Paris Fashion Week Goes Digital

Due to coronavirus concerns, Paris Fashion Week follow’s London’s example and goes online.

July 6, 2020 marks the beginning of Paris’ first digital fashion shows. Couture shows will air from July 6-9 and Spring/Summer 2021 men’s shows will run from July 9-13. Men’s shows were delayed from their original June 23-28 dates to allow the fashion community to adjust to coronavirus.

Paris is not the first to go digital. London’s fashion week in June, spearheaded by the British Fashion Council, was also online. In the coming weeks, Milan’s SS21 fashion week will also be digital, from July 14-17, as will New York’s. However, the fashion capitals seem to be leaning towards a return to in-person shows. Paris and Milan, for instance, have announced that their September shows will be physical, not digital.

Big Differences: Physical vs. Virtual

Digital fashion shows have failed to draw significant attention online and have received mixed reviews, according to VogueThis feedback is primarily in response to London Fashion Week, so perhaps Paris will be more successful. However, it is hard to imagine that other digital fashion events will elicit very different responses from the public.

Going digital removes the excitement and anticipation of an in-person fashion show. It takes away the exclusivity and opportunities to meet new people in the industry. This lack of exclusivity may be a positive. The online format makes usually out-of-reach fashion experiences accessible to the lay-person. However, there is a very real negative as well: the focus of these shows has not been on the clothes. Going online means that fashion houses and designers must do everything they can to make their video as attention-grabbing as they can. For some, like Balmain, this has meant recruiting famously talented creatives like Andrew Makadsi, art director of Beyoncé’s videos, to record their shows. For others, it has meant more focus on sound and set than would have gone into a physical show. The result: digital experiences that are about the experience more than the clothes on the runway.

Some fashion houses have opted out of this online event, including Givenchy and Valentino. Givenchy just named a new designer, Matthew Williams, to succeed Clare Waight Keller, who stepped down in April, and are taking time to adjust. Valentino has decided, as many houses have, to show its men’s and women’s collections at the same time, and physically, in September.

While going digital is a reasonable response to the pandemic, and perhaps the only option bar canceling the shows entirely, it seems unlikely that online formats will replace the experience of a physical fashion show. Still, despite coronavirus, despite the imperfection of this online alternative, it’s summer, it’s fashion week—head online and watch the shows!

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