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The Future Of Runway Shows Is Online, And We’re All Taking The Front Row

As London Fashion Week goes online, and so as photoshoots, welcome the rise of digital catwalks is here and here’s what’s gonna happen

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the British Fashion Council has announced that the June 12-14 London Fashion Week will be breaking away from its forty-year tradition of split-gender, live runway shows, by merging womenswear, menswear, and gender-neutral fashion into a single digital event. Like Shanghai and Moscow, which held their recent fashion weeks entirely online, LFW will showcase new designs through virtual showrooms, videos, lookbooks, and other digital exhibits. Moreover, this consolidating move will be open to the public, not just the usual lineup of industry professionals, celebrities, and influencers. Everyone with access to the internet will essentially be sitting front row at LFW. 

Art by Raff Colmenar | Photos courtesy of Chanel


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While LFW’s digital overhaul is watershed, some tech-savvy brands had already begun to migrate the release of their collections towards virtual spaces long before the public health crisis began. Danielle Guizio, who runs the eponymous New York City-based label known for dressing “It” girls such as Kendall Jenner, Kaia Gerber, and the women of Blackpink, released her Spring/Summer ‘20 line through a “digital immersion” at last September’s New York Fashion Week. To showcase her new collection, the designer projected video footage of models wearing her ready-to-wear line at an invite-only gathering, and then live streamed the launch for her 333,000 Instagram followers. The previous year, she marketed some of her athletic wear by modeling it on Miquela Sousa, an artificial intelligence musician who exists exclusively in the digital realm.


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Some brands aren’t just opting for a digital catwalk in lieu of a traditional runway, but forgoing material garments altogether. Fabricant, which describes itself as “a digital fashion house” that believes “clothing does not need to be physical to exist,” has been producing—and selling—digital couture collections to be “used and traded in virtual realities.” One gown recently sold for $9,500, proving that digitalwear has real-life value. Though Fabricant existed before Covid-19, the coronavirus has driven major brands to seek its help in adapting their collections to an increasingly digital world. According to WWD, Tommy Hilfiger is reportedly working with the digital fashion house to create avatars, holograms, and augmented-reality formats, as it explores options for showcasing its designs in a post-pandemic world. 


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Already, we see many other big names adjusting to, and even embracing the necessary change. This past February, when Milan Fashion Week became a ghost town due to the Covid-19 outbreak in Italy, Giorgio Armani presented his new line to an empty room, relying almost solely on digital media to give the collection its audience. Meanwhile, hinting at converting its live runway shows to remote ones, Saint Laurent released an announcement on Instagram that reads, “Conscious of the current circumstance and its waves of radical change....Saint Laurent will take ownership of its calendar and launch its collections following a plan conceived with an up-to-date perspective, driven by creativity.” Responding to the same challenges, Vogue Italia recently did a FaceTime photoshoot featuring Bella Hadid—the first of its kind, but certainly not the last.

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Far Away So Close. @BellaHadid joined the project with @BriannalCapozzi and @HaleyWollens. About the shooting, Brianna said: “The day before the shoot, Haley and I tested out poses together on facetime; this is always our process, but not within the confinement of a cell phone screen. It was pretty hilarious. Then we called Bella Hadid and did a fitting, it was fun to have the intimacy of the three of us, everyone's opinions were considered, and lots of jokes always. Then we hung up and Bella went off to do her hair and makeup, she did a stellar job, this is why she's a supermodel! She is the full package and always makes it exciting and fun. Bella's friend Lauren, who is a creative director when she’s not stuck in the house, acted as a dream photo assistant & fashion assistant, taking the liberty to order a ring light the night before, and always on hand to hold a mirror or grab a pair of socks. When we actually start shooting it was quite funny, I would call Bella back from my computer, because the quality is better with two people. Haley would then call Lauren's phone and they would put Haley and I side by side so that we could both see a similar frame. Haley and I could not see each other, but being the loud New Yorkers we are, we had no problem hearing each other!” Discover the full Far Away So Close portfolio in our April Issue on newsstands. #FarAwaySoClose #imagine #WhiteCanvas --- Editor in chief @EFarneti Creative director @FerdinandoVerderi

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While there are certainly some drawbacks to looking at a garment online rather than in-person, the fashion world integrating itself to the digital one offers a few progressive and impactful results. One is that it addresses a public health emergency: We must practice social distancing in order to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Another is that it fast-forwards the move towards making fashion more environmentally sustainable: fewer shows means a reduction in air travel, energy usage, and other activities with a heavy carbon footprint. And finally, it offers much room for innovation in an industry that has done runway shows the same way, often with the same faces, for decades. 

What we can learn from early adopters of the digital catwalk is that designers have, perhaps more than ever, the opportunity for unbridled creativity when it comes to sharing their collections. This is especially significant for designers from countries like the Philippines, whose fashion industry has not yet captured the world’s attention, despite local talent being worthy of it. By embracing the boundary-pushing possibilities of digital media—not just the odd Instagram gallery or live streamed showcase—Philippine fashion designers can draw in a global audience, perhaps even surpassing the international heavy hitters who refuse to evolve. All while addressing the world’s urgent public health and environmental needs. 


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