret show that was turned into the film ‘Salon 01’ for those at home. The power of the viewer is incredibly important with this new format and it seems to be having a lot of success.
A Turn to Cinema
Equally, we have brands that completely turned the idea of a catwalk on its head. After the announcement by Gucci’s Alessandro Michele that they would ‘abandon the worn-out ritual of seasonality and shows’, many were perplexed as to what they would come up with. Their answer was GUCCIFEST, a seven-day digital film festival, directed by Michele and Gus Van Sant, showcasing off the latest Gucci collection with cameos from Harry Styles, Jeremy O. Harris and Billie Eilish. Maison Margiela had a similar idea, with ‘S.W.A.L.K’, a 52-minute film directed by Nick Knight for their SS21 collection. It cannot be said whether the cinematic display of fashion collections is sustainable going forward, but it is for sure more interesting than your usual catwalk.
Changing up the Calendar
During this year, many in the fashion industry spoke about the desire to change how fashion operated. An open letter by Dries Van Noten stated his desire to reduce the number of runway shows and the high amount of clothing being produced. The letter, signed by a number of brands including Marine Serre, Grace Wales Bonner and Chloé speaks of a topic that is now getting more attention. The British Fashion Council and Council of Fashion Designers for America released a joint statement on the matter saying “there is a clear disconnect from when things arrive in store to when the customer actually needs them”. Saint Laurent have already announced their intention to “take control of its pace and reshape its schedule” while Off-White has adopted a new calendar year, where it would help reduce the gap between the unveiling of a collection and the availability for retail.
The fashion industry has always had a ‘kill or be killed’ mentality. It has managed to continually adapt in the face of challenge, the coronavirus pandemic being one of many. What will be worth noting is how brands will operate when the world resumes a sense of normalcy. Will the industry return to invite-only shows or could we possibly see a fashion world upturned in 2021?
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See also: WTF HAPPENED IN 2020?