As the world is at a near standstill due to the coronavirus, the fashion industry had previously announced that its upcoming fashion weeks were either postponed or cancelled. Impending is the men’s Spring/Summer ’21 season that was to take place in the month of June, with London kicking off the circuit followed by Pitti Uomo in Florence, Milan and then Paris. As the situation worsened globally, Paris and London had announced that plans were cancelled, with news breaking yesterday that the latter will be taking their runways online instead. Milan on the other hand has opted to merge its men’s schedule with women’s that takes place in September — that is, depending on how the pandemic pans out.
In late March and early into the game, Shanghai Fashion Week had proven that cancelling or postponing fashion’s marquee affair weren’t the only options; it went ahead with its Fall/Winter ’20 schedule by exploring a host of digital alternatives. This saw Chinese brands unveiling their new collections through virtual runways, conceptual videos, and designer Q&As on livestreams.
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Showing off schedule (and also online) just last week, labels Xu Zhi, Roderic Wong and Andrea Jiapei Li demonstrated the vast potential of the virtual runway, tapping on augmented reality and CG technology for an immersive and incredibly life-like 360-degree experience — an initiative spearheaded by Shanghai-based art and fashion presentation platform XCOMMONS.
Upon entering the website that hosts all three brand via a QR code, viewers are whisked into a cavernous hall, prompting you to swipe to explore the space and, tap into each one of the brands as they pop up on the screen. Within each brand universe is a “runway” show of their Fall/Winter ’20 collection, and a conceptual video that encapsulates the designer’s inspiration for the season.
The entire experience is a far cry from watching a physical fashion show streamed online where one would see a birds-eye view of models walking down the runway, interspersed with close-up frames. For one, ample thought has gone into the virtual cinematography and choreography of the models, both designed to engage a purely online audience. In the case of Xu Zhi, the show starts off at a train station, progresses to the streets, into an elevator and what resembles a living room, and finally, an industrial building — with the viewer transported into these different spaces as the models journey through them.
Asides from thoroughly evoking a sense of atmosphere and story-telling that is an integral part of fashion shows (usually done so with a show set, music and lights), the details of the clothing were also spotlighted through clever pans and zooms, allowing the texture of a wool jumper or quilting of a skirt to truly pop. In light of this, it not only sets the bar for London’s digital execution of its impending men’s fashion week, but also presents the possibility of parlaying aspects of the increasingly hectic fashion week circuit online — even after the pandemic is over.