Next month, London Fashion Week Men’s will be replaced with a digital-only, gender-neutral platform living on LFW’s website, starting with a digital fashion week from 12-14 June. In a landmark collaboration between big tech and fashion — with some tech companies new to fashion entirely — the platform will give members of the public and the trade access to interviews, podcasts, webinars and digital showrooms. Consumers can buy from existing collections and retailers can order for next season.
This announcement made a statement: the future of fashion shows will be digitised.
It took a couple weeks for Milan, and then Paris, to follow with digital overhauls of their own. (New York, which cancelled its summer resort shows and postponed its men’s shows, has yet to announce a digital format.) The newly online Paris Fashion Week will show Spring/Summer 2021 Men’s 9-13 July, and Milan Digital Fashion Week will follow on 14-17 July.
While these fashion capitals are the most influential, the past month has already given a glimpse of what an all-digital fashion show or fashion week might look like. China’s Shanghai Fashion Week pivoted to a livestream on sponsor Alibaba’s Tmall e-commerce platform at the end of March, followed by G-Star Raw’s 3 April “Stay-at-Home Catwalk” and San Francisco apparel brand Betabrand’s quirky “Work from Home Fashion Show” on 15 April, among others.
By 1 May, YouTube hosted its first at-home fashion show livestream. The 32-minute amfAR fundraiser was organised by fashion editor Carine Roitfeld’s CR Runway. Produced in less than a week, it featured models including Karlie Kloss, Amber Valletta and Halima Aden walking at home as if on a runway. YouTube, which also served as the home base for Mexico’s first digital fashion week in April, is working with the British Fashion Council as it develops its new platform.
“The three big questions everyone is asking are: what’s in your show, how can you show it and when are you going to show it? The good news is that I know all of the questions. The bad news is I think we're all struggling to find the answers,” says Derek Blasberg, head of fashion and beauty at YouTube.
These new formats for showing and buying collections — if they even remain collections — force the issue on an industry already succumbing to the tides of change. What does a digital fashion week mean? And, crucially, what is the point of fashion week?
“The whole point is changing,” says the London College of Fashion’s Matthew Drinkwater, who heads its Fashion Innovation Agency. “There is always going to be that buying element — that's not going to disappear — but it is going to become drastically reduced.”
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