The show must go on. The Spring 21 runway season was the most hybrid variety we’ve ever seen, with a mix of digital presentations, lookbooks and films that ultimately proved effective, keeping travel restrictions and social distancing in mind. Visual media not only allowed us to view runway shows remotely, but gave us access to designers’ inspirations along with intriguing conversations and experiences. The post-show dialogue between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons was a major highlight, while John Galliano and Nick Knight’s film for Maison Margiela added entertaining drama and theatrics that truly enhanced the show experience.
Following the series that started with “‘Product as Protection” and “Product as Mood Boost,” we present “The Changing Tides of Fashion Week” written by Melissa Moylan, VP/Creative Director of Womenswear at FS and Carrera Kurnik, Culture Editor & Consumer Insight Strategist at FS.
Another new element that emerged was the “Show in a Box” concept, which JW Anderson introduced at his namesake label and at Loewe. In essence, the box replaced fashion show invitations in a season where most guests were unable to travel. The box concept offered so much more than a traditional fashion momento, inclusive of a letter from the designer, lookbook pictures and fabric cards. Loewe’s version even included pop-out functionality that added a participatory element to elevate the remote show-viewing experience.
Other innovative solutions mailed to show guests included Fendi’s FF-branded pasta and Ferragamo’s VR glasses that digitally transported attendees to the front row. In terms of show staging, Jeremy Scott delivered a marionette show featuring 30-inch miniature models along with an accurate portrayal of front row guests like Anna Wintour and Anna Dello Russo. The collection was a nod to the 1945 exhibition Théâtre de la Mode and ultimately a highly innovative way to stage a fashion show in the midst of a pandemic.
As for the physical shows, many collections tapped into the yearning so many people felt during lockdown to reconnect with the Earth. Designers also seemed ready to find both healing and inspiration by re-rooting themselves and their art in natural environments. Riccardo Tisci staged Burberry’s livestream event at a forest-like park outside of London. Likewise Erdem Moralioglu filmed his collection in Epping Forest in Essex, England, where models walked amidst towering trees in romantic florals. Indeed many designers have turned to nature to heal in these uncertain times, by providing both a sense of escapism and renewed vitality.
While fashion has always had a love affair with art, Spring 21 collections were especially intertwined with artistic creations. With so many during lockdown taking up crafting as a means of expression in their down time, from watercolor painting, to knitting, to hand embroidery—designers too took hold of the maker’s zeitgeist to create pieces that call attention to the nourishment found in the crafting process. Christopher Kane offered a prime example of this, having produced artwork during lockdown which then inspired one-off garments with painterly brushstrokes. Another interpretation that could be seen in a creative light and making do with what we have at hand, is the fact that during these times, more designers at the luxury level invested in upcycling and patchwork constructions. Preen by Thornton Bregazzi produced a striking patchwork collection which leveraged old prints and fabric scraps. Of course the concept of upcycling is not new, however it’s gaining momentum as a result of quarantine and offers a sustainable solution we hope to see more of.
In this most untraditional of runway seasons, we saw designers turn to new audiences both in terms of social media and the end consumer. #TikTokFashionMonth made its debut, featuring shows from Prada and JW Anderson as well as collaborative capsule collections and “afterparty performances” from Jaden Smith and Chloe x Halle. With TikTok becoming one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world (with 800 million active users), it can be expected that future fashion weeks will attempt to reach this budding creative community to engage with the very fringes of cool in contemporary youth culture on the app. Another big push this season particularly in Paris, was that genderless design pushed the case for inclusivity. At Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia approached unisex clothing from both an inclusive and sustainable perspective, considering that genderless clothing is also less impactful on the environment. Thom Browne, Kenneth Ize and Each x Other also tapped into genderless design and Nicholas Ghesquiere at Louis Vuitton spoke to gender fluidity with shapes that work for both men and women. Likewise, Dries Van Noten merged his womens and mens collection together.
Dries van Noten
Like so much of what we’ve identified in the Spring 21 season, many of these topics aren’t new; however, the pandemic can be seen as the spark that ignites real change within our industry. Evolving conversations regarding the relevance of fashion weeks and sustainability are being addressed and improved upon even in the most difficult of times, and that gives us hope for the future.
FashionUnited & FASHION SNOOPS (FS) have partnered to explore important shifts that will impact consumers, as we both believe it is essential to inform you of future inspirations, business shifts and design strategies. The monthly reports from FS will provide actionable strategies for innovations across marketing, development and design.
Homepage image: Erdem. All images courtesy of Fashion Snoops