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In case you missed it, it's fashion month, only this time it's digital.

2020 was the year that changed how we saw everything, fashion included. This year’s events put a halt to our fast paced lives and made us question the rules and boundaries we had become so accustomed to. Back in May, Gucci announced a fashion first and decided to abandon the traditional fashion calendar in light of Covid-19. The announcement came in the form of a diary entry style format on Instagram, written by creative director Alessandro Michele, who said he intended to “abandon the worn-out ritual of seasonalities and shows” in order to “regain a new cadence.”

Other brands have since followed suit, justifying the decision by explaining there is no need for an excessive amount of runway shows. This huge shift came at a time when the world is trying is moving towards a more sustainable, ethical way of selling and buying clothes. It makes sense that brands would need to consider the amount of product launches they release. Back in April, Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour suggested that the fashion industry place “more of an emphasis on sustainability” and on “luxury and creativity and craft.”

Research by the UK’s Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce also indicates that consumers share the same concerns, with only 19% of adults in Britain who think the fashion industry should go back to normal after the risks of coronavirus are over. This year, live digital fashion shows inevitably had to replace physical fashion shows, a refreshing approach to what the world had been accustomed to. Brands had to rethink how they would approach this new way of displaying and promoting their pieces. Molly Goddard explained how she and her team had to reinvent her creative process, saying that when they first started preparing for the digital fashion shows, she initially designed a collection full of neutral colours.

“But as we returned slowly to the studio, after months of working as a team over zoom, I realised how dark and depressing the last few months had been and more and more colour crept into the collection: neon pink tulle, green and black checkerboard, orange floral with black and yellow polka dots, bright blue vinyl bags,” she said. The SS21 collection featured textured and messy Claus Oldenburg papier-mache dresses alongside sleek and simple Robert Morris sculptures. In an aim to uplift spirits, the collection became an explosion of colour, prints and joy!

Similarly, APUJAN’s virtual catwalk stream was bright, bold and dramatic. It featured neon lights integrated with vivid retro imagery. There was also the the interweaving of bold and casual elements, which is the epitome of APUJAN’s unique style. The inspiration for the collection comes from the intersection of different places that are all associated with books, space fantasy, time lapse and imagination of the past. Both brands were great examples of adapting to change, by creating collections that were more captivating and designing shows that were more engaging than ever before.

But digital fashion weeks are not without their cons. Watching a live show at home doesn’t grab as much of our attention as being at a physical show does. It engages less of your senses and you are very likely to get distracted by a WhatsApp notification, the door knocking or your dog barking. In a press release from the Technical University of Denmark, Professor Sune Lehmann, explained that our attention spans are also getting shorter and shorter, saying: “It seems that the allocated attention time in our collective minds has a certain size but the cultural items competing for that attention have become more densely packed.”

“Content is increasing in volume, which exhausts our attention and our urge for ‘newness’ causes us to collectively switch between topics more regularly,” said Philipp Lorenz-Spreen of Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

While this is an issue we’ve been facing for a number of years, the pandemic perhaps plays a part in this shift. Spending so much time at home meant that we were also spending more time online, and the sheer number of digital talks, resources and new shows meant that we were bombarded with new content.

The fashion world needs to keep moving forward and ultimately must continue to release new collections to survive. But there is a fine balance needed to make sure fashion shows have the right impact, but also that the online fashion space doesn’t become too oversaturated with content.

Words by Lola Christina Alao

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