It’s hard to compete with the Grand Palais, a massive tent in the Tuileries or La Samaritaine as a fashion show venue, and for that reason, Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton dominated the Internet with their spring 2021 displays.
Those hybrid events, physical and digital, earned those three megabrands the most in terms of Media Impact Value, as tracked by Launchmetrics.
But the advent of digital fashion weeks has leveled the playing field dramatically, with mega brands and indie designers jockeying for eyeballs and engagement on screens of uniform size.
“I think the gap between big and small brands is less visible when focusing purely on the digital sphere,” said Bosse Myhr, director of women’s wear and men’s wear at Selfridges. “In a pre-COVID-19 world it was much more evident, as the budgets and resources needed to stage great spectacles are limited to a handful of houses.”
So which of the small brands broke through?
WWD canvased an array of top retailers, editors and creative directors to weigh in on digital fashion weeks in the four main capitals of New York, London, Milan and Paris. Here’s what they had to say:
Marianne Romestain, buying director at Galeries Lafayette and BHV Marais:
Overall impressions: It was very interesting to see brands’ outtake when facing the particular times we are experiencing. How they respond in their creative way let us actually discover new aspects of their world.
Gap between big and small brands: Actually the digital format lets all brand sizes have their own narrative and thanks to special effects or 3D and storytelling, everyone can showcase their vision. It was interesting to witness this kind of fashion “new deal.”
Saint Laurent RTW Spring 2021
Who broke through: Marine Serre’s short film “Amor Fati” was very powerful and was designed with a complete scenario while showing the collection. Victoria Beckham’s digital presentation in an art gallery was very poetic with sculpture and paintings matching the collection and the use of slow motion sometimes. Cecilie Bahnsen offered us a very dreamy and moody short film in windswept lands. Louis Vuitton mixed digital and physical while using green screen to show images on the walls with a physical runway at the same time. Prada’s conference where Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons answered audience questions after the digital runway stood out as it let us get to know their vision and approach.
Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada Courtesy of Prada
Julie Pont, creative director, and Jenna McFeely, trend analyst, Heuritech, Paris:
Overall impressions: This fashion week was quite different because many designers opted out of the “official” fashion week schedule in September, so there are still brands presenting their spring-summer 2021 collections this month. Marine Serre’s “Amor Fati” was one of the standout short films, as the brand used narrative to help convey the inspiration and storytelling behind the collection. Raf Simons’ debut women’s wear collection was also presented in a moody, creative short film, while Balenciaga opted for a music video format where models lip synced to a remix of “Sunglasses at Night.” Other creative video presentations worth noting are Moschino’s miniature doll show, Boramy Viguier’s video rendered in 3D animation, and Collina Strada’s quirky music video. Overall, the shorter fashion films that deviated from a simple runway show were the most effective, as they capture the viewer’s attention and provide an element of surprise.
Collina Strada RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Collina Strada
Gap between big and small brands: The biggest difference we noticed is that the bigger brands tended to stick to the traditional runway show format while the smaller brands were more creative with their digital presentations. Additionally, the major brands also tended to include far more looks in their collections compared to the more niche brands — Dior presented 86 looks, Dolce & Gabbana had 98, and Chanel had 70. These large luxury brands were unique in choosing to present so many looks, as most of the smaller brands tended to have a significantly reduced number of looks in their collections. Although this is undoubtedly related to budget constraints, having less looks is a better way to capture the viewer’s attention for an online show.
Kiko Kostadinov RTW Fall 2020 Courtesy photo
Who broke through: Boramy Viguier’s women’s wear debut was one of the standout shows. The use of 3D animation to enhance the mood of the collection was a clever way to take advantage of the digital fashion show format. Kiko Kostadinov was another standout, as the brand created an interactive video that added an element of surprise to the viewing experience. Kostadinov’s collection also included colors and textures that translate well as 2-D images, which is important to consider when presenting a digital collection. The last collection that really stood out was Saks Potts’ paparazzi-style look book. This humorous approach was a breath of fresh air that clearly resonated with viewers, as this was one of the most shared collections on my Instagram feed amongst the “smaller” brands.
