How the pandemic altered the future of fashion week

pandemic future fashion week

MA Creative Direction for Fashion Media student, Reyes Triano, reflects on how the pandemic altered the future of fashion week and the growing relationship between the digital and physical world. 


“We know everywhere can be a runway, if your mind has something to walk down it,” shares poet and trans visibility activist,  Kai-Isaiah Jamal. Capturing the tone of the industry’s new normality, this past year, fashion weeks took on a new form, devoid of its usual idiosyncrasies and the catwalk became something more than simply something to walk clothes down.  


A call for innovation prompted by the pandemic


Adapting to COVID-19 restrictions encouraging social distancing and quarantine measures, the crowded backstage of fashion week became something of the past. Instead, the digital sphere took on new responsibility with personalised online make-up tutorials, while live events turned to IGTV’s. The challenge became apparent: bringing texture and the movement of fabrics to consumers behind a screen. And in order for viewers to be drawn to the collections, designers were tasked to be more expressive that ever, showcasing collections in an audio-visual arena. 

Between brands, the approach was unique. For street-punk designer Xander Zhou, the digital shift prompted him to scan in stills of models to create 3D images of the collection, akin to video game characters while contemporary label Ray Chu combined movie-like scenarios with a CGI runway. Expanding storylines, designers such as Apujan, a Taiwanese knitwear brand, introduced the collection with a short film while clothes appeared simultaneously in the background, while the viewer was invited along a sci-fi story.



Utilising the home space as a makeshift studio space


One other prevailing route for designers was the increase in self-production. Irish designer Parnell Mooney made the fittings for his new collection on himself, while booking just one model for LFW. The presentation, simple yet effective, shows at-home studio images of the outfits being printed, the analogue imagery connecting the audience to a yearning physical world. Wither lower costs and paired down production, this staged an opportunity for more intimate experiences. 



How digital is altering the future of the fashion week


With the increase of digital productivity over the past years, rising critics ask how far we can distinguish the relationship between human models alongside digital? Furthermore, while fashion shows are a collective effort, designers prevailed over the past year by learning to future-proof their brands from remote collaboration as the online world continues to provide manifold ways to create a fashion show without physical contact between staff. Accidental Cutting, an experimental pattern cutting method employed by architect and designer, Eva Iszoro, uses 3D-rendered mannequins and focuses on accurately showcasing the movement of fabrics in a game-like manner with no models in sight. Similarly, illustrations of the pieces were used by bag design firm Hill and Friends in a two-dimensional animation titled “Happy Bag and the Gang go to Fashion Week”. In this case, the handbags have arms and legs, and walk the runway on their own.



The growing relationship between digital and physical


Kelly Vero, game development expert and recent Condé Nast College industry speaker, describes the strength of gaming, augmented reality and computer-generated experiences to be a strong contestant to conventional fashion shows: “There’s a lot of things we can do with fashion, with action and with depth that we couldn’t ordinarily do if we are just on the front row of Paris Fashion Week”. The fashion industry is undergoing a mandatory exploration of the digital world. Even when the majority of shows are traditional runway, a door has been opened to alternative ways of displaying and advertising collections with its core in the online world.


By Reyes Triano, MA Creative Direction for Fashion Media


Read about Kelly Vero’s Industry Talk

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