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Are In-Person Runway Shows Back and Here to Stay?

Taking a data-backed analysis at the return of Fashion Month.

Source: Duane Mendes via Unsplash

Nearly two years ago, when panic and germs spread rapidly worldwide, fashion weeks everywhere were met with a crisis. Several high-fashion brands took the utmost of safety precautions and ceased their in-person runway shows, instead turning towards digital formats, such as Saint Laurent’s cinematic short, and Loewe’s 24-hour livestream show.

Today, as restrictions on in-person gatherings begin to lift and vaccination rates rise, what does Fashion Week this year—flowing from New York, to London, to Milan, to Paris—look like?

Who’s In

After a brief, year-and-a-half-long pause, some brands have decided to return to their glamorous roots of extravagant runway show gatherings.

Notably, after pulling out of Paris Fashion Week last year, Saint Laurent is back on the calendar. Perhaps Saint Laurent felt showcasing new collections via photographs or movies was not a sufficient method to capture and convey the magic of its clothing? I mean, is watching their runway online comparable to seeing it live, under a glittering, lit-up Eiffel tower?

Regardless, Saint Laurent’s exit-and-quick-return highlights an important dilemma the fashion industry must consider as technical disruptions continue: when are digital channels sufficient, and when do they fall short of the mark?

This predicament manifests itself on a case-by-case basis. While some big-players, including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Dior are returning to staging in-person runways, the option to stray from pre-2020 norms and, instead, pursue entirely different—predominantly digital—mediums, remains appealing to others.

Who’s Out

Across the channel, at London fashion week, Burberry left a significant hole in the calendar. A hallmark of British fashion, Burberry’s decision to not stage an in-person runway collection—especially after doing so last season—certainly sparked confusion.

Burberry, though, was in good company. Other big-British fashion players, including Vivienne Westwood and Temperley London, opted for digital-only formats this year.

In real-time, then, we can observe century-old, legacy fashion brands slowly, yet surely, considering the opportunities of selecting digital channels to showcase their work; the enhancements, freedoms, and vaster reach they allow.

So, by going against the current of its back-to-in-person-runway-show peers, could Burberry be onto something?

The Data

Data says, it seems like it. According to Google Search data, interest in fashion week has plummeted 25% since 2019, with a 53% drop from its five-year high back during the 2017 seasons.

So, if fashion week’s intrigue is generally and consistently on a downslope, is it worth it—or even sensible—to look back towards pre-2020 traditions? Or, is it the very 2017-fashion-week-peak that brands are attempting to re-foster?

For now, welcome back, Saint Laurent. As for the rest of fashion month — I’ll be patiently and eagerly waiting to see how the return-to-runway plays out, as well as towards which mediums brands turn next season.

I’m a NYC-based software engineer researching the intersection between technology and fashion. My roots are in Spain & Cuba. Read more of my stuff here, or check out my pride and joy, “The Little Book of Big Fashion Data”.




Where data meets fashion. All views expressed are ours alone & not those of our employers.

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Madé Lapuerta

Madé Lapuerta

Big nerd writing about the intersection between technology & fashion. Spanish/Cuban turned New Yorker. Founder & Editor at Dashion: medium.com/dashion.

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