Boramy Viguier RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Boramy Viguier
Tracy David, chief marketing officer, ListenFirst:
Overall impressions: The video content that stood out the most spoke to the current moment, as opposed to not addressing the pandemic. For example, one way designers spoke to the current environment was by showing off their new collections in social media videos set outside, with models social distancing, or in the case of Moschino, not using humans at all. Around Paris Fashion Week; Balenciaga received 368,249 video views for a YouTube video showing its summer 2021 pre-collection with models exploring Paris city streets alone, wearing sunglasses at night. Christian Siriano generated 299,893 responses on the social media posts he shared during New York Fashion Week, around his NYFW show that took place in his backyard. Meanwhile, around London Fashion Week, Burberry received 21,815 YouTube video views for a horror-film-like clip sharing its spring collection, with models walking single file in the woods before gathering together for a ceremony meant to symbolize regeneration. And, Moschino generated 267,902 views on YouTube for its innovative show where models and the audience were replaced by miniature string puppets. With an in-person audience no longer a prerequisite for a runway show, that really freed a lot of brands up to either be more playful or embrace visually stunning backdrops that work for a short film but wouldn’t work for a live event. Brands could take more risks.
A preview of the Christian Siriano RTW Spring 2021 show in Westport, Conn. Lexie Moreland/WWD
Gap between big and small brands: In some ways, the switch to fashion weeks primarily being a digital-only experience is a huge advantage to the big brands. One reason is because big brands have the financial resources that they can still safely stage a big, in-person runway show during the pandemic. For example, Louis Vuitton had the most successful video of the fall fashion week shows we tracked, generating 2,791,772 video views on YouTube for the presentation at La Samaritaine. Because that space is huge, the audience could safely show up in-person with celebrities like Alicia Vikander, Venus Williams and Lea Seydoux in attendance. The Balmain runway show, which received 788,444 video views on YouTube, had a live audience and video screens, so you could watch celebrities like Usher, Jennifer Lopez, and Kris Jenner be mesmerized by the new collection. For smaller fashion brands, the more creative and innovative the shows are, the more viral the videos can get. But, it does mean needing to take some risks. The great thing is that smaller brands are in a better position to be able to do that than the more established houses.
Who broke through: The London Fashion East show, which showcases new designers who aren’t established enough to host their own show yet, made a bigger splash this year. Between Sept. 17 and 22, there were 276 tweets mentioning Nensi Dojaka and 195 tweets mentioning Maximilian Davis. In comparison around last year’s slate of Fashion East designers, between Sept. 13 and 17, 2019 no presenting designer was mentioned in more than 36 tweets during London Fashion Week. The social media audience was impressed by Nensi Dojaka’s dresses while Maximilian Davis’ focus on “black elegance” resulted in British Vogue labeling him London’s new fashion star. Additionally, Leonard Paris is a smaller label that stood out with its floral-print-heavy 2021 collection presented as a trip to the beach, generating 40,155 views on YouTube.
Leonard Paris RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Leonard Paris
Sylvia Jorif, features editor, Vogue Paris:
Overall impressions: Everything was of a high standard, whether it was the films shot around the collections, or the live shows with specific components for virtual showgoers (interactive cameras, the possibility to interact with the show…). And it’s true that by following a digital calendar, I ended up watching videos by brands that I probably would not have seen in real life, especially overseas.
Gap between big and small brands: In general, they all responded with enthusiasm and creativity. Of course, the big brands stood out with high-quality films, often directed by established filmmakers. But what stood out was when brands, big or small, chose to show the clothes against the backdrop of the city. It’s what works best, and at the end of the day, isn’t it the most obvious thing to show the clothes worn in their environment? The effect is simple but very effective, and new to boot: clothing in its natural habitat. There were masterful demonstrations of this, such as Balenciaga’s short film, or Celine’s stylized version in a stadium. Smaller brands tended to use this process mostly for men’s wear, as seen at Études Studio or Blue Marble, and it worked very well. Another great approach was showing how the collections were made, with films that take you backstage and show the designer at work. John Galliano for Maison Margiela and Lutz Huelle were perfect demonstrations of this. Y/Project also made an impact by showing team members dressing models in its designs. Also of note were the images of designers on the verge of creating when they draw: Kenneth Ize, Altuzarra and Rabih Kayrouz shared a certain intimacy in this initial stage of a collection. These were special moments.
