By Daisy Wallis
The coronavirus has brought the world to a grinding halt. As the virus has spread around the world, governments have been forced to close businesses, venues, and workplaces, changing the way we live our everyday lives drastically. With global events like the 2020 Olympics and the Cannes Film Festival being cancelled or postponed, the fashion industry has also been hit hard by the pandemic.
Whilst it has been announced in the last few days that Paris’s men’s and haute couture shows have been cancelled and the men’s Milan Fashion Week has been merged with the womenswear fashion week in September, many other fashion weeks are turning to digital platforms and livestreams to ensure that designers and fashion lovers alike don’t miss out.
The digitalisation of fashion week
Back in February, as Milan Fashion Week drew to a close, Giorgio Armani was the first designer this year to turn to digital. As the cases of the virus began to rise alarmingly in Italy, the brand decided to present their latest collection through a livestream with no live audience in support of the Italian government’s efforts to protect public health. The eerily empty show marked a new era for the iconic fashion show and has led many to beg the question – is the digital fashion show the way to go?
Organisers of the Rakuten Fashion Week Tokyo (16th – 26th March), opted for digital shows without live audiences, all available on their website. Designers, including, Jotario Saito and Hiroko Koshino presented their shows virtually, with the videos and images still being available now for fashion lovers to enjoy.
Similarly, organisers of Shanghai Fashion Week (24th– 30th March) teamed up with the Chinese ecommerce marketplace, Tmall, to present its entire schedule online. As well as livestreaming the shows, viewers were able to make comments and even buy items online while they watched. With the successes of completely digital fashion weeks in Tokyo and Shanghai, it’s a wonder that these digital innovations haven’t been utilised to this extent before.
Sustainability gets the digital treatment
Promoting the use of digitalisation, WWD China, in response to the current pandemic, launched a six-week sustainability campaign ending with a Digital Fashion Week that starts today. The ‘Kind to Earth, Fashion for Future’ campaign includes over 100 brand partners and will allow viewers in China to livestream the digital fashion show and a sustainability-focused summit.
A new digital future for fashion?
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the fashion industry to explore new avenues to present designers’ collections and continue to reach buyers and consumers through digital means. Whilst there is evidence of designers experimenting with digital, this new digitally-led fashion week format, seen in Asia, is one that may be a viable and worthwhile venture for fashion designers and brands globally as we enter the 2020’s.
The traditional fashion week format is one that has been criticised time and time again for its promotion of unsustainable ideals. As well as the problematic unsustainable practices that many designers still use and the promotion of the idea of constant newness, the fashion weeks’ themselves generate their own carbon footprint, with fashion lovers’ travelling around the world twice a year to attend each fashion week and the wasteful nature of fashion show sets.
The environmental movement, Extinction Rebellion led protests at London Fashion Week calling for the industry to stop the cycle of overproduction and overconsumption and for the British Fashion Council to cancel the event in September and work on an emergency action plan to aid change within the industry.
The digitalisation of fashion shows could also be of benefit for new and upcoming designers. Whilst traditional shows have exclusive guestlists filled with leading fashion critics, buyers and celebrities, livestreaming opens up brands and designers to a whole new audience that is substantially larger and potentially a lot younger.
The Armani digital show has since had over 80,000 views on their official YouTube channel. Through the use of innovations in technology, such as 5G and livestreaming, the digital fashion shows have the potential to appeal to a much wider audience, opening up the world of high fashion to more than just the fashion critics and buyers of the past.
Whilst the world continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that this global crisis has caused the fashion industry to look for new and innovative ways to improve its practices and its impact on the world. As more brands and fashion weeks’ continue to resort to digital formats, the traditional fashion show has most certainly changed and will hopefully continue to evolve as we enter this new decade.