On average, about 600 people attend a fashion show every season. If you look at the digital audience considering the live streaming, we might be looking at an audience of about 10 million. So, what’s in store
Representational Image Mumbai: The madness and organised chaos of the backstage, the last-minute jitters felt by the designers and models until the light goes off and then the beat drops, the celebration of Haute couture with the brightest minds of the fashion fraternity exhibiting their talent under a single roof and the creation of magic on the runway, the big question is; WILL ALL THIS BE A THING OF THE PAST?
A fashion show depicts the beauty of the collection, months if not years of hard work and creativity put into it, and innumerable hours of rehearsals. What happens to those mega runway shows with a class showstopper act as the grand finale? Will fashion shows go digital too? Can a virtual show have the same impact as a physical show? At this time of the year, typically the fashion industry is neck-deep gearing up for back-to-back fashion weeks, showcasing their latest couture. But 2020 is nothing like what we have seen before. It has become the year of ‘New Normal’ where everything has turned virtual, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current scenario demands the scale of events be downsized.
The acclaimed London Fashion Week went digital earlier this year and a number of industry leaders, such as Dior and Burberry announced audience-free shows or presentations that can only be viewed via live streams online. In the new normal, online and offline distinction lines have blurred. On an average, about 600 people attend a fashion show every season. If you look at the digital audience considering the live streaming via YouTube, Instagram and Twitter combined, we might be looking at an audience of about 10 million. Do the leading designers believe that we are entering into a phase where fashion and tech need to be in sync? We discussed this with the top fashion designers and also asked their views on how the fashion industry is preparing for the new normal or a post-COVID reality? The highly talented Rahul Mishra, became the first Indian to showcase his collection, ‘Butterfly People’ at the digital ‘Paris Haute Couture Week’. He admits that it was a unique experience and it takes the same amount of work and stress, "It was a quite unique experience to showcase digitally. Almost, the same amount of work and stress went behind it as well. There was a level of nervousness that came up, right before the live stream." But can a virtual fashion show garner as much attention as the live ones? As fashion shows create several job opportunities apart from just models & designers, like set designers, backstage managers, caterers, event managers, etc? Rahul Mishra says virtual events treat A-listers and commoners alike, "While at a live fashion show a brand is able to accommodate a few hundred people, a virtual showcase allows everyone the front row seat. Hence, the experience is more democratic and accessible in many ways. But I must add that it doesn’t really replace the multi-sensory experience of a runway show where an individual is practically present ‘in a designer’s dream’." Several Indian celebrities like Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut and Ranbir Kapoor have been spotted wearing one of Bollywood’s favourite fashion designer, Varun Bahl. He says, "Functioning digitally comes with a few challenges too. This makes my job as a designer more interesting, as the act of designing then becomes a conversation between me and my audience. It makes me strive to always do more in terms of design development, garment quality, creative research, styling flexibility, and of course, pricing. We are fully equipped to showcase our collection virtually to our customers and provide them with a world-class experience of our collection." Acclaimed designer Nachiket Barve, who has been associated with the Lakme Fashion Week says, "There is no substitute for the electric energy of people coming together to experience a fashion show. The virtual fashion show is the next best alternative. But there will be a massive impact on these ancillary industries. It is better than nothing at all!" But contrary to the myth, a fashion show isn’t just about the theatrics, it’s also about the garments. Isn’t it important for people to see, touch, and feel the fabrics & details in the flesh to understand how a garment moves and wears? Can a virtual show suffice the ‘de rigue’? Can an online showcase help you tell a story?
Fashion Designer Rahul Mishra adds. "So to compare, I feel that only ten seconds of a garment fleeting past you at the catwalk can effectively be replaced with these multidimensional fashion films that can zoom-in to all the details the designer wants to showcase. The online showcases allow us to compensate for the backstage conversations with journalists and re-imagine the way we tell our story.” A favorite with celebrities and it-girls alike, designer Shehlaa Khan’s contemporary fair has carved an indelible niche in the fashion landscape of India. In the nine years since the inception of her eponymous label, her creations have found a fan in Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Jacqueline Fernandez, Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra, and Deepika Padukone. The designer who believes that she was born into the world of fashion, says she can’t completely write-off runway, "At the after-parties is where these opportunities came in which unfortunately have ceased due to the pandemic. However, I see runway making its way back, so it’s just a matter of time. Having said that, a digital show requires a choreographer and several other facets which go into the making of a fashion show". The dynamics of the fashion world have changed in multiple ways. The consumption of fashion has always been a big debate across the world. Fashion designers are changing the format, but they are still putting on a reminiscent show and presenting their ensemble to captivate audiences in the front row and via social media. The pandemic will bring lasting change to the way fashion weeks are presented. As the season of fashion shows start, we can’t wait to see what happens next!