Before getting into the best of the inaugural Digital Couture Week, let it be said: While the show (literally, metaphorically) must go on, there’s still nothing like a runway spectacle witnessed in real, actual life.
The lights! The cameras! The music! And the clothes. Oh, the clothes. The way they move, shimmer and, on occasion, make your heart flutter and inspire you to dream about all of the beauty in this world (especially these days).
But in the climate of a global pandemic, fashion shows IRL have been put on pause, leaving brands to come up with inventive ways to unveil their newest collections.
At the pinnacle of said collections resides couture. Only a handful of brands fall under this category, showing twice a year in Paris. Invitations are distributed to very far and few (most often press and VIP clients). Tightly edited looks are usually presented in a traditional runway format. The clothes are exquisitely made, showcasing the premier talents each house has to offer. And like the stuff of true fashion fantasy, couture looks exist on a made-to-order basis. They may as well be considered unicorns (and very stylish ones at that).
Which is why current circumstances presented a challenge for fashion houses who debuted their couture collections digitally this week. How does one evoke the emotion that beauty unleashed inspires in real life through a computer screen? Luckily, some were creatively up to the task, curating visuals ranging from music videos and doll-sized frocks to humorous sketches and awe-inspiring avatars.
Keep scrolling for the Top 10 highlights from the first-ever digital couture shows:
The designer with a penchant for vibrant, ’80s-inspired party frocks hired three separate photo teams to photograph his 23-look collection in different locations. This look — styled with slouchy booties designed in collaboration with “it” shoe designer Amina Muaddi — was photographed in the Hamptons by Dutch fashion photographer duo Inez and Vinoodh.
Olivier Rousteing loves a digital platform. (He was an early advocate of using social media — and has even inspired hashtags like #balmaina and #balmainarmy — as a way to communicate with his fans since he was appointed creative director of Balmain in 2011.) This week, Rousteing made a literal splash when he took a barge on the river Seine — views of the Eiffel Tower aplenty — filled with models wearing his newest couture creations. There was a hashtag, of course: #balmainsurseine.
Jarrar is synonymous with effortless minimalism. While her aesthetic exists on the opposite end of the fashion spectrum and its grandiose couture gestures (no pouffy ballgowns here), her 11-look collection created with upcycled materials felt modern and elegant. Photographed as a lookbook, it’s also giving serious dress-up-from-home vibes — all dolled up sans shoes.
Creative director Virginie Viard offered more glamour than she has in recent collections (it is couture, after all). Taking a cue from her predecessor Karl Lagerfeld’s penchant for decadence and eye-catching accessories, the 30-look collection was photographed to capture the spirit of a punk princess: Some models had mohawks, others wore edgy lace-up heels. The best was layers of ’80s-inspired taffeta and lace contrasting with embellished necklines decorated with fine lariat necklaces.
Presented via a 15-minute film (albeit with a very questionable homogenous casting), “Le Mythe Dior,” Maria Grazia Chiuri‘s couture creations were designed as doll-sized confections — 40% smaller than their original size. In the film, messengers carrying the collection in a dollhouse offer the garb to nymph-like creatures in the woods. The clothes, in all of their dreamy, frothy, pleated, glittering glory, are stunning.
Couture is where Giambattista Valli‘s imagination thrives. His creations are larger than life, the stuff of true fashion fantasies. In a video starring supermodel Joan Smalls, Valli delivers an over-the-top 18-look collection showcasing exaggerated bows, a mille-feuille of tulle and cascading ruffles. Amid all the whimsy, a (purely decorative) face mask is a true nod to our times.
Ralph & Russo
An avatar by the name of Hauli (a name denoting strength and power in Swahili) modeled a portion of Ralph & Russo‘s couture collection. While the presentation style was a first for the London-based brand, the signatures were there: feather-trimmed capes, structured mini-frocks and spangly body-hugging gowns topped with eye-popping bows.
Ronald van der Kemp
The Amsterdam-based designer might have fused together eight separately shot videos to present his couture collection, but the real story is the clothes: a curation of 28 gender-fluid looks, establishing van der Kemp‘s collection as rebellious with a cause in the world of couture.
No clothes were shown at Schiaparelli during couture week. Instead, a video of creative director Daniel Roseberry drawing sketches of couture looks in Washington Square Park was unveiled, revealing the spontaneous spirit Roseberry brings to the surrealist house. (Matching your dress to your dog, anyone?)
Viktor & Rolf
Presented via video in an old school salon-style fashion show, Viktor & Rolf‘s collection was a playful riff on larger-than-life circumferences that speak to our time. A voiceover by the singer Mika offered a humorous dose of camp when describing this dress: “Social distancing never felt so sweet in this faux leather manteau, adorned with dozens of glittering hearts.”