Digital Fashion Shows?

The future of catwalk

The last Gucci show was particularly visionary, with models staring at the audience behind a glass wall, as if predicting that it was time for fashion to start looking at itself.

Autumn 2020

It’s worth celebrating the brand’s attitude towards a more sustainable future, by abandoning the fashion calendar and holding twice-yearly seasonless events.

Saint Laurent won’t be presenting its Spring 2021 show either, so at some point, it did seem like things were actually shifting towards a seasonless future.

But it’s premature to jump to conclusions at a time like this, when everything is changing so quickly, and with such pressure on businesses to recover from the impact of lockdown.

Fendi will open Milan Fashion Week while Burberry will stage a live physical presentation on 17 September. According to Burberry’s creative director, Riccardo Tisci, it will take place outdoors, “within the beautiful natural landscape of Britain”.

The event will be open for everyone to view digitally. Christian Dior is simply going ahead with its cruise show on 22 July, that will also be played largely to camera. It will take place in the south of Italy, to a live audience limited to close friends and family of Dior’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri.

It’s a far cry from last year’s cruise show in Marrakech, which was staged in front of thousands of people, some of them flown in for the occasion, and included the singer Diana Ross and the actors Shailene Woodley and Lupita Nyong’o.

"Season is not about the weather but when people are more likely to shop." Toby Meadows

Before coronavirus, luxury brands were already using live streaming to present their collections to a wide audience around the world, including Chanel.

London Fashion Week

Those attending the show would also publish photos and live videos on their social media feed, so followers could witness the whole experience immediately.

Some brands realised shows became a spectacle in themselves and started presenting live performances, think of Dior and Marc Jacobs, with professional dancers moving around models. It was crucial to stand out amidst an increasing number of shows and designers.

This was actually an evolution from the past. I remember it was really exciting to hear Dana Thomas talking about the high level of anticipation and explosive energy felt during Alexander McQueen’s catwalk shows, when the designer was still alive.

Dark and provocative, the audience was not only impressed by the impeccable tailoring of the collection, but also by the immersive experience.

The theatrical shows led by John Galliano for Christian Dior are also still remembered fondly by both journalists and fashion illustrators.

“Products are made in a factory but brands are created in the mind.” Walter Landor

These shows were also communicating a brand identity in a very powerful way. Maria Grazia Chiuri understands this very well and if you think of Dior now, strong women come to mind, mainly due to her own values that she’s bringing to the brand.

We can also travel further back in time, to the super exclusive luxury salons in Paris during the time of great couturiers, recreated by Tom Ford for his own label's debut shows.

Catwalk shows are indeed an experience and communicate something far beyond the collection if done with a creative vision. Buyers, stylists and editors insist on the need of touching the fabric and see how it flows live, but this is questionable. There are ways around it.

London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week photographers

Now everyone is on the receiving end of the screen. In a way, it makes more sense. Looking at the end of the catwalk, there was always a sea of photographers flown in from all over the world, not to mention the audience itself, which is obviously not so good for the environment.

Brands can now assume total control of both photos and videos of their collections, ensuring there’s not a bad photo published anywhere.

It would be great if brands could take the direct communication with their clients up to the next level, changing to produce merchandise based on direct orders instead of predictions.

This would reduce waste, and would allow a much higher customisation of products, like some brands are already doing now but to a limited extent. Think of Louis Vuitton bags and Rimowa travel suitcases.

The future of catwalk shows mirrors the future of retail itself, it's very likely that it will become a hybrid combination of live and digital, with a highly personal service and exclusive products.

At the end of the day, those who buy fashion will decide what works best for them and brands will simply have to follow, if they wish to remain relevant.

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