Who broke through: Kenneth Ize, Altuzarra and Rabih Kayrouz, Études Studio and Blue Marble.
Sindiso Khumalo RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Sindiso Khumalo
Bosse Myhr, director of women’s wear and men’s wear, Selfridges:
Overall impressions: We kept an eye on all of the fashion weeks and came away with a restored belief that creativity is a positive force that can be harnessed to focus myself and my team’s energy on looking ahead to a positive future. Our industry really proved to be adaptable, and personally I felt that many brands successfully showcased their incredible ingenuity.
Gap between big and small brands: The playing field is somewhat more leveled when the platform is the same for everyone. In some cases, a smaller brand is able to be more nimble in the way that content is created. That in itself is a huge opportunity for small brands who have a huge digital following.
Overall impressions: We viewed collections both digitally and in the traditional show format, as well as in buying appointments. The virtual presentations and films were definitely a strong way for designers to present their collections, allowing them to be even more creative, whether they opted for a digital look book, a film or even a game. And having one place where everyone could view all of the content was great, it felt even more democratic — anyone could get involved and be part of it.
Gap between big and small brands: Some of the more emerging talents really stepped up and inspired us. From Christopher John Rogers, whose virtual look book and film were breathtaking, to Halpern, who incorporated and celebrated key workers in a colorful film. We also loved major players like Valentino, who really brought the showroom experience to life, and Loewe’s “presentation in a box” was amazing yet again. The “Show on the Wall” concept, and hearing Jonathan [Anderson] talking through the collection, was another highlight.
Halpern RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Halpern
Who broke through: Sindiso Khumalo: Her video at Milan Fashion Week really encapsulated her brand in a meaningful way, whilst still showcasing her product beautifully and clearly.
Farrah Storr, editor in chief, Elle U.K.:
Overall impressions: I was skeptical about having to watch so many fashion shows from behind a computer screen, but given they all took such a creative approach, it was surprisingly delightful. What I mean by that is that there was true delight in the surprises each house gave us. It meant brands battled for our attention not through the power of money or fame but through their flights of creativity. Small brands, in this way, were able to capture our imagination in ways they may not have been able to do before.
Gap between big and small brands: In terms of creativity, I think big and small felt very comparable. This was a contest based on creativity alone and both big and small did it well. I was as mesmerized by the Louis Vuitton show where guests had their own “virtual” seat as much as I was by Roger Vivier’s short film starring Isabelle Huppert.
Who broke through: Michael Halpern’s digital film showcasing his designs on front-line workers felt very real and in touch with what the world wants right now. It was joyous whilst also acknowledging fashion’s place in a world where clothes were maybe the last thing people were thinking about. Erdem taking his world inside Epping Forest was a beautiful nod to the role nature has played in all our lives, whilst still feeling very Erdem and like a long, cool glass of water amidst all the fiery panic of the time.
Erdem RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Erdem
Lydia Slater, editor in chief, Harper’s Bazaar U.K. and Town & Country U.K.:
Overall impressions: I watched all of the digital fashion weeks, and overall, I think it was a great season. For me, a lot of the best shows had a physical element, with or without an audience. Balenciaga’s film was particularly visually impactful, as you’d expect, and with its high production values felt more like a music video than a fashion experience. But Erdem’s show was equally memorable in its simplicity and beauty – a livestream of models walking through a tree-lined avenue. And Moschino’s show was brilliantly entertaining with its recognizable puppet models and audience created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
Moschino RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Moschino
Gap between big and small brands: Obviously big brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada used their resources to create incredible and innovative tech-based shows, but small brands also managed to do interesting things. Marni in Milan and Eckhaus Latta in NYC both brought their clothes to the streets in films.
