The thunder sounded out from Olympus itself: While the corona crisis was still raging, the Italian fashion god Giorgio Armani wrote an impassioned letter in which he held his guild to account with no holds barred. He called the overproduction in the fashion industry “absurd” and “criminal” and stated: “The decline of the fashion system began when the luxury segment adopted the operating methods of fast fashion, mimicking the latter’s endless delivery cycle in the hope of selling more, yet forgetting that luxury takes time to be achieved and to be appreciated.” He announced changes to be made within his own house: No more elaborate cruise shows for which customers and the press have to fly all around the world and fewer grandiose spectacles. From now on, summer collections will remain in store until September. Gucci also announced that it will now only hold two fashion shows per year and will not release its autumn fashion until autumn.
Such clear statements have not yet been made in the fashion metropolis of Paris. In fact, only Saint Laurent has dared to speak up and announce that it is leaving the official fashion calendar. The Menswear Fashion Week and Haute Couture in July already relied on digital live streams and videos. The advantage: nobody had to go through the loved, yet hated, motions of typical Fashion Week rituals: Asking for an invitation. Hoping that the courier will bring one, typically, only at the last minute. Agonising about what to wear every single time. Making their way across Paris in overfilled Metro trains. Waiting in a queue to be squished together in tightly packed seats. Finally enduring the obligatory 30-minute wait until the last VIPs have taken their seats in the front row and the show can begin. In virtual shows, everyone has a front-row seat. The pecking order of who gets to sit in which row is dispensed with, as are climate-wrecking flights for guests from all over the world. The disadvantage: digital events also do away with the crazy circus, the flair, the glamour, the hustle and bustle and the exceptional situation – everything that makes the Fashion Week so special. Only watching fashion on the computer is a bit like sex on Youporn.
My first time already took place back in February with two young and prophetic Danes. “Heliot Emil” are the pioneers of virtual fashion shows. Ever since they founded their exciting unisex label in 2016, they have only presented their models online, for cost reasons. I received a link and at 1pm, I clicked on it to join around 30,000 other spectators from the comfort of my home: live, safe from corona, without make-up and in my comfy knitted socks. I took my seat in the front row, while far away in Copenhagen, blank-faced models walked through a room with metal walls. I was able to use my computer touchpad to constantly change the perspective in a 360-degree space and could order the clothes and bags that I liked immediately with just one extra click. The image quality wasn’t all that great and the atmosphere was rather cool, claustrophobic and aseptic. With all their money, the major Parisian fashion houses are sure to have more impressive virtual aces up their sleeves but nevertheless: this isn’t the way to communicate glamour and a really stimulating atmosphere. Digital fashion shows can be no more than an emergency solution. But before the French tell us what they want to do differently in September, they won’t do anything but set off for their holidays, just like always. That’s something that neither the coronavirus nor an economic crisis can change.
© Silke Bender