The show must continue. Only this time, digitally. Traditionally held in June, the spring and female men’s collections in Paris and Milan have just been wrapped up on Friday. The Coronavirus pandemic has stalled many mode wheels because the source, production and distribution have been stuck for nearly three months. But the fashion capital of France and especially those hard hit tried to move forward. A contingency performance week in a digital context is launched with cities reversing the order in which they appear. In many ways, this format works while others fail to compare it to the real deal and miss an important sign.
Bergdorf Goodman and Men’s Fashion Director Neiman Marcus Bruce Pask were not polite. “The magic and inspiration given by fashion shows in person is very difficult to digitally emulate,” he added. “There is great value to feel the energy and excitement in the room.”
Roopal Patel, Director of Fashion at Saks, agreed that no one could imitate seeing a performance in person but noticed that the creativity of the designer “shines through the obstacles faced by the pandemic.” One thing he noticed remained the same was the presence of the industry on Instagram. “The hype on social media hasn’t changed!”
Alex Badia, Style Director for women’s clothing, men’s clothing and accessories for WWD fashion trade publications felt the digital event left a historic marker. He noted some exhibiting clothing while others exhibiting ideas behind them, but nothing beats physical performances similar to watching sports or live music. “Not being able to experience collections with the five senses makes the experience lower.” adding “not every brand needs a live show,” something that can show the future of fashion. “I’ve learned what made effective fashion videos the last few weeks.”
Either in person or online, one thing stays true to traditional fashion shows because some are more prominent than others. Three fashion professionals quote this spotlight:
- The last performance of Miuccia Prada, which was designed specifically for the namesake house, was ripe with minimalism of the 90s and a series of free art house films to accompany the collection.
- JW Anderson’s “Show-in-a-Box” for Loewe, who sent viewers a choice of kits with tactile elements from live performances such as swatches of cloth, cardboard sets, and even recording functions that play performance music.
- Kim Jones for Dior Homme, who collaborated with Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo.
- Rick Owens is a voyeuristic and intimate photo shoot with Tyrone Dylan Susman’s house model.
Only a few can deny the power of fashion to inspire and influence change, be it mood or behavior. Beyond trends such as paired collections, minimalist 90s and retro-campy leisurewear, this 25-year industry professional plus pays attention to one big missed opportunity for fashion in strengthening trends; mask.
Among digital shows and some outliers who choose direct viewers – masks that fashion has the power to make the coolest, must-have, must-have accessories – there’s almost nothing. When they appear, the crew or the audience just wears it. During Gucci’s 12 hour live streaming video, makeup artists, photographers, cobblers wore masks and often gloves while the models did not wear them. Most of the audience members in Alfresco, the front row Dolce and Gabbana, Jacquemus and Etro who are socially friendly keep them away, but the model goes without them. So far, experts seem to agree that outside transmissions are not possible, but videos like Hermes show the team and talent are all working mask-free inside their headquarters in Paris.
But inside or outside the room is not the point. One of the most important effects of this digital fashion show week was to signal that wearing a mask was cool, and even fashionable. The lack of a mask displayed might make the rest of the more than 10,000 fashion industry players happy to witness the celebration in the comfort and safety of home.
Recent pandemics have forced modes to check for their own mistakes. During this time, the industry fought for resets in the manic show cycle and endless buying periods that caused both literal and figurative exhaustion. The endless journey associated with the circuit is true exhaustion, but surprisingly some people miss it.
Pask said he missed the curiosity and exploration generated by the trip. He found the search “seek and search to bring the best, most interesting, wise pieces to our customers who are smart and appreciate and meet new people is very valuable.”
Badia missed seeing other industry professionals she had known for the past 18 years covering the show “, because she found” nurturing and inspiring “and was similar to reconnecting with old school friends.
Patel, on the other hand, hasn’t missed a trip this season. “The virtual format has truly been a welcome welcome,” he said, adding the fast-paced nature of back-to-back shows, meetings and appointments has obscured fashion, which is the main point. He admitted losing “seeing clothes in person and having a personal conversation with the designer.”
Whatever the consensus on the journey, all agreed that the live performance had left the seminal moments engraved in their souls. Namely Virgil Abloh’s debut for Louis Vuitton and Kim Jones’s debut for Dior Homme in the same season, the Raf Simons and Jil Sander performances during Pitti Uomo, the parade of Prada actors such as Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, William Defoe, and Adrien Brody grandly inspired clothing or transformative skinny silhouette of 2002 Hedi Slimane for Dior Homme. These experiences help create magic to encourage customers to buy the fantasy offered.
The Quest for Shoppers
Right now, this is the biggest puzzle of fashion. Inspire and motivate clients to shop for clothing again when all signs show a lifestyle at home to continue. “At Saks, we are reviewing how fashion is translated into the daily lives of our customers as a result of a pandemic to inform how to better engage with them,” Patel noted, “people still want real mode in real-time.”
Badia WWD doesn’t think that consumers focus on fashion, but their interest is captured through expertise. “Impulsive purchases go out the window,” he said, stressing investment and escaping as a motivating factor. “My apartment has become an office, a gym, a night restaurant, a spa, and sometimes, discos are quite empty. I don’t want to wear the same shorts and T-shirts for all that anymore.”