Saint Laurent and Ermenegildo Zegna have left the fashion calendar for 2020. What does this spell for the rest of fashion week?
To new beginnings
As fashion has evolved, so have their shows. Before Yves Saint Laurent — as it was known back then before Hedi Slimane's rebranding during his stint as creative director — introduced pret-a-porter to the luxury market in the '60s, fashion shows were for an elite few. An exclusive group that consisted of buying customers from the upper echelons of society, as well as selected members of the press, who had first dibs on what style would look like for the seasons to come.
Since, the market for fashion has expanded significantly, and the prestige of the catwalk has been adopted by luxury conglomerates as a PR gold mine, and for small brands? An arbitrary marker of success. Everyone with access to apps with live-streaming like Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and Taobao can now participate in the never-ending supply of fashion shows (it seems like every month is fashion month somewhere), but to what end?
In light of Covid-19, safe distancing and halts in production (revealing dirty supply chains) have forced an even further inspection of the notion of "Fashion Week". When the virus was still circulating in China earlier this year, Shanghai hosted its first "Cloud Fashion Week" on Alibaba's ecommerce platform, Tmall. This has become the first of many major digital-first presentation formats that fashion capitals at-large are quickly realising the appeal of adopting. Not just to ride out this pandemic, but possibly for the long haul too.
Western channels have been popularising the adage that "crisis" in Chinese characters, 危机, translates literally to English as "danger opportunity", to reflect the potential for changes to the longstanding tradition of fashion presentations. But how might fashion shows look like in the near future? Here are our thoughts.
Presentations will be more specialised to speak directly to their consumers
Just recently, the British Fashion Council announced their next fashion week would be completely digital and co-ed. For most of us, this will be the first fashion week experienced online that's not a compilation of videos of actual shows. So while the "easy" solution would be to migrate the static catwalk online, smaller, nimbler brands will take this as a level-playing opportunity to stand out by reflecting their brands through their show formats. From designers literally picking garments off their hangers and describing the processes behind each one of them, to cinematic dramatisations of the "muses" behind collections, brands will need to think more sensitively about what will pleasantly surprise their consumers to the extent that they feel spoken to personally.
There will be a heavier investment in AR and VR to bring clothes "to life"
AR enhances reality with digital technology, while VR transports the physical into digital space. A wider breadth of those tools will help brands to enhance their shows, and bigger brands who have the capital to monopolise the latest inventions will impress their audiences by tightening proximity. Even in the last few years, virtual influencers have entered our consciousness, luxury brands have started offering Instagram face filters, and the rise of ecommerce has forced retailers to rethink how to communicate clothes online.
Ava Gram is a digital avatar that LASALLE graduate Reyme Husaini created for his FYP project
Moving forward, fashion shows will not only need to translate the mood of a designer's vision, but also convey how they can have a life out of that context. Currently in the marker we have Tanvas, an app developing technology that mimics the feeling of textiles through screens. Zozo, albeit closing down because of insufficient funds, has been noticeable in the body measurements technology space. Fashion will not only become a more personal experience online, but a real one.
Physical shows will integrate with other live events like concerts, dinners, even sports
Bigger brands who have the power to host large gatherings may continue to showcase spectacles, especially those who want to retain their beneficial aspects. Street style photography, for instance. And the increasing realisation that audiences — enthusiasts and curious observers alike — are willing to sit through fashion presentations (regardless of whether they will actually participate in the consumption of those garments eventually), will make fashion brands rethink the shows for them. A hundred models strutting down a blank catwalk will not sustain the attention of audiences who aren't viewing the shows as their jobs. Household names like Victoria Secret and Tommy Hilfiger have not been strangers to the concert-cum-fashion-show, and couture shows have been known to spare no expense, flying out VIP clients to exotic locations to match embroidery to the landscapes they were literally based off.
Especially brands who feed off "tribes" — brands like Chanel, Off-White, Celine that have a loyal and dedicated folowing — the spirit of the wearer will continue to lead the fashion show. In that sense, collaborations will become more optically present, whereby a sense of the clothes can also be translated into music, food, and other sensory experiences more holistically. Think the spirit of hoop dresses falling "onto" dancers at Issey Miyake's SS20 show, Mexican horseback riders at Dior's SS19 Cruise show, and the motorcycle stuntman at Rihanna's SS18 Puma x Fenty show, and louder.