The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many events to change to a strictly online setting. Concerts, speeches, graduation ceremonies, even weddings have been left no other option than to cancel in-person attendance and switch exclusively to livestream options.
One prominent cultural area that has recently made the shift to online is the world of fashion. Fashion Week is a high-profile event where multiple large-scale venues across the globe are packed with thousands in attendance. While a digital fashion week may not be an ideal venue for many, it has nonetheless been proven to be effective.
Adrianna Marlin, junior film production major, said that a digital fashion week is an inevitable yet encouraging spin on the traditional event.
“Due to the global pandemic, many loved events have been canceled or have gone virtual. One of those big events is Fashion Week,” Marlin said. “Through the unknown of the pandemic and the challenges that large gatherings would place, it is a great second option. Although it is virtual, the small steps being made are giving hope and a glimpse into ‘normalcy’ for society. The biggest challenge in a virtual fashion week will be grabbing the audience’s attention and having that buzzing excitement they have in person. The designers and fashion brands will have to make up for the loss of atmosphere by creating more visuals and taking a few risks. Through the pros and cons, a virtual fashion week is exciting and a step in the right direction.”
An event the size, scale and caliber of fashion week was left with no chance of hosting in-person attendance during the pandemic. Therefore, the switch to a fully online platform was a necessity. This hinders the “storytelling” aspect of fashion shows, as the in-person connections cannot be realized. The experience of the show is why many attend in the first place, and when that experience is severed, attendance naturally drops.
Kamryn Allen, junior psychology major, said that a digital spin on the Fashion Week event, while necessary, is far from ideal, and diminishes the experience and heart of the show itself.
“The digital fashion week event, in my opinion definitely has more cons that outweigh the pros due to the fact it would be online and not in person,” Allen stated. “The pros of the event being held in a digital setting are that many people would feel more comfortable with the fact that they can watch from a distance. Now, I know there are more pros than I could list but an additional con I found that could possibly hinder the event’s liveliness would be that it would not feel the same. There would not be a live crowd cheering and clapping, which I believe is one of the most fun parts of a fashion show.”
Multiple online platforms exist to help people engage with one another while still being able to socially distance themselves. Zoom and WebEx are both largely used by the academic and business worlds, but they may not have been the best choice when it comes to fashion week. For instance, Dr. Brett Biermann, associate professor of emerging media, said that, when it comes to platforms, “lots of designers are doing fashion shows in XR (AR VR).”
Even though the world of fashion has taken a hit, it does not show any signs of disappearing. If anything, this hiatus from normal activity has created a strong initiative in the fashion community to plan and create, so that when the time is right, they may host a bigger and better fashion week than ever before.