Who broke through: I think actually it was the human touch that resonated most — whether that was Bethany Williams’ presentation with mothers and daughters, or else Roksanda’s installation, which had her clothes shown on women of all ages and sizes and invited the small number of people who could physically attend to talk with them.
Emanuele Farneti, editor in chief of Vogue Italia and L’Uomo Vogue:
Overall impressions: I think it’s fair to say that over these past few months, a new fashion narrative has taken shape, one that did not exist at all before. As with any newly born language, this one also needs time to be fine-tuned. For this reason, I don’t agree with the excessive criticism I read after the first weeks of phy-gital fashion. Sure, it’s not easy to obtain an ideal balance between the desire for spectacular and fantastic narration with the need to really show the clothes. But the brands have just started, I don’t see why we can’t think that in a couple of seasons these formats will reach higher standards. Hopefully in addition to and not instead of the physical shows, which we really hope will return soon.p
Gap between big and small brands: I think that in an experimental season as is this one, while the budget difference between big and small brands is clear, in the end it’s not so evident. In some cases, the immediacy and freshness worked better than certain pharaonic productions. Those that won the challenge were the ones that over the past few years built a system of values around the brand and whose narration today results even more enhanced by new digital tools and the context in which we live. Those who only chose to work on the product clearly struggled, whether the budget available was big or small.
Alison Bringé, chief marketing officer, Launchmetrics:
Overall impressions: We’ve had a stronger focus on Paris Fashion Week for the past two seasons, as we launched — in partnership with the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode — its digital fashion week platform. What was inspiring to see is how each brand interpreted their digital events; certainly highly produced short films like the Dior Couture event were memorable but it doesn’t negate from the creativity displayed from brands like Balenciaga, who took to a more unique approach and made a (self-proclaimed) music video, featuring their collection in the empty streets of Paris at night. In the end, the most important thing to keep in mind, is to create content which will resonate with the voices that matter, in order to maximize your amplification and reach your end consumer.
Gap between big and small brands: I think digital has played a significant role in not only leveling the playing field, but in amplifying brand messages on a more global scale. In fact, during the recent Paris Fashion Week Men’s, we found that this digital event format provided much more exposure to smaller brands, many of whom saw their number of placements increase in comparison to previous seasons. We also witnessed a more global and dispersed reach with more than 10 percent of coverage coming from Asia. This is in contrast to traditional Paris Fashion Week events, where the majority of coverage comes from France, the U.S. and the U.K.
Jason Wu RTW Spring 2021 Masato Onoda/WWD
Who broke through: One great example of a smaller brand that managed to break through at NYFW was Jason Wu, who hosted a very limited and socially distanced rooftop show — also digitally presented. The show garnered more than double the MIV of his purely physical event last season. We could also speak to the Christian Siriano show, which ranked second in Media Impact Value ($3.1 million) overall in New York, taking a place on the podium for the first time by generating strong interest from his backyard garden show in Connecticut. This goes to show that harnessing the power of digital not only allows you to respond to fast-paced changes, but it enables you to amplify your content and collection launches to reach new markets and global audiences.
Federica Montelli, head of fashion, Rinascente:
Overall impressions: I watched all of the digital fashion weeks, from New York to Paris. The creativity and quality of the fashion films definitely progressed [along] with the season.
Gap between big and small brands: The digital platforms leveled the playing field between established luxury brands and more emerging ones. In general, the former opted for catwalk-like formats with high quality photography, while the latter were most often more creative in their film concepts.
Who broke through: There were many brands that produced interesting concepts. One of the films that stood out was “Amor Fati” by Marine Serre, which proved that the brand is here to stay.
“Amor Fati” by Marine Serre. Courtesy Photo
“Amor Fati” by Marine Serre. Courtesy Photo
Claudia Gazzelloni, buyer, LuisaViaRoma:
Overall impressions: We have watched almost all digital fashion, mostly Milan and Paris. GCDS (the video game room) by Giuliano Calza: all the items were incredibly realistic, they presented the collection in a completely new technological and revolutionary way. Also notable, the first show of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, “Dialogue,” presented through a video and interview of the two designers answering questions gathered on the brand’s social networks. Balenciaga’s fashion film was outstanding— I am still singing that song. Last but not least, Rick Owens in Venice.
