Paris takes its creative haute couture collection digital amidst the constraints of COVID-19 pandemic
Paris, the “capital of the fashion industry”, is an abode of the finest luxury brands with some of the best designers whose collections are reflective of the modern times, imposing and inspiring. However, the recent coronavirus pandemic has been merciless, posing a serious threat to the fashion industry. Each day brings new challenges for designers to address the COVID-19 and its impact on economic depression. Many events and shows have already been canceled or postponed. Theatres remain closed and therefore, several actors and performers are out of work.
After months in lockdown, thankfully, fashion houses in Paris are returning to work – rethinking everything, especially the prestigious Paris Fashion Week. Before hitting the ramp officially in September, a digital fashion week went live from July 6 to July 13, 2020. This was the first-ever online fashion event where top-notch luxury labels like Chanel, Dior, Hermes and Valentino showcased their latest fall-winter haute couture collection.
How Fashion Brands Represented their Collection Digitally in Paris Fashion Week 2020?
It was literally a fight of creativity to win the spotlight with their fashion collection online. There were numerous constraints but the designers finally swayed away from the consumers and buyers with their innovativeness. According to Laure Hériard Dubreuil, founder and creative director of The Webster – a luxury multi-brand retailer, “The digital format allows designers to tell their story differently and explore their DNA and be better equipped for a world where social media is predominant.”
Here are the key highlights from the first Paris Digital Fashion Week that will surely win your hearts:
Louis Gabriel Nouchi, a globally-recognized menswear designer, took an innovative approach to the fashion event. Keeping in view the fact that many performers and actors are now out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic, he would showcase actors in his new Spring/Summer 2021 collection reading from The Stranger by Albert Camus. The one-of-a-kind and inspiring video generated over 25,000 views on YouTube while his brand earned more than 400 new followers on Instagram. Vogue reported this as “a similar boost to the one received after a physical show.”
“Film” has been a new revelation for fashion designers participating in the digital Paris Fashion Week. This has been interestingly presented by designer Virgil Abloh of Louis Vuitton in an animated short film that showcases his Spring/Summer 2021 collection to hit the runways on 5 August in Shanghai. The real-life and vibrant short film starred animated characters and is named “The Adventures of Zoooom with his friends by Virgil Abloh.”
The film focuses on the designer’s messages of inclusivity and diversity, where the animated characters are a vivid representation of him and his footprint in the fashion establishment. Through the digital platform, Abloh seeks to influence his audience positively – a welcome escape with some amusing, colorful and unusual surprises. The fun and trippy 3-minute video garnered over 3 million views on YouTube.
Hermès, a French high fashion luxury brand, also took the digital platform to present their collection through a choreographed live production with artist Cyril Teste. The concept, as explained by designer Nichanian, revolves around “that moment backstage before the show…”; “the bows biding their time, some goofing, others in thrall to their phones.” Due to COVID-19 constraints, the excitement of the runway could not be upheld in the video, except the mind-blowing Hermès garments.
At Dior, renowned designer Kim Jones collaborated with the famous Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo, to celebrate African art in his Spring/Summer 2021 fashion collection. The film presented interview footage and moving editorial with awe-inspiring glimpses of the clothing they had inspired. The imagery and textures are fine-tuned, vibrant, and delicate that would deliver an immersive experience on a VR headset or a real runway, had Jones showcased his collection that way. “It was the time for me to celebrate an African artist like we have American artists or Japanese artists,” he explained.
This Paris Fashion Week, some designers picked a vibrant and flamboyant approach while others chose to be more serious and less colorful. Take for instance, the famous American designer Rick Owens. He explains “A flamboyant fashion show…is in bad taste.” Therefore, he designed an “opus”, shot completely in black and white. The 12-minute video presents models wearing his SS21 collection and chatting as light music plays in the background. He took a more neutral and subdued approach in comparison to Abloh’s pulsating video for Louis Vuitton.
On the contrary to Owen’s idea of bringing fashion on digital, designer Kris Van Assche of Berluti used an explosion of colors in his documentary-style film that features American ceramic artist Brian Rochefort. The designs showcase “superlight silk shirts” with exquisite and real-life photo prints of Brian’s ultra-colorful “slap in the face of traditional ceramic art” sculptures. The video shows both the artists illustrating their processes and similarities between their works.
However, Van Assche admits, “It’s good, it’s interesting, and it’s nice to be able to explain stuff to people. But I will miss emotions. So, as soon as we can go back to fashion shows and storytelling, I will definitely do that.”
In a pandemic scenario when fashion has taken a backseat, the event ideally fulfilled its goal: keeping fashion on the spotlight. Amidst this oppressively tough time, fashion brings an air of frivolity – a creative and visually inspiring balm – that is a relief for the viewers. Though there have been frustrations among buyers and editors regarding “subsidiary” clothing used, yet the Paris Digital Fashion Week gained applauds from all fields. The industry players have appreciated the digital network for providing an implausible variety of editorial content and scope for young and aspiring designers to showcase their collection.
Following their footsteps, Milan has also planned to host their fashion week on the digital platform this month. This clearly indicates how harsh the time may be, fashion will always be on the radar. And the success of Paris Digital Fashion Week is one of the best examples of it.