The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every single aspect of our lives including the fashion industry. Keep reading to see what some experts expect for the future of fashion shows during and after the pandemic.
For the last 80 years, New York, Paris, Milan and London—the “Big 4”—have established themselves as the largest and most vital fashion centers, each with its own program of Fashion Week shows. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely flipped Fashion Week, as well as all of our lives, upside down. Every single person in the world has adjusted to a “new normal,” and that new standard has been no different for the fashion industry. For decades, designers have relied heavily on fashion shows to help with their marketing and brand image, as well as display the aesthetic and new pieces of their collections. These events substantially influence fashion trends for the current and upcoming seasons.
For the Spring/Summer 2021 collection fashion shows, designers had to get very creative with planning their shows amidst this “new normal.” After months of uncertainty, each design house had figured out their own distinct plans to keep their designers, models, and audience members safe. Some hosted virtual fashion shows and digital experiences, while some were able to actually host in-person shows. 2020 is now known as the year of the “remote runway.” In Imran Amed’s Business of Fashion article, Fashion Week Can’t Just Be Another Online Video Festival, he details the differences between the plans for many of the shows. He tells how Jason Wu’s show opened New York Fashion Week on September 14th with an in-person show and a small audience, compared to Burberry who hosted their London Fashion Week show in-person, but live streamed to their audience. Additionally, during Milan Fashion Week, Prada digitally broadcasted their show and hosted small watch parties all around the world.
All the different ways fashion shows were hosted during the pandemic has left the fate of physical runway shows undetermined. The BofF Executive Editor, Lauren Sherman hosted a podcast, Inside Fashion: The Fate of the Physical Runway Show, four days before NYFW began, with three other fashion experts. They discussed how fashion shows looked in the past, how they look now, and how they believe they will look in the future. They shared their disappointment as they knew the magical and personal feelings of intimacy they got from past in-person fashion shows would not be the same this year.
Robin Givhan, The Washington Post’s fashion critic, complimented JW Anderson’s ‘Show in a Box” for fulfilling their audience’s “desire for something tactile, the desire for something that felt personal… that you could hold, that wasn’t a digital, distant thing.”
Later on in the podcast, Tim Blanks, the legendary BofF editor-at-large added, “I hope that there will be this immediate contact, this sort of intimacy… I find that more interesting than maybe the way that we used to deal with things. I don’t want a press release, I want to talk to people.”
Rachel Tashjian, from GQ Magazine, explained that she does not know what to expect from the future of fashion shows, but that she believes many brands have been able to communicate effectively without traditional runway shows. She said things like the “Show in a Box,” look books, or social media are all innovative and interesting ways designers could potentially release their future collections.
While we all still have a strong emotional desire to go to live events, the continued uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus in the Big 4 fashion capitals has necessitated a new way for the fashion industry to continue. Even though fashion industry experts want to feel the magical, emotional feelings of Fashion Week—a feeling that cannot be matched digitally—it is clear through this research that the future of Fashion Week is in genuine jeopardy. Sadly, designers and fashion shows will undoubtedly have to maximize their use of technology in their shows to safely and remotely showcase their collections in the coming months and, perhaps, years. It will be interesting to see if the roll out of the vaccine allows for more in person shows for fashion shows this year, in 2021.