GCDS RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of GCDS
Gap between big and small brands: For sure the decision of the big brands (such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Off-White) of presenting their collections in different moments instead of [during] the fashion weeks is still ringing out and everyone is looking forward to see what they will do next season.
Who broke through: Khaite’s choice of presenting the collection allowing the guests to see the new season’s items by scanning a QR code and having the items appearing in 3D renderings on their phones as if they were really present on their coffee tables or desks, was really funny and innovative.
Khaite RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Khaite
Aldo Gotti, general manager, Modes:
Overall impressions: It was difficult to closely follow all the different fashion weeks this season. For me, the “fluidity” in the schedule diluted the message.
Gap between big and small brands: For sure, the difference in the budgets spent by big and small brands was notable, but it’s not that I felt more interested in the big productions. I think the lack of physical shows with an audience in attendance and all the following that comes with them has generated a greater distance in terms of empathy with the final consumer. I noticed huge stylistic efforts, but little spontaneity in digital events.
Riccardo Ruini, creative director Riccardo Ruini Studio:
Overall impressions: I watched most of them from home. If we talk solely about shows presented through movies, I think the industry lags behind. There are still struggles in making the two languages coexist. Movies have become the easiest way, in addition to live streaming, to present a collection, but the outputs rarely manage to use the cinematic language and thus to engage [the audience]. They are not much more than content suitable for brand’s fans, the only ones who can cope with the boredom of watching a sequence of different looks. I doubt they can really expand the brand’s audience, but probably this is not part of [the brands’] intent.
Among the brands that did something relevant I can mention Moschino, with its wonderful, ironic representation of the puppet show. The Burberry movie filmed on a truck in the mountains has an interesting point of view and managed to convey emotion and tension. Also Balenciaga with its nocturnal stroll and the ad hoc music. The simplicity of ideas brought to their excess has always been a force in fashion, and Balenciaga can do it masterfully. Finally the Louis Vuitton [men’s show’s] cartoon by Virgil Abloh.
Gap between big and small brands: There’s an enormous gap in terms of budgets and production. When it comes to Moschino or Louis Vuitton almost an insurmountable one. It does not always mean that the produced content is adequate.
Who broke through: The only one I spotted and really appreciated for its vision is the movie by Ukrainian brand TTSWTRS. A technological effort that was very interesting and engaging.
TTSWTRS Virtual 360 show of “TECHNOLOGICAL SINGULARITY.” Courtesy Photo
Alessandro Maria Ferreri, founder and chief executive officer, The Style Gate consulting firm:
Overall impressions: I watched them all. I did not really understand the companies that hosted IRL shows: I do understand it’s been a huge effort to try and get back to normal life, but especially in this moment the challenge was to eventually invent something new and a new methodology that’s not transitional but permanent. The fashion world is so strange: After the first wave [of COVID-19] every company declared that they would have changed the system, produced less, promoted better and even forgone seasons and unified presentations. Little to nothing has been done in that direction. This is because on one side a lot of brands believe we’d better get back to physical shows (and I’m not sure this is a good idea); on the other because inventing alternative methods is really an important creative exercise, which would dismantle a business model that’s 50 years old. Paradoxically for the fashion world “change” is not so banal as one would expect.
Gap between big and small brands: I did not see big differences. And this is a pity. Normally you would expect that big brands, with bigger budgets, could put in play a range of smart and beautiful strategies not only aimed at promoting a potentially new way to present [the collections], but also formats from which they could gather content for social media and communication throughout the year. On the contrary, it all looked lukewarm. A range of smaller brands definitely showed more creativity, but with lower budgets the outcome did not always mirror the efforts. Generally speaking, I expected much more daring moves: a mini-series, as Gucci is doing, a sitcom or thriller series in which all the actors wear the brand’s gear to be unveiled throughout the season with a chance for consumers to buy them. A partnership with Xbox to create a video game for young customers to purchase clothes. Imagine a brand like Off-White unveiling its collections on a platform like Xbox, or Versace’s latest collection debuting on Netflix as a seasonal show? They would be amazing formats for so many reasons: They’re new, replicable, engaging throughout the season and they might also encompass physical events when we will be able to host them. From such brands as Valentino, Versace and Fendi, for instance, I would expect a stroke of genius that would set a new pace for how fashion is presented.
