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What Is The Future Of Fashion Weeks?

When I was little, the future used to seem infinite. The year looked as though it lasted for ages and the wishes made seemed to have no expiration date. With the passage of time I began to notice that New Year’s Eves started to come by much faster, years shrank into months and sometimes even days. It became much more difficult to feel brand new, feel fresh emotions and give impressions — everything seemed like it’s already happened. As adults, we need more edgy and innovative triggers to experience new catharsis.

After the pandemic , the fashion industry started to look for dimensions to evolve. The restrictions of in-person shows prompted designers to conquer digital. Personally, I had some doubt with hints of nostalgia while not seeing Autumn-Winter 2020–2021 Haute Couture shows. The new rules of living came quite unexpectedly, everyone had to accommodate themselves to a new reality.

After having spent a decade visiting every physical fashion show happening in the 4 main fashion capitals, I understood that there are events created for in-person execution— meeting people, networking, attracting buyers, and actually selling garments before they are sewed. The initial purpose of fashion defiles that were first held by Charles Frederick Worth — in the middle of the 1800s — was to give future customers an opportunity to see the dresses in movement and feel the fabrics. Frederick was also the one who started signing his garments and establishing the first fashion house.

As a matter of fact, we’re lucky to be stuck in the pandemic days, as there are far more opportunities to demonstrate whatever you want without physically gathering in a room full of models. Technologies have evolved, giving way to development of everything else that seemed to stay untouched forever.

As a result of many changes, a number of brands jumped on the bandwagon of ruddering their activities to digital. Thanks to these technologies, we’ve all seen a dazzling presentation of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s haute couture garments in her fantastical world shot by Matteo Garrone and accompanied by Paolo Buonvino. Likewise, the pandemic conditions allowed us to catch the glimpses of Chanel’s haute couture garments creation process. Though wonderful, video form, unfortunately, has nothing to do with the cutting-edge solutions we now have (it’s like being Lumiere brothers in a Marvel Studios world).

It’s fair to mention that any changes to the fashion industry were being introduced in a long and difficult manner. Suffice it to recall how long it took for brands to abandon natural fur (and not everyone did). Many of them simply do not want, or, more precisely, do not see the point in changing — this is a resource-intensive process. And it’s scary — the result is unknown. You must have the courage to admit that you may need to give up your seat and move on.

So basically the pandemic became a catalyst in the fashion industry metamorphosis. On the other hand, it bears mentioning that some of the designers in recent years have already fantasized about the future. For example, the Creative Director of Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia, was giving his thought to the apocalyptic future of the world and portrayed it in his Spring 2019 and Fall 2020 ready-to-wear collections featuring a location with a drowned runway and flames simulating illumination.

But if a quirky location was just the first step towards converting to digital, then Balenciaga’s Fall 2021 ready-to-wear is a deep and irreversible dive into it. With no physical shows, Demna Gvasalia has turned into a game designer. “I hate the idea of fashion film. I find it very dated,” he says. Basically, Demna and his team created a location for their show in a digital dimension by developing a digital interactive space where every person notwithstanding their location, status, or occupation can become a welcomed guest.

Talking about the future of fashion, I’m deeply convinced that it belongs to digital. It seems like the ‘see now — buy now’ trend got off the ground just yesterday. 3 years later what we have is the ‘buy-Instagram-return’ trend. We forgot about slow living, now we employ fast living, fast news, fast newsbreaks, fast consumption, fast everything. The main tool is our phone and to be no slouch, fashion brands have to contend with this fact. Even Alexandre de Betak includes the ‘take phone out of pocket’ time into the timing of his shows.

So will digital become a new beginning of the fashion industry or just a temporary floating ring on the way back to physical — only time will show. Maybe everyone will return to Gabriel Chanel-like defiles or in a few years, the moon will be a location for the next Prada show. The only thing I’m sure about is that runway shows are never going to be the same.

Co-authored with Elena Saraniuk

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