In a world where outdoor events provide communities with a sense of belonging and grease the worlds’ sanity, fashion shows and exhibitions grossly suffered from an unavoidable lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several brands had cancelled previously planned shows while some, like Saint Laurent, dealt away with their fashion calendar altogether. In a bid to preserve the experience of the most important week in the life of fashion lovers, several other labels decided to rather launch their collections into the digital realm. With vast credit to innovation and technology, some digital interventions were already reshaping the form of fashion shows across the globe. However, the pandemic accelerated the pace of this development.
Let’s indulge in five major ways that fashion shows have been able to hold the fort at such a challenging time.
Virtual fashion shows
In the past months, several debuts have produced experimental configurations, as well as exciting collaborations between fashion designers, 3D artists and digital designers to ensure fashion and style resides in our hearts no matter the cost. Earlier in May, Hanifa founder— Anifa Mvuemba, made her first virtual show appearance by using 3D renders to wrap pleated tops, minis and floor-skimming skirts onto invisible, convoluted bodies, strutting conveniently across a black void. The IGTV video shortly gained attention from viewers in their thousands, as images and screenshots of clips from the Hanifa’s show flooded Twitter.
See what got us wowed:
As the pandemic progressed and lockdown restrictions made it difficult to work directly with models, Anifa had already been working on 3D renders to visualize how elements of her dresses and outfits, such as drawstring seams and peplum hems, would nuzzle and move with the human body. As soon as she discovered that she wouldn’t be able to make an appearance at the New York Fashion Week in September, she decided to send the renderings down the runway by herself. She changed the game entirely.
A lot more fashion designers and brands have subsequently embraced virtual shows, and with the rise in its acceptance, so do opportunities abound for cross-industry collaborations.
Puppet fashion shows
Another interesting means by which fashion shows remained relevant during the pandemic was the big leap—a prominent showcase of the Moschino SS21 collection, titled “No Strings Attached”. This fashion show involved puppets as models and live audiences. Yeah, you read that right.
Creative director of Moschino — Jeremy Scott decided to play by his own rules and had Jim Henson’s Creature Shop help him create the puppets for his show. Every look was first made life-sized, before they were scaled down to puppet size. He also assigned the front row audience into puppets modeled after popular fashion figures, such as Anna Wintour, to watch his models walk down the runway. The marionette’s walked the catwalk dressed in inside-out-style garments aimed at bringing the inner workings of the pieces to the spotlight.
Drawing inspiration from the state of the world in a pandemic, a reflection of the unexpected turn out of events are displayed in each fashion piece. Pants and dress pockets are plainly displayed on the outside of the garments, while corset structures and zippers are overturned and fabric trims are sewn on backwards. With this innovative direction, Moschino delivered a whimsical and heartwarming show worth watching.
An unconventional alternative to fashion shows is the introduction of fashion films in 2020. Luxury fashion brand, Balenciaga proposed an ingenious alternative to the conventional catwalk for its Spring/Summer 2021 unveiling. In an unusual music video-esque short film, the French maison’s collection opened on the dimly lit sidewalks of Paris with models mouthing BFRND’s rendition of “Sunglasses at Night.” Creative Director—Demna Gvasalia’s vision of urban, trendy and functionality was realized through the juxtaposition of casual denims, graphic tees, logo-adorned hoodies, and sporty outerwear by the glamour of slinky dresses, bold accessories, and oversized monochrome suiting. The short film showcased a simultaneous incognito and eye-catching variation of styles.
Watch film here:
Social distant shows
As the name implies, fashion shows in cities like London would not throw out plans for the fashion week immediately the pandemic kicked off. Few shows revised their guest size and locations to appeal to fashion lovers as well as maintain lockdown protocols. The Bora Aksu SS (Spring/summer) 21’ fashion show was one of them. Unlike old times when attendees are usually made to sit together in clusters of rows like sardines, this time, everyone had their own individual park bench to sit on and watch the show. Guests, photographers and other frequent attendees were limited.
Not so much fun, but in the heat of a pandemic, it worked.
A more conventional approach to hosting fashion shows than the above described methods. Certain brands took advantage of the pandemic situation to level the playing field when it comes to giving the public access to luxurious fashion. One of these brands is Prada. Inspired by change and transformation, they did not just reflect those words in the collection, but in the entire showcase itself. Fans and fashion enthusiasts were excited to see the first collection created by new co-creative directors Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons. What they did was to make fashion accessible to everyone (not just the fashion elites) while following safety guidelines.
The show streamed on every Prada social media platform, and garnered huge attention from the public. According to WWD (reported by DBK), this was the company’s most viewed digital event, with over 16 times the views as its spring 2020 show, and 4 times the views of last July’s ‘Prada Multiple Views SS21’ event.
The Balenciaga clones 22 collection show
In similar fashion to previously organized shows, Balenciaga decided to bring the clones 22 fashion show close to its audience with some physical ambience. They had a small number of guests attending while complying with social distancing protocols as models took confident strides down the runway. The show was streamed live via their official social media platforms and website.
As the world deliberately adapts to digitization, the fashion industry has made it clear that they will not be left out and are consciously committed to keeping fashion shows a part of our global culture.