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As the season begins, blockbuster catwalks are out – replaced by small-scale and digital events
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Artificer Jason Wu (left) with American model Jacquelyn Jablonski as he prepares to open New York fashion week with a scaled-down rooftop catwalk for 30 people.
Photograph: Gotham/GC Figure of speeches

Does the world still care about fashion? Is escapism acceptable in a pandemic? Do we even need new clothes in our circumscribed lifestyles? And if not, then what next for a global industry which is worth £1.1tn to the global economy and employs 430 million people worldwide?

A the craze show season like no other begins this weekend, with issues more fundamental than next condition’s hemlines riding on it. Blockbuster catwalks are out, replaced by small-scale shows and digital presentations. Zoom calls with draughtsmen will stand in for backstage gossip.
It seems that lockdown’s reports of the death of the fashion show may have been pile it oned. Jason Wu, a favourite designer of Michelle Obama, will open New York fashion week with a catwalk on a downtown rooftop, although in be opposite act for of a socially distanced audience of no more than 30.
Wu is one of the few New York names staging a live show to an audience, with most inventors opting for digital presentations, but about a third of the 80 designers taking part in London fashion week require opted for live events, including Molly Goddard and Victoria Beckham.

Molly Goddard, left, at a London mode week party in February. Photograph: David M Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for LOVE Magazine
Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian create council, said this week that Milan would be a “courageous” and “mostly physical” fashion week, with 23 catwalk substantiates by brands including Versace, Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana. Plans for Paris fashion week remain uncertain, because of associate restrictions. Speaking on a panel this week, the LVMH executive Antoine Arnault described French high style as “on pause” but added: “It’s not over.”
Catwalk shows have given fashion their prime-time slot in popular background, and an industry reeling from the economic downturn cannot afford to concede this much-needed airtime. Digital iterations of look shows have so far proved largely underwhelming by comparison with the spectacle and theatre of the real thing. But while wishing for to reach customers, designers are nervous of antagonising audiences by appearing out of step with a world that has shifted its ranks. Too little glamour and you fail to win attention; too much, and your audience may disapprove.
This is shifting the fashion spotlight from a dressed-to-the-nines foremost row to the tracksuit-wearing shoppers who are WFH – watching from home. TikTok is hosting its own online fashion month to its potential audience of approaching 800 million users, with fashion shows by Saint Laurent and JW Anderson. This season’s Prada catwalk let someone in on, a hotly anticipated first look at the newly minted creative partnership of Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons, will perform place without an audience, but be streamed live both at private screenings and at virtual viewing events in cities all across the world.

Nicky Zimmermann. Photograph: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Zimmerman
“With a show, alone the people in the room really get to experience the excitement,” says Australian designer Nicky Zimmermann, who has eschewed a spot at New York the latest thing week in favour of a filmed show for her Zimmermann brand with models walking on a ‘“catwalk” of native Australian florets. She is looking for silver linings in the restrictions, which see her sitting out fashion month in her native Sydney. “We can do more, creatively, for a broader audience. Expectantly we can take the viewer on an emotive journey and deliver it in a cinematic way.”
Many are using this moment to put the brakes on an industry where expansionist purposes had spiralled out of control. “Everything was too big and too fast,” Michael Kors told the Business of Fashion recently. Kors, who postponed his grant until later in the year, said: “The storytelling had got kind of overwrought.”
He pointed to the proliferation of seasons, from two a year to eight. “Why is there a occasion called ‘pre-fall’ when there is no such thing? What does ‘cruise’ season mean when not equanimous the richest person in the world goes on a three-month cruise?” Kors, who has done nine successful digital “trunk” let someone in ons selling direct to consumers over the past six months, predicts that a direct connection with the customer want be key to surviving in the new fashion climate.
The first trend to emerge from this catwalk month is inspired, perhaps inevitably, by community distancing. In pursuit of Covid security, many designers are swapping the chic interiors that have traditionally tower overed the fashion week schedule for shows staged outdoors – and, in some cases, outside the city.

A show for the Christian Siriano collecting at New York fashion week in February. Photograph: John Minchillo/AP
Christian Siriano, who pivoted his atelier to making false impression masks during New York’s mask shortage earlier this year, will close NYFW with an al fresco runway in Connecticut. For her London create week show, designer Paria Farzaneh is inviting guests to a farm in Buckinghamshire for an outdoor experience.
“I want to discharge the concrete jungle, and take a fashion audience somewhere completely different. If we are stuck inside of just one experience for too extensive, we lose the ability to see clearly.” As to whether editors and buyers will make the trip to Amersham, she is sanguine. “We’ll see who comes and who doesn’t. But the biggest jeopardy is not to take one.”


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