Who broke through: There are not many that impressed me so much. Moschino with its puppet show did something fun. However, I do think this format does not really play a strategic role when it comes to the final customer as clothes on puppets are hard to really appreciate and desire. The Prada presentation, albeit sophisticated, looked too much like a show behind closed doors and too little engaging for the customer. I see this moment as a golden opportunity, as the [COVID-19] crisis is democratizing the industry. If you have a great idea this is the moment to use it and you’ll be listened, people will remember.
Alan Prada, editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar Italy:
Overall impressions: The one I watched most closely was Milan, obviously, but I did follow all of them. I think there was a good effort in reacting to the actual situation and to find new creative ways to present a collection. In general, though, the understanding of digital strategies and logics is still something that many brands are struggling with.
Gap between big and small brands: The gap is much less compared to physical events, despite the difference in the number of followers each one has on social medias. That’s the beauty of the digital world where ideas win. It’s not about the location, the models, or even the timing and the day of your show, but how much a video can entertain and surprise, even if you don’t have the opportunity to do a stellar production.
Who broke through: Two brands that really stood out were Sunnei, in July, and GCDS, in September. Both of them did 3D animation projects that were very enjoyable and entertaining. Without being the biggest players in the fashion system they have created a real buzz with a simple concept, impeccably executed. Another video that I think had a strong impact was the puppet show by Moschino: I guess originality with a touch of magic always works.
Massimiliano De Marianis, women’s wear senior buyer, Folli Follie:
Overall impressions: I’ve seen all the fashion weeks and among the video shows I found Prada and Celine very innovative.
Celine RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Celine
Gap between big and small brands: At the level of digital presentations I have to say no.
Who broke through: In my opinion, there are several at the moment, mostly North Europeans and Americans, including Samsøe Samsøe. In general, I believe that the young age of the founders, who grew up and were formed in an already digital era, can, at this moment, help them emerge.
Gap between big and small brands: We didn’t see a gap between what small and big brands accomplished this season, and I applaud each and every designer that carried the torch forward and continued to move their business ahead during this challenging time. What made this season so special was that designers created collections and presentations that were personal and authentic. It was refreshing to see brands big and small take a more genuine approach to fashion this season.
Who broke through: Khaite was a standout this season. Catherine Holstein presented her collection in an incredibly thoughtful way through a beautiful book with stunning photography and fabric swatches.
Arielle Siboni, fashion director for ready-to-wear, Bloomingdale’s:
Overall impressions: I thought several brands put out some great films including Balenciaga, Prada and Celine, but nothing can replace attending a fashion show. The grandiose settings, listening to the music live, the energy you feel, and seeing the clothes in person speak to all of your senses — so videos needed to be really captivating in order to be effective and memorable. I loved the video for Michael Kors, which really showed the inspiration behind the collection. I could feel his love for fashion even through the screen, and his craftsmanship and talent really came across, a difficult feat when not in person. His video gave us a sneak peek into his design and thought processes, which is why it resonated with me the most. Also, Thom Browne’s futuristic video was a really fun and unique way to present his clothes. It was nice also to be able to rewatch certain shows and videos to take a second look, and catch some details you may have missed the first time.
Gap between big and small brands: While larger brands certainly have an advantage in creating more videos and larger scale productions, overall this way of presenting collections has narrowed the gap creatively between larger and emerging brands. It’s a big step toward democratizing fashion weeks around the world.
Who broke through: Brock Collection, Christopher Esber, Peter Do, Altuzarra and Cecilie Bahnsen all put out videos that captured my attention by highlighting their clothing in a compelling way, and establishing a clear point of view in line with their brand identity.
