Until recently, the catwalks for the next fashion weeks were being prepared behind the scenes. Various actors of the fashion industry were travelling around the world, skipping from one plane to another in search of new trends, new suppliers or fairy-tale locations to organize the next photo shoots. That was just a few weeks ago, it was like a lifetime ago. Today, in spite of the deconfinement, nothing is the same anymore. Most air borders remain closed, event parties are still forbidden, overcrowding is clearly decried as it is considered suicidal… A rather dark state of affairs that professionals are trying to brighten up through new work formats: fashion keeps all its promises and continues, fortunately, to be driven by a powerful creative dynamic.
The current state of affairs
During the lockdown, social media was a sad witness to the clothing debacle. While some people were trying to telework in shirts and shorts, others were enjoying an aperitif-visio in a unicorn frock coat, while some people were dressing up in the most ridiculous outfits…the disaster was not just a sanitary one! Funny indeed, but not very fashionable! Fortunately, clothing has regained its social role, the professionals their respective professions, trying to adapt as much as possible to the economic situation.
During the crisis, many of them modified their activities and became fully involved in the fight against the virus: from large luxury labels to small family businesses, from providing production equipment to converting staff, or even from the manufacture of hydro gels to that of masks or scrubs. But the pandemic has claimed many victims, both human and economic.
Already weakened before the pandemic, Covid struck the final blow to many brands (André, la Halle, Célio, Camaïeu, naf naf or Orchestra) and the list is growing every day. Even the mastodon of fast fashion, the Inditex group (Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius) has just ordered the closure of 1,200 stores worldwide. Collapse of sales, accumulated stocks, lack of cash, all the ingredients of a generalized bankruptcy seem to be present. So the companies still standing have no choice but to rethink their strategies, because the road to recovery will be long.
Historically, from every crisis comes enrichment. And what if, instead of agonising projections, this shift finally turned out to be a positive change of direction? What if digital became THE solution to meet tomorrow’s challenges? What if capitalizing on the success of online business was the new challenge for companies? Retail has undergone a transformation that is as sudden as it is unprecedented. With a 100% digital operation for several weeks, the trend has been reversed. Before the pandemic, physical points were the crutch of the web. After the crisis, the web will probably be the backbone of the physical environment.
From application development, contactless payment and delivery, teleworking, digital platforms, marketplaces, social networks or the deployment of specific online sales channels, Covid has forced even the most reluctant to take the plunge. The brands that had already taken the plunge are the ones that are doing best; they are continuing their transformation. The others are trying, willingly or unwillingly, to catch up. The web has proven to be a powerful medium, a formidable distribution tool and a formidable communication lever. It has demonstrated that it could respond to the most unexpected situations. It has enabled the continuation of sales without physical flow, permitted brands to maintain contact and further enhance the customer experience.
This technological advancement challenges the societal, economic and behavioral model as we knew it. The crisis is forcing companies to rapidly acquire remote business management skills by reinventing themselves and imagining new standards.
Cruise and Fashion Weeks digital collections
At this moment, no one is able to say what the long-term impact of Covid-19 will be on the fashion industry. Obviously, the physical distances imposed have already impacted the format of the fashionweeks at the end of this spring. For how long? No one knows, but one thing is certain: the unforeseen brings innovation!
The big brands have braved the post-covid malaise with creativity and audacity, offering Internet users virtual performances that are as offbeat as they are original on YouTube, Google, Instagram or Facebook.
Hermes Homme, for example, has chosen to go live. Cyril Teste, theatre director and filmmaker, has achieved an artistic feat filmed in real time where relaxation and backstage were the order of the day.
The daring (and very geeky) Olivier Rousteing unveiled the Balmain cruise collection through his avatar. In a virtual showroom reconstituted for the occasion, he was the privileged guide of professional buyers riveted before their screens on the other side of the world. The luxury brand also opened the fashion week with an exceptional anniversary fashion show. The brand’s 75th anniversary was celebrated with great pomp on a barge, where the brand’s emblematic pieces were redesigned for the occasion. Dances and concerts marked the river cruise to the delight of the spectators seated on the banks of the Seine. An event exclusively broadcast on TikTok.
Dior chose the short film to express itself. The spectator was immersed in a fairytale world, quickly bewitched by mythological creatures wandering in a Garden of Eden. A short format of breathtaking beauty, an ode to the Théâtre de la Mode.
Chanel preferred to focus on simplicity. The cruise fashion show initially planned in Capri finally turned into a photo shoot in the Paris region, where Mediterranean landscapes were integrated post-production. The boutique in rue Cambon delivered a tight collection with only 4 models, 51 silhouettes staged in an animated look book.
Some houses have chosen minimalism by presenting only one piece (Iris Van Herpen) or by exhibiting only a few exclusive sketches of the next collection (Schiaparelli or Elie Saab).
Far from the excitement of a traditional Fashion Week, the presentations of the collections were nevertheless eagerly awaited and widely acclaimed by the critics. Even if everyone is already wondering about the next format of the Parisian catwalks this autumn, the phygital transition seems to be in full swing in many countries.
London has already announced the cancellation of the shows for the next twelve months. Instead, men’s and women’s fashion will merge on a digital platform, a sort of virtual gender fluidity. Hundreds of designers will be honoured with a wide variety of digital content (portraits, interviews, podcasts, designer’s notebooks, webinars or digital showrooms). What about the next Paris Fashion Week? All we know is that it will be creative. Our screens will certainly reveal the rest…
IFA Paris at the heart of change
The school was quick to react by proposing an e-learning platform in March, enabling courses to be maintained as initially planned during the confinement period. Video tutorials, creation of interactive supports, recorded theoretical courses, everything has been done to continue to provide students confined at home (and dispersed in many countries) with qualitative contents.
Always very reactive and visionary, in tune with the trends of the fashion industry, IFA Paris will normally resume face-to-face training at the beginning of the school year, but already completes its offer of a 100% digital course. Open to all those who wish to discover or perfect their knowledge of fashion, digital learning is now just a click away. Beginners or future experts, short modules or postgraduate training, everyone will find the most suitable answer to their needs from their sofa. Discover all the online programs here www.ifaparis-online.com
Each party has to deal with new issues. Already in a phase of decline, fast fashion is faced with the disadvantages of long-distance supply, luxury brands are suffering from the desertion of international customers, and independent retailers are suffering directly from the decline in consumer purchasing power. Who can predict the future when all the data from the past is biased, when no one has any perspective on such a situation? No one can. But it would seem that everyone agrees that this transitional period should be used as a time for reflection and for life-saving actions.