Phygital Fashion: Is this the Future for Fashion Shows?

The Future of Fashion Shows

Following our One Week Fashion Journalism Course, student Laura Laycock addresses the topical subject of just what is future for fashion shows and does the answer lie in the ‘phygital’… 

The Future for Fashion Shows


Whilst 2020 has been an unprecedented year, it has also been an extremely important one in bringing about an understanding that a return to ‘normal’ in a post pandemic world isn’t good enough. Such an understanding has brought a heightened awareness of the important shift that the fashion industry needs to undergo, and, within this, the nature of fashion shows themselves. 


A Blended Approach


With the dawn of a more digital, socially conscious decade, fashion shows need to adapt in order to stay relevant. Whilst virtual fashion shows have become the norm during the current pandemic, a blend of digital and real life will be necessary post pandemic. Fashion shows themselves conflict with an increasing emphasis on sustainability, however real-life shows are essential in creating an experience for the audience in which the clothing, brand and its vision come to life.

The theatrical and blockbuster nature of fashion shows communicates with the audience by fusing fashion with fantasy and escapism, especially important within the present pandemic. The social aspect of real-life shows is also crucial in the launching of innovative and boundary pushing new brands. This was the case for the pioneering and progressive brand Telfar. Encapsulated within the brand’s mantra, ‘it’s not for you – it’s for everyone.’ Telfar’s unisex clothing has helped to challenge traditional understandings of fashion, diversity and gender stereotypes. 


The Power of  the ‘Phygital’


Thus, without turning completely digital, fashion shows need to adopt a more sustainable ethos and utilise digital platforms to a greater extent. The term ‘phygital’ here captures the amalgamation of the digital and physical world, allowing brands to provide a more interactive and accessible experience for audiences as well as communicate with them on an unparalleled level. 


In a society where greater awareness is being brought to wider social and cultural issues, catalysed especially over this last year, fashion shows need to be about more than just the clothing. Fashion is often considered to be ‘apolitical,’ yet within the existing social climate brands are beginning to speak out; using their platforms, of which fashion shows are a prominent one, to help promote change. 


Whilst this year’s digital London Fashion week was gender-neutral, helping to showcase and provide a platform for gender-free brands, Nicolas Ghesquière enhanced the phygital concept for the Louis Vuitton spring 2021 show which explored the freedom of non-binary fashion.

Maria Grazia Chiuri’s execution of Dior’s Fall 2020 show helped promote feminist discourse, overlapping with wider social currents, such as the #MeToo movement, through the showcase of messages such as ‘I Say I’ and ‘Consent.’ Utilising ‘front-row’ fashion show politics, Maria Grazia Chiuri firmly communicated Dior’s brand identity as one of social activism by seating prominent intersectional feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the front row. Thus, these shows have helped set the stage for allying fashion with wider social messages and meaning.


A New Era of Fashion


Overall, perhaps Versace’s Spring Summer 2021 live streamed fashion show should come to mind here as a starting point for a new era of fashion shows. The show, that amalgamated elements of digital and real life, reflected on the role of fashion in the post-pandemic world, exploring the idea of rebirth and rising from the mythical depths of the underwater ruins of ‘Versacepolis.’ The show transported its audience to the underwater magic of a ruined city filled with vibrant coloured clothes covered in jewelled seahorses, seashells and scallop hems. It was glitz and glamour but imbued with undercurrents of empowerment, body positivity, inclusivity, sustainability and diversity. The show made an important statement for example in the inclusion of plus-sized models, Jill Kortleve, Precious Lee and Ava Claire, on the runway. 


The SS21 Versace show thus utilised fashion as both fantasy and escapism, but simultaneously instilled it with a wider message and purpose. Here the nature of fashion shows is redefined, becoming positive forces of change and empowerment, a template which will hopefully encapsulate the future of fashion shows and the industry on a wider level. 


By Laura Laycock, One-Week Fashion Journalism student

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