September and October are the season for Fashion Weeks. That is a long-standing tradition. Paris, London, Milan, New York: all major fashion metropoles are normally hosting spectacular shows where the big name designers present their spring and summer collections for the next season.
But this year is not business as usual for the fashion scene. The whole value chain is disturbed. Suppliers are affected by lockdowns. Manufacturers and distributors (container ships from Asia) experience hick-ups. Store sales have dropped dramatically, while online sales are up. As a result many big companies are rethinking their whole business model, including the traditional fashion shows.
These shows have their own issues. Crowded events are forbidden in most countries and travel is restricted. Models, celebs and fashion editors can no longer city-hop between towns as they could in other years. So in 2020 many fashions shows have a hybrid character or aim at online audiences. Let’s look at a few examples.
Dior presented its spring-summer collection on Sept 29th in a cathedral-styled environment: a real show with a real audience. French authorities have allowed gatherings of up to 5,000 people during Paris Fashion Week. There is an industry and a tradition to protect!
The decors were set-up in the Jardins des Tuileries. Dior decided to go hybrid, by webcasting the show live on its own website and the TikTok platform. Quite a production, with camera’s on the floor and some extra low and high viewpoints. Notice how close the guests seem to be sitting together. The actual parade took some fifteen minutes.
One reason why Paris is keen to protect its fashion shows, is the competition from new cities and digital platforms. On August 6th Louis Vuitton aired a huge show (men’s fashion) with a live audience in Shanghai, on the banks of the Huangpu river. The runway was placed in a decor of shipping containers and blowup cartoon characters. Very impressive.
The Shanghai show was webcasted wordwide, via the brand’s own website and Instagram. Artists like Lauryn Hill performed via a web-connection, projected on LV-branded shipping containers. Fashion news sites reported that Louis Vuitton online event attracted over 100M views.
Prada pushed the digital envelope to a next level this year, by combining a studio show in Milan on September 24rd with virtual viewing events in cities like New York, Paris, London, Moscow, Dubai, Tokyo and others. The company even sent-out viewing kits for at-home digital viewings. Sounds like a future collector’s item: a Prada viewing kit!
Is this the future of fashion shows: models surrounded by robot-like camera-spiders? We do admire Prada for not hiding its recording techniques. Digital eyeballs. The show was webcasted via Prada’s own website, different social media and the Milan Fashion Week platform. An interesting extra was the Q&A time with designers Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons after the show.
Savage x Fenty
Rihanna is the ultimate showgirl. She knows how to steal the show with spectacular outfits, but this Bayan Belle is also media savvy. The sultry singer is now expanding her empire into the fashion industry with the label Fenty. Last years Savage x Fenty shows in New York demonstrated how lingerie can make women of all shapes and complexions look fantastic, so anticipations for Rihanna’s show this year were great.
Riri is admired because of her music and her spectacular shows, but she is also an advocate for diversity and celebration in difficult times. “I want people to feel invited. Feel welcomed. Savage is a home, it is a hub, it is a safe space for everyone.”
The actual show was very much over-the-top, with fresh and fading stars combined. We even observed drag queens in showing-off new lingerie, all in the spirit of inclusion. It did not seem to be a live performance, so let’s assume it was a ‘premiered’ recording.
For this Savage x Fenty fashion show Rihanna collaborated with Amazon, that streamed the New York event on its Prime channel.
Paris Fashion Week is also a platform for new talent. Young designers are invited to join SPHERE, which manages a showroom that is open four times per year. This year the digital version of that showroom is managed by Le New Black. Zalando has a minority stake in this virtual showroom operator.
From September 30th to October 4th there is a physical show in Palais de Tokyo, while these new designers’ showpieces are also made digitally available by Le New Black. This virtual showroom is invitation only.