Digital Couture Week

Haute Couture Online for Autumn/Winter 2020/21

This was the first ever couture week taking place solely online, open to everyone around the world. Wearing couture is reserved to the super wealthy or super famous, but anyone with a strong aesthetic sense can appreciate the mesmerising beauty and craftsmanship that make couture so extraordinary.

It’s similar to driving a Ferrari or Bugatti, the whole experience is difficult to put into words. Live shows have been used for decades to bring fashion to life but this pandemic has brought an alternative medium to the fore: the video.

Unfortunately, when watching these video presentations from luxury brands, designers and invited guests, somehow it feels like a missed opportunity to go beyond the traditional fashion show.

In the past, Prada has asked renowned movie directors to produce short films about her collections, from Castelo Calvancanti by Wes Anderson to A Therapy by Roman Polanski.

Anjelica Huston has directed Haven't We Met Before?, starring Felicity Jones and the charming Jack Davenport for Donna Karan.

Karl Lagerfeld has produced Once Upon a Time for Chanel with Keira Knightley and Penelope Cruz has written and directed L’Agent for Agent Provocateur.

There was so much that could have been done to present a couture collection, but most videos were just a staged show, either outdoors or within the confinement of a studio, without much storytelling at all.

Nonetheless, Maria Grazia Chiuri’s creative vision didn’t disappoint, Christian Dior presented an enchanting film directed by Matteo Garrone, much to the delight of social media.

Franck Sorbier opted for a film noir but the collection was not as captivating as the one by Rahul Mishra, who took embroidery up to the next level. Ralph & Russo created an Avatar, making the most of what technology has to offer.

Both Valentino and Elie Saab only presented a brief creative preview so we have to wait a bit more to actually see the new collection, Valentino will feature it on its website on July 21 and Elie Saab will present it in September.

A few brands adopted a report style approach, with designer interviews, drawing sketches and offering behind the scenes glimpses, focusing on craftsmanship.

Doesn’t this feel like a déjà vu? It’s interesting to note that The Future Laboratory has published a report, identifying four ‘tribes’ of affluent consumers:

  • The ‘untethered luxurians’ prefer “a lifestyle that prioritises freedom and self-fulfilment”

  • The ‘life-long earners’ “are more interested in spending their money on self-enriching experiences than on gratuitous displays of wealth”

  • The 'anti-luxurians’ even “switch off when brands identify as heritage or create campaigns about the craft-based, artisanal nature of a product“

  • The ‘ascetic luxurians’ are “emotionally and spiritually fatigued by hyper-commercialism (…) yet still optimistic that society can adopt sustainable systems."

I connect very strongly with this last ‘tribe’, and after watching BoF Live's insightful conversation between one of my favourite fashion journalists, Tim Blanks, and 90s supermodel turned activist and sustainability editor, Amber Valletta, it became clear I’m not alone.

As Amber Valetta pointed out “the world needs to be elevated in a new way” to become more “equitable, fair and resilient”.

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