London fashion week tests first-ever virtual event

Fashion show formats are in flux due to social distancing and the coronavirus crisis. What does one even look like without a starry front row, curated soundtrack and close-up views of the clothes?

Fashionistas got a glimpse when Chanel unveiled its resort 2021 collection via a digital runway earlier this week. And today the British Fashion Council kicked off Day 1 of its first-ever digital-only London fashion week, which runs through Sunday and features an apt hashtag: #LFWreset.

The “reset” has turned the experience into a gender-neutral event, as opposed to just menswear, as featured in previous LFW June shows. Gone are the days of ticket requests, with the full schedule available online and open to all from their own homes.

With many brands unable to produce full collections due to pandemic-limited production, digital offerings include designer diaries (to be shared via video from Roksanda), collection unveilings (Rixo is on deck to partake), podcasts and a livestream by Mulberry, which will close out the week.

Noticeably absent from the schedule are some of London’s biggest names, including Burberry, Richard Quinn and Wales Bonner.

The impact of these digital presentations on both the retail and editorial fronts remains to be seen, but brands are slowly pulling away from the traditional fashion calendar and opting to unveil collections at a slower — and, ideally, more meaningful — pace. Some show up to six collections a year — a recipe that can result in designer burnout.

Back in April, Saint Laurent announced it would opt out of Paris fashion week in September, with creative director Anthony Vaccarello announcing in an Instagram post, “Conscious of the current circumstance and its waves of radical change, Saint Laurent has decided to take control of its pace and reshape its schedule.”

In late May, Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele announced that the Italian fashion house would produce just two — as opposed to five — runway shows per year. “I’m passionate about fashion shows, but maybe we can be open to seeing them in a different way,” Michele said.

Meanwhile, Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond — who has always carved his own path within the fashion industry and beyond — announced a plan last month to show during New York Fashion Week in September. Where? A drive-in, which is where he’ll premiere “American, Also,” a film documenting the two years leading up to the legendary Pyer Moss spectacle that took place at Kings Theatre last September. While details, including the exact location, remain scarce, Jean-Raymond’s think-outside-the-box mentality has him poised to lead the industry with a much-needed — and craved — experience during these uncertain times.

The home page for London fashion week is displayed on a computer. The event has shifted to a virtual program this year.
The home page for London fashion week is displayed on a computer. The event has shifted to a virtual program this year.AFP via Getty Images