Lucas Assunção ︎
© crimson / ADOBE STOCK
HOW’S THE POST-PANDEMIC CATWALK DOING?
One year after the beginning of social distancing, the fashion world reveals the possible future of runways and collection presentations from now on.
In March of last year, after a tense runway season, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode announced that future Paris Fashion Week runways would be interrupted because of the pandemic of the COVID-19, move that was followed by other organizations, such as the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Few days before, the arrival of the coronavirus (always!) in Italy caused apprehension during Milan Fashion Week and made people like Giorgio Armani find a way to get along. Just over a year later - and after a series of uneasy adaptations - you can already understand and measure the impacts of social isolation on runways and the overall presentations.
THE INITIAL SHOCK
The necessity of rethinking the format of the collections presentations ended up shaking the inner structures of a system that has been settled on the same logic for quite some time. This initial shock caused by the cancellation of the runway shows ended serving as a chatalizer for a series of questions that were already taking shape within the industry. Remember the environmental impact of Saint Laurent's Spring-Summer 20 runway on California Bay? Well, yeah. Social distancing reinforced a need to recalibrate and reestablish the relationships between brand, media and consumer, and the most courageous brands took the lead for themselves.
Still during the early months of the pandemic in the West, the cancellation of fashion weeks and the avoidance of the official calendar by several brands already signaled an exhaustion of the format. If six annual collections seemed exaggerated in the past, in a world in which we have a minimum of social contact and we live in a pandemic that opens up the environmental justice guidelines, this number becomes absurd.
Besides that, the relevance of the fashion weeks was based on the visibility of the superproductions of a select group of big brands - who, today, with enough power to dictate their own rhythm, abandon the fashion weeks.
Well, if, on the one hand, Balenciaga, Gucci and Saint Laurent jump out of the fashion weeks where they have consolidated themselves, Bottega goes even further saying they don’t need social media, launching its own digital mag. The brand thus takes full control of their communication and leaves the busy community of fans of the label in charge of their presence on social media.
In addition to the need to rethink the logistics of runways for the digital realm, there is also a certain concern about which virtual spaces to explore and how to incorporate their languages. Celine, for example, decided to bet on TikTokers to go beyond the exhaustion brought by the instagramable aesthetics. In December last year, Balenciaga jumped off the traditional platforms to bet on the game Afterworld: the Age of Tomorrow, where it presented its Fall 2021 collection.
NOT-THAT-NEW DIGITAL FORMATS
Fashion weeks were back in the middle of 2020, under the premise of “Phygital”, between digital and physical presentations, with restrictive measures.
In that first moment, what dominated the fashion weeks were the great presentations and almost epic films showcased by the brands. It had everything: from escapist delusions to dystopian confabulations. The highlights were the Dior Haute Couture Winter 20 - which, with an enchanted forest, celebrated the théâtre de la mode and the savoir-faire of post-war French haute couture -, the cinephile GucciFest and the existentialist “AMOR FATI”, by Marine Serre. The logic of creating big productions, with dense stories and audiovisual resources, comes from an attempt to captivate the consumer by narrative and enchantment, since, in practice, no one would really need new luxury clothes during social isolation.
A few seasons later, the brands seem to have returned to some traditional formulas, even here, in the digital universe. The presentations of the past few months are less about innovative films and formats and more about the good old fashion shows, shaped to have greater affinity with the small screen. After all, in times of rethinking priorities and primacy for functionality, fashion is about clothes, before being about art. For the average spectator, who has always seen runways digitally, this conclusion is not so strange.
We can’t say, however, that there have been no changes at all. Looking at presentations as a primarily digital format creates the need to create a product that is more attractive in that format, and that appears in the details. Among the various digital presentations, the ones that most fill the eye are those that go back to the traditional charms of the runways, but abuse the audiovisual resources and post-production to generate even more interesting products. Mugler's Spring Summer 21 is a good example: in a dark shed, with a heavy casting, what seems to be presented is a common runway show. But, to our surprise, a stunt team performs acrobatics and juggles like the models themselves and the show ends with a water shower on Hunter Schafer, all played backwards. The collab BalenciagaxGucci, unveiled this Thursday (04/15), invited the magician of the video clips Floria Sigismondi to establish their place as a pop event and make teasing comments about the pandemic escapism.
ESCAPISM, OVER AND OVER AGAIN
It’s true that we buy more when we are frustrated, but this reality is only true when consumption appears as a prospect of improvement, of instigating desires. Perhaps that’s why the so-called “Escapism” sets the tone of the brands' collections - and not just the luxury giants -, from the beginning of the pandemic to the present day. Whether in Daniel Roseberry's praised surrealism for Schiaparelli or in the literal interpretations of Balmain's intergalactic scenarios and planes, the desire is to go somewhere else, being it real or not.
The promise of vaccines for everyone and the beginning of a post-covid life in some countries - realities that are still very distant for Brasil, as you can see in our Status Covid - seems to ignite a spark of hope (or nostalgia?) in fashion. Kenzo's fall 2021 presentation reminds us of scenes that are easy to find at a techno party, from Berlin to São Paulo.
While the big brands finally seem to be navigating the logistics of presentations amid social isolation, the fashion weeks themselves face a more complicated time. With digital presentations and without the benefits of a face-to-face deal, fashion weeks can become obsolete and risk being nothing more than temporal groupings of launches.