Brock Collection RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Brock Collection
Gary Wassner, chief executive officer, Hildun Corp. and chairman, InterLuxe Holdings:
Overall impressions: Personally, I felt very detached and I didn’t love the experience. The films weren’t immersive. Most felt like overproduced advertisements. This could also have been a result of all that’s going on around us. I found it difficult to get excited about the shows.
Gap between big and small brands: Most of the smaller brands either didn’t do anything significant or created much simpler presentations, much like digital look books. Naturally they couldn’t compete. It’s no different than it was when they were all showing on the runways. The European mega brands spent millions, and the U.S. independent brands spent a fraction of that. But it’s really about the clothing, isn’t it? Or it should be. This season it was. I was not interested in the presentations, but more interested in the product. During live shows, the industry interaction is part of the experience. Absent that, I don’t need lavish productions.
Overall impressions: To me, it made little difference. I looked at product and styling. I see new designs all year round regardless of the season or timing. Live shows provide a 360-degree view of both the designer’s achievement and the audience interaction. Lacking the physical experience and intimacy it generates with the brand, it’s all the same to me.
Lisa Aiken, buying and fashion director, Moda Operandi:
Overall impressions: Brands are being incredibly creative and figuring out how to adapt to this new normal of digital fashion weeks. My personal highlight was Balenciaga’s video — creative and cool. All that being said, overall the films missed the mark and don’t have the buzz of a live runway show. Runway shows allow me to connect to the brand and designer on a deeper level, that type of storytelling was lost in the films.
Gap between big and small brands: A positive result of digital fashion weeks is the democratization of shows and presentations. Runway shows are expensive but in the digital realm, small brands can be scrappy and creatively produce a digital presentation or film on par with the big brands. The digital schedule also allows for a more fluid schedule, I don’t need to pick between two competing shows across town; I can easily open a new tab and start watching the next show back to back.
Who broke through: Peter Do is a great example of the benefit of showing outside the usual fashion calendar. We saw his spring 2021 collection, one of his strongest to date, during the resort season, allowing both buyers and clients to engage with the collection without the buzz of runway season as a distraction. The collection was a foreshadowing of fashion to come. Do took his signature tailoring, pulled back the structure, and softened it for the current world. The collection had an ease that can be worn in front of a screen, in office or outside for dinner.
Peter Do RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy of Peter Do
Linda Fargo, senior vice president of the fashion office and the director of women’s fashion and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman:
Overall impressions: The fashion tribe is nothing if it’s not adaptable and responsive to the times! This recent virtual season proved that most designers harnessed the challenges and restrictions and actually found new and often better ways to express their collections than the traditional soldiers of fashion on a runway. The new digital toolbox allowed for more range of artistry using movement, lighting and sound to great new effect. Imagining that these presentations were probably more cost effective too than the runways. The range of digital expression was frequently impressive and satisfying.
Gap between big and small brands: Some designers used new technology for greater intimacy with us, allowing us into their worlds and thinking. Behind the process with Jonathan Anderson for Loewe (who should consider a career in film — that voice!) was a standout. The interview between Raf and Miuccia for their seminal launch of their new [Prada] collaboration was very meaningful and insightful and wouldn’t have happened in more traditional times…it was a privilege to listen in and witness the results of their new work together. FaceTime with Jack and Lazaro [Proenza Schouler] and Joseph Altuzarra were also very special and conveyed their collections in a way we had never experienced before. Michael Kors’ multidimensional approach, bridging a big Zoom convo with a musical performance and his savvy understanding of women and our times, was also an excellent use of new digital formats.
Who broke through: We loved how both Chloé and Balenciaga were able to make runway a reality by filming in the streets, one by day and the other night crawling. Fashion is meant to live there anyways and this approach captured cinematically gave it more context. These new times gave rise to expressive new short films — a new career opportunity in fashion. Many of them were actually as memorable and evocative of a good film, especially when the soundtracks were strong. Citing Cecilie Bahnsen’s moody moors, Thom Browne’s epic Olympic Stadium, Dior’s exceptional performance and art fusion, Marine Serre’s surreal futurist Body creation. The dystopian inky mood of the times was well reflected in videos by Rokh, Khaite and Sacai. The importance of nature in our lives now was also ever present in numerous videos shot outdoors; Brock, Stella McCartney, Jason Wu. Net-net, although there felt to be something lost by not being able to touch and physically see the clothing and the people, there was also something gained in the creative approaches so deftly adapted.
