Fashion Weeks Go Digital. What’s happening?


Fashion Weeks go digital. What’s happening?

Studying the Evolution of Fashion Week from the Milanese Perspective

The evident signs that Covid-19 was interfering with the normal activities at Fashion Week for all press and buyers attending and enjoying the new collections and presentations was being unveiled before our eyes in February.

For those of us who attended Milano Fashion Week, it was no regular Fashion Week as days went by. The scheduled events continued through Saturday, February 22nd, and then the rest is history. On Sunday major brands had their shows doors closed and already by Monday events were cancelled. But that something changing was already in the air, although it had to do with other reasons.

China press and buyers were not able to attend due to Covid-19, and China is an important partner for everyone who works with fashion. Milano came up with the idea of a digital interaction to allow the Asian partners and guests to participate in fashion week, and the ability to scrutinize the collections in a digital/virtual way.

It was indeed the beginning of some new reality. Will digital co-exist with fashion week as we know it? Will it replace it? As the calendars roll out, statements and press releases being dispatched, it looks like the digital way is absolutely officially getting into closer consideration, For now digital is supposed to coexist with the physical fashion weeks. How? Let’s see it.

Maybe the key point is that for sure some changes were necessary regardless the impact of the coronavirus. As Giorgio Armani himself pointed out, luxury fashion was heading to mimic the habits of other less prestigious distributions, saturating a market that for its nature does not force people to buy for the sake of buying, but educates people to a coherence of personal style in order to live well in our own skin. The abundance of Fashion Weeks was transforming a special event with focus on quality and research, into a touring circus.

That said, the need to approach buyers on a global level is a necessity for fashion. While the target of luxury fashion is not mass production or sales to the masses, it is also true that the ability to expose their products to a larger number of people, educates those who cannot afford the costs, and also gives choice in their own budgets with greater awareness.

Digital experiences allow designers to meet a wider public audience, and that raises the sensitivity towards ethical and sustainable choices. It does not saturate the cities, and it would allow the ability
to differentiate the audience.

The Italian motto of fashion, “buy less, buy better” is more and more of a necessity for the health of our planet. It is important that quality fashion reaches more communities and re-educates the younger generations to more responsibility. So, what was the next step in the digital/virtual world?

Shanghai was the first to not cancel their Fashion Week at the end of March, but instead moved it to a virtual experience and keep on the new thread born out of necessity. With 150+ designers streaming online via TMall, (e-commerce platform of the Alibaba’s group) the fully digital see now-buy now experience was making its official global appearance.

The see now-buy now experience means the possibility for buyers to purchase products with their phones. The experience expanded with the possibility to preorder apparels from the collections to come. Shanghai Fashion Week gathered an audience of 11 millions viewers, which is a very encouraging number. The interesting part, out of an economical perspective, is to see how the sensitivity into buying better grows as people can access the products without mediation.

One example from Shanghai: Pinko is an Italian brand, and one of the first to sign up for the whole online event at Shanghai. The brand used the opportunity to present pieces from the current collection against a virtual backdrop and tested the see now-buy now concept. This has been reported to be a very successful solution that among the first significant consequences, has kept sales active in China during a the stormy March. TMall is likely a strong attraction for the immediate approach to the audience. Opposing the practical limits of a traditional show at fashion week, the opportunity given by the digital approach can not only help selling, but it helps connecting with a brand’s own community of interest. If more people can participate, from a marketing perspective, this is absolutely attractive.

Men’s Fashion Week is coming up in June, but as you probably already know, it will not work as usual.

Milano announced they were moving Men’s Fashion Week to September and link it to the Women’s Fashion Week. So the traditional way is still being taken in consideration. Then it was time to announce, first city of the big four, Milano Digital Fashion Week to happen in July. Just a few hours later, Paris made the statement to go digital, and so London, all joined the virtual experience.

Digital fashion week in Milano, as Camera Moda (Italian Chamber of Fashion) informed the public through their website, will be featuring photographic and video content, interviews, backstage and unique viewpoints, including a calendar with slots for each brand, a rich panel of events for all operators and insiders of the fashion business.

The calendar will be further enriched by content requiring accreditation:  live streaming of keynotes by important figures in the fashion system, and moments of entertainment such as live performances.

Digital Fashion Week is to be tested by Paris and London too. Milano is proposing for July a mixed option with men’ and women’s collections together, London is using the term “gender fluid”.

Meanwhile, the regular fashion weeks as we are used to seeing, will probably not happen for a while, but they are not cancelled. The first notes is that there will be space for physical interaction, adapted rules of cohabitation with Covid-19 are expected. For that we need to wait a while and as far as we know Fashion Weeks are going to happen.

Something can be said about the coming traditional events, though. Two notes that affects Paris Fashion Weeks are probably to be taken in consideration. As already reported by many newspapers and magazines, Yves Saint-Laurent is ditching Paris stating that Fashion Week in its traditional form has lost appeal, and that the brand will opt for organizing their own events at their pace.

The second note is that Armani, who has literally become the flagship for luxury fashion, with strong statements and strong decisions in line with King Giorgio’s well celebrated philanthropic spirit, has decided to move the Armani Privé shows from Paris where they traditionally took place, to Milano the town that crowned him the king at his headquarters, starting from January 2021.

This means above all that Fashion Week as in its known format, based also on the attraction that Milano has had lately, seems to have strong reliability in the Italian capital of fashion. It is hard to say who can stay relatively calm as to being an attractive destination in times of coronavirus, but the idea to move the Privé collection to Italy is an act of trust, not only of affection by King Giorgio. If it were a hopeless call, no major brand would make such a decision, no matter the connection to your home country. Maybe there is more than one statement into giving trust to Milano. It possibly means that the city holds some good potential to keep the traditional format on an appealing level, and that will already begin from 2021.

What to expect from the Digital Fashion Weeks is thrilling and has potential to become a new reality for fashion that will expand and connect designers to both buyers and their own wider community. It’s a long waiting to September for the almost-as-the-traditional-way of Fashion Week to come back, but in the meantime keep an eye on the Digital Fashion Weeks. For Milano, Camera Moda, The Italian Chamber of Fashion, has given these dates: July 14th – 17th, London it will be in June and for Paris it will be July shortly before Milano’s Digital Fashion Week.

The rest is to be seen, but the Digital Fashion Weeks can become a significant coexistence with the traditional fashion weeks, giving different opportunities and for sure being much appealing for the Asian market well accustomed to the online experience.

While Covid-19 forces us to live in a sort of new normality, it’s a good sign of resistance and resilience that fashion tests new ways to connect with the international community, the youngest buyers and the the digital era.

It does not always mean that one has to replace the other, it will be interesting to see what it will become of both, and that is something that we will do together as this new reality embraces all new attempts to identify the new ways and what to save of the old ways not only for the brands, but for whoever works and interacts with fashion in its wider sense.

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