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FASHION

Paris lands runway show in cyberspace for fashion week digital experiment

France's Julien Fournie is among haute couture designers producing films instead of catwalk shows to display his wares for fashion week.
France's Julien Fournie is among haute couture designers producing films instead of catwalk shows to display his wares for fashion week. AFP

Paris fashion week on Monday rolled out an unprecedented online showcase of haute couture creations – minus the paparazzi and parties – for its first ever fully digital season. 

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As the fashion industry gradually stitches itself together on the back of the coronavirus crisis, French fashion’s governing body – the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode – resolved to forego the usual catwalk extravaganza and instead present this year’s offerings via films and photographs streamed to an online audience.

Haute couture and men's fashion weeks have been rolled into one week-long web event, with designers hoping the digital experiment will be enough to keep audiences engaged until physical shows resume in Paris in September.  

London fashion week showed the world how to make runway shows a virtual reality in June when the British city became the first of the four fashion capitals to go digital – however reviews were mixed reviews and audience numbers took a slide. 

For the Paris edition – which was initially cancelled before a decision was made to go digital – a majority of household names will be getting in on the act, including Chanel, Dior and Hermes.

No razzle-dazzle

There will be no media frenzy and no celebrity guests for this screen-only spectacle in which no member of the public will be able to see the clothes first-hand and in person.

These are not normal times, Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri told AFP. "From the start, it was clear that a real show would not happen – so we had to come up something really dense and creative," she said.

While some bemoan that haute couture fashion week minus the live shows won’t deliver the same splendour, others see the online event as an opportunity to showcase their creations to a wider public.

With the virus crisis having kept designers out of their workshops in recent months, some haute couture and menswear showings will be skinnier than usual (Chanel is producing 30 dresses in lieu of the usual 70, for example), creating gaps for some lesser-known labels.

It’s also been suggested that the persistent threat of a virus resurgence may act as a catalyst for a sector-wide rethink of the high-fashion calendar, with brands needing to invent new ways to get their creations out into the world.

In a move seen by many as a rebellion against the frenetic fashion calendar, Yves Saint Laurent has already said it won't participate in fashion week events for the rest of the year due to Covid-19 concerns.

Next cab off the rank is Milan menswear, which has also unveiled a mostly digital program for when it kicks off on 14 July.

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