Cecilie Bahnsen RTW Spring 2021 Courtesy Photo
Trey Laird, founder, chief executive and chief creative officer, Laird + Partners:
Overall impressions: What I reacted to with this season’s films especially was the huge contrast between films that captured your attention conceptually as content, and all the rest that were basically just regular fashion show videos. The Moschino marionette show was by far the most original and captivating concept. As well as the visually stunning Jacquemus show through the lavender fields. Two very different examples – but both original unique concepts that went beyond just documenting a runway.
Caroline Maguire, fashion director, Shopbop:
Overall impressions: Despite the challenging times, I felt that designers stepped up and thoughtfully displayed their collection in creative, meaningful and impactful ways. I also appreciated that the shows were accessible even after they went live, in case I wasn’t able to attend live due to conflicting schedules such as homeschooling or doing drop-off or pickup with my kids.
Gap between big and small brands: There was a distinction in the way small and larger brands presented. Bigger brands, despite the obvious challenges, were still able to pull together incredible runway productions, creating intricate and unique set-ups like we’ve seen in the past, with some even able to safely have press and VIPs in the audience. Smaller brands tended to gravitate towards lookbooks or audience-less shows that were a bit more intimate, but still captured the dynamic feels of each collection piece. I appreciated both versions, but definitely missed the in-person interactions of fashion week.
Who broke through: There were so many thoughtful shows during fashion week, but the brands that stood out were Isabel Marant, Ulla Johnson, Jason Wu, Balmain, and Simone Rocha.
Karl Templer, KTCS Inc., New York:
Overall impressions: I caught most of the content released by brands via their social media platforms and web sites. The industry, like the rest of the world, is reacting to the pandemic and our new circumstances with creativity and a new sense of compassion. I saw lots of different experimentation and felt many brands expanding how they express their vision. I still feel everyone is finding their footing and reassessing what worked and what didn’t.
Gap between big and small brands: As so many of us are viewing these presentations through the same social media platforms, things like Instagram become a great equalizer as they’re giving equal space despite brand size. There’s an entire ecosystem of a physical fashion show that can create a synergy that leads to a social media explosion. We definitely saw less of that this time, things came and went much faster but I do feel that I didn’t sense such a disparity between the ambitions of the smaller brands and the larger brands, which have far greater resources.
Who broke through: I still find the Jacquemus show from July to be one of the strongest examples of using the pandemic to one’s advantage in a way. Because they didn’t have the responsibility to have the typical audience of editors, journalists and buyers, they were able to transport their collection to a different environment and create a setting that enhanced the experience of their collection. I felt similarly about seeing the recent Celine and Raf Simons shows, not having to factor in a large physical audience and the hectic back-to-back schedule of a fashion week these designers were able to transport their collections to settings that added a different element to their showings. Additionally, a brand like Jil Sander that forewent a traditional fashion show for a look book was able to visually expand their language in interesting and dynamic new ways through their photography.
Jean-Jacques Picart, consultant, Paris:
Overall impressions: It was not an easy season for all fashion professionals: How to transmit an emotion with the goal of creating desire and orders? Even if a brand succeeded to design a fantastic e-fashion moment, buyers and editors missed the realistic feeling of materials, cuts, true colors, and the movement of the clothes. The Internet may translate an impactful emotion through an image, but it’s not enough for the fashion specialists: They also need a direct contact with the garments they are supposed to report on or sell.
Gap between big and small brands: For the first time, show and Internet were treated as complementary partners. I think that after this pandemic, fashion brands and fashion designers will use both an e-fashion show together with an onstage fashion show. It will be the only way to meet the expectations from the fashion fans and the fashion pros.
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